(photos by Broccoli)
Crowdfreak is a household name in Detroit’s underground hip hop scene: they’re known for finding innovative ways to support artists, and Backwoods and Bonfires is a great example.
The event was made possible in part by weareculturecreators, who offered up their lot for the event. “The partnership just came out naturally,” said Oyin, co-founder of Crowdfreak, “It was actually (my partner) Curtis that met Reyes for the first time. It just made sense, they’ve been doing great work in a similar lane to us, so it worked out well.”
Of course there were the usual challenges that come with providing a safe and engaging environment for the show, but the location held a lot of untapped potential as a unique canvas to work with.
The pre-show was a welcoming atmosphere; as I took in the scene while the crowd slowly built throughout the afternoon, I got the chance to talk to a few participants about what brought them out that day:
“There’s definitely a lot of Detroit hip hop influence, young artists, and I’m glad they’re getting the chance to come out here. And also for the vendors: you got food vendors, you got art vendors, you got people making glasses, you have a damn cereal bar! I mean it’s just interesting, and a great opportunity to make connects, bump shoulders and rub elbows, or even just have a good time and make a little cash on the side.”
-Anthony Ellis, vendor.
“If you’re an artist and you wanna perform, Crowdfreak are the people to talk to. Period.”
–Young Foolay, artist.
“I’ve some of the people from weareculturecreators for a minute, but it wasn’t until recently that I started hearing from people all over the country about the movement that’s starting in Detroit…it’s really incredible.
This should be a blueprint for how hip hop cities should try to build, all over the world. They’re doing it the right way; a lot of people try to do that, but it’s all about attention to detail.”
–Reve Kalell, visiting artist.
As daylight came to a close, the vibes progressed into anticipation for the night ahead. With the crowd starting to fill in, the performances on stage seemed to reflect the heightened energy. Drinks were poured, clouds filled the air, and the music pulsed straight through into sunset.
I wasn’t familiar with everyone on the lineup, which seems like kind of the point. Corwdfreak establishes platforms for local artists build their network and their following. Their passion for the scene inspires each night, and their management skills make sure there’ll always be a next one.
It was truly a night to remember. For an event made by the people, for the people, without the co-sign of major presenters or the backing of industry gatekeepers, Backwoods and Bonfires left everyone asking for more. With the success of the event and the amount of support they received, it’s safe to assume that this wasn’t be the last one.
If you needed a reason to check it out, now you’ve got a few.
I’ll end with a quote from Oyin, who summed up the event perfectly:
“We threw this event to give a voice to a lot of the unknown artists in Detroit. Typically people throwing shows want to focus on major acts, but they end up missing out on the people in their own back yard. I’m just excited to see all the artists up there, and to see how hype the crowd is gonna be.”