Hijacking a local karaoke night, the reclusive Patrick Elkins announces his intention to take Totally Awesome Fest international this year

Every year, at about this time, Patrick Elkins, the director of Ypsilanti’s Totally Awesome Fest (TAF), calls a big press conference to formally announce the coming festivities. And, every year, invariably, I’m the only member of the professional press to show up. This year’s press conference, which took place yesterday evening during a hijacked karaoke performance at Powell’s Pub, was no different… Here’s a brief discussion between myself and event organizers Patrick Elkins, Amber Fellows and Ben Miller, followed by video of the entire four-minute press conference.


MARK: I like that you hijacked Powell’s karaoke night for the purposes of holding tonight’s Totally Awesome Fest 12 press conference. Were you at all concerned that people in the crowd might not want to hear the details about this year’s festival yelled over an Alanis Morissette track? The folks celebrating their friend’s birthday in front of the podium you’d smuggled in looked a little bewildered.

AMBER: We were counting on the majority of Powell’s patrons not wanting to hear details about Totally Awesome Fest. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but tension and anxiety have become important factors in the annual TAF press conference. [See below for links to past TAF press conferences.]

PATRICK: Alanis Morissette is someone whose music brings people together; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she was chosen to portray the physical incarnation of God in a popular film. Once I heard Amber singing the opening lines of “Thank U,” all of my anxieties faded as I realized how many patrons of the bar were excited to hear what we had to say.

MARK: Patrick, you mentioned that, in addition to there being shows in Ypsilanti, there would also be shows in India, making this the first international Totally Awesome Fest. Was it difficult getting the approval of the Indian government?

PATRICK: The Indian government told us that they had heard about the festival on “the blog.” [note: A half dozen years ago or so, a TAF event was shut down by the Ypsilanti police. When asked how they’d found out about the house party, they said they’d heard about it on “the blog,” referring to this site as though it were the only blog in existence.]

MARK: How will it be decided which bands stay in Ypsilanti and which are sent to India?

PATRICK: The process for determining which bands stay in Ypsilanti and which are sent to India is remarkably similar to the process by which it will be determined which bands stay in India and which ones travel to Ypsilanti.

MARK: Will we be getting any Indian bands here in return? If so, can I suggest Albatros and the Riot Peddlers?

PATRICK: If the Ouija board says, “Yes.”

MARK: Do you have enough of a budget to bring back the bands we’ll be sending to India, or should we just assume that, say Jim Cherewick, will be gone forever if he’s selected to make the trip?

PATRICK: That depends on how much we raise during our Fundrager event featuring Stefyoke. [note: Details on the Fundrager can be found below.]

MARK: Who is handling the arrangements in India? Will it be Hollis and Logan? And, if so, have you thought of doing a live Manhole reunion, maybe over the telephone, with Logan and Hollis playing there, the rest of the band playing in Ypsi?

PATRICK: Yes. And, yes.

MARK: Do we know what the Indian event is going to look like? Will it also be a multi-day, multi-venue thing? Or will it just be Logan and Hollis in an apartment somewhere, taking turns playing for one another?

PATRICK: Hopefully there will be ventriloquism involved, but, regardless, any of the aforementioned ideas you have suggested sound logistically feasible (to varying degrees).

MARK: Will anyone be attending Totally Awesome Fest on both continents? Are they timed such that it would even be possible?

AMBER: Some have expressed their desire to attend both the Ypsi and Bangalore events, which poses some problems, as we’d envisioned that they’d be taking place at the same time.

BEN: But things are evolving. A formal decision has yet to be made as to whether these will be synchronous or asynchronous events.

PATRICK: My understanding is that Aimee Adams plans to attend both events… More “details” will be announced “soon.”

MARK: As this year’s event is exponentially more ambitious than in years past, will you be doing any fundraising?

BEN: Building on the success of last years Totally Awesome Feast, we’re looking to expand fundraising ventures into another Ypsilanti institution: the house party.

AMBER: Expect the unexpected at the Fundrager, which will be happening April 8, somewhere in Normal Park, featuring dj’s and Stefyoke as entertainment incentives.

MARK: This is the second time that Stefyoke has been mentioned, so I should probably ask… How’d it different from karaoke?

AMBER: Stefyoke is Stef Chura’s version of karaoke, which is not too different from regular karaoke, except for featuring a lot more Aerosmith songs, and consistent use of the phrase “on deck.”

MARK: Before tonight’s press conference, I heard Autumn Wetli say that she was preparing to leave Michigan for good. When you addressed the crowd, the first thing you said was, “We’ll be brining Autumn Wetli back.” How do you intend to accomplish this?


MARK: This year, as I understand it, there’s also going to be more of a focus on fashion. Is that correct?

BEN: There’s reported to be an estimated 10 times as much fashion as there has been in previous years.

AMBER: We are still trying to figure out who will be on the Catwalk Committee.

MARK: For people who have never attended Totally Awesome Fest, Ben, when we talk about “fashion,” we’re talking about the fact that, each year, you curate an incredible number of items, which TAF attendees then go through and create ensembles from, right?

BEN: Yes. And this time we’ll be drawing from Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Detroit fashion icons, as well as remnants from other Ypsi-area clothing swaps. Stakes are high, and the editing process is still underway.

MARK: Will Indian clothes be sent here? Will clothes from Ypsilanti be sent to India?

Ben: Oh my god. No.

MARK: Wouldn’t that be awesome, though, if there was some kind of cultural exchange across the two continents, though… if Pat sent his pancake recipe to Bangalore and you send a box of housecoats and leather vests, and, in return, we got a box that we could open up during the event, full of spices and madras.

PATRICK: 100% definitely for certain.

MARK: I don’t think you mentioned it, but how many bands will be playing in Ypsi this year, over how many days, and at how many venues? And are you prepared to name any of the bands yet?

AMBER: We’ve just made our first booking confirmation with Nathanael Paul Romero, who, based on recordings I’ve heard, sounds like Karen Dalton and Sibylle Baier.

PATRICK: We are in the process of confirming numerous acts. Venues include the Dreamland Theater, The House of Mole, Water Street Commons, Lampshade, VG Kids, with more to be announced soon.

MARK: Should I expect that an act or two will be dropping by my radio program?

PATRICK: We are hoping to get a ventriloquist and perhaps a magician to appear on your radio show. If not, we will solicit performances from local grindcore bands.

MARK: And what will the dates be this time?

AMBER: It’ll run from April 29 to May 1. Friday will be an all day event, and May 1, in part, will be a celebration of May Day (International Workers Day). So, if anyone is interested in donating a Maypole for Devin Leatherman to bless/reclaim, that would be great… Keep up with details as they develop follow on Facebook.

MARK: It was also mentioned tonight that there were several committees being formed. The only one I remember specifically remember from the press conference was the Balloon Within A Balloon Committee, but I know that others were mentioned… How many committees will there be, and what should people do who want to volunteer to serve on one of them?

PATRICK: At last count, there were at least 37 different committees. We just started a Committees Committee to come up with new ideas for committees every day.

AMBER: If you’d like to be a chair of a committee, please drop us a note! There will be many opportunities for helping facilitate this year’s fest.

MARK: Tonight’s press conference was lovely. The combination of you (Patrick) yelling, and you (Amber) singing so beautifully, was just incredible. If you haven’t already, you should consider writing a few pieces for this format and going on tour.

AMBER: Thank you. What do you think, Pat? My favorite part was realizing that, in the span of a four minute song, we had convinced someone to want to participate in TAF, asking during the question portion, “Can I be a part of it?” The answer to which was: “Yes, definitely.” Maybe he was moved by Patrick’s charismatic preaching. The ‘singing with yelling’ format can really motivate people.

PATRICK: Thanks, Mark. I had a lovely time. A tour sounds like a blast – perhaps we could play during Totally Awesome Fest in India.

[For those who are curious to know more about the history of Totally Awesome Fest, I’d encourage you to check out a few of Patrick’s press conferences from previous years… like the one right before Totaly Awesome Fest 10, which took place at the back of an AATA bus, or the one for Totally Awesome Fest 8, which was hosted by Eastern Michigan University, or last year’s, which took place amid a sea of skateboarders on the steps of Ypsilanti’s Thompson Block.]

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  1. anonymous
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Where will the TAF crew find the cute boys to lure Autumn Wetli back?

  2. Eel
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    If I had to guess, I’d say somewhere other than Powell’s.

  3. Alex
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    International Pancake Exchange.

  4. Kit
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never heard TAF referred to as a cult, but it makes sense, and Pat fits the part. Maybe next year the could make it official at the press conference.

  5. idea man
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Patrick should put some lips further down on his beard and do a ventriloquism act with it.

  6. Mr. X
    Posted February 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Karaoke is a medium ripe for exploitation. One whole day of TAF should be dedicated to Karaoke Jamming.

  7. Posted March 16, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    All kidding aside, I do have magic tricks that I can do on the radio (or over the phone) if you ever need any.

  8. Posted April 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I’d forgotten to post the lineup, which was released a week or so ago. Here it is.


    FRIDAY 4/29
    12:00 p.m. Hairy & The Eyeballs
    12:30 Mountains and Rainbows
    1:00 Jim Cherewick
    2:00 Stef Chura
    2:30 Philup Banks
    3:00 Avery F
    3:30 Bevlove
    4:00 p.m. King Milo

    @ VG KIDS (884 RAILROAD ST.)
    5:00 p.m. Blessed Beast
    5:30 Wraiths
    6:00 Jols
    6:30 Lucy
    7:00 Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band
    7:30 Annie Palmer
    8:00 p.m. Meshes

    9:00 p.m. CJ Mind Control
    9:30 Ministry of Boredom
    10:15 Kelly Jean Caldwell
    11:00 Dykehouse
    11:45 Dear Darkness
    12:30 Louis Picasso
    1:00 Crochetcatpause
    1:30 Andrew Bruce Mitchell III

    SATURDAY 4/30

    @ CROSS GROVE (322 E. CROSS ST.)
    11:00 a.m. Jo Pie Wyld
    12:00 Sean Ruona
    12:30 Re Steinam
    1:00 Mercury Salad Sandwich
    1:30 Tanager
    2:00 Dan Florida
    2:30 Malcolm S.ex
    3:00 J. Gardner
    3:30 Derick DeLaRosa
    4:00 Fangs ‘n’ Twang
    4:30 Bob Voorheis
    5:00 p.m. Human Skull

    @ AM1700 (33 N. WASHINGTON ST.)
    6:00 p.m. Disinformants
    6:30 Crime Victims
    7:00 NODATA
    7:30 p.m. p.m. Steve Jolley presents “DESIGNATED DRIVER”

    7:45 p.m. Dreamland Puppet Troupe presents: “DRONE DOG’
    8:30 Landmarks
    9:15 Canteen
    10:00 Haze Saheed
    10:45 Laserbeams of Boredom
    11:30 Billey Madison
    12:00 Sex Police
    12:30 White Power Dies Today
    1:00 a.m. Airport
    1:30 Battery Acid

    SUNDAY 5/1

    8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

    Live painting by Kayj Michelle
    Poetry & spoken word performances by Devin Leatherman, and TBA
    11:30 a.m. PANCAKAROKE
    12:00 Canadian Constitutional Crisis
    12:30 Nathanael Romero
    1:00 Aimee Adams
    1:30 Britney Stoney
    2:00 TBA
    2:45 SHADES
    3:30 Toto Recall
    4:00 True Blue
    4:30 Terrible Materials
    5:00 RiverSpirit
    5:30 Autumn Wetli
    6:00 Rella
    6:30 p.m. Real Ghosts

    8:00 p.m. Platonic Boyfriends
    8:45 Gruesome Twosome
    9:30 Marisa Dluge
    10:15 Renee Willoughby
    11:00 Body Tingly & the Catatonic 4
    11:45 Peanut Brutal


2 Trackbacks

  1. […] As Totally Awesome Fest coordinators told those of us at Powell’s this past fall when they hijacked the karaoke machine, this year’s festival isn’t going to stop at the borders of Ypsilanti. Tomorrow, when […]

  2. […] For those who are curious to know more about the history of Totally Awesome Fest, I’d encourage you to check out a few of Patrick’s press conferences from previous years… like the one right before Totaly Awesome Fest 10, which took place at the back of an AATA bus, or the one for Totally Awesome Fest 8, which was hosted by Eastern Michigan University, or the one from two years ago, which took place amid a sea of skateboarders on the steps of Ypsilanti’s Thompson Block, or the one last year, which involved a hijacked the karaoke machine at Powell’s Bar. […]

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