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Detroit is perfect place for Laneway Festival's U.S. debut, founders say
Danny Rogers and Jerome Borazio have taken a quiet, steady approach to taking over the world.
The duo started the St. Jerome's Laneway Festival nine years ago as a modest street party in Melbourne, Australia. It's since grown into a taste-making, seven-city affair in Australasia that 70,000 fans earlier this year. And this weekend it makes its first U.S. appearance with a day-long show at the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills -- featuring The National, Icona Pop, Sigur Ros and 21 other bands on five stages -- which could open the door for more Laneway locales in the future.
"It was never a huge ambition or a big goal of ours to bring (Laneway) outside Australia," explains Rogers, who along with Borazio took Laneway -- named after the now defunct St. Jerome's bar in Melbourne -- to other Australian cities in 2006, then to Auckland, N.Z., in 2010 and Singapore in 2011. The two were approached by promoters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and other major markets, Rogers says, "but it just didn't make any sense to take the festival into those places where they already had similar types of events. It never felt right."
The Detroit area did, however.
"I had a real instinct the minute I started walking around the city and meeting people that Detroit would value Laneway and welcome it in a place that has incredible music history and incredible history overall," says Rogers, who first visited the area during the spring of 2012 at the suggestion of Sam Gores, a partner in the California-based Paradigm Talent Agency and brother of Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment owner Tom Gores. "I was really convinced that kind of place would be special to do something like Laneway Festival.
"I got the instinct the city is having a rebirth, and Laneway being a festival that has gone to place where we felt like there was change, it seemed like a great fit."
And with he festival about to happen, Rogers hasn't changed his tune.
"It's been a fantastic experience overall," he says of the venture, which he and Borazio are putting on in partnership with PS&E, with buy-in from the local Live Nation office, the Crofoot in Pontiac and Movement Electronic Festival producers Paxahau, who are curating one of the Laneway stages with Ann Arbor's Ghostly International.
"Apart from the time zone difference that has sometimes led to quite challenging early-morning conference calls, we all have worked so well together, and working with such a great team has made the experience a real pleasure."
In addition to the music, Laneway goers will be able to sample food and drink offerings from the Oxford Tap, Big Tommy's Parthenon, Clarkston's Union Joints, the Shimmy Shack Vegan Food Truck and a beer garden, and the art area will include exhibitions from Detroit Manufacturing, Made In Detroit, Community Rebirth and others, as well as psychic readings from the Boston TEa Room and a live art installation from Community Rebirth.
"There will be quite a lot for everybody to do," Rogers notes, adding that the five stages make this the largest Laneway show yet. "It's more stages than we've had in any other city, and the main reason for that is there was so much talent we wanted ot put on the event. We kept being offered some amazing things. It's a very eclectic lineup, which is what we've done all along. We felt it was worth it to make more room for everything."
Rogers predicts a turnout of 7-9,000 on Saturday, which, while far from a sell-out, he considers a good start.
"The ticket-buying market here is very light, so we've had to hold on to our seat and watch it slowly pick up," Rogers acknowledges. "There have been a few moments where we've been like, 'Man, is anyone here?'
"But we're feeling pretty good about it now. The festival is now in its 11th year. We've always taken the position to start slowly and build organically and let it be a festival music lovers really buy into and believe in and spread the word. That's what's happened in every other market. We know that if you give the artists and (the audience) a great experience, we'll be taken care of as well in the long run."
And Rogers says he and Borazio are committed to more Laneways in Detroit. "We're definitely here next year for sure," he confirms. "We feel like no one would want to put all this work to just do it as a one-off. As far as I'm concerned, as well as everyone else on the team, it's all systems go for next year.
"There's definitely been a lot of interest from other places, too," Rogers adds. "But we want to get Detroit right before we move on to other cities. Once we get this one properly off the ground, then we can go and look a other options."
The St. Jerome's Laneway Festival Detroit takes place Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Meadow Brook Music Festival on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills. Gates open at 11 a.m. and music starts at 12:40 p.m. Tickets are $79.50 general admission, $199 VIP. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com or www.detroit.lanewayfestival.com.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...
St. Jerome's Laneway isn't the only big festival going on in the metro area this weekend.
In fact, Ferndale, which often prides itself on being funky, will be positively festive on both sides of Woodward Avenue.
The DIY Street Fair runs Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15, in the municipal parking lots east of Woodward and south of Nine Mile Road, between the Ferndale Public Library and Woodward Avenue Brewers. A full Marketplace, food court and Kids Zone will be available, as well as performances by Theater Bizarre and an extensive music schedule with three stages -- two outdoors and one inside the Loving Touch. Headliners include Detroit protopunk rockers Death, the Sights, the Hard Lessons, Sean Forbes, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Suicide Machines and many others.
Schedules and more information about the DIY Street Fair can be found at www.diystreetfair.com.
West of Woodward, meanwhile, it will be a bit quieter along Nine Mile Road the for the 11th Annual Funky Ferndale Art Fair, which will exhibit three days of painting, photography, jewelry, clay, sculpture and fashion from more than 300 artists, along with a juried contest, food and children`s activities. The fair kicks off at 3 p.m. Friday and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday. More details are at www.michiganartshows.com -- Gary Graff
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