Burning Man 2015 Recap

Each year thousands of people from all over the world descend upon a dried-up prehistoric lake in Nevada to celebrate human connection, self-expression and self-reliance. They collectively form Black Rock City, home to the event known as Burning Man.  

Burning Man is the kind of magical place free of judgment where you can let your freak flag fly in all its glory, meet others of your kind and have a chance to relieve yourself of the traps of the 9-5 grind. It is the closest thing you can get to utopia. An adult Disney fantasyland full of possibilities that renews your faith in mankind and generosity and the creativity of others. 

There are countless activities and workshops available to you - temples, art installations, mutant vehicles, lectures, light shows, fire-breathing mechanical octopuses and snakes. The collective and creative energy of Burning Man’s attendees is breathtaking. 

Nothing can quite prepare you mentally for what Burning Man throws your way. 

First held in 1986, this once-small San Francisco beach gathering has grown drastically over the years. The organizers behind the event deny any affiliations of being a “music festival,” but for all intents and purposes, this is the wildest music festival in the world. 

The event has hosted its share of high-profile DJs, many of them by the currently-out-of-favor Opulent Temple, a sound camp that regularly draws thousands with its unforgettable stage and next-level sound system. 

Sound camps are formed to provide dance floors with a specific focus on the expression of music and dance. Although these areas play various genres, electronic music is the dominant sound. It is also imperative that sound camps must all provide their own equipment. This is in accordance to one of the ten guiding principles of Burning Man; radical self-reliance. 

The more widely known sound camps include the Opulent Temple, Distrikt, Disorient, Bubbles and Bass, Sacred Spaces Village and Camp Question Mark. These spaces have hosted hundreds of DJs including old-school international superstars such as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, and Paul Oakenfold, EDM-era titans like Bassnectar, Skrillex and Diplo, break-beat regulars such as Stanton Warriors and well-respected dance music veterans like Marques Wyatt and Francois Kevorkian.

This year, Opulent Temple took a step away from their typical stage build for their popular Wednesday night “White Party.” Instead, there was a commutative stage consisting of multiple art cars from other camps. Various cars from other camps outfitted with large speakers met them at a specific location in the center area of Burning Man and linked up wirelessly to form a makeshift half circle dance floor. 

Around 1AM, the caravan of art cars announced a special DJ performance by both Carl Cox and Diplo. 

This special performance was an exception to the new rules of Burning Man this year. The organizers this year specifically designed Dance Music Zones for art cars with not one, not two, but three levels of sound. The DMZs were located a mile away from The Man in the opposite direction of the camp grounds. Given the popular surge of electronic music and acts like Above and Beyond, they figured this was the next best option to accommodate the select crowds. 

Dance music populated most of its pages, but there was something for everyone. There was flamboyant excess at the Liberace Karaoke and Piano Bar at Disorient. There was a rare and innovative instruments session at Kamp Suckie Fuckaye. Planet Earth gave 80s fans a Depeche Mode Tribute while the Rootpile worked on fixing your fiddles. Reverbia threw psyfolk gospel rock performances. 

Tuesday was Tutu Tuesday. The Distrikt during the day had DJs Derek Hena and Ejagz spinning french house and electro swing. At one moment, Thomas Jack appeared with his fellow Aussies. This was nothing unsurprising. And that’s the beauty of Burning Man. It didn’t really matter where you came from. Status or prestige or fame also let down its guard. 

In the midst of the dust storm that hit Tuesday night, there was the Kalliope Art Car at the far end of the camp ground. Tony Pink and other DJs kept it steady and played a fusion of disco, funk and house to liven up the mood despite the 1930s dust storm that lasted a few hours. 

Wednesday’s annual White Party hosted Carl Cox and Diplo in the inner playa. We then headed to the Deep Playa, which was past the boundary lines of Burning Man. This is where the DMZ (Dance Music Zone) was located. Situated far outside the camp grounds to isolate the loudest Art Cars noise levels. By far the most popular art car was the Robot Heart, which played mostly minimalist techno and tech house. Tycho returned this year to follow-up with his signature Sunrise Sermon, a downtempo masterpiece that started around 6am. 

Early Friday morning David Hohme unleashed an amazing set at Bubbles and Bass that we sadly had to miss, but the recording is one of the best sets posted online. The last night out we mustered up enough energy for the West Coast Bass Party at Sacred Spaces Village which featured tribal bass legends Beats Antique and glitch hop beast Phutureprimative. Friday was packed with the best acts out there, including Camea at Disorient, Mikey Lion and Lee Reynolds at Distrikt and Marquess Wyatt at Bubbles and Bass. At this point, we were losing steam from the week and enjoyed the Burning of the Man on Saturday. 

Despite rumors, Burning Man wasn’t only centered around techno. As an added bonus for exploring, it offered the most eclectic sounds in electronic music, as long as you were willing to explore. (Article and photos by Alex Grabowski)

(Photos and article by Alex Grabowski)

Movement Festival Brings a Glimmer of Life Back to Detroit

“Techno is the story of jazz as told by machines, written by the mechanics.”

Detroit was a city that was once one of the largest metropolises in the U.S. and the “Automotive Capital of the World”. And most importantly, its musical legacies influenced the generations. 

Detroit is now known for its urban decay and suffering the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Half of the population has moved out. Empty apartment buildings and distressed skyscrapers line the streets. But there is also techno. And its helping revitalize the greater downtown area…

On Memorial Day weekend, Detroit’s Hart Plaza hosted the annual Movement Festival (AKA DEMF for the purists), steadily defining itself as America’s key techno showcase and drawing fans from across the globe. 

Movement is a celebration of love, pride and hope that captures the resilient spirit of Detroit by championing the do-it-yourself attitude of turning a grassroots idea into a reality. Though it’s hard to ignore the city’s economic woes, it’s impossible to forget Detroit is the birthplace of techno. 

Instead of chasing chart-toppers, Movement's organizers, Paxahau Promotions, dug deep into electronic music’s progressive underground and exposed audiences to a sophisticated bill of pioneers and rising stars. In a world filled with EDM festivals that are less about sound and more about commercial image, Movement was genuine and unpretentious as it zeroed in on what mattered most: the music.

The festival catered to all types of electronic sounds. If one was looking for a quick reprieve from the suffocating basslines of Cell Injection, Rodhad or Matador in the Underground Stage, then Maya Jane Coles, Hot Since 82 and Henrik Schwartz were ready with the tech-house and fresh air at the sun-drenched Beatport Stage. 

The Red Bull Stage was the most diverse stage. Hip-hop performers such as People Under The Stairs and Detroit native Danny Brown shared the Red Bull Music Academy Stage with Disclosure and Eats Everything among other house djs. Red Bull also hosted techno and drum n bass artists such as Squarepusher, a crowd favorite known for his audio-visual performances that combine jazz, drum and bass and acid house. Method Man and Snoop Dogg were also among the hip-hop acts. While this might come as a shock to electronic die-hards, the musical diversity has played a role in exposing larger audiences to local talent, both classic and new. 

Few festivals pay tribute to the legends like Movement Festival, which made sure to give recognition to the greats where it was due. On the first night, the Thump Stage paid tribute with a “Detroit Love Showcase” that invited legends like Stacey Pullen and Carl Craig to delight the audience. Among other notable acts was Kerri Chandler, who played a soulful Chicago-house style set reminiscent of Frankie Knuckles with classics such as Marshall Jefferson’s Move Your Body. 

Other notable performances included Dog Blood, a collaboration between Skrillex and Germany’s Boys Noize, who delivered a bona fide show for a young audience that left the plaza spent. Henrik Schwartz helped deliver an incredibly diverse tech house set. And Seth Troxler went back to back with the Martinez Brothers as the “Tuskegee.” 

Toronto house duo Art Department played one of their last shows together. They announced they would be going separate ways, with producer Jonny White continuing under the moniker and his partner Kenny Glasgow pursuing solo material. The impending split didn’t get in the way of a seamless interplay between the two onstage. 

The experience was truly underground. And you couldn’t help but feel inspired by the community that hustled to put Detroit back on the map. 

Check out Detroit photos and prominent songs from Movement below. (Article, music selections and photos by Alex Grabowski)