Every year, in late April, a free, all-ages, multi-venue festival of weirdness called Totally Awesome Fest descends upon the sleepy little midwestern hamlet of Ypsilanti. There’s no escape from it. No one is immune. Like it or not, you will experience beauty and magic. It permeates every element of village life. Walking through town, one might encounter anything, from a magical cart appearing out of nowhere to dispense fee hot dogs, to an inter-species basketball game at a local park. Bands, it seems, are playing in every backyard, and weirdness lurks around every corner.
[above: Totally Awesome Fest 12 poster by Katelyn Schlacht.]
This year, however, things are going to be a little different. 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 just stop at the borders of Ypsilanti. Tomorrow, when things kick off on Perrin Street at noon, and Totally Awesome Fest 12 formally gets underway, the weirdness won’t be contained to a single continent. No, there will also be magical things happening in Bangalore, India, where a team of organizers has been laying the groundwork for the past year, cultivating performers that are capable of carrying the Totally Awesome Fest banner… Yes, just as the terrible people behind the Color Run took a lovely Indian festival and found a way to commoditize it and sell it to American suburbanites, the strangely beautiful magic of Totally Awesome Fest is being repackaged and sold to the people of India. I don’t imagine it will effect us here, but you never know. We may feel ripples in the force emanating from the vibrating guitar strings of the Indian Manhole cover band.
[For those of you without passports, things will get underway here in Ypsilanti at noon tomorrow at 310 Perrin Street with sets by Hairy & The Eyeballs, our old friend Jim Cherewick, and recent Saturday Six Pack guest Stef Chura… The rest of this weekend’s lineup can be found at the end of this post.]
Last year, as you may recall, I set a trap at the AM 1700 studio in hopes of luring in a Totally Awesome Fest musician or two… We took the door of the station off its hinges, removed all signs of human existence… with the exception of a ten-pound pile of sugar… and waited. We obscured the tables and chairs behind heaps of twigs and leaves. We draped moss over our microphones. We created a magical glade. And we waited. I dressed like a fawn and pranced quietly in a corner. Brian, our engineer, played audio of small woodland creatures frolicking. And we settled in for what we thought might be a long wait. Within minutes, though, bearded men and young women with flowers in their hair began tentatively sticking their noses into the studio and sniffing around. And, within twenty minutes, they were fully in the room, surrounding the pile of sugar, and licking at it greedily. Within another ten minutes, some of them began dragging in instruments. If you’d like to listen, you can do so here.
Well, this year, apparently we don’t have to set a trap. I was informed a few days ago that, like it or not, three bands, like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, would be paying me visits at the studio come Saturday evening. Here’s the note, which I awoke to find scrawled on my leg last Sunday morning.
“During Saturday’s Six Pack, you will be visited by three spirits. The first at 6:00 PM, the second at 6:30 and the last at 7:00. And they will all be loud.”
According to the itinerary that was just put out, these three spirits, in order, will be the Disinformants, the Crime Victims (Ian Fulcher, Eric Wozniak, Thom Elliott), and NODATA (Nick Zomparelli). And, after they’ve all assaulted our eardrums and moved on, Stephen Jolley will be having some kind of on-air contest to find five people to drive with him to Brighton for a smooth jazz house show and sleepover party… So, I guess, it’s more than just Ypsilanti and Bangalore that have been infected. Apparently there’s an outbreak in Brighton as well.
[BREAKING NEWS: It would seem that Totally Awesome fever has extended beyond Ypsilanti, Brighton and Bangalore to a third continent! I have it on good authority that Pete Larson will be calling in live from South Africa to perform at some point during Saturday’s show.]
So, if you want to experience a little bit of Totally Awesome Fest, but you’re too afraid to come out in person, you just have to tune in to the Saturday Six Pack this weekend, and listen in. Or, of course, if you’re brave, you can just sit outside the studio and experience it live.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NEVER TUNED IN TO THE SIX PACK BEFORE, HERE ARE THE DETAILS ON HOW TO LISTEN:
Unless you live inside the AM 1700 studio, chances are you won’t be able to pick the show up on your radio. As that’s the case, I’d recommend streaming the show online, which you can do either on the AM1700 website or by way of TuneIn.com. And, if you’d like to tell your friends and neighbors about the program, here’s a link to the Facebook event listing.
For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the show, and need to get caught up, you can listen to the entire archive on iTunes.
And, here, thanks to AM 1700 senior graphic designer Kate de Fuccio, is this week’s poster, in case any of you want to print copies and leave them at one of your favorite highway rest areas. If I’m not mistaken, she’s grafted my head onto the body of the young Dee Dee Ramone this week.
And here’s the ambitious, action-packed lineup. [All of the following are free, all-ages events.]
YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN SCHEDULE:
@ FRIENDS CLOSET (310 PERRIN ST.)
12:00 p.m. Hairy & The Eyeballs
1:00 Jim Cherewick
2:00 Stef Chura
2:30 Avery F
3:00 Philup Banks
4:00 King Milo
@ VG KIDS (884 RAILROAD ST.)
5:00 p.m. Blessed Beast
7:00 Zombie Jesus & the Chocolate Sunshine Band
7:30 Annie Palmer
@ DREAMLAND THEATER (26 N. WASHINGTON)
9:00 p.m. CJ Mind Control
9:30 Ministry of Boredom
10:15 Kelly Jean Caldwell
11:45 Dear Darkness
12:30 Louis Picasso
1:30 Andrew Bruce Mitchell III
@ CROSS GROVE (322 E. CROSS ST.)
11:00 a.m. TAKE HOME FASHION SHOW
11:00 a.m. Jo Pie Wyld
12:00 Sean Ruona
12:30 Sir and/or Madam (Re Steinman)
1:00 Mercury Salad Sandwich
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
7:30 p.m. p.m. Steve Jolley presents “DESIGNATED DRIVER”
@ DREAMLAND THEATER (26 N. WASHINGTON ST.)
7:45 p.m. Dreamland Puppet Troupe presents: “DRONE DOG’
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
@ PROSPECT PARK (CROSS ST. & N. PROSPECT ST.)
8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
TAF 12 BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
@ HOUSE OF MOLE (310 MAPLE ST.)
Live painting by Kayj Michelle
Poetry & spoken word performances by Devin Leatherman, and TBA
11:00 a.m. TAKE HOME FASHION SHOW
11:30 a.m. PANCAKAROKE
12:00 Canadian Constitutional Crisis
12:30 Nathanael Romero
1:00 Aimee Adams
1:30 Britney Stoney
2:00 Dora Diaspora
3:30 Toto Recall
4:00 True Blue
4:30 Terrible Materials
5:30 Autumn Wetli
6:30 Real Ghosts
@ LAMPSHADE CAFE (206 W. MICHIGAN AVE.)
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
One last thing… For the uninitiated, here’s a little documentary footage shot during Totally Awesome Fest a few years ago by Adam Wright and Ian Sargent… I think it should give you a pretty good sense of the vibe, dress code, quality of beardage you should expect to come in contact with, etc.
Oh, I should also add that, if none of this sounds interesting to you, don’t feel sad. There’s going to be a decidedly less weird multi-venue music event in Ann Arbor this weekend. It’s called the Water Hill Music Festival and it won’t hurt our feelings at all if you should choose to go there instead.