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Mo Pop Festival adds food, beer to music mix

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013

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After more than two decades of producing music festivals around the country, Mike Childs wanted to put a little Mo in his home town.

Childs is the creator of this weekend's Mo Pop Festival, which will feature a dozen bands on three stages as well as a food truck rally, a Biergarten showcasing Michigan-produced brews, an Artist Village and an array of carnival-style sideshows from sword swallowers to fire eaters and contortionists.

"I wanted to do something that was just a really great, total experience," explains Childs, a Warren Tower High School graduate who was born in Detroit and went to high school in Warren. He left town in 1988, after producing the WRIF morning show with Ken Calvert and Lynne Woodison, and since 1992 has been presenting tours, including Shinedown's Carnival of Madness tour, festivals, radio station-sponsored concerts and other special events.

Childs currently resides in New Jersey, where he's operated his Ledge Entertainment company since 2006.

Mo Pop, he says, is an idea he's had "for awhile" and is based on the idea of creating something more impactful than a standard concert with "a hot dog in a stale bun" for food. "I don't think that music and food and other experiences are exclusive," Childs explains. "If you're going to be at a festival all day to hear the music, let's add to that experience and enjoy tasting as well as hearing and use all your senses."

Noting that food truck operators "are artists in their own right," Childs has recruited eight from the metro area to be at Mo Pop, with Mexican fare specialist El Guapo even planning to make some new items specifically created for the festival. Beer is being handled the same way, with eight brewers including Rochester Mills Beer Co., Atwater Brewing Co. and Shorts Brewing Co., as well as Lagunitas Brewing Co. from Illinois and Colorado's New Belgium Brewing.

Mo Pop's music, meanwhile, leans towards arty and indie sounds such as Detroit's Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Jamaican Queens as well as the hippie folk-rock chorale Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes from California and rootsy Appalachian spirit of Virginia's Old Crow Medicine Show. "We wanted an alternative kind of pop-leaning presence," Childs explains. "I don't want to be exclusive; we're not just going after the Mumford & Sons crowd. I think it's pretty wide open; a lot of genres of music can fit in this event, but I think there's a bit of a theme there and they all fit together pretty well this year."

Childs acknowledges that it often takes time for an audience to find a new event, and he's already experienced a learning curve in the run-up to the first Mo Pop. But he claims to be patient and says that he views the festival as a going concern that will return next year -- and beyond.

"We really hope this is template for future shows, and we've already discussed next year," Childs says. "I believe in it 100 percent, so we definitely want to be able to grow. What we have to do this year is hopefully make it a great experience. We want to have people come out, spend the day and create really fun memories so next year they'll go, 'That was awesome. I really have to be there again' -- and bring their friends with them."

The Mo Pop Festival, featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Andrew Bird, Old Crow Medicine Show, Manchester Orchestra, Jamaican Queens and more, takes place Saturday, Aug. 17, at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre and Park, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights. Gates open at 10 a.m. Call 568-268-9700 or visit ww.freedomhill.net.

Web Site: www.freedomhill.net

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