Since 2000, Movement Electronic Music Festival (formerly Detroit Electronic Music Festival) has been transforming Detroit, Michigan, during Memorial Day weekend. Nationally, the long weekend signifies the start of summer, but here, the weekend in itself is the highest of holidays for ravers. To those in the scene, Movement is best known as “Techno Christmas” and the city of Detroit has gifts for all those that make the trip.
While the festival is a singular sight to behold—as diverse, complex and strange as Detroit itself—to really put a finger on the pulse of Detroit’s techno community, you need to wait until Movement closes its doors and nearly 100,000 people tumble out to late-night eateries and countless afterparties. From 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday night Detroit didn’t sleep, but neither did we. Here’s our play-by-play of the night (and morning) at some of the city’s most legendary sites—TV Lounge, the Masonic Temple and Lafayette Coney Island.
With the festival still in full swing, blending techno beats can be heard blaring from the riverfront all the way to Lafayette Coney Island—a world famous, yet still humble diner that’s blocks away from the action. Right now, the small hot dog spot is relaxed. A few regulars are cracking jokes at the counter. Our server knows that it’s going to be packed later, but the Lafayette team isn’t worried about the late night influx.
This sense of calm before the storm is all over Detroit. There’s not a single raver in sight yet at the daunting and majestic Masonic Temple, only a few families enjoying themselves across the street in Cass Park. A couple of colorful LED bikes cruise by including Trina’s, Vice President of the Detroit Lady Cruisers—an all-female bike enthusiast club. “Techno really isn’t my thing,” she says, but she does love seeing all the different people downtown.
Everything is set up and ready to go at TV Lounge for Soul Clap’s House of Efunk. Bright colors light up an empty dance floor while bartenders and vendors prep for the long, long night ahead. As the venue tests the sound system, heavy bass bounces off the neighboring buildings, flooding the entire block with the sweet sounds of techno.
As Saturday turns into Sunday, Movement officially ends for the night. Hungry hoards head into Lafayette. At first the crowd seems to be separate from the festival, but soon the fuzzy boots and painted faces appear. Waiters shout orders to cooks amongst the cacophonous noise of the crowd while others carry an ungodly amount of Coney dogs on one arm—an inimitable talent. One table of already exhausted visiting ravers scarf down their food. “Thank the Coney gods for this life-giving food,” one says as the others gush about Lafayette’s flavors. “I think I love Detroit more than anything.”
There’s a distinct glow to a person after a day full of day raving, you can immediately pick them out from their warm aura (and their slight sunburn). TV Lounge is full of these radiant beings ready for the funky celebration at hand. On the patio, DJ Kon blasts Prince’s “Controversy” as a healthy crowd quickly gets into the groove surrounded by packed bars and smoky barbecue grills. Inside a dark and humid room full of low-hanging light-bulbs and a small but dedicated crowd, Dan Bain hits the decks. The room looks a little bare, but a couple ferociously making out right in front of the fog machine proves that Bain’s vibe is right on the money.
While TV Lounge is ramping up, the Detroit Love party at the Masonic Temple is already near critical mass. Hundreds of people bask in the red and blue lights, bass pulsing harder and harder as you get closer to Seth Troxler, Carl Craig and Dubfire bumping out straight techno bangers. It’s loud, dark and feels like an underground rave—the amount of partiers is overwhelming, but there’s still room to dance. One particularly confident raver gets into the zone while wearing a shirt that defiantly reads “NOBODY LISTENS TO TECHNO.” Take that, Eminem.
Michael Jackson blasts from a motorcycle passing by as Lafayette just tries to keep up. It’s packed with festival- and partygoers in a twilight state of mind, but they’re keeping it together pretty well. For newcomers bumbling in, there’s no place to sit, but a bachelorette party from Texas has a whole table to themselves. They chose to celebrate at Movement. “I’ve been getting to rave and hang with my pretty friends,” says a sparkle-faced boy with pink hair. “It’s so magical!”
In line for TV Lounge’s barbecue, Movement’s cutest couple—he’s wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and khakis, she’s wearing a metallic leotard and impossible heels—is grinding on each other, rather impressively. The patio is ecstatic when Biz Markie drops N.W.A into his set, yelling “Yes! Yes, y’all” as the amoeba crowd jumps and flails their arms in unison, and the back alley is wall-to-wall packed with people getting down to Mike Dunn. Inside the venue, Maurice Fulton spins classic disco to bros with glitter plastered on their faces.
Detroit Love at the Masonic Temple was slated to end at 4 a.m. but as the hour approaches, the furious energy of the long-running afterparty is alive and well. Sunrise is only a couple of hours away, but one tuckered out raver—sporting JNCO shorts and no shirt—settles in for a techno nap outside the venue…right next to a row of port-a-potties.
Downtown Detroit is quiet, a rare moment in this jam-packed weekend. The sun is up, but Lafayette Coney Island is dark. All is quiet again on Cass Avenue in front of the Masonic Temple as well. There’s no sign, aside from a few scattered flyers on the ground, that a gigantic rave had even taken place. But the RBMA all-nighter at TV Lounge is still rolling. The light of day took some of the more burnt-out ravers out to the street to find their way home as new faces shuffled in from other afterparties around the city. Dan Bain lights a fire under the ass of the morning crowd in the back alley.
While Lafayette and the Masonic are still down for the count, TV Lounge starts to ramp up again for another day of thumping bass and crunchy digital glitches. The dance floor is full of smiles, sunglasses and fashionable newcomers—at this point only a few ravers look like they’ve been dancing for 12 hours straight. The TV Lounge blowout has a few more hours to go hard, but Sunday is just getting started. It just goes to show you, the night never has to end if you don’t stop partying.