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Milo's Trip: Get Ready for DIY in Ferndale

Local music's Mardis Gras kicks off this weekend; W.A.B. owner Chris Johnston talks what's new for year-five and I offer a humble list of bands to consider hearing/viewing amid the glorious grassroots bazaar of art, beer, food and ferris wheel

September's an unofficial holiday for local music-heads 'cause that means DIY: an inspiring, felicitous, top-heavy on heart event combining the good cheer of Christmas with the camaraderie of Thanksgiving and the fired-up fancyfree of Halloween into a three-day blur of round-robin stage shifts showcasing 70-some-odd bands.

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"I feel like this event creates a lot peoples' 'favorite memories,'" said Chris Johnston, owner and key co-organizer of the street fair. 

The : a kick-off concert Thursday night leads into three full evenings (and two full days) of live music.

[Check out the full line-up here.]

DIY music highlights

Thursday: K.I.D.S. - Weird, wound-up new-wave pop mutated by the pedal-squall of nervy/spacey-indie-rock, something like post-punk, something like bubblegum-punk... Featuring Ferndale's own Nick Jones on bass! (...Well, actually, he's more Milford's own, but we're glad to have 'em).  --1 a.m. @
(Dark Horse Pick: Sixes & Sevens)

Friday: Lettercamp - Post-techno-pop gets extra muscle from bombastic rock-minded live drums shouldering into sequenced beats; Ferndale's own Derek Dorey provides the bass grooves intertwining with the synth-pop sublimity of keyboards (and some guitar) under a fiery female vocal lead. --7 p.m. Metro Times Stage
(Dark Horse Pick: Loretta Lucas)

Saturday: Javelins -I'm glad to see this quirky, rhythm-centric/pedal-wrung space-punk/indie-pop trio returning to local stages. You might recognize its drummer from another Ferndale band, indie-rock quartet FAWN (who actually play just 3 hours on into that same evening). --7:10 p.m. Metro Times Stage 
(Dark Horse Pick: Jamaican Queens)
(Also: Don't ever miss Child Bite...ever).  

Sunday: SelfSays - Burgeoning emcee brings a lot of heart and often heady commentary into his anthemic raps. He released an EP online (listen here) that showcased his eloquent nerd-culture charms atop the intricate beat arrangements of various producers, including Ferndale's multi-instrumentalist Adam Pressley (of Jamaican Queens^). --1 a.m. - Loving Touch

In two weeks SelfSays drops a new 7" split single (on iNsect Records) that features his 8-bit wrecking distractiong ditching resolution rap "Not Another Video Game Song," laced with turbo-graphics and featuring cameo raps with Open Mike Eagle. I wish you could hear it now
How about this for now:
Listen: SelfSays - "And That's That"  

Sunday Dark Horse? Bars of Gold

Still, the last day is (inevitably) the blow-out!

Sunday: Passalacqua – “Every year we have some sort of musical surprise,” Johnston said. “This year it involves Passalacqua on Sunday night. That's all I can say right now. It's going to involve some seat-of-the-pants effort, but that's what makes it so rewarding.” So there ya go –9:15 p.m. – Metro Times Stage.

The 'heart and soul' of DIY

Five years in, DIY continues to evolve: a 5K run is planned to benefit arts programs at all Ferndale Public Schools and the festival is expanding its grounds onto East Nine Mile Road - thanks to a new sponsorship (Metropolitan Detroit Chevrolet Dealerships) and a partnership with the DIA.

These new members (of what was already considered/hailed by Johnston to be a “great team”) are starting to understand what this event is all about: everybody's "realizing just how many facets of life in this area that DIYSF celebrates," he said.

This is the first year that Johnston and the DIY planning committee expanded their sponsorships. With increased popularity came increased options, also, in terms of vendors and fairground space (spreading out onto East Nine Mile).

"We spent a lot of time," Johnston said, "in the first two years (08-09) defining what belongs at an event like this. To be honest, as the event has grown, it's probably closer now in year-five to what our definitions were than in year-one or -two,"  Johnston says.

What matters, he says, is everyone understanding/appreciating the "heart and soul of the event." 

"Either people get DIY or they don't," he said.

It isn't, Johnston admits, designed to cater to every kind of person, yet he still feels that anyone could come down to DIY Street Fair and still have a good time. 

Somebody might think they want dinner from a fast food chain, but give them the same "item..." cooked with real ingredients and served in a great atmosphere, and they'll probably say "that was great!"

"At the end of the day, we've tried hard not to have to sell this event too hard, much like our other businesses. We just try to over deliver and hope that resonates," he said.

Resonates. Johnston, a singer/guitarist for a fairly successful alt-rock band through the late 90s, has a keen understanding of what music means to Michigan - which is part of why the musical-facets of this festival are always stupendous. (Not to mention the line-up is dotted with a few of his clients via his Red Spot Management).

DIY music memories

Johnston's favorite memory from year-four: "...when Insane Clown Posse joined Charm Farm on stage, that was pretty amazing. The whole experience was surreal. They pulled up with their entourage about 15 minutes before they were supposed to get up onstage for just the one song they were performing on. I don't usually get star struck, but I was."

"Maybe it was their scary-clown makeup, I'm not sure. I think anyone that had a fearful bone in their body thought that some sort of full scale riot was going to happen that night. But, speaking as the -Class Optimist-of '84 -Seaholm High School, I was pretty confident it was all going to work out just fine."

And it was. Beyond fine, even.

Johnston: "(ICP)'s performance was so exciting, honest and uplifting. It was exactly what DIY needed. To have a small part in making that happen was very gratifying to me. It is much like walking around and seeing the amazing talent, that without DIYSF, would have one less opportunity for exposure."

Guaranteed this year: more 'favorite memories.'

Click here for more information on the Record Shop, the Beer Garden, the Restaurant Row, the Market Place and the Kids Zone.

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