How does one describe the Hamtramck Labor Day Festival? "It's a big party in the middle of the street in the middle of Hamtramck," says Jeff Fournier, a member of the festival booking committee. "There's food and beer and carnival rides too. It's like going to the state fair. But Alice Cooper isn't playing — it's a bunch of other bands."
It is also completely free and family friendly.
The musical lineup for the three-day festival spans the diverse local music community and includes many of Detroit's most talked about artists spread across two stages. It's a rare opportunity to see alternative pop artists Duane the Brand New Dog and Tunde Olaniran play back to back (as they are Saturday night on the South Stage) and rarer still to see them at a fair in the middle of Hamtown. While the two artists are very different, they are both known for memorable live shows that incorporate performance art and choreography.
Olaniran headlines Saturday night, while the Polish Muslims headline Sunday, and legendary garage rockers Detroit Cobras headline on Monday.
Other highlights include the witchy Black Sabbath and T. Rex tinged Electric Wiccans (4 p.m. Sunday, South Stage); Flint punks Cheerleader (5 p.m. Sunday, South Stage); bubblegum pop group the John Krautner Band (8:30 p.m. Sunday, North Stage); folksters Lac La Belle (4:30 p.m. Monday, North Stage); psychedelic/Kraut rockers Turn to Crime (7:30 p.m. Saturday, North Stage); Hamtramck-based rockabilly band Michael Hurtt and His Haunted Hearts (6:30 p.m. Monday, South Stage); and Paint Thinner (7:30 p.m. Monday, North Stage), a new band formed by members of the Growwing Pains, Terrible Twos, and Frustrations who booker Fournier says he is especially excited to see. "Think of the sounds from those bands, and mash them all together — except the songs are more epic," he says.
In addition to live music, the festival also features a 5K run on Labor Day, the return of the Hamtramck Yacht Race (a competition involving push-carts that look like canoes on wheels, racing down Hamtown main drag Joseph Campau), the Polish Day Parade, an artist's village, and of course carnival rides.
Hamtramck Labor Day Festival runs Sept. 5-7; noon-10 p.m.; hamtownfest.com; Event is free; $5 per car parking will be available in the city lot at Mitchell and Caniff St.