Stately and solid, Phil Dick took the stage Wednesday night in the St. Regis Hotel ballroom, dressed in what he called his “loud Detroit suit”: black pinstripes, black shirt, white collar. Dick, from England, is in love with Detroit. He is 56 and has visited the city 50 or 60 times. He lost track.
Dick is in town this week as an organizer of the third Motown a Go Go, a five-day gathering that is British quirky to its core — devoted to a Detroit-inspired subgenre known as “Northern soul.” Its mainly middle-aged fans venerate old soul music — especially Motown — and the more obscure the better.
“There are artists at our shows who haven’t played in decades,” Dick said.
More than 300 Brits and assorted American cohorts are in town for the festival, which continues through Sunday with nightly shows open to all at Bert’s Warehouse in Eastern Market.
On stage Wednesday, smiling broadly, Dick paid homage to Motown in its 60th anniversary year, then kicked off this year’s gathering. “We have some tremendous talent in the room,” he said. The festival will feature such performers as the Elgins, Kim Weston, Brenda Holloway, the Contours, the Velvelettes, the Marvelettes, J.J. Barnes, among others.
“Some of the greatest artists and performers are still right here in Detroit,” Dick said. “Realize what you have in your own backyard. They didn’t all leave in 1972 to go to Hollywood,” a reference to the move by Motown Records that was a blow to Detroit at a perilous time in the city’s history.
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