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Site move puts the Mo in Mo Pop festival

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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There's more Mo Pop for music fans to enjoy this weekend.

After two years at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, the festival is moving south to Detroit's West Rivefront Park, where 24 acts will spend two days playing on a pair of stages for what organizers hope will be an event that's bigger -- and better, in terms of both quality and attention.

"I think we came to the conclusion after two years that although we saw growth (at Freedom Hill) it wasn't what we were looking for," explains Jason Rogalewski of AEG Live!, which is promoting Mo Pop in conjunction with Pontiac's Crofoot Ballroom. "We felt it needed to be downtown and part of everything that's happening there. We always felt like the city needed an event like this downtown."

And, Rogalewski adds, the modern rock crowd that will turn out to see headliners such as Modest Mouse, Chromeo, Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell, Passion Pit, Killers frontman Brandon Flowers and others "is more receptive to going downtown than Sterling Heights."

Mo Pop started during 2013 and was the brainchild of Mike Childs, a Detroit native and Warren Tower High School graduate now based in New Jersey. The design was to create an event "to have all the creativity of Detroit in one central spot," including an eclectic lineup of national and local acts, food trucks, craft beers and crafts. Childs is no longer part of Mo Pop due to "the old philosophical differences," but while he's "definitely disappointed" he remains supportive of the festival and this year's changes.

"I think the move downtown was great," Childs says. "I think that's definitely where it needs to be. I'm excited to see them succeed and carry the name on."

AEG's Rogalewski says the move already appears to be paying dividends; advance sales for this year's Mo Pop are double from last year's total. And Crofoot managing partner Dan McGowan says he expects the site -- a 20-acre park that sits between Joe Louis Arena and the Ambassador Bridge -- to be a hit with festival goers.

"It's not only outdoors on the river, but it really connects with downtown," McGowan notes. "We definitely like the connection to the urban fabric and that close proximity to the city. You have the skyline on top of you and a pretty unusual view of the city. It's a space few members of the public have walked through at this point, so there are a lot of people who have never stood and looked at the city from that vantage point. It's a great spot."

In addition to the music, Mo Pop will feature 20 food trucks each day as well as a crafts bazaar that will include a variety of artists -- some of which are regulars at the annual Urban Crafts Fair at Masonic Temple -- as well as high-tech displays. "There's going to be a lot for people to look at," McGowan says.

Rogalewski says the music lineup, which includes local acts such as Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus, was designed to follow the diverse pattern of the previous Mo Pops, with plenty of personal taste involved. "We get to create something out of bands we really like, that we really enjoy and really believe in," Rogalewski explains. Among those is Passion Pit, who both he and McGowan have championed for several years.

"They first played in the Pike Room in '08; I don't know if they even had an album out," McGowan recalls. "They sold it out and the next play was the Royal Oak (Music Theatre), then the Compuware Ice Arena and now they're headlining our festival.

"It's a great feeling to work with an act through those stages of development and be part of it along the way -- and then have them be part of growing this (festival) with us. That's very rewarding.

Mo Pop festival

Saturday and Sunday, July 25-26. Gates open at noon.

West Riverfront Park, Jefferson Avenue at 10th Street, Detroit.

Tickets are $69-$199.

Visit www.mopopfestival.com for more details.

Web Site: www.mopopfestival.com

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