What would you say if someone offered you the opportunity of putting
on a free three-day concert for over a million people in the heart of
your city? Would you do it? Now, what if the task came with these additional
stipulations: make it happen with almost no budget, for little or no
pay, and likely even put your own income at risk? Would you still say
yes to that opportunity?
Detroit's Electronic Music Festival will happen this weekend because
a small group of people under the leadership of techno god-father Derrick
May all responded with a resounding "Yes!" to that challenge.
Despite issues plaguing the event all the way up to the end, the festival
goes on through the efforts of this unyieldingly optimistic and steadfastly
determined group of volunteers who have all seen this as a labor of
love. There have been problems and the scarcity of information has been
maddening, all that said, the challenges faced by this essentially volunteer
outfit are epic in scale.
The Movement team at work is not unlike watching the crowd at the festival.
A constantly rotating staff whips through the Movement headquarters.
Some are local, while others come from as far away as the United Kingdom,
Amsterdam and other parts of Europe, and Australia. One could never
accuse this bunch of sitting around. It's all about movement. As far
as asking any questions goes, the truth is no one stopped moving long
enough to get a word out.
We did manage to slow down Movement Director Derrick Ortencio long
enough to answer a few questions about this year's festival and the
efforts behind it. For Ortencio, who has devoted ten years of his life
to dance music and the last year and a half on the Movement Festivals,
"this represents the pinnacle" of those efforts. He speaks
for the entire Movement organization that they do it not because of
money, (in fact the event tends to be lucrative for everyone involved
except the people who put it on) but because they, "love the city,
love the people, and love the music."
difficulties of putting on a festival of this scale are multi-fold.
First of all as Ortencio puts it, "the business of art is a complicated
process." Some of the duties involve arranging acts (many of whom
still volunteer their performance), confirming sponsors, procuring equipment,
coordinating volunteers, and interacting with the media. To pull this
off smoothly, typically requires a well-established, well-funded outfit.
The Movement team, however, evolved from May's own Transmat label and
connections through the music industry. This means that at times the
vision of May and co. often end up at odds with what is actually feasible.
That divide is certainly a main contributor to communication breakdowns
of the past that continue to haunt them today.
Certainly money would help make many of their troubles go away. The
volunteer Movement staff would gain stability and be able to acquire
typical office things from a phone system to a copy machine. The city
of Detroit is not putting up any money, and in fact this year began
charging Movement for the use of Hart Plaza, the festival's center.
They also suffered a major blow when major sponsor, the turntable maker
bowed out with about two weeks to go. Despite all this, they soldiered
on and in some sense are overachieving given their means. (It is interesting
to compare the level of resources being thrown at the Superbowl to Movement.
While the Superbowl will unarguably bring an enormous national showcase
to Detroit, the Movement Festival brings people right into the heart
of the city and out on the streets.)
Obviously, in order to put on a free concert, sponsors are a necessary
part of the operation. Movement attempts to offer a different approach
to their sponsors - integrate their advertising into the spirit of the
festival. Along with this, Movement hopes to become a brand in and of
itself. They want to be more than just this festival, but an internationally
recognized, ummm, movement in touch with a generation of urban culture.
Ortencio sought to define what the festival is about. "First and
foremost this is a showcase of Detroit artists, this will always be
- old, new, up and coming, and established. Secondly, we hope to deliver
acts that are inspiring from all over the world." All of these
acts fit under a broad umbrella of electronic music and pay homage to
modern urban dance music. Whether around the corner or on the other
side of the world, all of this music comes emerges from a unifying link
of urban culture.
are a lot of new things to look for in these years festival. The festival
will have a "Techno Boulevard," running parallel to Jefferson
Avenue designated for independent music vendors to help promote and
nurture emerging talent. The Festival offers more than just sound, as
they have collaborated with Eclectic Detroit to bring an on-site light
and sound installation located next to the river stairway, near the
Pyramid Stage in Hart Plaza. This year's Underground stage will be hosted
by Movement's European partner: The Generator. A broad range of different
Detroit-influenced styles, performed and played by artists from Holland
can be heard during the weekend.
Events will be happening across the river as well. The
Art Gallery of Windsor hosts "Nodes and Circumstances":
an Electronic Music Forum. On Saturday the gallery will host a discussion
panel featuring May and others, as well as a series of educational and
hands-on activities relating to electronic music. Pretty cool stuff.
(Note to Detroit arts organizations, something like this ought to be
happening in Detroit next year.)
There are some new things to look for besides the music with this year's
festival. The long awaited Movement Program. This document offers bios
and photos of over fifty of the artists that will be performing. Ortencio
states that, "the beauty of [the festival] is that no one person
is in touch with what everyone performing can do. [The program] thus
becomes an enlightening experience for everyone." By offering this
material, they not only have produced something people can remember
the event by, but they hope to help everyone know about all the performers
when they leave. The program (which includes the schedule of performances)
will be available for $5 at the festival.
For an event that charges nothing to get in, this program serves as
an important source of revenue, as does the release of the Movement
DVD and the three-disk box-set. The DVD features footage of the festival
and the acts from last year's festival (The film can also be seen on
the big screen at the Roseville
Theatre.) The box-set, billed offers "the official sound track
of the 2003 Movement Festival." Compiled and edited by May and
Kevin Reynolds, it features tracks that showcase the artists at last
year's festival. Both the DVD and the CD-set will be available at the
festival and eventually through the website as well.
those who attended the festival in previous years, one thing of note
is how well-behaved the teeming crowd was. Ortencio offers an explanation,
"The underlying theme of the music is dominant in the atmosphere.
The reason they're there is not lost in the madness of the crowd. The
music deters all the other drama." And maybe that's a good metaphor
for the whole process. Despite the sometimes chaotic nature of planning
and coordination, in the end it's about the music. And Movement. Hope
to see you there.
For more details, the up-to-date line-up and schedule, go to www.movementfestival.com.