From Dallas to Detroit: A Trip to Techno Mecca

Texas techno enthusiasts find a place in the motherland of Detroit.
Texas techno enthusiasts find a place in the motherland of Detroit.
Max Carritt

Techno is a misunderstood genre in Texas. Here, the word techno is a catch-all used to describe all electronic music. Some even confuse it with the pop music-centered EDM fad, which is lot like lumping Good Charlotte in with Black Flag and calling them both punk. They're just not the same.

That's why scores of Dallas music fans flew halfway across the country this past Memorial Day weekend for Detroit's Movement Festival, which is all about the niche genre.

For some, like Dallas wedding DJ Dan Quinn, it’s a place to meet up with like-minded people. "My closest friends are scattered around the country and our bond has always been electronic music. We used to make an annual pilgrimage to Ibiza, but it's just been harder to do the last few years," he says. "My friend Paul turned me on to the Movement Festival in 2014 and I was blown away by the energy there. It's not like other U.S. festivals at all in terms of the lineup or the crowd that it attracts — people are really there for the music and the community, and that's hard to beat.”

In some ways, Movement has more in common with European festivals than other festivals in the U.S.

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“My expectations were completely off. I was expecting dark, behemoth warehouses with giant laser arrays, or maybe some setups at the festival like what you see at Ultra," says Dallas techno DJ Max Carritt. "You certainly get the warehouse experience at the afterparties but it’s much smaller, and the festival experience is beautiful, sunny, artful, and just gushing with love and energy. ... Just being in Detroit that weekend is like being at some weird family reunion where everyone actually wants to be there.”

Ally Fiesta was motivated to attend by the desire to hear new techno sounds. "I wanted to go after I started telling people about the insane set that Lag had at the Proton Paryt. That was the most heavy and dark set I've ever heard," she says. "I had posted that I am going to be committed to techno on [Facebook] and I got several direct messages from the Dallas techno DJs all telling me to go [to Detroit]. Everyone was telling me that it was worth it and I would hear every type of techno.”

For local house DJ Aiden Hafezamini, it was the prospect of hearing something different and staying on the cutting edge of the industry.

“Being in this part of the country, this kind of music isn't as easily accessible," he says. "The mixture of talent and sounds from all over the world, the selection of record stores, quality of music, creativity and history the city has to offer make it a enlightening reminder of what and who are pushing the boundaries every year.”

But even for Dallasites who've been attending Movement since it started, this year was noticeably different.
Although many of EDM’s biggest stars got their big breaks at Movement, there was a complete absence of EDM acts among the six festival stages and 20 to 30 afterparty events at this year's festival.

Movement has served as a bellwether for the ever-changing dance music industry, and this year marked a clear shift back to the festival's house and techno roots. The traditional neon colored and fuzzy rave wear was replaced with black clothes. It looked more like a scene at an industrial or metal show. Post-Industrial techno, which actually has a lot in common with death metal, featured more prominently at the underground stage.

“For me and everyone of my friends I was with it was by far The Underground Stage," Dallas techno DJ Washington Charcopa says of his standout experiences during the weekend. "They really got lots of love and outstanding sets were played there. I was also taken by Richie Hawtin's live set. I had actually seen the Richie Hawtin performance in Amsterdam but this time he took it to the next level."

There's more music over the four days than any one person could see, and many attendees find that their favorite moments are unplanned ones. “Our crew got up front early to have a good spot for Carl Cox on the last night, and Carl Craig’s ‘Versus’ Synthesizer Ensemble performed before him. In typical Movement fashion I was caught completely off guard and was just completely overwhelmed for the entire set," Caritt says. "Absolutely everything for that performance was exceptionally well done. So far my favorite movement moments have been things like that, where you end up at something that wasn’t really even on your radar, and it blows your mind.

There is a strong argument for Detroit being the most important city in modern music history. Punk rock has its roots there, by way of the Stooges and MC5; Motown turned soul music into its own industry; Funkadelic revolutionized funk; Detroit rappers Eminem and J Dilla are veritable geniuses; the White Stripes led the garage rock revival; and the Belleville Three made Detroit Techno its own genre.

Once a year, the mayor of Detroit declares Memorial Day week “Detroit Techno Week” and the whole city welcomes the hundred thousand plus crowd of techno tourists from all over the world to prove that not only do lots of people love this music, but they leave here inspired to act as Johnny Appleseeds and spread the word wherever they came from. Even Texas.


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