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Mo Pop Fest kicks off with music, fashion and Lizzo energy on Detroit's riverfront

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Music fans lined up to take photos with this Mo Pop sign on Detroit's riverfront.

Part music festival, part fashion show and all summer fun, Mo Pop Festival kicked off Saturday at Detroit's West Riverfront Park. 

Thousands of music fans piled into the annual outdoor music event to hear up-and-coming and established national artists as well as local acts. Detroit-born singer, rapper and flutist Lizzo — performing her biggest hometown show yet — and rock band Vampire Weekend headlined Saturday's schedule, which also included Brooklyn singer/songwriter King Princess and Detroit acts the Messenger Birds and Siena Liggins. 

"It's kind of the penultimate Detroit summer event," said Chris Waterman of Livonia, who was taking advantage of a grassy patch of the park to throw a Frisbee around with his neighbor John Voigt. "We're at the peak of summer, right? People can come out, sunny day, little bit of dirt, little bit of music, little bit of drink, food, fun. This has been great on the riverfront."

Waterman was planning to stay all day and catch Vampire Weekend. He said the band's new album, "Father of the Bride," is "easily my favorite of the year." 

The busy festival at the 20-acre park was peppered with bars and food trucks, which suffered from long lines around dinner time. Some reported waiting in line for as much as 30-60 minutes for a drink. 

More:Mo Pop Festival brings a diverse music line up to Detroit's West Riverfront Park

Besides prime people-watching, the backbone of the event is nearly non-stop music on two stages. The crowd looked to be at peak attendance when the "Truth Hurts" singer took the riverside stage at 8:40 p.m. in a glittery pink bodysuit. 

After the crowd started chants of "Lizzo! Lizzo!" the she was joined on stage just before sundown with her back-up dancers and a DJ to kick things off with the title track to her third album "Cuz I Love You." Her set was peppered with shouts out to her native Detroit, and ended with a short flute solo that had the packed-in crowd of thousands going bananas. 

"It feels so good to be back in Detroit," she said. "I'm about to say Detroit seven million times tonight." 

Along with mentioning that she was born at Hutzel Hospital, grew up in Grosse Pointe and threw out a few shouts of "what up doe?" the critically-acclaimed performer paused for a heartfelt moment to give thanks for her blessings and to remember her late father. 

Lizzo, born Melissa Jefferson, also threw in a nod to the late Aretha Franklin with a refrain of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" in the middle of her song "Worship" from her 2016 EP "Coconut Oil." 

Earlier in the day Lily Collins, 16, of Royal Oak and her sister Willa, 12, were both wearing Lizzo t-shirts and anticipating her performance. 

"I love her so much. She's not afraid to be who she is and she's not afraid to wear what she wants, she's very confident," said the older Collins, who attends Lamphere High School.

Both sisters were marveling at the fashions at Mo Pop, which included a lot of short shorts, crop tops, animal prints and fanny packs. Fashions from the 1990s were also prevalent with plenty of lace, maxi dresses and combat boots. 

"This is my first festival but not my first concert," said Willa, who described Mo Pop as "overwhelming, but a good kind of overwhelming." 

John Voigt and Chris Waterson play Frisbee at Mo Pop Saturday evening.

Cara Niema attended Mo Pop with a group of friends and was most looking forward to Sunday's Tame Impala set. The Ferndale resident said one of the benefits of Mo Pop is that with just two adjacent stages, fans don't have to pick and choose what musicians to see. 

"It's different than any other music festival I've been to, because it's like friends, and food and then the music is cool because you can see everyone," she said. 

2018 Photo Gallery: Mo Pop 2018 - Day One

2018 Photo Gallery: Mo Pop 2018 - Day Two

Mo Pop Festival runs through midnight Saturday and continues Sunday with Tame Impala, Ella Mai, the Craig Brown Band and more. Tickets, $100, are still available at

Twitter: @melodybaetens