The fifth Mo Pop Festival has concluded, and one thing is for certain: it will continue to grow and bring amazing music experiences to the city of Detroit in the coming years. Mo Pop is still a fresh exciting music & arts festival in Michigan--it really feels like the brand is just getting started. Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Kali Uchis, Lizzo, Ella Mai and various other top talent acts drew a huge crowd of young, diverse fans to scenic West RiverFront Park. The two-day weekend event went off quite smoothly, seemingly without problems. The team behind Mo Pop worked hard to fit the two giant stages (as well as numerous other sites to see and things to do) perfectly in the park, yet it was still easy to get a great spot to enjoy any set at any time. There were no problems with crowd bottlenecking that can sometimes happen at other events of this size. Staff were friendly, readily available, and seemed to be enjoying being at the fest as much as any other attendee. Overall, the weather, atmosphere and attitude of everyone who gathered at the park for 2019’s Mo Pop was absolutely top tier.
The first day of this two-day urban gem really seemed to fly by--there was just so much to do and see. As mentioned earlier, the balmy river-front weather was quite enjoyable, though fans craving a little cool-off had plenty of alternatives to watching live performances on the lawn. The festival introduced a sizeable arcade event with free-to-play classics such as ‘Dragon’s Lair,’ ‘Marvel vs. Capcom,’ and ‘The Simpsons pinball,’ all accompanied by a party DJ. Just a quick few steps outside of the arcade, you could find another DJ bumping hyped-up dance music to a smaller group of the truest party people. Other more relaxed festival activities included browsing the craft bazaar, a mini-market with vendors selling handmade goods from Detroit’s local makers. And as you’d expect at any quality fest, there was no shortage of unique food and drink choices--Mo Pop even offered their own coffee and beer variants!
It’s also worth mentioning that this year’s Mo Pop lineup seemed to feature a nice mix of both male and female fronted bands. Watching hip hop/R&B act Lizzo’s set Saturday night was definitely a highlight of Mo Pop 2019. This artist has really blown up since her latest album ‘Cuz I Love You’ dropped earlier this year. Looking around before Lizzo took the stage, it almost seemed as if many fans came to the festival just to catch her performance. Lizzo’s set kept the crowd jumping with high energy dancers, crazy powerful vocals and female-positive lyrics. I typically would expect festival fans to start making their way over to the main stage a bit early during the second-to-last set of the night, but Lizzo was actually so entertaining that most of the crowd stuck around to see it all.
But let’s not downplay the excitement in the air as the crowd waited for Vampire Weekend to take the stage and close out Saturday night. Sure, they’ve been around for over a decade now, but that only made their playlist packed with anthems even more epic. The band kept the set list almost entirely classic, playing a majority of the setlist from their first three albums, but also making sure to sneak in a few new ones from their latest album ‘Father of the Bride.’ I can remember in the early 2010s when Vampire Weekend was constantly on music blogs such as Pitchfork.com and Hipster Runoff, and it is good to see they have stood the test of time and remain relevant almost 10 years later.
One of the best moments of Sunday at Mo Pop was when we got to hear a Tyler the Creator verse from the Kali Uchis song “After the Storm”. He was not physically present at the festival like when he headlined in 2017 but we still got to hear his voice and see his face on the big video screen. Ella Mai seems to be one of the most popular R and B singers right now, with her song “Boo’d Up” getting an astronomical 379 million views on YouTube. Ella Mai seemed very thankful for all of the support and repeatedly thanked the crowd for being at her show. She is not a one hit wonder with her other singles “Trip” and “Shot Clock” getting upwards of 80 million views each also. Tame Impala closed off the festival with an amazing psychedelic wall of sound and giant clouds of confetti that made music fans feel as if they were at the most important music festivals in the country. With hits such as “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “The Less I know the Better” Tame Impala gives fans catchy sing along songs mixed in with extended trippy moments of drawn out experimental noise.
In conclusion, Mo Pop is a music festival done the right way, with the right bands in a great location. There are rumors on the internet that this was the last year in RiverFront Park, and that the festival is moving into a new location in downtown Detroit. This is good news, as it means the festival is growing larger and is being revamped into something even better than it is now. Thank you, Mo Pop for the years of great music, and we will all look forward to the lineup announcement next year.