Detroit Festivalist Indie Indie Pop Live Review

LIVE REVIEW: MO POP Festival Highlights – Sterling Heights, MI – 7/12/14

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The second edition of Mo Pop Festival went off without a hitch last Saturday and brought together a laundry list of indie pop/folk bands on an ideal sunny day. Fans could legitimately see 14 bands across two stages in one day, not to mention gorge on craft beer, Detroit’s finest food trucks, vaudeville performances and arts. With a plethora of food, restrooms, space and good music available, the only complaint to be had was the length of sets (more on that later). Check out my highlights from the action-packed day at Mo Pop Festival below.

Bad Suns – Harmonie Stage – 4:30pm
photo 3 (2) LA-based quartet Bad Suns just released their debut album, Language & Perspective, and it was clear MO POP attendees had done their homework. Jangly guitar pop tracks like “Rearview”, “Transpose” and “Cardiac Arrest” were danceable and catchy enough for fans to keep up for 30 minutes. “Salt” received the greatest reception as lead singer Christo Bowman commanded all to move with the inescapable rhythm. Look to see Bad Suns’ profile rise in the near future.

Cold War Kids – Grand Stage – 3:45pm
photo 2 (2)It made sense that new acts like Bad Suns and Hundred Waters only had 30 minutes to reel in new fans. However, it almost seemed criminal to give an established act like Cold War Kids a 45 minute set (#festivalproblems). The indie vets still gave the short amount of time their all though with rollicking enthusiasm. Crashing keys, precise riffs and thumping percussion were particularly potent for an outdoor amphitheater show. Soon to be released songs like “All This Could Be Yours” were well received and meshed well with classics like “Hang Me Out To Dry” and “Hospital Beds”. Nathan Willett’s voice remains one of today’s most memorable voices and was especially engaging on “Loner Phase”.

City and Colour – Grand Stage – 9:40pm (photo via MO POP Festival)
10464113_531413240319222_5558896620376216022_n The “North American” band City and Colour earned bonus points from me for starting the encore with a rousing rendition of “The Girl” (also known as my wife and I’s wedding song). However, Dallas Green and co. won from start to finish with a set that reminded me of a bluesier Bon Iver. Songs like “Of Space and Time” and “Sleeping Sickness” were even more poignant in person and others drifted into mini-jam sessions. I can emphatically understand why the Canadian folk rockers sold out two nights at The Fillmore last November.

Lord Huron – Harmonie Stage – 7:30pm
photo 4 (1)We weren’t in the sand, but Lord Huron’s set reminded many that his sounds-capes would be perfect paired with a Michigan beach sunset. Introductions to songs even came with nature samples to create a vibe that felt more intimate than a festival performance. The show was a homecoming of sorts for lead singer/founder Ben Schneider (from Okemos) and he and bandmates turned their indie folk catalog into a raucous affair.

On record, most song speeds hover around midtempo and may have caused attendees to think a Lord Huron show might follow suit. Instead, the quintet punched up tracks like “Lonesome Dreams” and “Ends of The Earth” with harmonies, multiple guitars and furious energy. Percussionist Mark Barry deserved extra recognition for playing a variety of drums, including a washboard across his chest. Schneider and co. must have also focused their fury on holding off the evening rain as they were able to play all, but closing number “The Stranger” without precipitation. The crowd favorite turned into a rainy celebration as faithful Huron-ites (a LH cult I’m starting) cheered on a band on the rise.

Young The Giant’s Epic Frisbee Catch
I’m not the biggest Young The Giant fan, but you can tell why they’ve gained a following. Their live set was the most polished of the day and Sameer Gadhia’s energy was infectious. Their set also included the non-musical highlight of the day when Gadhia saw a fan waving a frisbee at the top of Freedom Hill Amphitheater. He offered the fan a “high five” if he could toss the neon green disc to the stage. You can watch the video above to see how that went over. The roar of the crowd sounded like the Pistons scored a buzzer beater. “My Body” still slays live, btw.

Special Thanks to Uber Detroit for providing the awesome VIP tickets and transportation!