A year after Aretha Franklin packed the streets in the theater district to inaugurate a new hometown festival, Detroit Music Weekend has another celebrated name on the way.
The Jacksons will headline the event with a free outdoor performance June 16, returning to the city where Berry Gordy and Motown launched their career five decades ago.
The group — Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon Jackson — will stage a 75-minute production in front of a video wall featuring performance footage of their late younger brother, Michael Jackson, as they celebrate a career stacked with '70s hits such as "I Want You Back," "ABC," "I'll Be There" and "Dancing Machine."
Their main-stage set will be part of a multi-day Jackson 5 celebration at Detroit Music Weekend, including a June 15 gala that will feature a fashion show and Jacksons tribute concert led by veteran Detroit musician Kern Brantley, bandleader for Lady Gaga.
There's no official word yet on a potential street renaming or other civic honors like the ones bestowed last summer on a tearful Queen of Soul ahead of her Detroit Music Weekend performance, including the ceremonial renaming of Madison Street to Aretha Franklin Way.
"That model should continue," said Music Hall president Vince Paul, who spearheads the festival with a committee of downtown entertainment and business figures. "We have a lot of streets and a lot of legacy artists. It adds a pizzazz to our city core."
The Jacksons and their team have enthusiastically embraced the weekend of Detroit tribute activities, said Paul, and there have been early discussions about guest appearances by two of Michael Jackson's children: 21-year-old Prince Jackson and 19-year-old Paris Jackson.
A media conference will be scheduled in May to announce full details about the four-day festival, including the complete five-stage music lineup.
Here's some of what we know so far about the 2018 edition of Detroit Music Weekend:
- The festival's footprint will grow. Last year's activities ran along a stretch of Madison outside Music Hall and the neighboring Detroit Opera House. For 2018, the event will stretch several blocks east and west, with new stages at the Detroit Institute of Music Education and in the Paradise Valley district.
- Main-stage performers on June 16 will include Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner, actor-musician Jeff Daniels, funk bandleader Will Sessions and country-rocker Craig Brown. A techno afterparty will be be held at the Paradise Valley stage.
- The June 15 gala — dubbed Chords & Couture — will be held inside the festival's 10,000-square-foot tent and will include dinner and a fashion show presented by Saks Fifth Avenue. The night's tribute concert will showcase material from across the Jackson family's group and solo repertoires. Performers will include teen singer Jibreel Mawry, who played a young Michael Jackson in Broadway's "Motown: The Musical."
- An expanded MotorCity Artisan Market will showcase 100-plus vendors, many specializing in Detroit-themed merchandise.
- The event, running 2-11 p.m., will start and end later than last year, in part to accommodate the Jacksons' video production, which requires nightfall for full effect.
The four surviving Jackson 5 members are all now in their 60s. Their Detroit Music Weekend booking comes six years after the group reunited for its first concert tour since the 1980s. The Fox Theatre was among the stops on that 2012 Unity Tour.
The Jacksons' Detroit connection goes back to 1968, when the young Indiana group auditioned for Motown executives at the company's headquarters on Woodward. The taped performance — featuring a magnetic 9-year-old Michael — was sent to Gordy in Los Angeles, where he was steadily setting up shop. The Motown founder initially resisted, but at the urging of Motown's Suzanne de Passe, ultimately gave in and signed the group.
The Jackson 5 worked at Motown studios in Detroit and L.A. in 1969 and 1970 before their recording sessions were moved permanently to the West Coast.
Paul is confident Detroit Music Weekend will continue building on the success of last year's inaugural fest, when Franklin's performance drew global headlines as possibly her final hometown show.
"I think the biggest accomplishment from last year is it did what we said it would do: invigorate the economy, get international attention, and bring people together from very different cultural backgrounds into one place," Paul said.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.