Detroit may be home to Motown, but it is also nationally renowned for other music genres, thanks to the wealth of music festivals held in the Motor City every year. Here are some of the top annual festivals that have been part of the Detroit music scene the longest.
Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival
The Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) puts the world spotlight on Detroit each Memorial Day weekend when over 100 artists provide several days full of electronic/techno music.
Movement Detroit is something of a dance party, and its schedule includes world-famous DJs and live acts.
Since its inaugural year in2000, the DEMF has brought DJs, musical artists and fans to Detroit from around the world.
The City of Detroit paid for the costs to produce the concert for the first few years, but by 2005, behind-the-scenes squabbles, limited term contracts, and city finances resulted in festival producers charging an admission price.
The DEMF is held at the 14-acre Hart Plaza along the Detroit Riverfront, a location that has served as a venue for many a festival in the past, from jazz to country music.
In addition to music, the festival has a market area and merchandise stalls, as well as an area devoted to social-action organizations. Additionally, the parties planned at local venues around Detroit, both before and after the festival, are almost as well-known as the festival itself.
The Downtown Hoedown
Detroit's country music festival dates back to 1983 when artists featured on three stages included Hank Williams Jr., Tanya Tucker, The Kendals, Brenda Lee and Mel Tillis. It was the largest free country concert in the nation and provided plenty of music and lots of dancing. In addition to national headliners, the festival has always featured a host of local bands (although these days it charges for admission).
Originally held in late May or early June, the Downtown Hoedown moved to DTE Energy Music Theater in 2016 and was scaled back from a three-day festival to a one-day event. In 2017 it was held on June 30.
The Detroit Jazz Festival is known for its unexpected musical pairings and cultural vibe, which probably explains why it has grown in size and scope over the years. The festival serves up more than 100 musical acts on five stages over Labor Day Weekend.
The inaugural festival took place in 1980 at Hart Plaza as an offshoot of the world-renowned Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland that features 1,000 artists over 16 days. The Montreux Festival remained a partner in the Detroit festival until 1991. The Detroit festival partnered with Detroit's Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts from 1991 through 2005, when it found new sponsorship and expanded from Hart Plaza up Woodward Avenue three blocks to Campus Martius Park. The festival is held at Hart Plaza on Detroit's Riverfront.
In addition to jazz music, the festival has late-night jam sessions, meet-the-artists events, panel discussions, a Jazz Talk Tent, presentations, and fireworks.