Monday, February 19, 2018

HMF - Year 5

Wristbands are on sale at venues throughout Hamtramck

You won't immediately notice the "sponsor" of the Hamtramck Music Fest, unless you're really looking... This annual city-wide music event, activating 21 venues of Hamtramck with a lineup of more than 160 local bands, comes together on March 1st for its fifth year. Often, attendees of supersized music festivals like this can expect to see glossy banners from big beer conglomerates or faceless corporate entities. But with the Hamtramck Music Fest, "the sponsor is the people..."

"It's the people working there, at each venue, showing up and volunteering and putting on the show," said Eugune Strobe, a co-founder of the event, and member of its board of volunteer organizers. "It's the bands, the people seeing the show, we are all the sponsors. The people who are actively part of it."

HMF came together when local musicians felt a calling to replace and reproduce a tradition that had been started by the Metro Times Blowout back in 1998. When the 3-day/all-local/multi-venue music festival expanded its format and location, as well as shifted its schedule to the spring, rather than the late winter, something felt lost... It went beyond just the fun, excitement, or even nostalgia of having a sonic holiday every year at a certain time where bands could assemble and get lost in a blur of performances.

Photos by Christopher M. Bjornberg -for the Detroit Free Press

HMF wanted to become something that was for something. Something that was people-powered, a celebration of the local music scene, yes, but also an intended as an infusion of energy into the venues of the city of Hamtramck. This year, proceeds from access-wristbands will go to benefit students of Hamtramck Public Schools' music & arts programs. "We hope that those students, then, can be the ones one day taking over the festival, 20 years from now..." said Strobe, referring to his contemporary members of HMF organizers who are going beyond the "celebrate the current music scene" and expanding it to a consideration of "the next generation."

"It's passing the torch," said Strobe. "That's how we've started seeing something that eventually the next bands, the next artists, the next community activists will take over what we're doing and continue it for the next generation to come."

The Hamtramck Music Fest kicks off March 1st, hosted at Ant Hall.
Friday & Saturday's lineups are packed into various venues throughout the city.
There are other events to watch out for, like a Sunday brunch, and a Saturday matinee at Cafe 1923

Strobe said that it is fulfilling to reach a 5-year marker, but also expressed an appreciation for how things can change up year to year. There are organizers that have been on board for all five years, but there have also been steady transitions of booking contributions from others where there's room to be filled by new volunteers coming in this year to bring their own energies/ideas to the table. It's been a steady kind of growing-pain/trial and error experience, Strobe said, but emphasized an intent to always keep the focus on creating a sizable showcase of all the different types of music being made here in Southeast Michigan.

"Every year is a little different," said Strobe. "Depending on who volunteers and shows up to help out ultimately determines what direction we go in..." And that might shape how individual lineups at each venue might manifest. But expanding outside of the perspective of those more deeply plugged in to the music scene, it still stands as a significant opportunity for the more casual weekend-concert-goer to dive in and become rather intensely acquainted with bands they may have never seen before, or may have never had impetus to go see otherwise.

"The persistence is really nice," said Strobe. "It shows that the community is behind it, and people who are involved, year to year to year are really doing it 'cuz they want to, they want to work on it and make it better. So I think that's an encouraging sign: that the community is still striving to make it happen."

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