Anthony Gentile on YpsiFest

I had the occasion a few days ago to chat with Anthony Gentile, the organizer of YpsiFest, which is scheduled to take place at Woodruff’s October 12 – 15. Here’s what he had to say…

MARK: When was the first YpsiFest?

ANTHONY: Well, YpsiFest started in 2003, back when Leighton Mann was booking at the Elbow Room. I was playing in a band called Rome for a Day and, in addition to booking shows for my own band, I had started working at getting other bands I liked into the Elbow Room. As you probably know, Leighton’s a pretty good guy to work with and he helped me out a lot with RFAD and with getting other bands I liked into the Elbow on decent bills. Eventually the idea of having a little fest of our own in Ypsilanti came up, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe I’m wrong, and forgetting history, but there weren’t as many fests back then as there are now, so we didn’t feel like we were beating a dead horse.

Anyway, YpsiFest was going to be a celebration of Rock and Roll. The idea was to bring bands that supported Ypsilanti, and bands that we loved that hadn’t played Ypsilanti, together for a weekend of rock and roll madness. The first one was held Sept 26 and 27, 2003, at the Elbow Room. The lineup included 19 bands over two days, bringing together local rock, punk and metal bands like Few and Far Between, Charlevoix, Anchorage, Inside Five Minutes, Leaving Rouge, Glori5, Spit for Athena, Human Wick Effect and more. It was a great weekend, we raised money for a local dog shelter, and we decided we would do it again in 2004.

MARK: And, from what I understand, the format has evolved a bit since then, right?

ANTHONY: In 2004, we made it three nights and had eight bands each night for a total of 24 bands. Several bands from 2003 returned, but we also added some heavy hitters like Easy Action, Bang! Bang!, Chapstik, Heads Will Roll and The Holy Fire. The weekend was a huge success and we raised over $1000 that we donated to the music program at a local high school in Ypsilanti.

In 2005, Rome for a Day was no longer a band. The only live music I was playing was either solo/acoustic or in a project I was calling the Free Noise Project. Free Noise Project was an event where local musicians would sign up to play and I would take all the people who wanted to play and semi-randomly mix them up into groups with people they didn’t know. Each “group” would get 25 minutes to play whatever noise they wanted. It was a lot of fun and we had some amazing musicians come out to make some amazing noise. So in 2005 I decided to include the Free Noise Project with YpsiFest and for some reason I got the idea that I would move away from a fest that was mostly Rock/Punk/Metal and try to include all types of bands from the area. That lineup, in November 2005, included Rootstand, Heads Will Roll, Nathan Montgomery, Leaving Rouge, Ragbirds, Free Noise Project (just one grouping of the guys who came most often to the wednesday night deals), Coke Dick Motorcycle Awesome, Chapstik, Fred Thomas, Paradise and Anchorage. Cracks me up to think that I ever thought it was a good idea to put Heads Will Roll and Rootstand back to back, but we did. It was a decent event, we raised money for the SOS Community Services in Ypsilanti, and everything went pretty well considering.

In 2006 Leighton Mann was no longer at the Elbow Room and there was a new booker who didn’t want to have a large weekend festival “because it ate up too many headliners” and “nobody comes till later in the night anyway”… Both of which were false but whatever. That’s the way it was. I was told I had to break the nights up (not have them on the same weekend) and that I could only have 5 bands per night. My current band, Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program played our first show opening YpsiFest in December 2006, and although we still brought in some great bands that year and in 2007, the original vibe of YpsiFest was gone and it didn’t make sense to carry on any longer. So after 5 years of YpsiFest, I hung up my hat.

MARK: But then you brought it back…

ANTHONY: In 2010, a new opportunity arose when I started getting to know Andy Garris a little better. The booker who didn’t want us to do the fest was gone, and Andy and the Elbow Room gang were really supportive of JWPP and the bands we were bringing with us to the bar. So the idea started milling around in my head again, and when Andy and Co moved a block away to the much larger Savoy, I decided to ask him if we could resurrect the dinosaur that was YpsiFest. Andy was immediately in. In fact, I think he said, “You can have whatever kind of **** fest you want, brother!” So the deal was made and we made it into the biggest YpsiFest yet. Savoy allowed us to have two stages, and that made it possible to have 8 bands each night without having to start before 8:00.

YpsiFest 2010 was a huge success, we combined some of the more prominent Ypsi/Arbor area musicians like The Boys Themselves, Chris Bathgate (Wrathgate’s only appearance I believe), Blue Snaggletooth and Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor with Detroit area bands like The Muggs, The Beggars, Lettercamp, Silverghost and more. Doug Coombe helped me a bunch with the lineup last year, and we celebrated his birthday on Thursday as well. All the bands got paid, the bar was packed for three nights, and I think I hurt myself a little more than necessary.

MARK: And that brings us to now… What do you have lined up this time around?

ANTHONY: This year I am planning to bring the best consecutive four days of rock and roll possible to our new home at Woodruff’s in Depot Town. In some ways we have moved back towards being more of a rock and roll fest, but that’s less by design and more because JWPP has been playing primarily with heavier bands these days and when I started thinking about the fest it was just automatic for me to start by asking some of the bands that I have really enjoyed playing with in the last year.

So I’m super excited that this year marks the return of my original co-conspirator Leighton Mann, who’s band Chapstik will be headlining the final night of the fest on Saturday Oct 15 and will also be releasing a 7″ on Loco Gnosis at the fest. We also have Easy Action back again, and they will be headlining on Friday Oct 14, which again is the celebration of Doug Coombe’s birthday. Because it was his birthday celebration, Doug picked half of the bands on Friday night, which was great because I like every one of the bands he picked, and it is also going to be the official release of JWPP’s new full length record for Loco Gnosis, “The Glass is Half Full” on vinyl. Wednesday we have three amazing Detroit area bands (Ahsleys, Phantasmagoria and Kickstand Band) sandwiched by a bunch of great Ypsilanti based bands 2194, S.N.A.F.U., Graders, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor and headlining will be Lawless Carver (who by chance played their first live show as an opener on YpsiFest last year). Thursday the beautiful Lettercamp will headline a night that is sure to explode with rock, punk, rap and whatever it is that the amazing Pat Elkins decides to bring us this year. It’s going to be a swell weekend. We are going to celebrate Ypsilanti and rock and roll for another year!

MARK: So, how much is it to get in? And, speaking of money, will you be paying bands, or will the money be going to a local non-profit?

ANTHONY: The cost for the kickoff party on Wednesday Oct 12 will be $5, and each night after that is $8. We will have wristbands (good for each night of the event) for $24 that are available on Wednesday night only.

We used to try to ride the fence between being a benefit and paying the bands. And while I think it’s a great idea to support a local cause and always like the opportunity to do so as a band, I also sometimes feel like it’s good to support local musicians and the work they put into their craft. Making records and keeping gear in decent shape can cost a lot, and I feel pretty good being able to put on an event like this and then actually be able to pay the bands a little bit of money so it doesn’t cost them to come play for us. Last year we paid every band at least enough for gas and some expenses, and I expect to be able to do the same again this year.

MARK: Now for the interesting questions…. Have I heard correctly that you’ve been going around town saying that YpsiFest better than Mittenfest?

ANTHONY: It’s not better than Mittenfest… unless you are ONLY into heavier rock and roll and you don’t want to hear a single acoustic guitar… and then it might be better. For me, as a music fan, I know it’s not better. I couldn’t touch what they do year after year, and I really would never try.

MARK: Is it true that you’ve challenged Brandon Zwagerman to an 8-day Battle of the Festivals next year, where both festivals will go head-to-head in competition?

ANTHONY: Last year I challenged Brandon Zwagerman to several things that included the use of hands. He turned me down every time. Plus, I think he’s smarter than me, so I try not to challenge him too often.

MARK: Why are you always at Woodruff’s?

ANTHONY: My family hates me. Plus, most people don’t know this but I get paid just to be there. Andy calls it “Mascot Services” on my paycheck, but I don’t really know what that means.

MARK: If we can’t have bands perform in Hasan’s bedroom, could we maybe make the stage up to look like Hasan’s bedroom for the duration of the festival, with Hasan serving drinks from bed for the duration?

ANTHONY: That would be awesome. I will be doing a few acoustic performances in Hasan’s room over the 4 days of YpsiFest. Mostly serenades to his girlfriend… but I forget her name. I’ll bet Dave and Kurt from Elbow Deep could do a great job with the “Hasan’s Room” theme. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

MARK: Anything else people need to know?

ANTHONY: People should just know that this is going to be a great time from beginning to end. We have some of the best bands from southeast Michigan playing. We also have an amazingly comfortable venue with a great staff that always aim to please their guests. There is a huge bar with a great beer menu and they now also serve great food at a low cost all night long. We have an awesome community in Ypsilanti, and we’re super fortunate to have the opportunity to do this. I just hope everybody is ready for a good time.

MARK: One last question…. Did you want to play in a four-piece, but could only find one other guy that looked like you?

He never responded to that last question…

That’s Anthony, by the way, on the left in that photo up above. The guy on the right isn’t him, even though they look alike. My guess is it’s a Genesis and Lady Jaye kind of thing.

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  1. Eel
    Posted September 21, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    The Hasan’s Bedroom meme is as good, if not better than the Ball Shaving meme.

    Just imagine how powerful they would be if combined.

  2. Edward
    Posted September 22, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of BedroomFest, where shows take place all over town in the bedrooms of famous Ypsilantians.

  3. Elf
    Posted September 22, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’d like to hear more about this competitive hand-jobbing thing that Anthony asked Brandon to join him in.

  4. anthony anonymous
    Posted September 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    i want to do a breakfast set in pat elkins’ bedroom. we will stay up all night long and then do the set at like 7:30am.

    elf – i was told it was incessant and semi-offensive.

    mark – thanks for the coverage.

  5. Grader#3
    Posted September 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink


  6. Patrick
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    We’ve had two shows in my bedroom during the past 5 years – Halibut Tin Metal Sewage Band in 2006 and the Ghouls / Charlie Slick / shadow puppet show last January. It’s probably time for another.

  7. Posted September 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    There are bedrooms that should never be seen.

  8. Brandon
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Just saw this, Anthony. See you at hand-fest!

  9. anthony anonymous
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    patrick, i seriously hope i don’t miss that opportunity!
    mark, i agree… hence the low lights in hasan’s bedroom.
    brandon, see you there brother!

  10. Sick Man
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I was sick. How did it to? Was there action in Hasan’s bedroom?

  11. Tom
    Posted July 29, 2012 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Omg YpsiFest 2005 was In September NOT November. I should know I went

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