Totally Awesome Fest 12 begins tomorrow, and, if you’re too scared to experience it in person, you can catch some of it on this weekend’s Saturday Six Pack

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.


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 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.]


12:00 p.m. Hairy & The Eyeballs
12:30 TBA
1:00 Jim Cherewick
2:00 Stef Chura
2:30 Avery F
3:00 Philup Banks
3:30 Bevlove
4:00 King Milo

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 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


11:00 a.m. Jo Pie Wyld
12:00 Sean Ruona
12:30 Sir and/or Madam (Re Steinman)
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
7:30 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


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 Dora Diaspora
3:30 Toto Recall
4:00 True Blue
4:30 Terrible Materials
5:00 RiverSpirit
5:30 Autumn Wetli
6:00 Rella
6:30 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

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.

A Totally Awesome Film from Adam Wright on Vimeo.

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.

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  1. Eel
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    We should send bands to infect Water Hill.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I can’t verify it, but there’s a rumor going around that Patrick Elkins intends to call the cops and shut down every venue so that he can sleep through the weekend.

    This note is said to have been sent from him last night to someone associated with TAF: “My plan to get the whole thing shut down so i can take a sleeping bag down to the park, throw my phone in the river, and take a 3-day nap is working perfectly.”

  3. Anonymous
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    A completely appropriate followup to last week’s show about the corporatization of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  4. XXX
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    What can you tell me about Toto Recall?

  5. Eel
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger covering Toto songs as Douglas Quaid.

  6. Dickens
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    You might think it’s an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato, but it’s really just NODATA.

  7. Posted April 29, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I heard that the two headliners on Sunday night, Body Tingly and the Catatonic 4 and Peanut Brutal, are fake band names invented in order to prevent negative publicity on the blog about the true performers.

  8. Rat
    Posted April 29, 2016 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    There’s now video from Totally Awesome Fest India.

  9. Kestral
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Which begs the question, why would anyone perform at this under their real name?

  10. Westside
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Wait’ I thought there was an argument on here about Water Hill Vs. Totally Awesome Fest? Do you have multiple blogs? Is Water Hill vs. Awesome a proxy for Sanders vs Hillary? How do I get in the loop? When will the madness end?

  11. Anonymous
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The argument wasn’t here. It was on Facebook. Jean Henry wrote the following.

    “Water Hill is just as weird as totally Awesome Fest if not more so. Water Hill is Ypsi in 15 years. It does not get better, but the self congratulation never stops. People all over the world get together, make music and dance without believing they are more special than those people the next town over– or anyone really.”

  12. K.K.
    Posted April 30, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    XXX, I cannot tell you about Toto Recall, but I can show you.


  13. Peter Larson
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    Many people had an interesting time at this event.

  14. Westside
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Oh. I’m not cool enough to be friends with Mark Maynard on Facebook so I missed all that. I just over heard talk of it at Argus the other morning . Was it a real drag out 178 post thread of insults and defamation?

    Still this pressing controversy needs to be put to rest. I will head out to both, yes both events today with my weird meter and get the answer. I will also get a complete tally of the race of everyone attending. Numbers are truth.

    And as a wise man once said – can’t we all just get along?

    And sadly this will be my final post. I went to check on my snark in her cage this morning and she was dead. I think I’ve been taking her out too much lately. I still have earnest but she doesn’t like this blog as much. She prefers the comments section at the NY Times.

    Time for me to go to Argus and see what everyone’s talking about this morning!

  15. Posted May 1, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The original Totally Awesome Fest happened just outside of the Water Hill neighborhood in Ann Arbor 11 years ago. I think the Water Hill Music Fest’s secret to success over the last four years is doing everything with the exact opposite approach from Totally Awesome Fest.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    But Jean Henry has been to both and says they’re essentially the same. Who should I believe?

  17. unsubstantiated rumour
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous, I think a similar success strategy works for believing the opposite of everything Jean Henry says.

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Except for the fact that most of you are probably old and ugly, these sound like comments from the pretty girl table.

  19. Eel
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    As if you’d know what was discussed at the pretty girl table.

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 1, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    My reference point is movies made about and for teenagers.

  21. Westside
    Posted May 2, 2016 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    It’s called the grown ups table and few of ” you ” would know anything about that. You probably wouldn’t even understand it if you saw it in movies.

    It’s where I’ll be sitting with Hillary as she cuts me a check for all the work I’ve done for her on social media over the last few months.

    Now, which was weirder? As with most things, it’s all relative

    Can’t we all just get along?

  22. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink


    I am sure you are very mature person who, correct me if I am wrong, has been exerting a surprising effort to post anonymous-wink-wink-giggle-giggle- passive-aggressive-behind-the-back-caricatures of persons who do not even post here anymore.

    Grownups table? How is your happy meal?

    Chicken fingers, French fries for them [folks] that wanna diss…

  23. Peter Larson
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    “I am seriously counting down the minutes until the end of “totally annoying fest 12″…I am all for community coming together for music and hipster whatever, but seriously do it somewhere other than a neighborhood. If it is this loud next year I am going to call police. My kids can’t nap from the bass and at one point what sounded like a drowning cat… AND there are people smoking pot, drinking, and smoking cigarettes on the SIDEWALK across from my house- ALL DAY. Not an “awesome” view for my family.”


  24. Anonymous
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    And they were ON THE SIDEWALK!!!

  25. Westside
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    I was going for a broader caricature of the type of post on here so I failed. But thanks for noticing. There is often no grown-ups table here. That’s the funny thing. Often it’s all you can eat chicken fingers with a big gulp. I suppose it’s kinda like Mr. Larsons post above. One groups Art is another person problem. Or maybe it’s the venue? I don’t know. It’s all relative.

    Why do I bother to post. I have nothing meaningful to contribute. Don’t pay attention to me or anything I say. Wink-Wink!

  26. Peter Larson
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Surely, many individuals had an enjoyable time while some did not and other, even, might have been indifferent to the outcome.

  27. stupid hick
    Posted May 3, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one who misses Jean Henry, yet is amused by Westside?

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