Echo Fest finds bigger chamber for its sound

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

Six years after starting a small music festival for local psychedelic bands, organizers of Echo Fest are taking their event to the next level.

In addition to such popular local bands as Outrageous Cherry and Timmy’s Organism, the Echo Fest this year will feature major national and international names. Most notably, British musician Nik Turner will perform with a new iteration of Hawkwind, the influential psychedelic band he cofounded in 1969.

Organizers Eric Oppitz, Rick Sawoscinski, Sean Morrow and Wayne Woodward also comprise the Detroit psych band Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor. The four have been hoping to nab Turner for the fest for years. Detroit noise band Wolf Eyes and Austin psych band Holy Wave, who will play this year, had also long been on their list.

But the festival’s ambition had outgrown its previous two venues, PJ’s Lager House and the Loving Touch.

“To pair (Turner) with Timmy’s Organism and Wolf Eyes would have been literally impossible (at the Loving Touch),” Oppitz says. “It would have been a fire hazard and something would have broken.”

So the festival is moving to the newly reopened Magic Stick. The event is billed as “Bringing Rock N Roll (sic) back to the Magic Stick,” referring to the club’s brief and ill-fated experiment with operating as the dance club Populux.

Oppitz praised the improvements at the Magic Stick. “The sound is better. The bathroom situation is better,” he says. “And without (the Populux rebranding), it probably never would have been able to grow and expand.”

Oppitz and his bandmates originally founded Echo Fest in 2010 out of a desire to create more of a community for the handful of Detroit-area bands experimenting with psych music. Since then, they’ve been expanding that network to connect with like-minded musicians nationwide.

Derek Mauger, guitarist and vocalist for Heaven’s Gateway Drugs, first met the members of Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor in 2012. Since then, his band has played Echo Fest multiple times and also recorded its first full-length album at Sisters’ Detroit studio.

“I’m lucky that while I’m out there trying to make music, the psychedelic community has had kind of a resurgence,” Mauger says.

However, Sawoscinski says Echo Fest organizers aren’t interested in “genre snobbery.” The festival has broadened its scope beyond psychedelic music to embrace bands that push the boundaries of traditional rock music.

“We didn’t set out to fit into a genre,” Sawoscinski says.

Oppitz and Sawoscinski concede the lineup is based heavily on a kind of mutual admiration society. The lineup is mainly comprised of bands that Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor’s members have come to appreciate on a musical and a personal level.

“They respect us enough to come out and do this,” Sawoscinski says.

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.


Fest 2016

5 p.m. Sat.

Magic Stick

4120 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets: $20

(313) 833-9700