ROCK THE WATERFRONT Seeks to Bring Something New to the Riverbanks of Bay City

    icon Jul 17, 2008
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Alan LaFave knows a thing or two about throwing a great party.

Turning back the clocks to when people went to see original music, Rock The Waterfront is a new format for downtown Bay City's Wenonah Park with an old proposition.
Happening once a month on a Thursday from June through August, LaFave has lined up a wide stylistic range of original talent from the state to be featured along the Saginaw Bay during the beautiful summer months.

Dirt Road Logic out of Ann Arbor with special guests The Kincaids from Mt. Pleasant kicked off the season June 26. Along with the quality original acts were a unique display of vendors and artists, all from the creative idealism that LaFave helped map out.
An art gallery, a beer tent, pizza from Bay City's own Brooklyn Boyz pie-master Kevin Novelino, an on-site sketch artist, coupled with the blue-sky, open minded vibe which both fans and organizers shared, made for a spectacular opening night.

LaFave is on the Board for the Bay Arts Council, oversees the Hells Half Mile Film and Music Festival, plus has a day job that takes him all over the United States.

The Review caught up with LaFave who wears so many shoes, it is hard to know which direction you will find him next.

Review: Tell me about the Thursday night concerts. Who's idea was it? What are the goals you have in mind?

Alan LaFave: "In my second year on the Bay Arts Council Board I became the Programming Chairperson for the Wednesday's in the Park concert series. I thought I would go in and shake things up and try to program different acts than what we normally see.

As I learned more about the Wednesday Night series I realized how successful it has been and how its' core audience responds so well to the programming already in place.

But still, I knew it wasn't filling the younger crowd niche so I decided, along with Joy Butler, Executive Director of the Bay Arts Council, that we would explore adding an entirely new night of entertainment. It took a couple years to get it rolling, especially with our involvement in the Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival keeping us busy.

We decided to make the new night have an entirely different feel from what we have on Wednesday's. It needed to be livelier and have different elements to attract the 20-50 year old crowd. So, we decided to add elements of a street fair like and artist gallery, casual entertainment, food vendors and a beer tent.

Review:  How well did the opening night go for you? What are your expectations? 

Lafave: We wanted to start small this year so we can work the bugs out, which is why we settled on only three events this summer; one night in June, July and August. The June show was so much fun. We had a light crowd, but they really seemed to enjoy the bands, the pizza from Brooklyn Boyz and of course, the beer tent. Rock the Waterfront at Wenonah Park can easily accommodate several hundred people. Our target would be to have around 200-300 people at each event."

Review:  Being that the music touches upon state wide original acts, is there a particular audience you have in mind?

Lafave: \The bands we've chosen lend themselves extremely well to a party atmosphere. So many cities have great weekly outdoor events that consist of great music, food, drinks and socializing. I can't think of a better place than Bay City and Wenonah Park for a summer party. And I can't think of  better reasons to get together and party as a community then the fact that its summer and it's a whole lot of fun."

Review:  Who is in charge of picking the acts?

Lafave: We have a small committee of music lovers involved including myself.  We're all involved with Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival in one way or another, as well."

Review: Do you see this branching into other 'live' kind of nights for the Hells Half Mile?

Lafave: The HHM Fest team, along with Bay Arts Council, is constantly trying to create new entertainment opportunities. During HHM Fest itself we have two nights of live music and we may add some acoustic entertainment at various times throughout the festival this year. We would love to grow it into a significant entertainment event for Mid Michigan. All it takes is for the people of Mid-Michigan to come out of their houses and try something new. That and a whole bunch of work by a group of dedicated volunteers."

Review:  How are things shaping up for the HHM Fest for 2008?

Lafave:  Things are coming along nicely. We have been screening films and seeking out bands for months. We're still looking for sponsors to help support the event so if anybody out there is interested, please contact me at Once again, we'll have a bunch of filmmakers coming to do Q&A after screenings, plus filmmaking workshops and a panel discussion with all visiting filmmakers and cast members. I love the opportunity to talk to filmmakers when I go to film festivals so I love that we can offer it too.

Review:  What is lacking in this area for live music arts that could benefit the community and area as a whole, if anything?

Lafave:  I think people need to take more chances. I'm talking about people in general and the venue owners. It's so much fun to discover a new band that you never knew existed. I went to the Arlington a few weeks ago and  was blown away by a band called Monument Valley. I never knew they existed before that night and now I'm a big fan. Locally, we tend to seek out 'safe' or familiar entertainment and although these bands may be really good, the experience really doesn't bring you much of anything new and there's nothing quite like the feel of something new, to quote Trent Reznor.
Rock The Waterfront continues on July 24th with Michigan rockabilly from Dangerville with special guests from Hemlock--2008 Review Award Winners Cornpone.

Also on August 21st, the ska kings from Michigan, Mustard Plug will perform with Bay City's own alternative institution The Swaggering Rogues. Gates open 5:00 p.m.  Music starts 6:00 p.m.  Admission is only $6.00. If hazardous weather occurs, the event will be held at The State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave., Bay City.

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