As Ted Wilson sits in his East Michigan Avenue office wrapping up a late-evening meeting about the Michigan Rock ‘N Brew Festival he’s organizing, the DIY promotional method he’s implementing proves its worth, at least in some capacity.
A patron from the Green Door, located next door, ventures over in front of Capital City Creative Productions, the office Wilson shares with the fest’s co-founder Greg Day, and other entrepreneurs. The bar goer lights a smoke and stares at a bright orange Rock N Brew poster prominently hanging in the windows of the office; he takes in the laundry list of bands and Michigan brews at the fest. As far as Wilson is concerned, that’s another success for this first-year festival.
“One reason a lot of people know what we’re doing is that we’ve been fliering at every event we can possibly be at in Lansing,” Wilson said. “We’re at Thirsty Thursday events passing out fliers to people. (On) busy bar nights, we’re out there working the crowd.”
Wilson, who also owns Replay Entertainment Exchange and Michigan Shirt Works, said he and his cohorts venture out to places most wouldn’t even consider to promote the fest, which is scheduled to feature 26 live bands and 11 beers from seven Michigan-based breweries.
“The Showboat Rock Festival in Chesaning, we were up there,” he said. “It seems silly to go north of Owosso to promote it, but we met people there in Chesaning who said, ‘Yeah, we already have our tickets, we’re going.’ Every place we can be and talk to people, we’re there. That’s the best advertising: You hand the flier to them and say, ‘This is who we are; this is what we’re doing.’ People get it right away.”
But will this grassroots approach be enough to draw at least 2,000 people? That’s the number of festivalgoers Wilson said the event needs to bring in in order to break even.
While this is technically Rock N Brew's inaugural year, this wasn’t the CCCP’s first stab at setting it up. The first Michigan Rock N Brew was set to happen in Leroy Township (between Williamston and Webberville) in June 2011. But four days before showtime, the plug was suddenly pulled on the concert.
A blog post on rocknbrew.blogspot.com, dated June 21, 2011, cited this as the cause: “Unfortunately, the 1st annual Michigan Rock and Brew festival has been postponed. This is due to the personal politics of the Leroy Township Supervisor and Board Members and their vendetta against the property owner hosting the event.”
Fast-forward one year and Michigan Rock N Brew has relocated to Adado Riverfront Park, the same location as Common Ground Music Festival. The fest is slated to feature headliners like ‘90s alt-rock sensations Toadies and Helmet, along with rising blues guitarist Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown. Other acts include The Hard Lessons, Dirty Americans, Delilah DeWylde and The Muggs — 26 rock bands in all.
“We’re pretty sure we’re going to succeed just fine,” Wilson said. “If we do succeed, in September we’ll start working on next year’s fest in Lansing and also work on expanding into Grand Rapids next year.”
Is the Michigan Rock N Brew a sure thing this year?
“Definitely,” said Zak Taylor, the fest’s coordinator. “We have all our licensing set up with the city, we have a lot of food and non-food vendors. Everything is on pace and on time. It’s all going to go just exactly as planned.”
When planning the fest, Taylor said the Lansing-based organizers wanted to keep everything as home-grown as possible.
“It’s all locally owned, we’re all Lansing residents,” Taylor said. “All of our vendors are Lansing vendors and we’re highlighting exclusively Michigan microbrews.”
Taylor also said they’re hoping to reach the 20- to 30-something demographic, a group he said other area music festivals are not targeting.
“We want a fest the younger generation can identify with,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a rich history of festivals here in Lansing, but I think that we’re missing a component for that younger generation.
“We want to reach out to people like us, people that are not submitting to the brain drain and taking their talent and their efforts and going to other places,” he added. “We want to bring about that change you’ve seen in places like Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. That is what really differentiates us, the whole attitude about what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Aside from supporting youthful beer enthusiasts and rock 'n' roll fans, Wilson said the fest is also heavily concentrated on highlighting the Michigan beer industry.
“We are Michigan’s first stand-alone music festival to serve nothing but Michigan microbrew beer, which is why it’s gotten so much notoriety,” Wilson said. “It’s a big deal. We’re the great beer state and there’s no reason for us not to support all of that Michigan-made beer.
“Plus, there’s just no excuse to not have it here in the capital city,” Wilson added. “In the wheel of all the big cities in Michigan, Lansing is the center spoke. It’s so close to a lot of places.”
Michigan Rock N Brew Festival
Noon-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 and Sunday, Aug. 5
Adado Riverfront Park, Lansing
$25 day pass; $45 weekend pass; other ticket packages available
Scheduled bands: Toadies, Helmet, Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, The Hard Lessons, Delilah DeWylde, Dirty Americans, The Muggs, Bear Lake, Juliets, Left Lane Cruiser, UME, Billiards Music, Seven Birds One Stone, Life Size Ghost, Funktion, Macpodz, The Skies Revolt, Jeecy & The Jungle, Six and Sevens, Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle, Stikyf't, Flashing Blue Lights