Hamtramck Music Fest Preview

Hamtramck Music Fest

The Hamtramck Music Fest (HMF) returns for its sixth year next Thursday (March 7), kicking off three days of music with a party at Ant Hall.

HMF is an all-volunteer run event that was started six years ago by several artists and show-goers who saw an opportunity to create a festival that could celebrate the city of Hamtramck, bring lots of foot traffic into local venues, and raise money for a good cause.

The weekend will feature up to 200 local artists in 24 unique venues across the city of Hamtramck. Wristbands for access to all venues are $15 and can be purchased at local businesses as well as at Ant Hall, (Thursday, March 7th  from 7pm-1am) and HMF Headquarters (10225 Jos Campau, March 8th and 9th from 7pm-1am).

Proceeds from wristband sales in 2019 will benefit the Hamtramck Public Schools Music and Art programs, by furnishing necessary equipment and instruments.

There will be opportunities for 18+ admission at some of the performances, as well as some day time concerts for fans of all ages. You can find the full schedule here. There is an abundance of amazing local artists to see next weekend, but here are a few highlights to get you started:

True Blue — Ant Hall/March 8th @ 9 pm

Singer/songwriter Alexandria Berry made a dynamic debut in the local music community with her guitar-centric, 90’s-tinged indie-rock EP Solitary Queen, last year. She’s named Liz Phair and the Courtney Love-led band Hole as touchstone influences. There’s a twinge of cathartic coarseness to the tones of Berry’s guitar, and grunge-pop angst and urgency to her signature style of jangly strums. Her emotive singing voice can be a sweetly blunt force to be reckoned with, tugging the heart out onto the proverbial sleeve with her lyrics along with all the complex feelings and frayed encounters that come with that. The electric guitar can be both an elegant and primal thing, and no one blends both of those potentials better than Berry.


Leaf Erikson — Polish League/March 9th @ 11:15 pm

Detroit hip-hop artist Leaf Erikson has been performing around the local music scene since the mid-’90s. He writes, records, and produces his signature jazz-inspired raps, applying a swayed, groovy cadence to the bars dropped over tracks like his latest, “Foreclosure (feat. Smoke)”, recalling the impassioned poetics and commentary-laden memoirs of Gil-Scott Heron. “Foreclosure” comes from Erikson’s forthcoming album, A Canvas of Hope, and joining Smoke on the list of guest contributors is Jah Connery (of LXL), and Wu-Tang songstress Blue Raspberry. “This song and the album is dedicated to Detroit,” said Leaf (a.k.a. Corey Greenleaf.) “…to all of Detroit! It serves as a reminder that even through the tough times, if we stick together as a community, we will prosper.” A Canvas of Hope was produced by Meftah, with mixing and mastering by Eddie Logix. The album will be released during the weekend of HMF (March 9th). Meanwhile, he’s already at work on his next album, titled From Guilt To Grace, but there’s no definite release date for that one yet. 


LXL —  Delite Café Saturday/March 9th @ 8 pm (Part of the Saturday all-ages lineup) 

LXL stands for Large, Extra Large, and features the combined lyrical rhymes of two solo artists who combined forces in the summer of 2015. DJ KeeFlo provides the live and in-studio cuts while emcee-duo Jah Connery and WarrenPeace trade observances, confessionals, commentaries, and more ponderous fare. Designedly leaning into life-after-30 for a modern-day rapper, these two wordsmiths coyly, gracefully, and even bluntly blend the worlds of satire and more sophisticated ruminations, using metaphors around millennial malaise, food culture, pop-culture, and something almost Socratic with the gruff chorus of their latest track, “Bonus Disc.” Connery, featured in Leaf Erikson’s latest project, also provides the beats for this project. Jah Connery and WarrenPeace (Joseph Liebson) are core members of the artist collective/label known as Modern Knot Artists.


Carmel Liburdi — Café 1923/March 8th@ 4 pm

Singer/songwriter Carmel Liburdi’s music is: charismatic. But it’s also authentic. Forthright. Earnest. Self-realized. Self-deprecating. Graceful, but embracing life’s occasional gracelessness. Cool, but not afraid to lean into social clumsiness. It’s easy to feel like you know her because the verbose and wordplay-heavy lyrics that she threads through her fluttery, stuck-in-your-head-all-day melodies seem to sing-talk directly to you as though each 3-minute segment were a private confession. It could be inspired from real life, or it could be a fabricated short story, but the listener intuits that she believes, that she lives, that she is in the world, of everything she sings and strums about. “Grunge/pop/punk played on the acoustic…” she sings in [SONG TITLE], where she details the writing process and how she tests out melodies on her dog, name-checking every sound-alike that any music critic could conjure. 


Pancho Villa’s Skull — Small’s Bar/March 8th @ 9:30 pm

Singer/guitarist Tino Ybarra started performing his blend of punk-rock’s confrontational DNA with traditional Mariachi music back in 2011. Ybarra grew up in Pontiac and developed an appreciation for Mariachi through his maternal grandfather, who sang and played the trumpet. He then spent time in south Texas, where his paternal grandfather took him across the border into Mexico. He spent time in some punk and ska bands, but took particular inspiration from groups like The Pogues (Celtic punk) and Gogol Bordello (Ukrainian punk) and decided to similarly infuse his brand of punk with traditional music from his own roots. After five years as a solo singer, Tino’s brother Rolando joined on percussion and backing vocals in 2016, adding to the energy and urgency on the stage and the passion in their performances, but still keeping things minimal. Their album Diversidad Ahora was released in May of last year. 


Blackmail — Barter/March 9th @ 11 pm 

This Detroit quartet formed in 2006, forging together influences of varying rock intensities, like James Brown and Metallica, Prince and Van Halen, Living Colour and Lenny Kravitz. They found stylistic contemporaries here in the local scene like Steffanie Christi’an or Nadir Omowale. After adding new bassist, Poco “Seeds” Strummer (joining Mike Brooks on guitar and Doug Austin on drums), they released a new single, produced by Omowale, at the end of last year. “Pimps in the Pulpit,” recounts a real-life conversation that Blackmail lead singer Kalonji Mayassa (a former minister) had with another man of the cloth. Blackmail brings a fierce fusion of funk, rock, blues, and metal, and their high energy performance can’t be missed. 

Learn more about Hamtramck Music Fest here.

Image credit: Ashley Kamp/Corey Greenleaf/Shelby Swanson

This post is a part of Latest in Local.

Longtime music journalist Jeff Milo has been documenting the Detroit and Michigan scene for more than a decade. Each week, he shares a new music discovery from the Detroit-area music scene. 

About the Author

Jeff Milo

Freelance Writer

Longtime music journalist Jeff Milo has been documenting the Detroit and Michigan scene for 15 years, and began contributing to WDET’s Culture Shift in 2016, running down can’t-miss live shows featuring regional artists.

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