Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Inside Look at Blowout 17 with Chris Johnston

When people write about the City of Detroit they rarely have anything positive to say. When we started Hip In Detroit we vowed to change that conversation. We saw this website as an opportunity to stop focusing on all of the negative aspects of Detroit and instead we would focus on the positive. This relentless positivity we display has been criticized at times, it seems that some people would love to see us bash this city just like everyone else does. I say let everyone else have the negative and we will continue to keep focusing on the positive.

The trouble with always saying you're going to be positive is that you actually have to be positive. I was recently caught bitching about all the changes being made to The Blowout, which has traditionally been one of my favorite events of the year. Sometimes it can be hard for me to get older and to let go of the way things used to be. Instead of asking how or why they were making these changes, I fell into the trap of bitching for no reason. It wasn't until a friend called me out that I took a step back and realized I was being the Negative Nancy that I usually can’t stand. Yes, Blowout was one of the coolest events that was ever held in Hamtramck and it somehow lasted 15 years in that city alone without ever expanding. But, when it expanded last year I had a great time and I wasn't disappointed to have two different cities to run around over two different weekends. In fact, I had a blast. I was being a huge hater for no reason, a festival that I love is growing and at the end of the day that is an extremely positive thing.

This year The Blowout will take place over 4 days in 3 different cities, including Detroit, Ferndale, and Hamtramck. It will feature some pretty big national acts as well as some of the best local acts that Detroit has to offer. You can see the full lineup here. As you can see they added bands like Electric Six, Local H, and Motion City Soundtrack to play alongside some of our favorites including James Linck, Nice Hooves and Broadzilla.

For $25 you can get a bracelet that gives you access to more bands and more venues in more cities than ever before. For $25 you can jump around city to city in your Uber cab and get as wasted as you want while seeing all of Detroit’s heavy hitters. Talking to the guys over at Pulp Detroit made me realize how amazing this weekend can be if it all works out the way that they planned. I asked Chris Johnston to answer a few questions about the changes and give us the inside scoop on the festival. He helped me step out of the negative and back into the positive. Blowout has the potential to bring new fans in and be bigger and better than ever, and we are positive that there is nothing negative about that. Sure, some of us long for the way that it used to be, but those days are gone. If we all work together we can make this the best Blowout yet!

HID- Why did you (and Pulp Detroit) decide to start booking The Blowout last year?
Chris Johnston- "I was approached by Metro Times to book last year's Blowout. I don't have any idea how long their short list of potential heirs to the throne was, but I said yes quickly enough that they probably had to cut the selection process short. I had some invaluable help from Jesse Shepard Bates, along with quite a few others, in putting it all together. Over the last year Anthony Morrow and I had been riding the same bus to work and realized we work well together. So when same sex booking became legal we were the first in line, in order to get to work on Blowout 17."

HID- Last year you split the festival between two weekends in two cities. This year it'll be one weekend in three cities. Why?
Chris Johnston- "Great question! Blowout should be this thing that erupts throughout the area. The idea that you can make it to every venue on every night never really existed, even when it was in Hamtramck. And if somehow you did that, you were either Phil Collins or probably didn't really have the time to enjoy much of the shows that you saw. As far as two cities or three cities go, there are a couple of venues in Detroit that are farther apart than some from Ferndale to Hamtramck, or Ferndale to Detroit. So maybe we should say there are four cities involved, I'm not sure. Personally I think there should be more cities participating. But we can work on that."

HID- Why did you decide to bring national acts on board? What effect do you think this will have on The Blowout?
Chris Johnston- "Last year we had Bleached play, along with a couple others that I think people didn't seem to notice for some reason, so it's not new this year. Personally I want to see more people enjoying Detroit bands. I think it's pretty upsetting that there are so many fantastic bands here that go nearly completely unnoticed. I feel that having some national bands on the bills will bring out people who otherwise wouldn't be exposed to Detroit bands. Having some band go completely unnoticed in their hometown is more often than not just the way things go. I'd like to a part of changing that."

HID- What will a bracelet vs. day pass cost this year? Will that give you access to all of the bars?
Chris Johnston- "I believe they will ultimately be $25, and started off at $20. Yes, that can get you into all of the venues."

HID- Will their be any transportation between cities?
Chris Johnston- "I'm honestly not sure of the answer to that. Nobody's called shotgun with me yet. I have no A, G or C policy."

( sidenote: We suggest downloading the Uber code we posted yesterday to get a 30 dollar credit, this will be the perfect way to city hop for cheap during the Blowout)

HID- Why do you think people in the Detroit music scene are resistant to seeing the festival change?
Chris Johnston- "Well first of all, I don't think anyone that learned what Blowout was last year is upset that this year there are shows in Detroit too, and to be honest I'm not sure how many are truly that upset. And for the record you could probably count me with them too. I wish that there was a strong enough scene for this event to happen in Hamtramck and generate the kind of excitement it had 10 years ago. But that starting fading long ago. I'm more inspired by the new bands emerging these days, and I would like Blowout to be something that grows as they do."

HID- Where would you like to see the festival in five years?
Chris Johnston- "I'm more focused on where I would like to see the music scene in five years. If the music scene is strong and supported, Blowout could something that much more special. If the musicians now and those who will follow can't break out of the gravitational pull of 1996 then it will probably be like scene from Gravity, which I haven't seen, nor never will, because those kind of movies totally freak me out."

HID- What do you think makes the Detroit music scene special?
Chris Johnston- "I'm a former musician. I love music. What makes the scene special is another great question. My involvement is based on my desire to show people the answer to that question. If people can't see what I see then I'm not doing my job well enough."

HID- What bands are you most excited to see out of the lineup that you have announced?
Chris Johnston- "I realistically won't be able to really enjoy a show all weekend. I will see plenty, but not with the mindset that I usually like to watch a show with."

Mr. Johnston is a true inspiration to me, someone who is moving this scene in the right direction. My respect and admiration for you and all that you do for this city is growing by the day.

To purchase your bracelet in advance visit the Blowout website here. To keep up with all of their announcements and learn more about the bands playing The Blowout, add them on Facebook.


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