Mo Pop Festival 2016: Day 2
The morning of day two of Mo Pop Festival was much different than that of day one. First off, it was raining which helped cool it down a bit (though the humidity still felt a bit ridiculous). Secondly, my mood had done a complete 180 after a day packed with amazing performances. I no longer had to coax myself to get excited for what lay ahead of me.
I entered the parking lot a bit surprised to see so many cars considering the non-stop rain that had been falling since I woke up. I hurriedly walked from the entrance to the VIP tent as the rain fell, seeing my new festival buddies Mike and Tina holding a seat for me. The first band of the day looked like they were finishing up their soundcheck and I enjoyed some music talk with Mike, Tina and the couple next to us as we discussed who we were excited to see.
Just as things started to come together, the rain started to fall a little harder forcing the band to put their instruments under a tarp and flee the stage. The rain may have put a stop to the show going on but it did not stop the ever-growing crowd from dancing happily. The delay wasn’t too long and made much more enjoyable by good company.
Finally The Greeting Committee took the stage. I’m not sure who was more excited; the band or the crowd as they danced gleefully about in the light rain. The Kansas City foursome’s light and bright indie pop / rock sound was a perfect way to start the day. The band may be young, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to get the fans excited. Singer Addie Sartino worked the crowd through their short set while her bandmates danced around the stage. I had only listened to a couple of tracks from TGC before hitting Mo Pop, but now that I’ve seen them live I can’t get enough of their EP, It’s Not All That Bad.
After hearing the praises of Lewis Del Mar sung by one of the people I talked to while we waited for the day to start, I couldn’t wait to see their live set. I was hooked as soon as the band took the stage and kicked things off with “Memories.” I wasn’t the only one, the crowd in front of the Fender Stage bobbed their heads in unison creating an interesting ripple effect throughout the sea of people. One of the best things about going to a festival is being exposed to so many different genres of music. While many Mo Pop goers may not have instantly fallen for Lewis Del Mar’s experimental mix of pop and rock upon hearing a track on the radio, it was clear that the band left that stage with quite a few more fans than when they walked onto it.
Like Bishop Briggs the day before, Raury managed to grab the attention of every person on the Mo Pop grounds with his performance. “Detroit, do you know how long I’ve been waiting to play you?” the 20 year old Atlantan yelled as he took the stage. While most of Raury’s set was filled with chill tunes, the singer-songwriter kept things lively by dancing animatedly and getting the crowd involved as much as possible. His energy and overall excitement to be playing the Motor City helped his short but sweet set stand out among a ton of great performances.
I have been waiting to catch Michael Nelson, aka Banners, ever since I first discovered the British singer-songwriter almost a year ago. I was pretty excited when it was finally time for him to take the stage, the feeling multiplying when he kicked his set off with new track, “Empires on Fire.” I particularly enjoyed the humor he infused into his set, mostly by bantering with his band.
There were a few beach balls being tossed around the crowd throughout the day. His guitarist kicked one that happened to land on stage during “Firefly” and it promptly flew back and bounced off the drummer causing the rest of the band to laugh. Nelson laughingly scolded the band as he continued to try to sing the rest of the song, commenting after to try and knock the ball towards he and the other Brits, not the Canadian in the band. Getting to finally see Banners live on top of hearing new music made my day just a little brighter.
I had instantly fallen in love with Kaleo upon hearing their single, “Way Down We Go,” on the radio. I went home and listened to everything I could find from the Icelandic quartet as I looked for upcoming tour dates. I was pleased to find that they’d be playing Mo Pop this year. Their set was one of the ones that I was most anticipating and, judging by the buzz of the crowd in front of the stage as they came out, I wasn’t the only one that was excited.
Their set was everything I could have hoped for. The guys sound amazing live and the crowd was really into their set which just helped make the experience that much better. I’m hoping to carve out some time in the near future to listen to the band’s new album, A/B so I can join in on singing along the next time Kaleo comes to town.
Nothing But Thieves caught my attention earlier this year when I caught their single, “Trip Switch,” on the radio. I was excited to get the chance to see what their live show was all about. While the day had started out a little wet but overall much cooler and pleasant than the previous day, temperatures had started to climb back up to unbearable as the band took the stage. Thankfully the earlier bands had gotten the energy so far up that there was no way it was coming back down.
The English five-piece kept the party going with their hooky rock sounds. I find it hard enough resisting the urge to get up and rock out when I’m listening to NBT at home so I wasn’t surprised in the slightest to find that their sound is just as infectious live. Like Kaleo, I found myself making a mental note to memorize their lyrics so I can sing along at the top of my lungs the next time they make it to the mitten.
Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s, aka Shakey Graves, was probably the set I had heard the most buzz about all weekend. I’d been a casual listener up until now but, after hearing everyone talk about it all weekend, was thinking that seeing Alejandro Rose-Garcia live could possibly push me into a bigger fan. “What’s up Detroit?” Rose-Garcia shouted as he took the stage to raucous applause. “I’ve wanted to say that for a long time,” he continued before diving into “If Not For You.”
Rose-Garcia’s music may be a bit more low key than Nothing But Thieves’, but he still brought just as much energy to his set. He kept the crowd entertained with his banter and dance moves on top of sounding pretty amazing live. I may have been behind on truly appreciating Shakey Graves, but I’d rather be later to the party than never show up.
While previous years at Mo Pop had featured bands that I was mostly unfamiliar with, this year’s lineup was packed with acts that I had been meaning to take more time to listen to. I had listened to Mac DeMarco here and there but was mostly looking forward to his live set as I had heard that he put on a good show. Once again, I was not disappointed.
DeMarco’s chill rock sound is perfect for a summer festival. I struggled to find one person not moving to the beat during his set including DeMarco himself who danced along with his guitar. DeMarco seemed to get more into it the further he got into his set, eventually putting down his guitar to get some crowdsurfing in, which, of course, the crowd ate up. I really do hate being late to the game when it comes to talented acts like DeMarco, but sometimes you really just have to experience a performer live to truly appreciate their talent.
Father John Misty’s impending set had also been garnering a lot of buzz mostly due to his set a few days prior at WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival in Camden, New Jersey. I had fallen in love with FJM’s latest album, I Love You, Honeybear and even more so after seeing him live at the end of last year. While I was entertained by the idea of getting to hear him launch into an epic rant, I definitely didn’t want him to cut his set short as we had finally gotten back on track for the day.
Thankfully FJM only offered a quick explanation of what he had meant by his rant and played a complete set for us. “I will be the internet’s pretentious douche bag if that’s what it takes to say something like this,” he said before ensuring the crowd of his respect for us before jumping back into the music. FJM sounded amazing as I expected he would, and kept the crowd entertained with his witty banter and random musings like about how he only recently realized that he has no visible eye brows. We were treated to not one but two new tracks after promising FJM that we wouldn’t record them and put them on the internet under the threat of him never coming back to Michigan again. His set had me swooning once again and the new tracks have me excited for another album hopefully sooner rather than later.
It’s been a few years since I last caught Matt and Kim’s live show but the memory still sticks out in my mind as one of the most fun concert experiences I’ve ever had. The Mo Pop crowd had steadily grown throughout the day so it was no surprise that there wasn’t much space directly in front of the Grande Stage by the time I had gotten over there. Thankfully a VIP ticket came with the perk of a special area by the stage so I managed to get a decent spot.
I was thankful once Matt and Kim’s set started that I had gotten a good spot. “Fact check: one of our favorite cities to play is Detroit,” Matt Johnson told the crowd as the duo took the stage and launched into “Make a Mess.” What I particularly love about seeing Matt and Kim live is how much fun they have on stage. It was clear by the look of utter joy on Kim Schifino’s face as she played that her favorite place to be is in playing in front of an audience.
Johnson and Schifino only got a couple songs into their set when Johnson’s keyboard stopped working. While he struggled to figure out what was going on, Schifino kept the crowd’s energy up by dancing and being pretty hilarious. It was clear after a few minutes that the problem was more complicated than originally thought so Johnson asked if they should end their set to which Schifino assured him that she could keep the crowd entertained in the meantime.
That’s when things got interesting. Schifino insisted on just having a huge dance party. She hopped into the crowd, standing on top of people’s hands and encouraged everyone to look around and take anyone that was her size and put them into the air. I can honestly say that it is the craziest live music experience I have ever had. For most of Matt and Kim’s set, the space in front of the Grande Stage was a mass of movement as people danced their asses off.
Eventually the problem was solved and Matt and Kim played a few songs to close out their set. “I swear I will remember this day as long as I live,” Johnson shouted into the crowd as things drew to a close. Say what you want about Detroit, but I will tell you one thing; we know how to bring the party.
The high from Matt and Kim’s set only increased my excitement for the next one. The Head and the Heart have been on my concert bucket list for some time now and their set was possibly the one I anticipated the most. Words cannot express how much I loved finally getting to see them perform live. Not only did they pack their set with most of my favorite tracks, they also played a ton of new tracks off their upcoming album, Signs of Light.
The band’s harmonies are on point live and I found myself for the first time that weekend melting from the beauty of it all rather than just the insufferable heat. While I enjoyed the energy that The Head and the Heart brought to their dance-worthy folk songs, it was the ballads that had me wishing their set could go on forever. I still get goosebumps just thinking about the crowd quietly singing along to “Rivers and Roads” and find myself chomping at the bit to get Signs of Light into my hands the moment it’s available.
I’m only a casual listener when it comes to M83, but the things I had heard about their live show had me sticking around despite the exhaustion that was beginning to set in after a long yet enjoyable day. The buzz coming from the crowd surrounding the Grande Stage kept increasing as we got closer and closer to the moment that the French fivesome would take the stage.
I would say that even if you aren’t a fan of M83’s signature synthpop sound, you still would be unable to resist the draw of their live show. M83 take advantage of the cinematic sound of their music by implementing wonderful lighting into their show to make it just as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the ears. Guitarist Jordan Lawlor slayed just as much as any rock guitarist I’ve ever seen live. The crowd threw whatever they had left into the closing set of Mo Pop 2016, dancing wildly as they tossed balloons with lights in them into the air to be bumped around.
As always, Mo Pop proved to be a memorable experience that I can’t wait to have again. The lineup was stellar this year and I was happy to cross a few bands off my ‘must see live’ list. What I truly love about Mo Pop is the overall energy of the crowd that packs the event. There’s nothing better than bonding over great music with wonderfully kind and positive people. The heat may have been unbearable this year, but it didn’t have any effect on the mood or energy of the bands or fans. It was a great year and I can’t wait to see what Mo Pop has to offer in 2017.
Make sure to check out my recap of day 1 of Mo Pop 2016.
**All photos courtesy of Mo Pop Festival