Every spring the music scene blossoms with Totally Awesome Fest at VG Kids in Ypsi. It features more than 70 bands performing anywhere and everywhere, indoors and out, and conjuring a vibe that’s oft been called “magical.”
Local arts/music polymath Pat Elkins is the bipedal song-making treasure of a man who started Totally Awesome Fest back in 2005, but he’s since been aided by a countless “battalion” of volunteers from all around the music scene; each contributing their unique expertise/backgrounds/insights (and sometimes contributing their houses and backyards) to help facilitate this communal celebration.
Three days, four different performance spaces, 70-some-odd bands, the warming spring air, a crowd full of good vibes… That’s Totally Awesome Fest.
“I think the fact that there are (70+ local bands) available and willing to play this festival speaks to the health and/or the vibrancy of the local art and music scenes,” said Elkins who has been creating a diverse range of music, folk, pop, avant-garde, and indefinable, for several years, in various iterations and groups. “There are a tremendous amount of performances I’m excited about (for this year’s lineup); I always enjoy the deep night Totally Awesome Fest after-parties. I’ve heard rumors about some really wild ones for this year…”
Things kickoff this Friday at VG Kids (884 Railroad St) around 5pm, with bands like Human Skull, Little Traps and more! At 9:30 pm, things shift over to Dreamland Theatre (26 N. Washington) for more bands like Dragon Drop, Milo Scarcetti (King Milo) and much more! The full schedule is available at the event’s main fb page, here.
Amber Fellows is a local events coordinator who has been contributing to the local music scene in various ways for ten years, (and she’s also the drummer in Rebel Kind). “It seems the core planning group (for Totally Awesome Fest) and the extended group of volunteers grow each year,” Fellows said. She joined Elkins a few years ago to help coordinate performers and venues. Shoshanna Wechter has also been a longtime supporter and has offered her yard as a daytime spot for a number of years.”
Other co-coordinators/TAF team members include Devin Leatherman, who handles any kind of “crisis management,” while Autumn Wetli (also of Rebel Kind) chairs the fundraising committee. Then there’s Quinn Phillips, who’s organized a team of volunteers to assure accessibility, safety “and fun…,” and Lindsay Garinger from Dreamland Theatre, who’s amazing decorations at that venue always augment the great vibes of the event. But then there’s also sound engineers and PA setup teams, bartenders, and everyone at a venue (like, say, Grove Studios) or at a house. This is a grassroots enterprise all in the name of reinforcing the robustness of our local arts scene.
Totally Awesome Fest is a sprawling “three…four…or sometimes eight-day party,” Elkins said, “with performers exhibiting a wide range of mediums, from all over the world, converging in Ypsilanti on the last weekend of April.” It’s a free, all-ages, “all-species” community celebration that “combines elements of performance, fashion, and pancakes” into one weekend. The pancakes are always emphasized at TAF.
Saturday’s sets will start in the morning at Grove Studios, with performances by Flwr.Chld, Wraiths, and more – then it shifts over to Dreamland once again, with RV Mendoza, Duane the Jet Black Eel, and Gruesome Twosome. The pancakes will be served at House of Mole (310 Maple St.) on Sunday morning. Again, you can find more info here.
Let’s sample some of the bands on this year’s lineup
As you’ll read in May’s print issue, the Current Editorial staff will address the state of the music scene and the quantity of opportune spaces, venues, stages for local musicians and artists to perform. We asked Elkins for his thoughts…
“There is a huge difference between a venue that is expecting to make thousands of dollars a night in alcohol and ticket sales to cover their overhead and a show in someone’s basement or back yard that is trying to collect donations to provide a touring band with gas money. Both are providing place for performance, but exist for very different reasons. I hope that both entities help people realize how much is happening all around them all the time and provide opportunities for them to get involved with their community, share their own stories, and interact with other people!”
But motive, inspiration, things like that, should be taken into consideration too… And that’s where Totally Awesome Fest can shift conversation concerning how we perceive live music experiences. “Due to the fact that no two musicians need to share the same intention for making music,” Elkins said, “we should also recognize that different types of spaces exist for people to make music in and these different spaces are important for different reasons.”
Totally Awesome Fest kicks off Friday at VG Kids