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The Beats Go On For Movement Electronic Music Festival
The folks running Detroit's annual electronic music festival are happy to talk about what a difference a year makes.
In 2006, Paxahau Productions Group, the Ferndale-based electronic music promotions firm, was handed the reins to the then-listing festival with less than two months to book a lineup, get sponsors and build a production. The three-day affair was deemed a success, with an estimated 43,000 fans gyrating to the beeps and grooves that pulsated through Hart Plaza over Memorial Day Weekend.
But this year's edition of Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival, benefits from having a full year's worth of planning and preparation.
"The good news is that last year's festival made such an impression that people are excited to play and people are excited to come to it," says festival director Jason Huvaere, who founded Paxahau in 1998. "With more time this year we were able to have a timeline and were definitely able to work in a less stressful environment."
While sponsorship remains a challenge -- "Nobody's dropping a million-dollar bag of cash on us," Huvaere notes -- festival organizers primarily used the time to focus on booking and production. The process began in September, with a major decision to go with four rather than five stages for Movement ; this year's Movement 07's 80 acts.
"We're doing a less-is-more approach," says Huvaere, acknowledging that both finances and aesthetics of the $700,000-plus production drove the decision. "There'll be one less stage, less vendors, less of a carnival-style footprint.
"This is a music-oriented crowd. The focus is on artists and performances."
And part of the trade-off, he says, will be better sound systems -- perhaps the single most crucial ingredient for success in the electronic music world.
"We put a lot of thought and a lot of investment into these four stages," Huvaere says. "Each one should definitely be a very commanding production."
When it took command of the festival last year, Paxahau was charged with putting the event back in tune. After a wildly successful 2000 debut as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, internal politics -- including the 2001 firing of co-founder and creative director Carl Craig -- cast a pall that even local electronic legends Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson were unable to reverse in brief tenures running things.
With its experience producing smaller-scale events on the electronic scene, including festival after-parties, Paxahau had developed both expertise and credibility. "They have a good grasp on what electronic music is," notes Liz Copeland, the former WDET overnight personality and electronic music expert who's developing a new music web site. "I don't think (the festival) would be happening if they weren't doing it."
Paxahau hasn't been immune from criticism, however. Following Saunderson's lead with his 2005 Fuse-In, the company has continued charging for the once-free festival. Huvaere notes that "I still deal with a number of people who don't understand why the event isn't free -- although not as many as we did last year. .
"I would love to do away with the ticketing process...but the expenses absolutely have to be met. The two choices are to wait for someone to come along and say 'I'm gonna give you guys a $10 million endowment' or scale back to one stage, and I think that's silly."
The festival lineup is always scrutinized as well, regardless of who's in charge. "Electronic music is a really wide-open category," notes Copeland. "There are certainly things that perhaps could be addressed -- going further back into the roots and the fringes. It's hard to satisfy everyone."
That includes the artists, too. Detroit's Malik Alston, who will open the festival's main stage on Saturday with music from his new album, "This Music is Live," feels that the bill "needs to be a little more diverse," especially in terms of reaching out to more hip-hop styled acts and Detroit artists.
But Alston also says that he's "proud to be playing" at Movement 07 and credits Paxahau with "starting to see they need other genres besides just hard techno. I think they're working on it. They seem to be open."
Huvaere takes such criticisms in stride and note that "every year will be moving a little bit forward." The important thing, he says, is that by dint of a multi-year deal with the City of Detroit, his company has a going commitment to Movement that will only help the festival grow and expand.
"People have to remember that (previous) model did not work properly," he explains. "Without a multi-year agreement, it's absolutely impossible to build momentum and sponsorship interest. So we're staying visible and in constant communication with (the city), and we're confident we can keep this moving forward."
Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival 07 takes place from noon to midnight Saturday, Sunday and Monday (May 26th, 27th and 28th)at Hart Plaza. Admission is $21 per day and $41 for a weekend pass in advance, $26 and $46 at the festival site. A Movement 07 pre-party takes place at 10 p.m. Friday (May 25th) at Bleu, 1540 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Admission is $5. Information and schedules for all Movement 07 activities can be found at www.demf.com.
With 80 acts on four stages as this week's Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival 07, some judicious picking and choosing is in order. Allow us to suggest these artists as priorities:
* Malik Alston -- The multi-faceted Detroit artist will premiere music from his new album, "This Music is Live," with a live band of local luminaries at 2 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage.
* Rhythm & Sound -- The reggae/dub DJ Collective will play a six-hour set starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on the Pyramid Stage, with guest vocalists Willi Williams, Milton Henry and Lloyd Barnes (aka Bullwackie).
* Claude VonStroke -- The San Francisco impresario, who won local favor with his "Who's Afraid of Detroit" in 2006, spins at 8 p.m. Saturday on the Beatport Stage.
* Monolake - The Berlin-based duo will dish out its high-tech sounds at 8:45 p.. Sunday on the Main Stage.
* Different World with Claude Young and Takasi Nakajima -- This global meeting of the Detroit native and the star Japanese DJ combusts at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Real Detroit Stage.
* Booka Shade -- Another German duo, this one from Frankfurt, making a rare stateside appearance at 8:45 p.m. Monday on the Main Stage.
* Detroit legends -- Don't forget to wave the home town flag for those who helped establish Detroit's worldwide reputation as an electronic music mecca: Moodymann (aka Kenny Dixon, Jr.), 10 p.m. Saturday on the Main Stage; Anthony Shake Shakir, 6 p.m. Saturday on the Real Detroit Stage; Scan 7, 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Real Detroit Stage; Kenny Larkin, 5 p.m. Sunday on the Real Detroit Stage; Model 500 featuring Juan Atkins, 10 p.m. Sunday on the Main Stage; DJ Godfather, Brian Gillespie, et al, 2 p.m. Monday on the Waterfront Stage; Stacey Pullen, 6:30 p.m. Monday on the Real Detroit Stage; Richie Hawtin, 7:45 p.m. Monday on the Beatport Stage; Kevin Saunderson, 8 p.m. Monday on the Real Detroit Stage; Jeff Mills, 10 p.m. Monday on the Main Stage.
BEATS PER MOVEMENT
Hart Plaza will be Movement 07 central, but it's not the only place where the beats will be pounding. A series of after-parties will be taking place around downtown, staring late and finishing in the wee hours of the following morning. Details can be found at www.demf.com/afterparties/.
The St. Andrew's Hall complex, 431 E. Congress, Detroit, is hosting an adjacent event -- Industrial Movement II -- which takes place Saturday and Sunday (May 26th and 27th) and features performances by Meat Beat Manifesto, Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets), Japanese Car Crash, the Newlyweds and More. Admission prices vary. Call (313) 961-6358 or visit www.industrialmovementfestival.com.
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