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Twenty Years of Techno History at Movement

by Hannah Berney

The city of Detroit, Michigan is the birthplace of modern-day Techno as we know it. And as a result, it’s home to what has become one of North America’s best electronic dance music festival, and a destination event for tech-head fans to trek to… Movement Detroit. Hosted at the sprawling riverfront venue Hart Plaza, Movement Detroit hosts five different stages with distinct sounds and brings in a crowd utterly devoted to grooving out and getting down. But how did this festival become such a giant? Where did it all begin? To answer that question, we need to go back in time to the year 2000, to take a look at the many monikers this legendary event has gone through in its twenty-year history.

Movement Detroit was born under a different name when The Detroit Electronic Music Festival was first conceptualized twenty years ago. Originally a free event, DEMF was the result of the creative efforts of techno icon and Detroit native Carl Craig, along with event producer Carol Marvin, then head of Pop Culture Media. Even with a few roadblocks along the way, such as the city of Detroit waiting until the day before the festival began to sign the contract acknowledging its existence, the festival opened to much success in 2000. DEMF saw nearly a million fans in attendance to watch Techno mainstays such as Richie Hawtin, and the famed ‘Belleville Three’ Techno innovators Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, all take their turn at the decks. Not one to miss out on the fun, co-founder Carl Craig was also a headliner and has since returned to the festival on multiple occasions to spin his signature sound for devoted fans.

After the success of the first year, the festival changed its name to Focus Detroit Electronic Music Festival, a name created due to a $435,000 sponsorship from Ford Motor Company. The event remained free and boosted by a national TV ad campaign, attendance numbers nearly doubled. Despite the growing success of the festival, there was contention amongst the creators, when Carol Martin fired Carl Craig as creative director for alleged breach of contract, provoking the ire of Techno fans everywhere. Soon after, Martin would end her own involvement with the festival. This would lead to one of the festival’s first headliners, Derrick May, becoming a producer for DEMF. He would also be the first to christen the festival with its now recognizable title of Movement in 2004, but the newly-named event would face an uncertain future after Detroit city officials suddenly pulled their funding.

In 2005, ownership of the festival would once again pass to another DJ, fellow Belleville Three member Kevin Saunderson. It would also be renamed, to Fuse-In Detroit. This would also see the first year that the festival implemented paid admission, hoping to combat the financial losses of previous years. While still growing in popularity, Fuse-In was unable to recoup its budget, and Saunderson stepped down as producer. He would pass the reins to production company Paxahau, who had worked with both Craig, May, and Saunderson. Paxahau would once again rename the festival to Movement and would continue to grow the festival, adding more stages and introducing more artists and genres outside of the Detroit techno scope.

Today, Paxahau continues to produce Movement, which has grown and evolved while still remaining true to its roots. Though it may have changed ownership and names throughout its twenty-year history, it is safe to say that the core appeal of Movement still remains the same: to bring together thousands of Techno fans, united in their love for the music.

*Featured Image Via Paxahau*

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