An Inside Track on the 1st Annual PATCHWORK Music & Art Festival

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music,   From Issue 824   By: Robert E Martin

17th March, 2016     0

There is something new, colorful and audible in the air – popping up around various business entities throughout the Tri-City area like tulips marking the freshly scented rebirth of Spring; only carrying the imprimatur of Music, Art, Poetry, Film laced together throughout the cultural fabric of the region in what is soon to be become the 1st Annual PATCHWORK Art & Music Festival.

PATCHWORK will feature over twenty live music acts, ten artists exhibiting, live comedy and more, at nearly a dozen venues stretching through the Tri-Cities; for a big week of unity and entertainment running from April 8 – 16th.

Conceived and facilitated by cultural mavericks Curtis Dalton and Ben Champagne of the Counter Culture Arts Collective, which is located at 620 Gratiot in Saginaw, and aided by the invaluable assistance of Rachel LaDrig and Erin Case, from the perspective of festival organizers, there is a national conversation occurring at all times in art, and the Tri-Cities area needs to pitch its case for relevancy and contribute the next chapter. Attendees will find themselves in various venues throughout Bay City, Saginaw, and Midland and PATCHWORK will feature five music shows, independent films, stand-up comedy, workshops, wellness related activities, and art exhibitions in each city.

Diversity is the model for strength in all endeavors, and PATCHWORK relies heavily on it, incorporating a DIY ethos that has been combined with Togetherness to create a DIT environment in which art can be brought and sought with confidence. As its title suggests, the genres of art and music and culture will be vast and woven within each project, thus approaching the PATCHWORK spirit. Energy is cultivated and focused through the merging of talents and in turn put back into the community. 

This inaugural festival will bring some of Michigan’s greatest talents, who normally perform in large markets across the globe, right to the Tri-Cities.  It will feature food from local restaurants, and showcase and promote other local, independent businesses. It will be a boost for the local economy and small business in the region.

Organizers hope that PATCHWORK will also place itself within the greater conversations about music, culture and ultimately, fun throughout the community because the unique nature of each event will have patrons not wanting to miss a single one, bringing together citizens from the entire Tri-County area and beyond.

“Even though Counter Culture is based in Saginaw, we get people from Midland & Bay City coming to our events, just as we go to events in those cities; so we wanted to create more of a Tri-City wide interactive festival in order to spotlight all the cool attributes of all these cities,” explains Curtis.

“A 20-minute drive shouldn’t stop you from going to something that’s cool, so we decided to take a little bit of everything we do and create events in Saginaw, Bay City & Midland, because we want to see these events draw crowds from every city, to show people outside the area what goes on around here and also get people living here exited again.”

“It’s about macro-economics and making the market in the tri-cities larger by shaping it,” echoes Ben. “With each genre of music, whether its an Indie Rock show in Saginaw or a Hardcore show in Bay City, we want to see all the kids into Hardcore from every city going to that one show. The inspiration is to cultivate much larger crowds by helping each other out.”

The pivotal organizing principle behind Patchwork goes beyond taking a batch of divergent shows and exhibitions and stitching them together throughout the Great Lakes Bay region, because one of the key goals is centered around community involvement by getting a mix of different businesses throughout the region to interact with people attending the festival.

Indeed, PATCHWORK is influenced heavily by the DIY ethic, which refers to self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert – literally meaning ‘do it yourself’. The DIY ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid specialists and requires that the adherent seek out the knowledge required to complete a given task. Central to the ethic is the empowerment of individuals & communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles to achieving one’s objectives.

“Currently we have 20 businesses involved with the festival and at our Main Event with Flint Eastwood on April 16th at The Prime Event Center in Bay City, we’ll have tables and a mini-market set up so that all the different businesses supporting PATCHWORK have an opportunity to interact with people,” reflects Curtis.

“For example, we’ll be showcasing The Heaters, Deadbeat Beat and Decker Street Music Dept. at the April 15th show at Creative 360 in Midland; and on April 10th will be using Pop’s Indoor Skatepark to showcase Passalacqua, Obese Ghost Children, and the Kill Em All Social Club. Pop’s rented warehouse space on the other side of town off Gallagher Street in Saginaw and converted this building into an indoor skate park, so we’re putting together a Hip-Hop show there; and then on April 12th we’ll be featuring a Poetry/Open Mic (Part 2)  reading at Bay City’s new coffee shop The Fix from 7-9 PM.”

“There are so many different angles behind Patchwork,” reflects Ben. “Our goal is to make this an annual event and build the market a little more each year. By next year we want to be in Mt. Pleasant a little bit and expand the diversity.   Hopefully, as this continues to grow we might even get weirder and more eclectic with it, to expand the Counter Culture taste a little more for broader niche markets and larger drawing acts so the festival grows bigger and bigger.”

Patchwork kicks off with The Fun House Art Exhibition on April 8th with an Opening Reception at 8:00 PM at Counter Culture Art Collective in Saginaw, which will feature artists Penelope Gazin, Will Laren, Ryan Gregory, Matthew Milia, Rob Rosin, Kate Costea and Casey Huizenga.

“These artists are coming from Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and all over the country,” enthuses Ben. “It was curated by Erin Case from Midland, who helps us coordinate a lot of the art shows we assemble; and all of these artists deal with a unique style of animation and are popular Tumblir artists. Tumblir is a huge social media website that is really good for showcasing art and each of these artists are super popular on there.” 

As for the expansive creativity featured on the Patchwork musical line-up, many on the roster hail from Michigan, with several acts connected to our region that are currently gaining national attention. “A lot of artists out of Detroit are blowing up nationally right now,” notes Curtis, “and none of the acts featured are ‘local’ artists, really. Many of the big acts are on a lot of festival tours right now going around the country and we’re lucky enough to have several of them based out of Michigan.”

Flint Eastwood is out of Detroit, Heaters are from Grand Rapids, and Gosh Pith are also out of Detroit; but a couple members from Heaters grew up in Midland and this is really their first show in the region since they’ve gotten so popular. Plus, Nathan J from the band Stepdad is doing a solo show, so we’re definitely excited about the line-up.”

Jax Andersen is the lead singer & front-person for the headlining band Flint Eastwood, and is excited to be part of this inaugural PATCHWORK festival, having also pulled together something to the Counter Culture Arts Collective with an entity called Assemble that is based out of Detroit.

Assemble is an awesome space that was created to foster collaboration for artists,” she explains. “A lot of times music is created in a very individualized atmosphere, especially in the Detroit music scene. We see so many other cities like LA, NYC, Chicago, and Atlanta that became major music hubs because they all worked together. That's pretty much what we're trying to do: Put Detroit on a bigger musical map.”

How did the DIY music scene influence Jax, and what kind of role does she think it has in Michigan’s music scene and nationally?  “I've always loved DIY scenes,” she reflects.  “They're very community and collaboration based which I'm all about. The music industry is changing - it seems that every genre is a lot more open to grabbing a group of friends and making things work rather than rely upon some high outside source. Not that outside sources are bad, it's just that everything is so much more accessible.”

“I think it's very rare to see an artist stick to one medium. For me I love design & film along with music. Makes sense to have a festival centered around that type of mindset. It's a lot more interesting to dabble in everything.”

Similarly, Kalamazoo author Andy Mozina opens the lens wide when reflecting upon the diversity of festivals such as PATCHWORKMozina will appear at PATCHWORK on April 15th  and will be reading from his work Contrary Motion from 1:00 – 3:00 PM at Founders Hall at Saginaw Valley State University.

When asked why people should bother reading nowadays when Facebook is on their phone and the best sentences can be filed down to 140 characters, he emphasizes how novels & short stories are more important now than ever before. “Fiction and other forms of formal writing are great at organizing and making meaning out of wild and disparate experiences. Our phones and Facebook feeds just give us more stuff to process than ever before. Therefore, we need things like novels and short stories more than ever.”

As to how he feels about being a literary piece in part of a rock & art festival, Mozina says he loves it. “Who wouldn’t want to be part of a rock and roll festival? When I first started writing, my approach to what I was doing—what I thought writing was for, how I thought writing related to the broader culture and the world of commerce—was really shaped by the ethos of punk and alternative rock: Devo, Dead Kennedys, Big Black, Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, The Jam, etc. I still write out of that spirit to some extent. My story collection Quality Snacks comes out of that for sure.”

“From our perspective musically, many venues in each of the tri-cities pull together great showcases for live musical performers; and there are many great isolated festivals throughout the year, but the only thing lacking is this unified approach,” notes Ben.

“Our goal is to formulate great shows and hook them up with other great businesses in the area, which we’ve definitely achieved with PATCHWORK  Now the last step is getting the people involved; and with this year’s line-up, I think we can do it. We’ve selected a lot of artists that people might only be able to see once in the course of the year; and most of these acts can headline on their own and have a supporting cast and do very well, but by putting them all together over a one-week period, we think this will be huge.”

As for the Counter Culture Art Collective itself, when Curtis & Ben formed the entity a little over a year ago, initially opening on South Hamilton Street, they were forced to move to their new location on Gratiot, right next to the Scottish Inn. “We were homeless for a bit but staging stuff continuously,” explains Curtis. “We left in June and gained a new location in July, only it wasn’t really ready to open until October. But during the whole period we were very much alive, just in a different way. Our events were swinging hammers – we threw a show in Detroit, did shows at Jamestown Hall, and a lot of stuff was happening.”

“Our average turnout keeps growing by a few heads with each show,” adds Ben, “and we have a large stage for the size venue it is. We can fit 250 people in there now, so the fact we needed to relocate turned out to be a blessing. We had to work hard to get things opened, but it raised our work ethic and allowed us to see what we’re capable of.”

Other events & shows scheduled for PATCHWORK not mentioned earlier in this piece include: April 9th: Gosh Pith from 7-11 PM at Counter Culture Arts Collective with special guests Valley Hush, James Gardin, Rat Trap and The Angst.

April 10th • Left Field Film Showcase from 5-7:30 PM at Counter Culture Arts Collective, featuring a fun mish-mash  of amateur and indie film by students and other Michigan talent.

April 11th • Patch Works Poetry Open Mic (Part 1) from 7-9:00 PM at the Red Eye Coffeehouse.

April 13thLocal Punk veterans Desiring Dead Flesh kick-off their tour with support from Tim & the Hortones, Harry & the Dingleberries, The Ophelia Complex, Filth Mother, From the Ground Up and Equinsha Ocha at Counter Culture Arts Collective from 4:00 – 10:30 PM.

April 13th • YOGAUDIO: A Sensory Experience. This is being billed as a ‘Wellness Wednesday’ that will feature a Yoga Class paired with audio & visual stimulus that will be held at Saginaw’s Bradley House Theatre at 7 PM.

April 14th • Nathan K. with Michigander, Edgar Cayce and his guitar, and Vital Sea will perform at The Golden Gallery in Bay City at 8 PM.

April 16thThe Grand Finale featuring Flint Eastwood at The Prime Event Center in Bay City from 4:00 – 11:30 PM, with special guests Tunde Olaniran, Nigel & the Dropout and hi-er, featuring an art market, vendors, and more.

“This Festival would not be possible without the help from Mid-Michigan Music, Voodoo Tattoo, The Review Music Awards, Short Brewing, Rock Your Locks, and so many more businesses & artistic cultural entities,” concludes Curtis.

“The outpouring of love and community support we’ve received is unbelievable.”.

PATCHWORK passes are $30 for all events, while individual day tickets vary anywhere from free to $13. They are available at, Mid-Michigan Music, Electric Kitsch, Rock Your Locks Salon, The Fix, and Counter Culture.



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