Mo Pop Festival 2016: Day 1
I’m going to be honest, the last thing I wanted to do when I woke up the Saturday of Mo Pop was get up and go sit out in the heat all day. I had been dreading the day all week after the temps rose back up to unbearable. That doesn’t even factor in the sleep deprivation and complete lack of motivation to do anything but lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. I reminded myself of the stellar lineup this year and, after a few minutes, managed to motivate myself enough to get out of bed and get ready for my day.
I regretted the decision as soon as I stepped outside, it was hot enough that all you needed to do to sweat was breathe. I arrived to the Detroit Riverfront and quickly took shelter under the VIP tent, gulping down cold water and preparing for the opening act. Detroit’s own Valley Hush was added to the roster just a few days before the event due to FIDLAR having to pull out. Having a hometown band open up the festivities has always worked for Mo Pop and this year it was no different. Singer, Lianna Vanicelli didn’t seem to even register the 90+ degree weather as she bounced around the stage throughout the energetic yet short set the band had. Valley Hush’s brand of dream pop was just what we all needed to forget the heat and enjoy the kick off of Mo Pop 2016.
The festival was already running behind so the crew manning the Fender Stage moved quickly to set up for the next band, Boston foursome, Quilt. I had done a little homework this year by checking out every band that was playing and I was quite excited to see what Quilt’s live show would be like. After dedicating their set to “the true heroes: the United States Post Office,” the band kicked things off with the chill “Passerby.” The guys took it up a bit with the hypnotic “Hissing My Plea,” during which I found it impossible to resist the urge to bounce along to the beat. The crowd seemed to just be settling into Quilt’s set when we were informed that they had to cut it short to get things back on track after a delay in opening the doors. I was pretty bummed but now I have the chance to explore the band’s discography more before they make it back to the mitten state.
After Quilt left the stage I started to feel a bit rough. I debated momentarily about leaving, with my VIP ticket I was allowed re-entry but I knew that if I got into the comfort of good air conditioning, I probably wouldn’t want to leave again. I decided to hit one of the numerous food trucks down in Food Truck Ralley Alley and grab some grub and a nice, cool beverage. The french fries from Chick-A-Dee plus an ice cold water did the trick, and I was feeling good again just in time to catch the next band.
It’s always nice to see a festival crowd get pumped for a band to take the stage, the anticipation just has a way of infecting everyone in the area. There was a nice buzz that filled the air, exploding when Coast Modern took the stage. The band’s beachy brand of indie rock was just right for the high 90’s temps. I had to retreat back to the shade of the VIP tent but I was one of the few that did. The mass of people in front of the Fender stage was a non-stop sea of movement as the band blasted through their set. Unfortunately, their set was also cut short in an attempt to get the festival back on track. Judging by the reaction to this from the crowd, I’m sure it won’t be long before Coast Modern is back to make it up to Detroit.
The energy sparked by Coast Modern continued right into Panama Wedding’s set. I’ve been hooked on the band’s synthpop sound since I first heard “All of the People” a couple of years ago and their set was one that I was most looking forward to and it was clear as soon as the band launched into their set with “A Brand New Life” that I wasn’t the only one. Coast Modern had pumped me up and I was unable to resist the urge to dance during Panama Wedding’s set, especially when they bused out “Uma” followed by “All of the People.” Seeing these guys live had me coming home and listening to all their tracks on repeat as I dreamed of seeing them again (hopefully) soon.
This was about the time that I ran into some people that I met at last year’s Mo Pop, Mike and Tina. It was a great reminder of why I went this year despite it being as hot as the surface of the sun out. The energy of the crowd is great, everyone was friendly, and I made some new friends along the way.
The positive vibes filling the air made it a little hard for some Mo Pop goers to enjoy the next act. Philadelphia’s Alexander Giannascoli aka Alex G took the stage immediately launching into some banter in which he (I’m sure jokingly) mocked the crowd by saying that he thought they’d be better looking before referring to them as ‘peasants.’ He eventually shouted for everyone to ‘shut the fuck up’ before apologizing and stating that he just wanted to make people laugh. Once he settled in, he and his band pumped out some fantastic chill garage rock that gave the crowd a bit of a reprieve after all the jumping around from previous sets.
Next up was another set that I was very interested to catch. Bishop Briggs wasted no time showing just how impressive her pipes were and drawing the attention of basically everyone that had packed the riverfront. I watched as people came from all around to get to the Grande Stage as she belted through “The Way I Do” and “Wild Horses.” You could hear her vocals bouncing around the Mo Pop Festival grounds throughout her entire set and she delivered a hell of a performance considering how hot it must have been up on that stage. If Briggs isn’t on your radar yet I suggest you get your life together because it won’t be long before she’s selling out shows.
It probably wasn’t an easy act to follow but Twin Peaks didn’t miss a beat as they took the stage after Briggs’ impressive set, kicking things off with “Butterfly.” The Chicago fivesome have the perfect 90’s nostalgia sound mixed with some blues and power pop that pulled me right in. It had been a while since we had had rain which meant the Mo Pop grounds were super dusty this year. A massive dust cloud was just about all you could see surrounding the stage throughout Twin Peaks’ set as the crowd jumped up and down throughout the entire thing.
The heat really started to drain me of my energy about half way through Twin Peaks’ set so I set off to get a nice, frozen coffee from Bearclaw Coffee Co.’s truck. There was a decent sized line and a bit of a mix up as far as people getting their drinks but the BCC crew kept their cool and I got my drink just in time to run over to the Grande Stage to catch the set that I was most excited for.
I was bummed that FIDLAR was unable to make it to Mo Pop this year but the fact that Tunde Olaniran would be taking the spot all but made up for it. I hadn’t seen Olaniran since his album, Transgressor, dropped last year and I was giddy at the though of hearing these new songs live. Plus, if you’ve read our blog before or have been lucky enough to catch Olaniran’s live show you know that it is always a memorable experience.
I was happy to see that there was an ever-growing crowd as I approached the stage, snagging a spot right near the front. Olaniran brought his A+++++ game (A game didn’t feel like enough considering he always brings it) to Mo Pop this year. He had more dancers backing him, the choreography, as always, was on point, and as an added bonus he had mixed in some quotes from The Craft fittingly into the set. He even played my favorite song, “Let Me Go,” and I’m not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes as he sang it. Happy is an understatement to how I felt to see so many people just going all out for his set and I can’t wait to see what Olaniran does next.
The vibe from Olaniran’s set carried over as another Michigan born artist took the Fender stage. Ear-splitting screams filled the air as Garrett Borns aka Børns came out and jumped right into “Seeing Stars.” I had seen Børns play Saint Andrew’s last year so I was interested to see what the rising pop star would bring to Mo Pop.
I have to say I was pretty impressed. It’s hard to forget just how young Børns is (just 24) when you see him perform live. He’s got a lot of talent and charisma and it was easy to see how he managed to snag a spot at Mo Pop. One of the best things about having Mo Pop on the riverfront is that you can see both stages no matter where you stand and I can honestly say that the crowd waiting for the next band at the Grande Stage was just as pumped as the crowd directly in front of Børns was when he busted out an amazing cover of “Bennie and the Jets.”
I was filled with regret when I heard what a great show Glass Animals had put on the last time they were in town so seeing them on the roster for this year’s Mo Pop had me super pumped. Everything that I had heard was true and I knew only a few minutes into their set that there would be little that could keep me from seeing them every time they come into the area.
Like every other band that played that day, they weren’t going to let the heat get to them as they powered through their set of fan favorites (“Black Mambo” and “Gooey”) and showcasing some new tracks off their upcoming album, How To Be A Human Being. Admittedly, my favorite song that they played just might happen to be when they covered “Gold Lion” and I have no shame about it.
I knew as soon as Haim took the stage and launched into “If I Could Change Your Mind” that I had found a new spirit animal in Este Haim. She busted out the best faces while slaying on the bass and she slayed a cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.” Even if you aren’t a fan of the Haim sisters’ particular brand of 80’s influenced pop rock sounds, I guarantee you’d find it impossible to resist the draw of their live show.
Not only are the ladies hella talented, but they’ve got some stage presence. They know how to keep a crowd interested whether they’re playing or just bantering with one another between tracks. I may not have been a fan of the band before they took the stage but their killer set has my anticipation up for their upcoming album and the chance to get to see them perform again.
The draw of the lights on the Grande Stage pulled me over as the crowd began to fill in for the final set of the night. I was exhausted and, honestly, not really a fan of G-Eazy but the buzz about his set interested me enough to at least catch part of it. The crowd went nuts when he took the stage launching right into “Random” and if the crowd was feeling the exhaustion from being in the heat all day they sure didn’t show it.
Unfortunately for me I was unable to resist the call of my bed and after only a few songs (I know, I’m old and lame) I gave in and headed home intent on getting a good night’s rest for the next day.
Stay tuned for the coverage of day two for Mo Pop Fest.
**All photos courtesy of Mo Pop Festival