There’s nothing quite like a little quick trip to Michigan to partake in a beautiful weekend focused on music, art, and community. Read below to see 2019’s Mo Pop Festival through the eyes of WLUW staff members Olivia, Elise, and Allison as we reflect on the weekend’s highlights, some of the people we met, and the great performances we witnessed.
Four summers ago, I bought myself a ticket for the first annual Mo Pop festival on the West Riverfront Park. Detroit was a much different place even then, but the art scene was thriving and this festival was the first sign to me that the city was changing drastically. At the heart and name of Mo Pop itself, the festival strives to appreciate the rich musical traditions within “Motown,” while simultaneously showcasing modern pop and alternative artists. This year’s lineup delivered a fusion of these ideas; hosting the charismatic Detroit-born artist Lizzo on the same bill as the household indie band Vampire Weekend. Each year, the festival draws in a different crowd, which then exposes a variety of music fans to the beautiful backdrop skyline of Detroit. 2019’s Mo Pop brought a new wave of more mainstream artists than previous years. Nonetheless, the festival was a successful and inclusive environment for fans of all backgrounds, which ultimately reflects the energy within the growing city of Detroit.
– Allison Lapinski
Mo Pop is firstly a music festival, but this past weekend I learned that it’s also so much more. Alongside its lineup highlighting talent across many different genres, Mo Pop also created space for its attendees to express themselves as well. Haute to Death, one of Detroit’s most stylish and expressive dance parties, graced Mo Pop this year and provided attendees with great dance music by the entrance of the fest. Many fest goers danced the weekend away with friends in the music pit. Nextdoor to the dance party was the Mo Cade, an air conditioned (bless) tent filled with numerous arcade game throwbacks for all to partake in. Mo Pop also featured a Craft Bazaar, a place where vendors came together to sell candles, jewelry, prints, and everything and anything in between. There was also an expansive selection of food choices at the Food Truck Rally Alley, including something for everyone! While music is certainly a focus for the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see how art and community as a whole is showcased at the fest.
– Olivia Cerza
Living in Chicago the past three years, I thought I had seen some of the most beautiful and expressive acts of queer love that existed – from the Chicago Pride events in June to queer communites like Boystown or Andersonville, I have experienced queer kingdoms. Yet, Mo Pop Music Festival was such a pleasant (and gay) surprise! There was so much open queer love present on the Detroit Riverwalk, from couples dancing together in the crowds or hanging out at the hammocking station. My favorite acts just happened to be gay women including King Princess and Siena Liggins. It was an empowering feeling as a queer community member myself to travel to a different city, specifically one like Detroit which has been through political and financial trauma, and see such undeniable queerness in a musical setting that’s already immensley enjoyable because of the diverse lineup.
– Elise McGannon
Upon entering the festival, we quickly realized that community is at the core of this event. Whether it was the new friends we danced with during performances or outfits that caught our attention from across the park, we felt inspired to share the stories of some of the many beautiful people we met at Mo Pop. Check out some of our new friends down below!
We saw these cuties at Siena Liggins and just knew we needed to chat all things Mo Pop with them! Alexa & Ally talked about how they see the Mo Pop fest as a place for people to connect. The weekend was very young when we chatted, so they spoke about how they looked forward to a weekend full of art, exploring the vendor booths, and seeing all different kinds of artists.
Jovan loves how Mo Pop is a place where people can come together to celebrate themselves, the things they love, and to just dance and be free. This is his first year at the fest, and he came out to support Lizzo and Kali Uchis. Decked out in shimmering body glitter and a neon crop top, I’m sure the pop queens were able to spot him dancing in the crowd instantly.
Dianna & Jazz shared that their favorite parts of Mo Pop are getting to see so many creative outfits throughout the crowd (us too!). This is their second time at the fest, and said they came back for all of the arcade games and to see Lizzo, of course. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Lizzo, Amen.
Hannah & Sam rocked one of the most popular looks this weekend: enjoying the music from the comfort of a nice blanket. As Snail Mail serenaded us in the background, we spoke about how Mo Pop is the perfect opportunity to listen to some good tunes while soaking up the sun and relaxing. Couldn’t agree more!
When I asked Coby & Gavin what their favorite part about Mo Pop was, they both screamed “LIZZO!!!!” in perfect unison. With matching fits down to their fuzzy socks (!!!), it’s no question how in sync these two are. Coby shared that this is his first festival EVER, to which we congratulate him and his decision to ring in the occasion with such killer style.
Eden & Maya think Mo Pop brings together the best of the best in terms of style inspo. These two spoke about how they wished they brought a blanket to take a break from the heat, and caution all future Mo Pop goers to remember to BYOB: Bring! Your! Own! Blanket!
Jada & Asia spoke about how easy it is to find new music they enjoy at Mo Pop. These two are seasoned Mo Pop veterans, listing this year as just one of many that they have placed under their belts. They keep coming back for the communal feel throughout the crowd, the music, and the welcoming atmosphere Mo Pop creates for all.
– Photos by Elise McGannon & Words by Olivia Cerza
Ah, yes, the music! This year’s Mo Pop brought together an eclectic sound. Check out our thoughts on this year’s performances below!
I couldn’t have imagined a better start to our weekend than dancing in the crowd to Siena Liggins. As a true pop girl at heart, I was placed under a spell from the moment this set started. A Detroit native herself, Liggins dominated the stage with effortless confidence and kindness, showing her special connection to her hometown. In a playful manner, Liggins serenaded a few fans and passed out polaroid cameras so crowd members could take pictures with friends and capture the energy of the set. While watching her perform, I was captivated by the presence that Liggins brought with her. As someone who once described her music as something “for girls who like girls,” Liggins’ fiercely confident and authentic manner is not only empowering, but also so beautiful to watch. It truly is powerful to see someone be so comfortable in their authenticity. With a clear influence from early 2000’s pop (note her “Flowerbomb” lyric “hit it one more time, call her Britney Spears”), Liggins’ new take on the genre is refreshing and comes from a voice that has a clear message to share. With infectious energy and an unwavering confidence in her style, Liggins is creating space for herself within pop music and paving the way for other young queer artists to share their voices.
Keep an eye out for our interview with the one & only Siena Liggins coming to our blog soon!
– Photo by Elise McGannon & Words by Olivia Cerza
Queer female musicians are taking the world by storm – Brooklyn native, King Princess (Mikaela Straus), is scaling the ranks of other incredible queer artists such as St. Vincent and Janelle Monae. The 20-year-old pop genius has some intense lyrics, such as, “I can taste your lipstick, I can lay down next to you, but it’s all in my head. If I drink enough I swear that I will wake up next to you,” (via the song Talia). She gladly brought that intensity to the stage on the Saturday of Mo Pop Music Fest 2019. Straus is undeniably and unashamedly sexual (get it, girl) on and off the stage. She moves her body along with her upbeat, catchy, and lyrically deep hit songs like “1950” or “Prophet.” The crowd at her performance on Saturday was thoroughly enjoying her performance – it was beautiful to see so much queer love among the audience as an openly gay woman killed her set as one of the leads of the entire festival.
– Photo & Words by Elise McGannon
There was something in the air all of Saturday afternoon at Mo Pop, and that something was uncontrollable excitement for the night’s MVP – Lizzo. When the time had come, nearly the entirety of Mo Pop fest goers crowded around the Grande Stage in anticipation. Before Queen Lizzo graced the stage, an overture of sorts blared through the speakers, including snippets of some of the most popular tracks within her catalogue to prepare the crowd for her arrival. As she strutted onstage in all of her glory, Detroit welcomed home its finest with open arms. Opening with “Cuz I Love You,” the title track off her album released earlier this year, Lizzo dominated the night with unbeatable vocals. Alongside The Big Grrrls, her backup dancers, Lizzo twerked and danced her way through songs like “Fitness,” “Boys,” and “Tempo.” She seemed overwhelmed by the amount of love this audience was throwing her way and had to pause for a moment to acknowledge how this was the largest Detroit crowd she ever performed for, something which would surely make her father proud. As Lizzo shed some tears and hugged her dancers, I doubt there was a dry eye in the crowd. Lizzo then jumped back in the game, even fiercer than before, and led us all in some well deserved self love. Closing with “Good as Hell,” Lizzo asked the audience to celebrate themselves and dance along with her.
– Olivia Cerza
Is Vampire Weekend a jam band? This is a question that many news outlets and fans alike have posed since the release of Father of the Bride earlier this summer. While I can’t imagine a resurrected Jerry Garcia covering a VW song, frontman Ezra Koenig certainly evokes themes and images from the methodologies of jam band culture. For example, at last year’s Lollapolooza festival, Koenig launched the “8 Minute Cape Cod” movement in which he extended one of the band’s most popular tracks into a jam session. I must admit that I was curious about how VW would fare after the immense crowd for Lizzo would clear out, but it turned out that many of the festival attendees stuck around to dance and sing along to the hits and deep-cuts from the LA transplant band from New York. Such songs as “Campus” and “Oxford Comma” remain anthems for college kids as they navigate their first years at university. Newer songs like “Harmony Hall” and “Sunflower” are sunny indie pop ballads perfect for any festival or outdoor venue. Not a bad end to night one.
– Allison Lapinski
Everyone has bad days, even ultimate cool girls such as Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail. Her performance on the Saturday of Mo Pop Music Fest 2019 was far from what we all know to be Lindsey’s best, which at her peak is pretty dang good. This is not to say that she didn’t entertain the large crowd at the River Stage – we all still had a great time. That special something that Baltimore based Snail Mail always delivers just seemed to be missing this time around. Jordan had performed at Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago the weekend prior and has been a busy bee with tons of other live shows in the past and future. She played fan favorites such as “Thinning” and “Pristine,” killing it on the guitar per usual. However, her vocals seemed slightly strained, possibly a result of the insanely busy touring schedule the dedicated musician currently has.
– Photo & Words by Elise McGannon
Whitney is a Chicago staple, and a band that WLUW has seen progress since the Smith Westerns disbanded. Therefore, it was refreshing and very exciting to see the band out of their element in Detroit. Sitting on a blanket and watching from afar as dark and heavy rainclouds passed through, I was a little worried that there would be a repeat of Pitchfork festival from the weekend previous. Thankfully, the rain held off and the clouds added another element to the moody and intimate songs from the Chicago duo Julien Ehlrich and Max Kakacek. Just coming off of their release parties at the Hideout, Julien shared new tracks “Day and Night” and “Friend of Mine” from the forthcoming album to the attentive crowd. The sleepy afternoon set brought new life to the Sunday lineup, yet it was juxtaposed by following artist, which was the pop punk band The Story So Far.
– Photo & Words by Alilson Lapinski
<3 That’s a wrap on Mo Pop 2019! See you next year <3