Sometimes in Detroit you’ll just end up at the answer. There will be good music and the weather will be perfect, and you can see into the future of what Detroit can be. At least, it will feel that way, and that’s what it felt like at Detroit’s Charivari festival on Belle Isle at the beginning of August.
Charivari is a smaller festival that has big things going for it. First of all, it’s free. That means all types of people can afford to go to it and that’s cool.
Secondly, it’s focused on local. Local DJ’s spinning Detroit inspired music and local vendors make it something to take pride in. It’s not commercialized, it’s grassroots, and in fact it’s been around for a long time. You can tell that the people behind it put a lot of hard work into getting it right, and that’s worth celebrating in itself.
Those people include Todd Johnson, Eddie Fowlkes, Chaunceia Dunbar and Charivari co-organizers Steve Dunbar and Theresa Hill, Delano Smith. They’ve been doing parties in Detroit way before techno was cool to the masses. You can feel the difference with Charivari, it’s not some idea helicoptered in from some other big city.
It used to be that the original Detroit Electronic Music Festival held the spot Charivari is moving into. It was for Detroiters, it was by Detroiters, it was original and authentic. It had a rawness to it that goes away when you haul in giant video screens.
I wouldn’t say that there’s anything wrong with what the modern Movement has become, but the scene there has changed. The explosion of popularity among electronic music in the last 10 years has pushed electronic artists into the mainstream, into the genre now known as EDM. Electronic music has always been more global, but as Movement has reached to get bigger and and better it has had to book big acts to keep it relevant and make more money. Both factors have driven the costs of tickets up. The old DEMF always brought suburbanites and city folk together but the crowd at Movement is now much more cosmopolitan, national, even global. I think I saw a Romanian flag waving at the festival last year.
Charivari’s location on Belle Isle is also a breath of fresh air, and in a way turns the clock back to the roots of the Detroit party sound. The riverside breeze, abundance of grassy areas, and park-like atmosphere makes the space enjoyable. The music plays in tents, not gaudy and ridiculous stages. The DJ’s are people just like everybody else, they aren’t exalted high above the crowds. The music speaks for itself. There’s no line to get in. You don’t have to compete for a space to sit down among exhausted ravers chain smoking cigarettes. You can sort of just… be.
Perhaps Charivari won’t always remain free, but hopefully it will continue to remain pure, or at least until I hang up my party shoes. It’s a must-do for your calendar next year, and a wonderful example what Detroit really has to offer. If you want to know what this city is really about, go to Charivari and feel it.
Editor’s Note: We now have the details on the 2016 festival. Get them here.