By Alan Madlane
Music and Hamtramck. A match made in …
Well, Hamtramck. And it’s coming around again, like a record spinning round and round baby, and et cetera.
This will be the sixth year for the Hamtramck Music Fest, and it seems to have grown yet again, with the official website (2019.hamtramckmusicfest.com) touting over 180 musical acts.
The festival runs March 7-9.
If it seems like there’s been something like this going on in this area for longer than just six years, well let’s have a little history mini-lesson to review.
Hamtramck was once the sight of the fabled “Blowout,” where bands commandeered many of the local bars on the same weekend, and interested music lovers could see it all for one price.
This, in short, led to a lot of fun, as the city came crazily alive with revelers running from bar to bar to catch as many acts as they could in a single serving.
Unfortunately, its popularity also ultimately proved to be its undoing, especially where Hamtramck was concerned. This is because it was eventually expanded well beyond the city boundaries into Detroit, Ferndale and so on, taking on some pretty heavy-hitter sponsorships in the process.
It was no longer just Hamtramck’s baby anymore.
And while there hasn’t been a Blowout for four years now, the Hamtramck Music Fest, which came about to fill back in the void for a more-intimate, city-only party, is still here.
And it’s here with a charitable purpose. Last year, the festival donated $10,000 worth of musical equipment to the public school district. Now that’s giving back.
Just as with last year, we once again tracked down Festival Organizing Committee Member Eugene Strobe and badgered him with our annoying questions.
Review: I saw the list of performers on your homepage, but how many venues have committed this time?
Eugene Strobe: This year we have 24 performance venues. They range from stages in cafes, bars, clubs, shops, to libraries.
Review: What, if anything, will festivalgoers find different this year from last?
Strobe: This year we have more bands than ever: 209 total. So fans will have more opportunity to stumble upon their new favorite musical act, and be thoroughly entertained by the diversity in genres that we offer.
Another great aspect of this year’s festival is that it is a part of “8-Days” of exciting activity in the city of Hamtramck. This year, the music fest ties directly into Paczki Day and all of its related activities on March 2-6; the music festival is then on March 7-9 (more info at: 8daysinhamtramck.com).
Review: So it’ll be even more like our own little Mardi Gras, but drawn out over a whole week!
Are you running shuttles again this year, and if so, where will they be available to catch?
Strobe: Yes. Shuttle service is provided by SMART, and is free for anyone who wishes to use it. The shuttle buses will be traveling along a route that is specifically designed for our festival. Also, buses will operate from 8pm ‘til 2:30 am on Friday, March 8, as well as Saturday, March 9. Check our website soon for more details.
Review: What is the pricing for this year’s festival? Are you still using a wristband system? How will that work?
Strobe: All festival wristbands are $15, and available for purchase on our official website, as well as for sale at all metro-area record shops. A full list of those shops is also listed on our website.
Each wristband is good for the duration of the festival, and gets you in to see as many bands at as many venues as you desire.
Review: What are the ways people can buy tickets in advance, or else the very day of?
Strobe: During the festival on March 8 and 9, wristbands for purchase and will-call for pre-sales will be available at our official HMF Headquarters, located at 10225 Jos. Campau, from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. on both nights.
Otherwise, physically, will-call and wristband purchases will only be available at Ant Hall on Thursday, March 7, from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. Wristbands will also be available, while supplies last, at the local participating record shops as well on March 8 and 9.
Review: What are some of the acts that you, yourself, are looking forward to seeing and hearing?
Strobe: Each year is so much fun, because seeing the various HMF bands can be an unexpected adventure. Sometimes I’ll randomly bump into friends, and follow them around on their journey, and then get sidetracked and just pop into a new venue and be pleasantly surprised.
I’ll also sometimes make a list of bands to check out, and it may be musical acts I only heard about throughout the year, or else I may just go off of the inventiveness of the band name. There are so many great performers, that it is truly hard to choose.
Review: Anything for a cheapskate (like me) or poor person (like me) that’s free?
Strobe: Our opening night party on Thursday, March 7, at the Ant Hall and Ghost Light Bar are free to anyone who walks in. In addition to that, our entire line-up of all-ages venues is free to the public as well. That includes any performance that happens before 6 p.m. during festival weekend.
Review: Will there be a charitable donation again this year, and do you know yet where it will go? Do you usually tell people in advance?
Strobe: The mission of the Hamtramck Music Fest is to use 100 percent of festival proceeds to acquire music and art equipment for the Hamtramck Public Schools Music and Arts programs.
Last year, we donated over $10,000 worth of gear to the public school kids of Hamtramck. We hope to top that number this year, with the help of musicians and music lovers from all over the region, and beyond.
Review: Anything you want to remind people about how to behave as they traverse local neighborhoods in search of their next music fix?
Strobe: The golden rule of both well-intended music festivals and a strong community is to look out for one another. Keeping everyone safe is a major goal of everyone involved. Walking together in groups, making new friends, and celebrating one another is what it is all about.
From shop owners, to residents, to city employees and elected officials, as well as the volunteer organizers of the HMF, we are all dedicated to making this an enjoyable and wonderful event for all!
Feb. 22, 2019