Ever wondered where you could find 180 bands, at 22 different venues in one culture-soaked city?
Well, wonder no more.
If you’ve been tuned into the Detroit music scene for the last four years, then you’ve definitely heard of – and maybe even attended – the Hamtramck Music Festival. A cherished event by many Detroiters, this festival is the best the city has to offer brought to the people, by the people.
The four-day festival begins Thursday, March 2nd and rages on through Sunday, March 5th, with bands upon bands playing at venues all around Hamtramck.
Wristbands are available for $10 and will give you full access to all of the participating venues.
What makes this event even more impressive is its philanthropic nature. All of the organizers and participating bands are volunteering their time and resources to showcase the art and talent that resides in the city. Not to mention that all of the proceeds from HMF are donated to Ben’s Encore, a non-profit organization that provides instruments, music lessons and scholarships to inspired young musicians and undeserved school music programs.
Curious about how this monstrous festival lives and breathes? Well, we had a chance to ask Eugene Strobe, one of the HMF organizers and let’s just say, this ain’t your momma’s backyard tea party — this is Detroit music dedication at its finest.
Check out his responses below!
What’s the story behind HMF’s cultivation?
Our festival was started by the ideal that musicians and music fans can create an event that celebrates the very unique city of Hamtramck and its bars, clubs, coffeehouses, and public spaces. We strive to engage our public to volunteer their time to plan, organize, shape, and style this festival, in order to make it a fun and unique experience for all. Through this process, we hope to train community organizing skills, through leading by example, in regards to having an active citizenry shape their community.
How much man (or woman) power does the event take to run smoothly?
Wow, good question. I am one of the charter volunteer organizers and my job begins in early November and doesn’t end until mid-March given a typical HMF festival season. The intensity of the planning increases closer to the opening night performances, but I conservatively estimate by the time it’s said and done, I would have personally volunteered 750 hours on the music festival this season. There are about a dozen other charter members and they spend close to the same amount and about another dozen or so that help book the talent. If you add up all of their efforts, then my conservative guess is that they volunteer around 5,000 additional hours.
Can you give a broad description of who’s behind HMF?
Our festival season schedule has weekly meetings. Anyone from the community is invited to attend. Whoever comes to meetings consistently is usually assigned to a sub-committee and given extra responsibility. The fest has around seven or eight sub-committees responsible for a different aspect of putting the festival together — Media, Booker, Sound Techs, Street Team, Clean & Safe, Community Outreach, Volunteer, etc., are some examples of our sub-committee structure. The volunteers range from community activists, passionate citizens, college kids, musicians, venue owners, etc. Whoever shows passion and dedication to the cause is recruited. Plain and simple.
Have you made improvements to the festival over the years?
Every year we come to the first meeting with a list of things we would like to improve, refine, tweak, add, enhance, to the festival. We have been 100% grassroots and volunteer, so all the things we would like to get done, usually takes time to accomplish. — Have you ever tried renovating your own home? Or do the dishes after a big, satisfying meal? Yeah, It’s kind of like that. Some people just complain about a messy sink and do nothing about it, but it takes actual community organizers to stand up and tackle the job. We like ‘doers,’ and not complainers. Lol.
How does HMF hope to influence the Detroit music scene?
I believe that this festival is a great example of sweat equity creating something special and unique. We may not have all of the resources, tools, or funds that we need, but with creativity, innovation in process, and effort, a lot can actually get done. As most community organizations, artists, or musicians go, we usually don’t have a whole lot of cash. So we are forced to be smarter and wiser in order to create and accomplish great things. I suppose that possibility, and that example, can be inspiring for bands who want to make something more than just noise on a stage. Music is a wonderful form of communication and has a certain magic to it that can unite people and allows us to talk about all kinds of ideas and perspectives. The worst thing to do is to use music to divide people. It’s like instead of building a fire to keep your house warm, you just end up burning the whole thing down. That mentality makes no sense to me.
Have you learned anything since the first festival?
Yes, get things done early. Do your best to cover all bases. The more variables, venues, bands, and community members you invite in, the higher the chances that something may go awry. Being flexible, keeping your patience, and sanity is key to keeping your thinking mind clear. I often recite ancient wise proverbs to fall asleep at night. Counting sheep is so 2016.
Any crazy HMF stories you’d like to share?
If you only knew the half of it. Other than OD’ing on Paczki?
Official statement: two words, Frank Woodman.
Describe HMF using only 3 adjectives.
Captivating, proud, electrifying.
If HMF were a food item, what would it be and why?
A Paczki bomb with a straw from Small’s Bar, Mac & Cheese Fries from Campau Tower, Sushi from Fat Salmon, a gourmet veggie hot dog from Mean Weenie food truck, a carrot apple beet juice from Royal Kabob, the buffet at Aladdin Restaurant, and a complimentary shot of Jezynowka in honor of Lili.
We’d like to give a big THANK YOU to the organizers of HMF for taking the time to answer our questions and of course, for all their hard work and dedication to making this festival possible, year after year.
Cheers to four and many, many more!
Check out the Hamtramck Music Festival page and get your wristbands here!
Also, we recommend you get into the HMF spirit with their perfectly crafted HMF 2017 soundtrack.
See you in the land of Paczki!