An odd, abrupt finish by Matt Berninger and The National wrapped up the spirited, eclectic Detroit festival in “an iconic place.” Check out the second-day review and photo gallery.
Still buzzing from an eventful first day of the weekend music festival, Mo Pop attendees arrived en masse to Detroit’s West Riverfront Park early Sunday afternoon.
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The day would be filled with captivating sets by Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, Daniel Caesar and St. Vincent, as well as somewhat peculiar sets by Portugal. The Man and The National to round out the strong Day 2 lineup.
Kicking off the second day, two of Michigan’s own (Empty Houses and Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers) gave rollicking afternoon performances at the River Stage.
“It’s Detroit, it’s an iconic place, people are excited about the spirit here, they’re excited about what’s happening here,” said Hertler.
“To have a festival like this, especially when you have something like Electric Forest and these other huge festivals happening, it’s really cool that there’s like an indie-pop, indie-rock festival going on here that’s finding a lot of success. People are showing up now and are really excited about it. It’s just going to keep growing.”
Later on at the Grande Stage, Toronto soul singer, Daniel Caesar gave a riveting, gracious performance, a perfect summer festival set if there ever was one. Backed by a full band and dripping with ’80s and ’90s R&B swagger, Caesar displayed his effortless vocal talents and keen musicianship in front of a shrieking audience. The set included the songs “Get You,” “We Find Love” and “Best Part.”
Following that, a much-anticipated set by Portugal. The Man ensued, an eccentric performance which left much of the visual performance aspect to the projection screen, which played original cartoons featuring the band, and subtitled narration. Nonetheless, the set was positively met by a raving, grooving audience.
A highlight of the evening came with St. Vincent’s sunset performance on the River Stage. Dressed in dazzling costumes, Anne Erin Clark and her band unfurled a smoldering, electrifying set — a true spectacle, including stirring renditions of “New York” and “Happy Birthday, Johnny.”
THE NATIONAL GETS ENGAGING AND THEN GETS STRANGE
Closing out the evening, The National, arguably one of Mo Pop’s biggest draws and one of the most sought-after bands in the world, played a slow-burn, career-spanning set.
Somber while simultaneously rock ’n’ roll, the band’s nuanced set included huge crescendos, dark ballads and rhythmically driven grooves. The band performed tracks from its new, Grammy-winning album, “Sleep Well Beast,” as well as fan favorites “I Need My Girl” and “Fake Empire.”
Though the band was top-notch and engaging, all eyes were glued to Matt Berninger, the enigmatic, wild frontman, known for his unpredictable antics and on-stage drinking. The closing set of Detroit’s premier music festival proved no exception. After watching Berninger get increasingly sloppy before their eyes, fans were then subjected to some strange, and frankly, disappointing performance etiquette.
For starters, a memorable quote came when the frontman compared Cincinnati and Detroit: “Ah, cool river air,” he noted. ”It smells like Cincinnati … only less racist.”
Berninger then began forgetting the lyrics to his own songs, making for an awkward, choppy display. At one point, he started in too early, then stopped to let the band finish the intro before making a second attempt, this time halting because he couldn’t remember the words. “I’m free-styling now,” he shrugged, before mustering a few
more ad lib lyrics.
The esteemed and adored frontman then took his hefty stage microphone and chucked it into the air over the crowd like a hand grenade. The projectile landed with an amplified thud somewhere in the audience, and was then reeled in by its sender. Berninger then exited the stage without a word to fans, and shut off Aaron Dessner’s amp on his way.
The band finished out the set with a short instrumental, before exiting without finishing the last song or an encore, making for an unfortunately anticlimactic ending to an otherwise riveting day of music.
For Local Spins coverage of Mo Pop Day 1: Bon Iver mops up magically at Mo Pop 2018’s dazzling Day 1 in Detroit
PHOTO GALLERY: Mo Pop 2018
Photos by Anna Sink (Some photos of The National by Ricky Olmos)
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