Features Festivals

Detroit’s DEMF Returns with Free Techno Festival in July

November 22nd, 2013


demf free festival

Image c/o Romain Blanquart/DFP


The Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) will be returning this summer, celebrating Independence Day weekend with a three-day event free of charge. The festival, which launched in 2000, will feature more than 100 artists at five stages along with other exhibits and installations from July 4 through July 6.
Founder Carol Marvin announced that DEMF will take place at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit, while the Federation of Electronic Music Technology (FEMT) will be hosted at Ford Field. FEMT will not be free (tickets will start at around $300 for weekend passes) but will feature around 50 artists, including unique collaborations, technology labs, exhibits and artists lectures. Though DEMF and FEMT are different events with different missions, Marvin considers each halves that make up the whole, emphasized by the tagline ‘United We Dance.’
According to the DEMF main site, the festival, which has been on hiatus since 2002, is returning in an attempt to “create an exceptional footprint for a world party of epic proportions.” By creating an all-inclusive event, the founders of the DEMF hope to spread electronic music in a universal manner, as opposed to large-scale festivals like Ultra or Electric Daisy Carnival, which sell out in seconds and leave many fans missing out due to poor timing or limited funds.
Of course, being in Detroit, the event will be celebrating the city’s roots with a focus on techno. DEMF will include a Detroit Techno stage as well as an International Stage and three other Main Stages. These stages will feature DJs from over 20 countries – top clubs from around the world will be sending a select DJ as an ambassador of their county to form “a United Nations of Techno.”
Contrary to popular belief, DEMF and Movement Electronic Music Festival (still taking place from May 26th to 27th) are not the same thing. Despite the fact that Movement is often thought of as synonymous with DEMF, the two are not actually the same. DEMF was initially a city initiative; city officials hired Carol Marvin to run the festival in 2000 and she directed it for three years before the city of Detroit declined to renew her contract. After a few failed attempts at resurrection, city officials selected local event company Paxahau to be the new festival organizers in 2006. Paxahau renamed the fest as ‘Movement Electronic Music Festival’ and haven’t looked back.
It’s clear that there is some tension between the two. Marvin’s statements during the press conference, such as “we’ll never use the term ‘EDM,’ and that she isn’t “thinking about what other people do,” clearly indicate that DEMF is striving to separate themselves from Movement. After the announcement, Movement released a letter to fans and supporters, outlining their need for a slight price thanks to local competition. That being said, both parties seem more focused on unity and enjoyment than negativity, so little will likely come of it.
DEMF returning during the US’s biggest celebratory weekend is no coincidence – the festival’s mission statement is “connecting the world through the power of dance music. Presenting the definitive global experience of dance and electronic music, art, technology and culture.” By offering two events – paid and unpaid – and representing an international array of artists, this festival is sure to live up to its goals and create a global experience yet to take place in the US. “A free festival invites the whole world to come together and enjoy a gift from Detroit that is Detroit,” says Marvin.
The idea of a free festival is nothing new – DEMF was free and open to the public from 2000 to 2002 – but it does seem difficult to maintain in this decade. However, newer events like the Virgin Mobile Freefest have proven to be successful and profitable, and the inclusion of the Federation may provide DEMF the revenue it needs to return on a more regular basis.
Tickets for FEMT go on sale 11/22.





Written by contributor Sarah Ribeiro.

With a love of dance music stemming from countless years of dance lessons and bass-thumping car rides with her music-obsessed father, Sarah Ribeiro is a Hartford-raised music addict who moved to Boston in the pursuit of a supportive and open nightlife scene. A passion for learning and a willingness to grow has pulled her out of her trancehead sphere and exposed her to a crazy variety of music and introduced her to some of the most amazing people (and events) Boston has to offer. A writer and social mediac, her main interests are music, literature, technology, art, and her first love: the city of Boston.