Independent music festival Funky Rivertown Fest is emerging at the Riverside Arts Center in Ypsilanti, an event that, if goes well, founder David Roof hopes to make happen twice a year.
Along with his wife, who is one of the top sellers on Etsy, he said, Roof owns Roof Top Arts Inc., a company dedicated to independent arts promotion in the State of Michigan. The main business under the operation is Rooftop Recording, a studio producing records for dozens of singer-songwriters in the region.
The festival, set to take place Tuesday through Saturday, March 28 - April 1, hopes to "create an opportunity for the musicians who make the business possible while providing inspirational experiences to a new generation and audience,“ stated a press release on the event.
The program features many Detroit Music Award winners and nominees playing across a wide variety of genres. Partially due to the fact that the event had to come together super quickly, most of the artists are ones Roof knows already through his recording studio and his career as a musician.
“Every great, classic song that everybody knows, and everybody loves started as somebody's original tune that wasn't well known," Roof said. “So that’s the thing for me is to celebrate creativity and original art from the local community.”
The idea for an independent music festival in Ypsilanti had several sparks though, stated the release.
As a University of Michigan student decades ago, Roof played the trumpet; Now, as a producer, he has some familiarity with almost every instrument, most notably strings, drums, keyboards, and singing.
One of Roof’s earliest musical inspirations was attending the Frog Island Blues and Jazz Festival in Ypsilanti starting in middle school. More recently, Roof had the opportunity to rehearse in the Riverside Arts Center as part of Jay Stielstra’s North Country Opera 40th Anniversary tour. During the week of rehearsals there, the venue struck Roof as ideal for a new music series, in the same town that had hosted the Frog Island Festival.
With these memories in mind, the Roof Top Arts board decided to take the project on.
“If we're going to be a community here in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Southeast Michigan, we have to celebrate the things that are ours, you know, this local community, and that's really what the festival is about is to find things in our own neck of the woods that are really great and to discover something new,” Roof said.
The five-day festival will present concerts each night from 7:30-10:30 p.m., plus an additional matinee on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., all with unique themes.
During Tuesday’s opening night program, there will be two groups of four singer-songwriters including Mike Ward, Jo Serrapere, Dan Hall, Stuart Benbow, Kandy Fredrick, Morris Paul Lippens, Chris McGorey, and Mark Jewett.
Roof will be performing in five of the festival's group sets, as people he knows asked him to fill a role in their shows.
Wednesday night features rock bands Billy Brandt and the Sugarees and Dirk Kroll Band.
The third night, Thursday, consists of groups Delta 88 and Crossed Lines, both of which originate right in the Ypsilanti area.
“I call them super groups because they're both combinations of people who have been a part of sort of a bunch of different musical acts," Roof said. “Everybody in both the Thursday night bands have their own musical lives outside of that with other things.”
Friday features the “original impetus for doing the shows," Roof said, as Shannon Lee and the Silver Linings will be performing, mainly as a way to celebrate the release of their brand new album.
Additionally, both Friday night bands, Shannon Lee and the Silver Linings and The Whiskey Charmers, are female-led groups.
On the festival’s final day, the Saturday matinee show will feature “jam bands” J Michael and the Heavy Burden and Jive Colossus; At night, the Linden Thoburn Trio and Billy King Band will perform.
“The evening show are two artists that I feel really passionate about as far as the quality of their materials, so that’s sort of the final headlining slot," Roof said. “With putting this one together last minute it was sort of hand curated groups, but all very strong with original music that I think people should be hearing.”
Roof hopes to get enough community support for the festival to blossom and be able to continue for years to come.
Tickets for the festival can be purchased online starting at $20.
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