Last weekend, the third annual indie music festival, Mo Pop debuted in its new location in downtown Detroit at West Riverfront Park. The festival also expanded to two days this year with all day music running on two stages on Friday and Saturday. There were some problems with fans complaining about water shortages in the sizzling heat and storms leading to a cancellation and set time changes but overall the event was a success and drew large crowds both days.
Detroit plays host to a number of festivals each year from the country-oriented Hoedown to the electronic dazzler Movement to the eclectic Jazz Festival but the indie scene was sorely lacking and Mo Pop has done a great job of filling that space and providing fans with a different type of festival built on a mix of indie music, art and technology and fantastic local foods and brews. Organizers billed the festival as a free-spirited boutique fest with a DIY vibe and it certainly lived up to that.
Saturday’s music was kicked off on the second stage by Detroiters George Morris, whose experimental synth pop/hard rock mix immediately gave the message of what Mo Pop is all about as the early small crowd danced along. They were followed by another synth pop band over on the main stage Coin, whose sound harkens back to the alternative/pop sound of the nineties. The band played a number of tracks from their debut album including set highlight, “Run”.
Next up was Chicago’s Ryley Walker, who changed things up with a mellow sit down acoustic jam session. Ex Cops kept the mood going with a set of their alternative doom rock highlighted by the interplay between vocalists Amalie Bruun and Brian Harding.
Natalie Prass sped things up with her fiery brand of her guitar-oriented indie rock before Coasts hit the main stage and put their stamp on the day with a passionate set of anthemic rock that was truly a highlight of both days. Their set included current single “Oceans”, which is off of their upcoming album.
Detroit’s own King Tuff were up next with what can only be described as psychedelic garage rock that helped give the day yet one more unique vibe. James Bay began to draw the biggest crowd of the day as he took to the stage with a string of his hits including “Let It Go” and “Hold Back The River”. Alternative rockers Atlas Genius were up next and kept things moving before Iron & Wine hit the stage with collaborator Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses). Unfortunately, they took the stage just as a round of storms moved in so only ended up playing about twenty minutes before the rest of their set was cancelled. It was a shame because both the bands and the fans gathered could have cared less about the rain as they all moved around in abandonment and joy.
The Killer’s Brandon Flowers was due to play a solo set and electric funk duo Chromeo were supposed to close out the show but as one storm after another kept moving through, their start times kept getting pushed back and festival-goers began to fear that the rest of the evening would be a washout. Still the faithful stuck it out, even after being sent back to their cars when thunder and lightning entered the picture, but eventually everyone that stayed was let back in and after a delay, Brandon Flowers finally took to the stage for a truncated set. Again, it was a shame because in the time he played he put on a fantastic show that left the small crowd wanting more. In a short period, he managed to pay tribute to Detroit, opening with a cover of The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love With A Girl”, played a number of songs from his second solo album The Desired Effect and mixed in a few Killers tracks as well.
Meanwhile, the torrential rain left the main stage completely flooded and with Chromeo’s stage set having already been set up, their live show had to be cancelled and instead they were moved to the second stage to put on a small deejay set that the duo tried to make the best of. They mixed a set of Detroit rap and pulled out some of their own hits that included Dave 1 grabbing the mic for “Jealous (I Ain’t With It).
After feverishly working to get the grounds ready for Sunday, gates opened and fans flooded in for day two where they saw sets from Elel, Sonny and the Sunsets, Dreamers, Givers, In The Valley Below, Viet Cong, Wild Child, The Front Bottoms, and the energetic Saint Motel. Detroit’s own Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas then took to the stage to get the crowd pumped for festival-closers Modest Mouse. The hometown heroes mix of soul and pop has caught the national eye and the band’s fans packed the main stage area to watch them. The band closed things out with a cover of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon”.
Perhaps the most-anticipated set of the weekend was Modest Mouse’s and there was hardly an inch of space across the festival grounds to be seen by the time they took the stage, thirty minutes late. They proceeded to run through a energetic 85-minute set that spanned their discography and found front man Isaac Brock carrying on a running hilarious commentary with the crowd throughout the evening. The band closed things out with hits “Float” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me” before playing a shortened encore of “Strangers to Ourselves”.