With a name like the Detroit Fringe Festival 2008, you can bet this weekend’s marquee event at the Detroit Music Hall Center will not be run-ofthe-mill entertainment.
Rather, it will be a 14-hour program of music and performance and visual art, some accessible, some wildly experimental but creating a combination of sensibilities that’s both unusual and intriguing.
“What we’re setting out to do is create a melting pot where we can bring all kinds of different people together and create an atmosphere where people can enjoy and experience different types of things they wouldn’t normally see together,” explains Jenny Fegerovich, the Music Hall’s marketing manager and one of the Fringe Festival’s organizers.
On Saturday that means the musings of comedienne, actress and Fringe Festival host Sandra Bernhard will collide with a DJ set by hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, music from Oscar- and Grammy-winner Luis Resto of Was (Not Was) and Polka Floyd, which specializes in Pink Floyd songs performed polka-style, along with the sexually explicit artwork of “The Dirty Show” founder Jerry Vile.
Also on tap for the Fringe Festival are performances by spoken-word rapper MC Fluent, DJ Jenny La Femme, the Chicago House music duo KGBEATS, the Detroit techno-pop duo Champions of Breakfast, and Los Minstrels Del Diablo, the multimedia winners of the Fringe Festival’s “Why Be Normal?” contest.
The avant garde San Francisco troupe The Residents will present “Icky Flix,” a retrospective of the quartet’s short films. Other visual artists include Tracee Mae Miller of the Detroit band Blanche, Amanda Box, Mark Dancey, Chris Lujan, Jane Petijean, glass specialist Minnie Krueger and sculptors Megan Harris and John Walters.
Fegerovich “would love” to have patrons come and stay for all 14 hours of the Fringe Fest, but she acknowledges that “might be a bit unrealistic.” Still, she’s confident that there will be something out of the ordinary going on no matter what time anyone drops in.
“We hope people might come,” she explains, “and, if they like one thing -— like music or fashion or art -— they’ll find something new that they like, too. There’s just a lot to experience.”
As a hip-hop pioneer, Afrika Bambaataa has seen the fringe become the mainstream. But the goundbreaking DJ and producer still feels a charge to educate audiences about when rap music was still new and foreign and, because of that, dangerous.
“I do that always in life — educate,” says Bambaataa, 50, who hails from the Bronx and has been active in music-making since 1977, first with the Universal Zulu Nation, then spinning at block parties and hosting DJ battles before putting out records with the Soulsonic Force.
He’s best-known for the 1982 hit “Planet Rock” and 1983’s “Renegades of Funk.” The latter was covered by Rage Against the Machine, while Bambaataa says that the former is “the most-sampled record ever in hip-hop history.
“To still be played like it’s new, I’m just amazed.”
These days, however, Bambaataa is an advocate for bringing back progressive radio, using his own shows — “True School Radio” on Harlem’s WHCR and a new XM satellite program called “Zulu Beatz,” which debuts at 10 p.m. Saturday, while he’s spinning at the Detroit Fringe Fest — as templates for his vision.
“I feel there needs to be a balance back to all these airwaves,” says Bambaataa, who was feted at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors in 2006 and nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. “There need to be all these radio stations that mix the old with the new, the new with the old.
“I don’t care if it’s hip-hop, R&B, soul, metal, salsa, reggae. …All the different music needs to be played, and all the groups from the old days back to the new days. That’s the only way all different generations can appreciate it, so we all have to do our part to open it up and give people a chance to hear everything.”
The Detroit Fringe Festival 2008 runs from 2 p.m. Saturday (April 5) to 4 a.m. Sunday (April 6) at the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $35, $20 for students. Call (313) 887-8500 or visit www.detroitfringefestival.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to