Movement Electronic Music Festival, an incarnation of Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), will take over Hart Plaza this Memorial Day Weekend for its twelfth year in a row. Local event production company Paxahau has produced the world-class event since 2006.
While most may know that Detroit is Motown’s hometown, a lesser known fact amongst the general populace is the city’s role in pioneering techno, an early form of post-disco electronic dance music that sprouted around the same time as house music did in Chicago. “Electronic music is a disruptive force in the music industry, on just about every level, from performer to fan,” claims Jason Clark, Creative Director of Paxahau; a prestigious local event production company formally founded in 1998, Paxahau is now behind such illustrious annual events as Movement Electronic Music Festival, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, and Detroit Restaurant Week. Clark likens the bad rap electronic music sometimes receives to the perception skiers initially had of snowboarding. Attempting to outline why it has such a profound effect on those who enjoy it, Paxahau President and Movement Director Jason Huvaere discerns, “[Electronic music] bypasses conventional language and music formats and strikes the soul directly. It’s a more evolved relationship between sound, body, and mind.”
Chuck Flask, Paxahau’s Talent Buyer, puts it most succinctly, saying merely, “[It’s] because it makes you dance and allows you to be yourself.”
Being authentically oneself is, arguably, a characteristic intrinsic of Detroit. Having stated in a previous interview that “Detroit’s never had a ‘Hollywood side,’” Huvaere expands, “There is no one [in Detroit] to show off that kind of behavior to. There is nothing synthetic about the people or their experience here. Detroit is the real deal when it comes to personality.” Clark expounds on this thought, continuing, “When you see abandoned buildings every single day of your life, that just keeps you in check; [it] reminds you what is real. When everything is new and shiny and nice, then people aspire to match that, AKA the ‘Hollywood effect.’”
Aligned with the city’s lack of artificial attitudes, Paxahau has made a clear departure from years past by omitting all corporate sponsorship from the festival’s stage names. “It just felt right,” Huvaere declares. “It made more sense to bring it back to the family that makes up the Movement audience and maintain some purity in a sea of festivals now owned by giant corporations. Movement is one of the very few independent festivals left.” Three of the six stages maintain sponsorship from well-known digital electronic music outlets. Resident Advisor, an online magazine on underground dance music culture held in the highest regard, has backed a stage at Movement for the first time this year. One aspect of the festival that hasn’t changed over the years is Paxahau’s staunch commitment to quality artistic curation. “We try to keep a nice balance highlighting artists who make music in its purest form and [who] respect the city’s music history and influence,” Flask offers. “We don’t simply choose an act based on their popularity at the present time,” he adds; a pillar the company seems to stand on, it’s a sentiment the production team has frequently employed.
“There is an energy [in Detroit] that is a natural resource that has obviously inspired innovation, and that has carried through to music-makers, performers, and [event] promoters,” explains Huvaere. “[To understand Detroit] you need to be here and experience it,” Clark articulates. “Detroit is a state of mind. It’s something you feel. You cannot read a book about Detroit and get it,” he continues.
Through their thoughtful programming, production and presentation of Movement for the past 11 years, Paxahau has encouraged and enabled global dance music fans in the hundreds of thousands to visit Detroit and get a sense of the city’s true essence.
“Music and nightlife are a significant facet of any emerging urban community that is looking to attract and maintain a younger base, but it’s only one facet of the solution,” contends Sam Fotias, Paxahau’s Director of Operations. “A strong educational system, a strong support of all arts and culture, reliable and efficient mass transit, [and] a broad range of job opportunities for people of all skill levels are all things that need to come together to create a solid foundation for everything to move forward powerfully,” he elaborates.
“The spirit of design and innovation is strong here. You can feel its influence on so many facets of life,” Clark acknowledges.
“We focus on perceiving its influence in music. Electronic musicians are oftentimes more designers of sound and structure than musicians. We have dedicated our lives to shining a light on the rich tradition of musical exploration and excellence that thrives here.”