Besides celebrating great independent rock music, this years Michiganfest, which promises to be the biggest yet, includes seminars all weekend informing teens with such titles as "World Bank and Related Topics," "Birth Control," "Feminist Popular Education through Media Criticism," "Setting Up a Safe and Legal Show Space," "Abortion Options," and "Sex Talk." Vegan food is served all weekend and, this year, the fest is also offering workshops on photography, filmmaking and screenprinting. Heady stuff when compared to the current mass media pop culture climate that, to judge by the constant barrage of prepackaged, condescending teen-pop products, deems its audience either too apathetic or too comfortable to get actively involved with their community. But its all part of the larger effort to make sure that kids know there are other options than pop culture pabulum.
Says Wick, "Punk rock has always been about more than music ... at least to us. We love music but there are other aspects involved in the DIY movement. Hopefully we can put new ideas out there and challenge people not to live mundane, mainstream lives ... and also raise money for grassroots places that can actually use it."
Indeed, one of the key elements to the Michiganfest over the course of its six years has been raising funds for such organizations as MAPP (Midwest AIDS Prevention Project), Western Shoshone Defense Project, Big Mountain Defense Fund, World Tree Peace Center (an activist center in Kalamazoo) and this years beneficiary, Council Against Domestic Assault (CADA), a Lansing womens shelter which provides shelter support, counseling and crisis intervention for women experiencing domestic violence.
So, for the 700-900 people who come out for the event from all over the United States, Canada and even a few folks from Europe ("Definitely a melting pot of people, which is great," says Wick) the Michiganfest offers a starting point, an affirmation and a momentum-building experience for people looking for another way to shape their world. (That and 72 hours of great music with open-minded fellow DIY travelers).
Not bad for an event that was started, as Wick says humbly, by "a few Detroit kids." Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]