The sold-out street party drew thousands to downtown Grand Rapids Saturday with regional and national stars playing a super-sized stage. (Photo gallery, video)
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Dodging an anticipated rainstorm, the 10th annual Founders Fest rolled out of the gates Saturday like a runaway train, kicking off with exuberant sets by Traverse City alt-folk faves The Accidentals featuring special guest Rick Chyme and Grand Rapids ska kings Mustard Plug.
And when Founders’ own FBC All-Stars – featuring brewery staffers – hit the stage in late afternoon with energetic takes on Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and The Clash, well, things went off the rails … in a very good way.
Suffice to say, it created the perfect mood-setter for an anniversary celebration of beer, music and community, with Mother Nature chiming in on the plus side — for the most part — with breezy but sunny conditions for much of the day.
“Amazing hospitality,” gushed The Accidentals multi-instrumentalist Sav Buist, who marveled at the reception the group got from its native Michigan fans.
“It definitely felt like coming home. It was a lot of fun.”
Added band member Katie Larson: “Whenever an audience sings along to ‘Michigan and Again,’ it feels really good.” (See video below.)
In some ways, the 2017 festival seemed bigger yet smaller at the same time.
There’s was only one stage compared to two in previous years, with early acts playing relatively short-but-lively sets.
But clearly, the ante was upped considerably with a larger stage, more sound and stage gear and the stature of the national acts themselves, including prog-jam’s Umphrey’s McGee, touring mainstay Blues Traveler and Colorado’s Leftover Salmon. (Founders noted that Umphrey’s set-up required much more elaborate stage rigging which led them to bring in just one large stage this year.)
Fans continued to pour in as the evening wore on and the sunshine bathed Grand Rapids, with some of the 8,000 strong traveling five hours or more to catch the 9:20 p.m. set by Umphrey’s McGee. As evening approached, gray clouds closed overhead and some raindrops sprinkled down, but the evening’s festivities paraded on.
Blues Traveler gave a rollicking, timeless performance, strutting their blues chops onstage. The crowd remained un-phased by a few light showers, but were left reeling from the thunderstorm of blues rock ‘n’ roll that swept across their ears.
No stranger to West Michigan, Umphrey’s McGee was greeted with a warm welcome of applause from a still-energetic crowd.
The Midwest-based jam band unleashed a marathon set of fan-favorites intertwined with hypnotizing jams.
A highlight of the night came when the band played “40’s Theme,” a song they dedicated to Michigan. Anthemic electric guitar burned through the intro, giving way to the all-familiar and playful lyrics.
But it was the jams, breakdowns and solos that shined brightest. Raging guitar lines, raucous drums fills, funky keys solos and grooving bass lines kept the party going well after sundown.
The sea of festival-goers washed over Grandville Avenue, dancing and cheering the night away, taking in the beer and indulgent instrumental breakdowns as the night drew to a close, all while staying mostly dry.
PHOTO GALLERY: Founders Fest 2017
Photos by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
VIDEO: Founders Fest 2017 Highlights
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC