Now in its eighth year, Black Christmas is becoming a mainstay among Detroit's festivals — though not quite at the level of, say, the Detroit Jazz Festival or Dally in the Alley.
The fest was founded by Jay Navarro, with help from booker Ramona Caldwell, in 2012, with a lineup that featured Navarro's punk band the Suicide Machines, as well as ska band Mustard Plug and psychobilly band the Koffin Kats. This year, things have come full circle: All three bands are set to perform at the fest on Saturday.
"It's awesome to have a stable music fest in Detroit that is welcoming to all genres," says Vic Victor, the Koffin Kats' bassist and lead vocalist. This year's fest also features Detroit rapper Esham and Pittsburgh punk band Anti-Flag, among others. But despite the aggressive genres, Victor says the mood is jovial. "It's a jolly feeling," he says. "Everyone is happy that it's Christmas time. You can really feel that everyone knows it's the end of the year, and everyone gets a chance to breathe, and people do cut loose."
Koffin Kats drummer Eric Walls says the fest feels like "a weird class reunion."
"People from out of town that come back to Michigan get to come back to see bands they used to see when they lived in Detroit," he says. "You see a lot of familiar faces because many of them lead normal lives now. They can't go see a show every weekend. Black Christmas pulls a lot of people out, and the mixture of bands is always great. You get a lot of cool local bands, but you also get out-of-town bands, as well."
Koffin Kats, a veteran band of 16 years, has spent the better part of the decade traveling the country on tour. But Victor says he always looks forward to Black Christmas.
"We don't really do that many Detroit shows, maybe a couple a year," he says. "So it's cool because we have people that would normally come out for us, but also are coming for the whole package. Black Christmas has become such a big thing that even at the beginning of this year, people were asking if we were doing it this year."
As in past versions, Black Christmas will once again feature multiple stages, with several featured bands playing in different locations throughout the Majestic Theatre. Victor describes this as the perfect setup for fans.
"Sometimes one band you really like might play the same time as another band you really like," he says. "But they do a good job of trying to offset things so you can catch 15 minutes of one band, then catch 15 minutes of another band. You'll have a schedule so they'll make it easier for you. ... It's jam-packed, but it's a really good time. If you don't like something in one room, then you can go off to another room and get something completely different."
At the very least, Black Christmas has the distinction of being Detroit's last major music festival of the year.
"We definitely look forward to Black Christmas," Victor says. "We're looking forward to seeing all of the local and out-of-town bands, as well. It'll be a great time."
Black Christmas starts at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Majestic Theatre complex, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com. Tickets are $30 advance, $35 day of show.
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