After 12-year hiatus, DEMF techno fest set for summer return
A familiar and historic name is returning to Detroit’s music calendar.
The three-day Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) will play Campus Martius Park next Fourth of July weekend, part of a two-fest endeavor that will include the accompanying Federation of Electronic Music Technology (FEMT) inside Ford Field.
The events were announced today by festival founder Carol Marvin, who produced the original DEMF at Hart Plaza from 2000 to 2002, launching a tradition of Memorial Day electronic music on the riverfront that continues with the annual Movement fest.
Broad plans were outlined during a swanky news media event this morning at Ford Field with Marvin and her team, including pioneering Detroit techno DJ Juan Atkins. Many details are still forthcoming — including artist lineups and sponsors — but some key basics were unveiled:
■ The DEMF will be a free fest featuring about 100 electronic DJs and producers at six stages and performance spaces, occupying several blocks around Campus Martius — about the same footprint used for events such as Winter Blast.
■ The simultaneous FEMT, a ticketed event, will take place inside the football stadium about half a mile across downtown. About 50 artists — some of them paired for unique collaborations — will perform on the main stage and nearby performance spaces, with an array of technology labs, exhibits and artist lectures throughout the stadium. Three-day passes will be $300, with VIP packages at $1,500, going on sale Friday.
■ Programming will have a Detroit focus, said Atkins, who is helping curate the lineup, though director Adriel Thornton said the fests will also be “international in scope” with major artists.
■ Among the handful of acts announced today were the Detroit group Underground Resistance and a pair of Atkins projects: Model 500 and Cybotron, which will reunite Atkins and former creative partner Rik Davis for their first-ever live performance. Also on the bill will be in-house DJs from a variety of international nightclubs, including Germany’s famed Tresor.
The two festivals will have “unique and different missions, but together create a perfect whole,” said Marvin, emphasizing the event’s tagline: “United We Dance.”
Today marked the most notable public re-emergence of Marvin since the 2002 DEMF. She had conceived and produced that festival in a deal with the City of Detroit, giving homegrown techno its most high-profile platform to that point.
Her contract was not renewed by city officials for 2003, and control of the Memorial Day weekend fest was handed to a production group led by Detroit DJ Derrick May, although Marvin retained ownership of the DEMF brand. The Hart Plaza festival eventually became a paid event and has been produced for eight years by Paxahau Promotions Group, which has already confirmed Movement 2014 for next May.
Marvin said she’s confident her new double festival will carve out its own distinct stature on the Detroit landscape, while reprising the spirit of her original “global dance party,” as she called it.
She’s also striving to retain the DEMF’s organic, grassroots vibe: “We’ll never use the term ‘EDM,’ ” Marvin said, citing the commercial label often attached to the modern electronic music genre.
Despite the series of name changes for the Hart Plaza festival through the years, that event has continued to be colloquially known as “DEMF” among many fans (who often pronounce it “demf”). Marvin downplayed the possibility of confusion in the marketplace with the formal return of the DEMF name.
“It’s not any confusion I’ve caused. (The original festival) was just well branded,” she said. “I think it will become clear to fans very quickly that DEMF is in Campus Martius Park for free.”
The morning DEMF announcement was soon followed by a statement from Paxahau publicizing the dates (May 24-26) and accumulated accolades for Movement.
“This event has been known under a few different names, but has always possessed the same unifying sprit — a celebration of the music and culture we all love, held in the heart of the city that gave the world techno — Detroit,” Paxahau’s Jason Huvaere wrote.
While the Paxahau statement avoided mention of DEMF, and Marvin said she won’t spend time “thinking about what other people do,” it was hard to escape the fact that two downtown electronic-music fests, just five weeks apart, will be vying for attention and attendance.
Success for both could hinge on the recent explosion of interest in electronic music, which has spawned a host of major festivals across the U.S. and turned acts such as Skrillex and Deadmau5 into mainstream stars.
And as the birthplace of techno in the 1980s, Detroit will always have a special feather in its cap.
“If any place could do it right, it’s Detroit,” said Thornton, DEMF’s production director. “We really should have a situation where there’s an electronic music festival here every other weekend.”
Marvin, who said she’s aiming for daily attendance of 100,000, said her initial DEMF run left her with a few lessons.
She called the environment of that time “the Wild West” — uncharted territory — and described herself as “naive” then in her dealings with political officials.
“Now we’ve thought through every detail,” she said of the upcoming festivals. “That’s the big difference.”
After 12-year hiatus, DEMF techno fest set for summer return | Detroit Free Press | freep.com