Though she’s no longer the city’s Special Events Coordinator due to budget cuts, the party is still going strong for Hamtramck resident Eve Doster Knepp. These days she keeps plenty busy as the owner of the public relations firm Norwegian Blue PR and as the coordinator of the Hamtramck Blowout, but she was still able to take a moment from her busy schedule to chat with The Review.
You’ve been known to put together some pretty awesome events – either your parents must have went away for the weekend a lot when you were in high school or you’re just incredibly gifted at what you do.
How exactly did you get into your current line of work?
Doster: Becoming an event coordinator just sort of happened naturally out of the confluence of a lot of weird, unrelated factors. In terms of doing music events specifically, that just sort of happened out of my natural proclivity get people to congregate (yes, I have been throwing sanctioned and non-sanctioned shindigs since I was a kid) and my love for live music.
I have a fairly abiding devotion to the Detroit music scene; I’ve lived all of my late-teen/adult life within it. It’s my privilege to work with this terrific sub-society of incredibly talented people. Detroit’s creative sector is the best in the world, if you ask me.
Also, there’s no doubt that the five years I spent writing for the Metro Times had a lot to do with why I opted for PR. I didn’t have the right personality to pursue music journalism any further, but I had all these connections from years of working as the listings editor — not to mention countless years before that bartending at fairly popular music venues (never underestimate the value of a good bartending job), touring, playing in bands, etc — so organizing music events was a fairly organic transition.
It must be interesting to do the same type of job but for different people and companies. What was one of your most favorite events to plan? And what about the least?
Doster: I don’t think I have a preferred type of event. They each have their own set of advantages and drawbacks. Diversifying with corporate, political and entertainment events is the best way to learn how event planning really works.
You’d think that because of my love of music that I’d prefer music-related events, but that’s not the case. In fact, sometimes being on the planning end of something you love can sort of distort it for you.
More than anything, having a challenge and a clean slate to create something enormous excites me. I love the possibility that comes with producing – you start with nothing; and if everything comes together, you work your tail off, and you have a little luck, some magical things can happen.
It doesn’t hurt that I really like people and I enjoy seeing them enjoying themselves. That being said, I’ve decided that this is going to be my last year booking the Blowout. I have some big changes coming up this year, and it feels right to sign off in 2011.
Aww, bummer – you’ll surely be missed. So what does the future hold for you?
Doster: I’m leaving for no reason other than I feel likes it’s time to let someone else, hopefully someone a little younger, take over. This year feels like the right time to step aside. I adore my bosses at the Metro Times, and booking the Blowout for four years has been a privilege. But … I am beginning a new chapter in my life, which means I need to start streamlining. I have complete faith that the Metro Times has this one under control.
That’s good to know. Switching topics, you’re originally from Royal Oak but you choose to live here in Hamtramck. What is it about the city that made you want to come here, and why do you stay?
Doster: Royal Oak was a wonderful place to grow, but, I pretty much left town at 19 when wanderlust came knocking. In fact, I moved around a lot until I finally found my home here in Hamtramck back on 2001.
Hamtramck is, in my opinion, one of the greatest cities in the country. It is literally a haven for creative people. Also, it is a close-knit community in an urban setting. Yes, we have our foibles, and let’s be honest, some downright idiotic things go down here sometimes; but Hamtramck is, to me anyway, the antithesis of suburban stasis.
I love that I can walk to my grocer, my baker and my butcher. I like that our town is peppered with family-owned ethnic restaurants and mom-and-pop stores — not soulless strip malls and hideous, cheap architecture. I like our dollar stores and our old man bars. I love that on any given night a great musician is probably performing at one of our music venues.
I like that places like Public Pool and Popps Packing are on par with initiatives happening in any major city in the world. I like that our mayor is a woman I aspire to be more like.
Speaking of great musicians in the area, your next big event is the Hamtramck Blowout. It’s now in its 14th year – how exactly did it get started, and do you think has another 14 years in it?
Doster: The Hamtramck Blowout started back in 1997 by two phenomenal guys — Chris Handyside and Brian Boyle. The idea was to create a SXSW-style event, in Hamtramck, specifically in celebration of the then-burgeoning Detroit Music scene.
This took place during the earliest stages of the Garage Rock explosion so the event gained popularity fairly quickly. As the years went by, it sort of evolved into an event that kicks off the new music year. It has also become a great place for new/ un-heard of bands to get exposure on a level they normally might not.
I know that the Metro Times is committed to keeping this event tasteful and local – and if you ask me, you can’t beat that model. The Blowout will be around for a long, long time.
What can we expect for this year’s Blowout? And are there any bands in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing?
Doster: Metro Times’ Managing Editor Brian Smith described this year’s Blowout perfectly, so, to quote him from metrotimes.com:
“Of course, it’s the music that matters. And the Hamtramck Blowout music festival, which turns an unruly 14 years old this year, is a mad collage of genres that matter right now.
“The whole thing is celebration by design. Hundreds of bands and thousands of Mitten State music fans — including others from such faraway lands known as Berlin, Wis., and Dublin, Ohio — descend on nearly 20 old-man bars in the beautifully flawed town of Hamtramck. They’ll discover a brilliant cross-section of tacky and genius, of indie ironies and girl-boy anti-harmonies, as well as tatted riff-a-rama. They’ll unearth super word-fly hip hop, Casio pajama pop, velvet-tongued soul and, perhaps, if lucky, deranged Hamtown polkas fueled on jezynowka. In short, they absorb what’s best in up-to-the-moment Michigan-created music.”
I can honestly say I am excited about every single one of the bands. I’m especially eager to re-see Hamtramck-based band, The Beekeepers (very Frank Zappa-esque) and a ton of great new bands from Ypsilanti. I could literally go on for pages about how much I respect these artists.
Now that you’ve answered all of our questions, is there anything you’d like to say? Go for it.
Doster: I would just like to take this opportunity to give shout outs to the hundreds of volunteers who keep the ethos of this town alive. It is my sincere hope that these people are truly appreciated. Without volunteers we are a dead town. We can all do better in this department.
Rather than insisting, “You know what you should do to make this better?”…we should instead challenge ourselves to instead ask, “What can I do to help?” I am biased, of course, but successful events and specialty shopping are a large part of the reason Hamtramck is still on the map — we should appreciate the people who make huge personal sacrifices to keep it all going (this means you: Kathleen Bittner, Rachel Srodek, Konrad Maziarz, Raymond and Joan Bittner, Tom and Cindy Cervenak, Greg Kowalski and countless equally deserving others).
That being said, I love you Hamtramck and I’m beyond proud to call you my home. Keep calm and carry on – everything is going to be OK.