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One of Lansing’s most promising music festivals isn’t happening at a park or a concert hall. Instead, Stoop Fest’s earnest tradition takes its audience on an adventure through the east side, where nearly 60 artists and a cast of comedians will perform at six different houses, while headlining acts take over Mac’s Bar and the Avenue.
“We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” laughed co-founder Dom Korzecke as he recalled the original 2016 Stoop Fest. “We were going into uncharted territory.”
Though the continued expansion of Stoop Fest seems to hint that it may one day stretch beyond its roots, what allowed it to initially grow was a tight collaboration between neighbors and a determined DIY attitude. As a unique and challenging gambit to book a music festival that relies solely on house shows, Stoop Fest needed the help.
“The first year, we were entirely houses,” Korzecke said. “We had to grow enough cohesion to get all of these houses to coordinate their schedules and plan how everything would work.”
“It was kind of this dream to showcase everything that is the Lansing eastside DIY community. We’re really happy with what it’s grown into,” said fellow co-founder James Radick.
Korzecke drummed up the idea for Stoop Fest with more than a little inspiration from Grand Rapids’ Lamp Light Festival, which books a series of primarily folk bands and puts them on a similar circuit of house shows. Korzecke had regularly attended the grassroots affair and decided it was time to bring it back home.
“I really liked the way that festival felt.You could go into these intimate spaces to see these artists,” Korzecke said. “I brought the idea to our team and told them I wanted to do it bigger and right here in Lansing. Everyone was very onboard with it.”
But the Stoop Fest team didn’t create a carbon copy. What keeps Stoop Fest from being a mirror image of Lamp Light is its acts. While Lamp Light focuses almost entirely on folk-inspired music, Stoop Fest intentionally books a healthy blend of genres.
Stoop Fest also goes beyond music by dedicating space in one house to an art gallery and collaborating with the Allen Neighborhood Center to create a makeshift marketplace featuring crafts and popup restaurants.
Korzecke and Radick said the idea of Stoop Fest is to celebrate Lansing’s independent music scene as a whole, not just a particular style or trend.
“We intentionally make it multi-genre. We want to include as many styles as possible,” Korzecke said. “I feel each year we get more diverse. We don’t have a theme sonically, but we really want the festival to reflect community and welcoming spaces with welcoming people.”
After its successful 2016 inauguration, Stoop Fest expanded beyond the original six houses with help from the Avenue, and this year they’ve added Mac’s Bar to the mix. The extra space allows the team to book larger touring acts. Given Korzecke and Radick’s combined experienced with booking shows for several years before their involvement with Stoop Fest, it wasn’t difficult for them to cultivate a substantial lineup. This year, they’ve got their biggest acts yet in Speedy Ortiz and Suzi Analogue, artists being lauded by the likes of NPR and The New York Times.
“We’re going even bigger — bringing in more national acts while still showcasing acts from our community,” Korzecke said. “We sold out of tickets the first two years. People that came the first year came the second year and they’re coming the third year. We have room to expand because people keep coming.”
But Stoop Fest isn’t leaving the stoop just yet. Its marquee pull is still the playful chaos of crowds jumping from house to house, trying not to miss the next set of musicians and comedians.
“We’re always going to make sure our biggest draws are in the biggest venues, so we don’t have to worry about safety,” Radick said. “As we shift into bigger acts playing, the houses give us an opportunity to have alternative spaces for bands to reconfigure their live performance for a more intimate setting. It’s very cool to see what they do to accommodate that.”
So what is so special about seeing an artist in a house, anyway? For performers and fans, it’s about a lack of barriers. The idea of a concert usually includes steep boundaries via a raised stage, or in the case of larger shows, hundreds of feet of distance — either way, there’s a complete separation between fan and artist.
“With no separation between the crowds and the bands, shows are much more personal and those are the ones that people remember,” said Zack McCormick of the group Teething.
“For the bands, it’s an opportunity to show everyone your creations without lighting, professional setups or any of the bells and whistles. It’s the sum of the parts at their most honest, and that’s where most acts shine.”
John Warmb of Rent Strike believes events such as Stoop Fest, where he volunteers, offer a valuable opportunity to foster more strength with the music community. Warmb equates performing at Stoop Fest as a chance not just to make fans but friends, as well as inspire others to pursue music.
“There’s so much room for local friends and kiddos who have the music in their heart, but aren’t necessarily looking to get booked on some great big thing,” Warmb said. “Having the ability for these bands to play in somebody’s living room is so important and encouraging for people to think, ‘Hey maybe I can do this in my house. Maybe I can play my guitar and sing songs in front of people.’”
Stoop Fest Tickets start at $20
For a full schedule of performances and list of addresses visit www.stoopfest.org