By Kevin Alan Lamb
The summer of music and love burns in Detroit as we gear up to cover another hot Michigan music festival. In its third year, MO POP is making the move from Freedom Hill to West Riverfront Park in Detroit. A sweltering heatwave has induced a fever in the D, only satisfied by our fresh coasts and the music which moves us, grooves us, and behooves us.
Launched in 2013 as a single-day event in Sterling Heights by AEG Live, MO POP joined forces with coproducer Dan McGowan to bring this celebration of artistic ingenuity downtown. Located between downtown Detroit and Corktown, the two-stage fusion of music and art will deliver 24 performances beginning this Saturday with George Morris, and brought to completion with Modest Mouse Sunday night.
“We had started the event a couple years ago when we were helping Freedom Hill relaunch, and it went over great, they are awesome to work with, but we felt in order for this event to reach it full potential it probably belonged downtown,” says Jason Rogalewski of the Los Angeles-based AEG. We had worked with Dan for a number of years doing events in places like the Crofoot, Royal Oak, and the Masonic, and rather than start a new one from scratch we felt like we had something here that would translate and work well downtown so we started looking for a site, started working with the Detroit River Conservancy and they turned us on to this park which is a great fit, fantastic location on the riverfront and super dynamic.”
The gettin’ will be good as local food trucks, crafts makers, brewers, and artists to give Detroit inspiration in ingenuity. This collaborative occasion foreshadows the future for growth in our city’s reemergence as the creative pulse of the world. Fans will be able to groove to music from both stages on the beautiful West Riverfront without the hassle of an adventure and indecision between.
“We love to do it because our business, besides the pure monetary selling of tickets, is to expose people to new, great music,” McGowan said.
While much excitement surrounds Modest Mouse, Passion Pit, Chromeo, Brandon Flowers, and Iron and Wine with Ben Bridwell, these fancy feet with be cutting rugs with Detroit’s favorite female vocalist, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas (8 p.m. July 26). A product of West Bloomfield High School, Jessica is as cool as she is talented, a natural crowd conductor certain to deliver an intimate and ecstatic affair. Her family own’s Armando’s Restaurant and Catering in Detroit, and no one has supported her more. I remember running into Jessica at the gym just after she had moved home from Chicago, ready to take a leap of faith and embrace the gifts she was given to make music, magic, and apologies for stealing your man in-between.
“One of my favorite things about their restaurant is that in a lot of Mexican restaurants you can only get refried beans, and at their restaurant you can get black beans and white rice along with the traditional spicy Mexican rice and refried beans, and I much prefer the more Cuban approach, black beans, white rice. Big fan of the restaurant, big fan of the bakery. Jessica has played a number of times at the Crofoot. She played a women’s event a few years ago which she headlined; that was a special one. It’s great to see her grow and take her place among the national acts. She’s a local act, but she’s a national act playing really big, prominent festivals, and we’re proud to have her,” McGowan said, with black beans and rice likely on his mind.
As fate would have it I had the pleasure of running into my friend and MO POP art director Jeremy Hansen ,of River’s Edge Gallery, while working from my Ferndale office, M-Brew. With a rich history in the live painting scene, Hansen excitedly prepares for a number of creative installations that MO POPPERS are invited to interact with.
“There will be a large live painting pyramid. When fans walk in Saturday they are encouraged to write their name and vandalize the Pabst Van, it’s VANdalism. Attendees will be greeted by pianos which will be painted and played throughout the weekend,” Hansen said.
Hansen and his partner Patt Slack first formed a relationship with McGowan when they helped him design The Crofoot.
“I was thrilled with the opportunity for live collaboration, versus sitting at an art fair,” Hansen said.
With a new venue and new team, Hansen believes they have started from scratch and kept things simple, with big intentions at heart.
“Even though this is the third year, with the move from Sterling Heights to the water in Detroit, we are treating it like the first. We are resetting the clock. We didn’t want to overwhelm the public. We wanted to give people something they may not find at other festivals.”
MO POP will be the third event to take place at West Riverfront Park, giving a great number of Detroiters their first opportunity to get acquainted with the easterly view of the skyline from the west side. There is free bike parking and even an express bike entrance!
“As you stand here you can watch the constant flow of traffic across the ambassador bridge, nearly constant flow of freighters and other water crafts. The other day we saw two World War 2 fighter planes fly by in formation. Then of course, you get all the city elements: the skyline, the usual city characters walking by, it’s exciting,” McGowan said.
All over the world people are quick to speak of the desolation and corruption in Detroit, but I’m telling you from here along the coast where the water meets the land and the risen buildings stand, it’s looking pretty fine.
“One thing we did this year we hid tickets so people can find them, throughout the festival site there’s going to be 10 signs, and call to actions like ‘have your picture taken with the skyline, river, ambassador bridge,’ and if you use the hashtags on the sign (#MoPopFest #OpportunityDetroit) you can win meet and greets with some of the bands, free water, merch, kind bars, and t-shirts.”
Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sign.
Team Good Sign will be infusing an already festive scene with a healthy dose of Phun Photos, artist interviews, and one-of-a-kind artist interactions.
Facebook: This Is A Good Sign
$69 single day, $99.50 weekend. VIP: $149, $199