Why We’re Starting Here First and Why It’s Totally Awesome

This last weekend there was a festival in our fine Midwest city of Ypsilanti called Totally Awesome Fest. The TAF organizers describe the fest as “…56 unsteady hours of free, all-ages, all-species fun in Ypsilanti April 24–26! Music, fashion, pancakes, puppetry, poetry, film, basketball, an inflatable pink elephant, a hot dog cart, hot dogs, history, and so much more!” We know that there are are other fests that happen here, Ton-Up, Mittenfest, and even Elvisfest, which is also awesome, but this weekend it was about TAF. To get an idea of what happens, check this reel from 2016. It’s totally awesome, and totally weird.

Three days in late April, plus a day in August this year and four venues is Totally Awesome.

Now, I know that this sort of thing happens other places around the globe. I mean, not quite like this, but understand that 70+ bands and artists, many of whom are totally local, descended on Ypsilanti for this three days in April and one in August (yeah, I know that’s an odd schedule) of free, all-ages, multi-venue weird-o-rama, and if you live around here, and didn’t know it was happening, well, then you are probably way too square to even be reading this post. That’s okay, you can learn to be totally awesome too. I love the strangeness that ensues though, and it’s perfectly acceptable for Patrick Elkins, the festival’s lead organizer to kick it off in a style completely unique to this event…on a roof, with a PVC horn, or whatever that guy is playing.

The whole lineup is on Facebook, but what was totally awesome for me this year was that they also used Grove Studios as one of their venues. We are in the very early phases of our venture to create Grove Studios, and what it is right now is boot strappy, very DIY, but totally in line with Totally Awesome Fest or Mittenfest, or even the Ton-Up that takes place every summer in Depot Town. The TAF aesthetic is awesome though, and it’s the kind of fest, along with the others that the scene comes from. This scene and the fests are all tied to this strange Midwestern college town in ways you can’t quite grasp unless you’ve been here. But what I know is that there is a scene here that deserves a place like Grove Studios; A place to meet, cross-pollinate, collaborate, perform and share their art. Also, there’s fashion…

Also, there’s fashion. Seen at Grove Studios during Totally Awesome Fest.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time selling you my business plan for Grove Studios, but getting to the why, of why the hell we would embark on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create band rehearsal spaces made from shipping containers and main building as a hub, is important.

First of all, this plan is born out of frustration. Being in bands myself for two decades, I’m tired of terrible spaces, garages, and post industrial crap-shoots, despite how “cool” they might seem to an onlooker. Crappy is crappy, and we’ve always had crappy options for rehearsal spaces. In our city limits, we also intend to create a main building that hosts a multi-purpose art, music, and recording venue, amplifier and instrument repair shop, co-working and collaborative space, and hourly rehearsal spaces for the people who deserve it. We’re even working with a music business entrepreneur who wants to locate their music business incubator at Grove. But the idea is to make it quality.

Why make it quality? Well, I’d say that the fact that there are 70+ diverse bands for a strange festival at the end of April in this sleepy midwestern college town proves the vibrancy and richness of this scene. It’s the fact that bands like Minihorse and performers like Dwayne the Jet Black Eel were on hand to do their thing and it was totally awesome. 70+ bands? Totally Awesome.

Dwayne The Jet Black Eel Performed at Grove Studios a few months back and at Dreamland Theater for Totally Awesome Fest.

My partners and I are plugging away. We are interested in making sure the scene has places to be, infrastructure for our art if you will, and above all places for artists to rehearse and hone their craft. We’re starting here, because, well, Ypsilanti is totally awesome. More awesome than it gets credit for, and more awesome than you know, especially if you’ve never been here. But that’s okay, I’m sure it’s totally awesome where you are too. But I know that making it happen here first is important because the vibrancy of the scene shows me every day, every week and every time any of the fests surpass my expectations yet again. Later, we have plans to take Grove Studios to other towns, where undoubtedly, people are awesome and doing totally awesome things too, but it has to start here in Ypsilanti, where we’re at…in one of Michigan’s most creative corridors snuggled between metro-Detroit and Ann Arbor. A totally awesome artistic sandwich if you will.

Want to learn more about Grove Studios? Want to rent space? Click here.

Oh, and watch this awesome video from Minihorse. You’re welcome.

Minihorse was rehearsing at Grove Studios prior to their last tour and played Totally Awesome Fest.
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