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Shores Man Brings Movement to the Masses

Sam Fotias of St. Clair Shores is the operations manager for Paxahau, the company that presents the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Hart Plaza.

When the thousands of fans pack Hart Plaza in Detroit for this weekend's Movement Electronic Music Festival, they won't be thinking about the artists' contracts, the logistics of food storage or placement of the portable toilets.

And that is the way Sam Fotias wants it.

The St. Clair Shores resident is the operations director for Paxahau Promotions, the organizers of the Movement festival.

The annual Memorial Day weekend music festival draws some of the top names in electronic music from around the world for the three-day event that celebrates the history, and future, of techno music. This year Fatboy Slim and 69 (Carl Craig) are among the 105 scheduled acts.

Fotias, who grew up in Roseville and attended for grade school, has been in the electronic music scene since the early 1990s, when he started throwing underground parties and working with DJ Richie Hawtin.

In the late 1990s, he joined up with a couple of friends to form Paxahau. The company began as an Internet radio station and branched out to hosting parties and promoting club events.

In 2005, their labor of love took a turn, becoming a full-time profession when the previous electronic music festival producer approached Paxahau to take on planning for the underground stage at Hart Plaza.

"It was the first time in festival history that an outside promoter had been asked to produce an entire stage for the entire weekend," he said. "We booked the talent, dealt with all the production and brought our own aesthetics to the festival.

"We were able to book really big, great talent that was pretty significant at the time and completely blew the doors off that stage," he said.

The following year, Paxahau took over what was known then as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and in eight short weeks, they held their first festival.

"We were very fortunate to have a very strong team and strong support from volunteers and people who believed in the event to pull it off," Fotias said.

Previous festival directors who helped build the event were DJs who performed internationally. But Fotias and his colleagues were promoters, and were thus able to work throughout the year to plan and stage the event.

Fotias said the entire year is needed to secure and negotiate contracts and permits for parking, police and fire protection, permits for the temporary electrical grid, plan transportation and the many other components that go into planing a three-day music festival that features 12 hours of music a day on five stages.

“It is basically taking all of the nuts and bolts, all the different departments of the festival and then implementing them so they can be seamlessly executed on the festival grounds for load-in, show day and load-out," said Fotias, describing his job. "It is a pretty intense task."

This year, in addition to the building some of the most technologically advanced stages, he has to deal with large crowds—which nearly hit maximum capacity for Hart Plaza last year during Plastikman's show— and the demolition work at Ford Auditorium, which has encroached upon the staging area.

The festival has a commitment to Detroit, Fotias said. "This festival is about celebrating a genre of music that was created here," he said.

In the coming year, Paxahau will be producing the Detroit Jazz Festival and preparing for the 2012 Movement show.

Fotias said his schedule will be pretty hectic in the coming days and it will keep him from his home in the Shores. Living here is like living in a "vacation town" with its laid-back vibe and recreational activities, he said. It's a far different vibe from what he'll be doing at Hart Plaza this weekend.

"When I am up in a scissor lift at 9 or 10 o'clock at night when the festival is full rage, and watching the kids run back and forth  .... that is the most fulfilling part for me," Fotias said.

For tickets, visit http://movementfestival.tickets.musictoday.com/MovementFestival/calendar.aspx or call 800-594-8499.

natalie fotias May 25, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Sotiris (Sam) Fotias is also an outstanding husband and father! Wow, what a guy ;)
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey May 29, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Agreed, Natalie. Sam's the man.
Darryl Swiatkowski May 25, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Always a thrill to see local talent contributing to something that gets national and global attention!

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