Metro Detroit Culture Calendar for May 2024

Ryan Patrick Hooper, the host of ”In the Groove” on 101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR station, explains why you should give Movement a try.
The Movement music festival is a three-day event that takes place in Hart Plaza. // Photograph courtesy of Movement music festival

I spend a lot of my time trying to convince friends, family, and strangers of all shapes and sizes to dive into Detroit’s cultural scene. It doesn’t always work. If you’re not super into theater — or have never gone to a live theater production — it’s a challenge to get you into the seat. It’s intimidating! There’s a cost! I totally get it! But crossing that threshold into something new is critical and could change your life — as it did mine.

I’ve covered the Movement music festival for years, since back when I was convinced that the music wasn’t really for me. But in that first year, I found myself completely absorbed, dancing along to the beat, feeling the bass in my chest, and understanding the concept that this music is a lifestyle. Just look at the outfits, the vibe of the patrons, and the fact that the afterparties that are spread throughout the city have almost become a bigger deal than the official festival grounds themselves.

I think about this idea every time Movement rolls around. It’s one of the largest festivals in the world dedicated to electronic music — a vague, massive, sweeping musical genre that gobbles up so many bands and performers that it’s impossible to pin down. And whatever idea you have of what it is should be thrown out the window when Movement takes over Hart Plaza over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27).

Detroit is one of the birthplaces of this music. That connection and built-in local pride is what I always hope switches people over to giving it a chance. I have to make this same argument for the Detroit Jazz Festival, too. I’ve watched people get hooked when they give it a try (and the jazz festival is free and the risk threshold arguably much lower for someone exploring something new in their hometown).

Movement is expensive. A three-day pass can run you over $300; a single-day ticket over $150. But it offers a lot of festival for the price: more than 115 acts across six stages, with the Detroit skyline as your backdrop and the Detroit River bringing a welcoming cool breeze to often blazing-hot days in Hart Plaza’s concrete jungle.

The variety of music is astonishing. It’s a shame that all of Movement gets unfairly lumped into an umbrella term like “electronic music.” And I’m not here to complicate things by sorting through subgenres and breaking them down for you.

But there’s mainstream appeal here. The rapper Ludacris is set to perform. Fatboy Slim has at least 10 hits you’ll recognize from the radio (albeit from years ago). Indie heartthrob James Blake is doing a DJ set (don’t expect to hear him sing during this).

Detroit is always well represented. Even as the festival has aimed for bigger-name acts, its organizers have never abandoned using it as a marquee event for local talent. Detroit techno forefathers like Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, and Kevin Saunderson (performing alongside DJ-turned-actor Idris Elba) are the masters of their craft.

The music discovery is what thrills me the most. I love stumbling over to a stage with a name I’ve never heard before and going in blind. It’s like seeing the cool cover of an album at a record store and buying it simply for its aesthetic. And most of the time, I’m blown away. This year, I’ve got my eye on Avalon Emerson, Channel Tres, Goldie and his live band (he’s a legend, but I can’t imagine how intense it will be with live musicians accompanying his high-energy drum-and-bass sound), and dreamcastmoe.

There’s something special here that happens offstage, too. When you’re in a group of people committed to something that’s inherently always going to be a bit underground, a sense of camaraderie is built. We’re at something together and losing ourselves in the music. You don’t have to dance (I hardly do), but I promise you, if you give it a shot, you’ll find yourself on the dance floor, surprised you’re there at all but so happy that you gave this unique Detroit production a chance in the first place.

Tune into In the Groove on 101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR station, weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. 

This story originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. To read more, pick up a copy of Hour Detroit at a local retail outlet. Our digital edition will be available on May 6.