The Hamilton Street Corridor Bash • Rebirth of a Musical Mecca

Inaugural Music & Art Festival Set to Feature 27 Regional Bands on Three Stages August 12-14th in Summer's Premier Musical Showcase!

    icon Jul 21, 2016
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“Hamilton Street lights shine on high,
like a string of pearls wrapped around the shadows
of the Frutchy Bean building tonight
Johnny walks guitar in hand into Old Town
Johnny & the Boomers are gonna play tonight!’

  • Stewart Francke • The Beautiful Go Blameless


The Hamilton Street Corridor (otherwise known as ‘Old Town) has always occupied a special place in my heart.  Back in 1981 when I was only three years into publishing The Review, I made a very conscious decision to locate our offices on Hamilton Street.  With its antique architecture and intoxicating mix of bars, bistros and specialty shops, to my mind it represented the physical & spiritual soul of the City of Saginaw; and it has always stood upon distinctly fertile ground, attracting a mix of musicians and visual artists rich with creativity that make each day upon the strip an evolving tapestry.  And it’s the reason why I remain there to this day.

As with many business districts throughout our region, Hamilton Street and Old Town has seen its ups & downs.  At its apex from the early 1980s through the mid-2000s, it sported over a dozen different clubs, restaurants & establishments featuring live music ranging from Jazz to Rock each weekend, with bands creating original music that truly defined both the sound & shape of our regional music scene.

And now, thanks to the vision & commitment of promoter Tom Schwannecke, the Hamilton Street Corridor is poised to reclaim the grandeur of its musical heritage with a three-day inaugural festival that will run for three consecutive days from August 12-14th, featuring 27 bands performing on 3 stages consisting of the most notable and legendary performers that have both built and defined our regional music scene over the decades. Billed as The Hamilton St. Corridor BASH, this landmark celebration will also feature local visual artists, a Kid Zone, and cuisine provided by local restaurants.

Schwannecke is the owner of Rental City, which is based in Saginaw Township; and indeed, perhaps the most amazing component of this grand endeavor is Schwannecke himself, whom has never embarked upon the arduous and often grueling tasks involved with organizing and promoting a major music festival of this nature.

The idea for the Hamilton Bash dates back to the year 2000. “I received a phone call from a Detroit promoter named John Witz who was pulling together a first year program called Arts, Eats & Beats,” explains Tom.  “He phoned me asking for six 20x20 tents and by the time the event started he required 50 of them, but we’ve been doing that event for John since its inception.”

“He held it in Pontiac and then in 2010 re-branded it and moved it over to Royal Oak and its turned out to be quite successful,” continues Tom. “On top of that we also provide tents for the Blue Water Festival in Port Huron, and another festival in Mount Clemens, so basically we had all the moving parts that were needed to make this even happen, only I would box everything up and let it sit there.  So after last year’s event in Royal Oak, I decided we should just put everything into semi-trucks and bring it back to Saginaw.”

“Last year on August 12th I was down in Old Town for a Bachelor Party,” relates Tom, “and I was amazed at how really nice everything looked. There were neon signs shining in the park and the streets were clean and wide and well-lit and everything was perfect, except there were no people around. At that point I decided to make this bash happen.”

“Five years ago I tried to do something with resurrecting the old Westside Art Fair, he continues. “But the people running that event were exhausted and didn’t have the wherewithal to put any more energy into it. So at that point I kind of dropped the ball, but decided to pick it up again with this event.”

“We’ll be occupying a 7-block radius and also be featuring a Taste of Saginaw with local restaurants, and we’ll be featuring all local bands with a national act thrown in here or there. The younger blood from the old art fair is excited about setting up some visual displays from local artists, and Suzie McClogan and a few other artists have been helping me out on this front. But we definitely have a lot going on.”

According to Tom, three performance stages will be set up: one in the Neon Park corner of Court Street & Hamilton; one in the Junction Parking lot; and a third stage by Barrett Sign at the end of South Hamilton.   27 different acts from Rock to Blues to Country, Jazz and Easy Listening will be performing simultaneously from Noon – 5 pm on Friday, August 12th; from 11 am – 11 pm on Saturday, August 13; and from 11 am – 9 pm on Sunday, August 14th.

Performing artists consist of: Laurie Middlebrook, Detroit Dixie, The 25 Cent Beer Band, The Sinclairs, The Rock Show, Jedi Mind Trip, The Saginaw Elite Big Band, Brush Street with Michael Brush & Julie Mulady, Burnaround, The Hipakritz, Avenue 5, The Mick Furlo Band, Greta Van Fleet, Tweed & Dixie, The Matt Besey Band, The Fabulous Retreads, The Sauce Cats, The Robert Lee Revue, The Relics, The Tom Beaudin Band, Count ‘n Change, Honesty & the Liars, The Cool Lemon Jazz Band, along with national recording artist and Saginaw’s own Stewart Francke, plus one other surprise national artist.

Some of the tentative food vendors include The Old Town Drive Inn, Tony’s Restaurant, The El Paso Grill, The Bavarian Inn, Michigan on Main and assorted food trucks on other blocks.  Additionally a Kids Zone and a Zipline will be featured adjacent or parallel to The Stable on the side street, which will be running the whole time for the enjoyment of both kids and adults.  Admission to the Bash is only $5.00 per day.

In terms of sponsorships, Schwannecke says that Cumulus Broadcasting steeped up as a major event sponsor and that the Michigan Lottery also stepped-up for a three-year commitment, along with Soaring Eagle Casino.   He also notes that 50% of the profits from the three-day festival will go to local charities and that he is donating 25% of the proceeds with a $25,000 cap to the West Saginaw Civic Association.

“The purpose of this whole event is to rebrand Hamilton Street as a safe, clean environment for people to treat as a destination spot,” explains Schwannecke. “Back in the 1980s it was the hottest spot north of Detroit and I want more people to come and see how nice and aesthetically appealing this area is.”

“Historically, the biggest challenge with these events is with dealing with the municipality, but the City of Saginaw has been over the top helpful,” states Tom. “Everybody has been yearning for something like this for a long time and things are moving rapidly. There’s a huge history of music here and we are fortunate to have a lot of variety to the musical inventory of artists that hail from this area.”

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