Mo Pop Festival 2015 Part I: George Morris, Coin, Ryley Walker, Ex Cops, and Natalie Prass
Last year Mo Pop Festival was one of my favorite events. It was my first experience at an all day music festival and there were so many bands that I was excited to see live that it was truly a perfect day for me. This year along with a venue change to downtown Detroit, the festival was transformed from a one day event to a weekend long music extravaganza. I was lucky enough to receive my very first press pass and couldn’t have been more excited or in need of the weekend that I got to experience.
I arrived just before doors opened on Saturday, excited to get my day going. We’ve been enjoying a pretty mild summer in metro Detroit, but the heat of summer came just in time for the weekend festivities. Thankfully the new festival site was at West Riverfront Park next to the Detroit River so there was a very much appreciated breeze to help cool things down a little. The first thing I noticed upon entering the gates and making my way toward the stages was that they were closer in proximity than they were capable of being at Freedom Hill where the event took place last year. There wasn’t a spot in the clearing where you wouldn’t be able to see or hear a band on either stage.
I made my way over to the Fender Premium Audio stage and got a spot just as Detroit’s own George Morris was taking the stage. I had experienced George Morris’s unique set just over a year ago when they played the Flint Family BBQ and was excited to kick my Mo Pop experience off with some great hometown music. The smaller of the stages was bigger than last year’s giving Morris and co. plenty of room to move around. Morris was just as animated as I remembered, using the extra room to dance and melt faces which helped get the crowd ready for the day ahead of them. The band mostly focused on material from their new album, We Will Go to Hell for This LP, including the slow burner “Girls on Parade” and “Explode.” By the time George Morris closed out with “Fuck It,” my energy, and that of the small crowd that had arrived early was more than ready to face whatever else Mo Pop had to offer.
The first act taking the Grande stage was one of the band’s that I was most excited to see. Thankfully everything seemed to be running on time and I didn’t have to wait long for Nashville act, Coin, to take the stage. What made their set truly stand out was how excited and in awe they seemed to be that there were so many people dancing and singing along to their set. “It’s so cool to show up in a random city and people are just singing along,” singer Chase Lawrence said toward the end of the set. More and more people seemed to be filtering into the festival at this point, dancing and clapping along to Coin as they continued to just kill. “We haven’t been to Detroit in so long and last time we were here it was so weird. We needed this Detroit.” Lawrence said before launching into “Time Machine.” The ever growing crowd went nuts when the guys played their single “Run,” continuing to keep their own energy up as they danced and hopped around stage. Such an invigorating set from a band I was so eager to see made me so happy that I hadn’t missed Mo Pop this year.
I took a break from the sun as Ryley Walker took the stage, enjoying his set from the shade of the VIP tent. Walker also seemed pretty happy to be at Mo Pop this year, smiling brightly and joking with the crowd as he and his band set up and tuned for their set. I had checked out a few tracks of his before Mo Pop as he was one of the few artists that I wasn’t familiar with and was excited to get the complete live experience. Walker’s music is an interesting tapestry of music genres with influences going back to the 60’s. While his set was a bit more low energy than the previous two, I couldn’t help but move along to the funk infused beats that were interspersed throughout the set. I really enjoyed recognizing the title track from his new album, Primrose Green. Hearing the tracks live made me want to go back and give Walker’s songs another listen.
Ex Cops was another band that I just hadn’t had the time to really familiarize myself with other than what I had heard on the radio. I had spent most of my Friday listening to a Mo Pop artist playlist and really enjoyed the couple of songs from Ex Cops that I had heard so I was excited to hear more. The duo kept things moving with synth driven infectious tracks like “Separator” and “White Noise.” Like many of the acts that performed throughout the weekend, Ex Cops kept expressing how much fun they were having and how grateful they were to be there. “We’ve been on tour for two weeks,” Brian Harding informed the audience between songs. “And we flew out here just for this and so far this has been the best one!” I’m not sure if the crowd went more crazy for that statement or when Ex Cops played their big single “Black Soap.” All in all a great way to experience Ex Cops of the first time.
A few Natalie Prass tracks also popped up in my Mo Pop playlist and got me very excited to catch her live. Her set kicked off with “Your Fool” which was one of the songs that I had listened to and fell in love with. It had a Velvet Underground feel to it and I couldn’t help but bop along as Prass rocked through it. Her soulful voice was exactly what I needed to buck up a bit as I was starting to lose some steam from the long hot day. Even during the slower tracks I couldn’t help but move along to the infectious and alluring beat and I wasn’t the only one. Hearing Prass perform live had me going back and giving her new self-titled album a few listens through.
That wraps up part I of our Mo Pop review. Make sure to check out:
Part II featuring Coasts, King Tuff, James bay, Atlas Genius, and Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell
Part III featuring ELEL, Sonny & the Sunsets, Dreamers, GIVERS, In The Valley Below, and Viet Cong
Part IV featuring Wild Child, The Front Bottoms, Saint Motel, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas, and Modest Mouse