When you think about music festivals, it’s easy to picture giant stages, overcrowded drink lines, and teenagers in various species of headwear. Whateverfest – an all-genre, all-ages DIY festival based in Detroit – is pretty much the opposite of that. Born from a “what if” conversation between friends in 2011, Whateverfest has grown from a few bands occupying every apartment in the Hyesta building to over 40 bands, spanning nearly every genre, playing at the Tangent Gallery. This Saturday, May 12th, the fest is returning for its eighth year and is set to go from 12 pm to 6 am the next day.
The fest’s lineup includes a vast array of Michigan bands as well as acts from Toronto (Rooftop Love Club), Chicago (Aathee Records), and Indianapolis (Gwendolyn Dot). One of the original festival organizers, Soph Sapounas, says that the event’s musical diversity comes from the laissez-faire ethos indicated by its moniker. “Whoever wants to play plays,” says Sapounas. “We’re all just trying to have a good time – it’s whatever. That [word] starts getting thrown around a little too much on the day of but it’s okay.”
Though the organizers strive to be as inclusive as possible, the festival’s popularity attracts a slew of submissions every year, which the team reviews in a democratic fashion. They host listening parties and make sure that the roster of artists performing represents the city as a whole. “We want to be a platform for artists and musicians in Detroit in general. Not just for rock, not just for techno – we want to include all of it,” says Sapounas. “That’s one of the things that keeps recurring, is people telling me that they think it’s really cool to see all the different scenes here and everyone having a good time together and not having that cool kid standoff.”
With groups like Spaceband (a nine-piece experimental funk collective), Ex American (new age electronic), and a handful of techno artists holding down the late-night sessions, the festival undoubtedly reps staple genres Detroit is known for and everything in between. If you’re in or around Detroit, this fest is more than worth checking out. If not, check out some of the amazing under-the-radar artists below – I’m betting they’re more eclectic than your Discover Weekly playlist.