The banks of Detroit's West Riverfront Park came alive just past 1 p.m. yesterday as the fifth annual Mo Pop Festival roared to life. The weather was perfect - in the 80s and sunny - and the river and the bridge to Windsor provided the perfect backdrop for a summertime concert festival.
Like many festivals, Mo Pop featured established headliners like Phantogram and Foster the People combined with up-and-comers like Michigander and Jay Som earlier in the day. The festival got off to a mellow start with the electro-acoustic duo Humons providing a soft and easy going rhythmic dance pop and built to a crescendo with Foster the People's flashy, electric set that closed the evening.
The pop themed festival had a healthy dose of hip hop on its first day, with newbie Amine and perennial faves Run the Jewels (RTJ) turning in fun and raucous sets. The MCs of RTJ, El-P and Killer Mike, mixed up political messages with a sense of humor and Amine mashed up a Spice Girls song in an ode to that 90s girl group. RTJ brought things down for a moment with a tribute to Chester Bennington, the recently deceased lead singer of Linkin Park.
The fun-loving and energetic vibe of the festival was perhaps best embodied by Grace Mitchell, who took the stage late due to transportation delays, and told the crowd "We didn't even have time to tune up but we're just gonna rock out, right??"
Offstage, the festival took on a decidedly Motor City theme. There were local food and drink vendors and artisans in a craft bazaar. There was a local nostalgia arcade and a local dart club had a combat course set up near the entrance. Towards the beginning of the day, a group of students had a yoga class along the river. Additionally, the tiny School of Rock stage featured local high school aged musicians rocking to primarily cover songs like Led Zeppelin and the Descendents.
It was a little ironic, then, that so many of the acts said that it was their first time ever playing Detroit. That obviously wasn't the case for Kalamazoo-based Michigander, whose early set drew an enthusiastic crowd that obviously knew the words to songs like "5 a.m." But others like Oakland-based Jay Som and Amine said that they had never played the Motor City before.
The afternoon may have belonged to Mondo Cozmo, who turned in a soulful set and joked about how the band was named after a dog, Cosmo. The evening, though, belonged to Phantogram. The New York duo turned in a stylish and energetic set that included everything from the early-era “Mouthful of Diamonds” to the newer “Calling All.”
Overall, it was a fun and energy-filled entry into the 2-day festival. The festivities will continue on Sunday with headliners Alt-J and Solange.