With 32 bands on two stages over two nights, this weekend’s festival at West Ottawa High School meshes experienced groups with up-and-coming high school acts. See the full schedule.
“It was a super rewarding experience. Not only was the sound great, but we gained a great younger fan base that night,” lead singer and guitarist Karli Morehouse said of the student-run event held each year at West Ottawa High School.
“All the kids are so excited and want to be involved in the bands that they’re seeing, regardless of knowing any of the music personally or not. It really warmed my heart to give them something to relate to.”
So, not surprisingly, Lipstick Jodi is eager to head back to WO-Stock this weekend, joining dozens of other in-demand West Michigan bands on stage such as Red Legs, The Smokin’ Dobroleles, All is Well, Midwest Skies, Fried Egg Nebula, Vinylicious, I Believe in Julio, Mavericks & Monarchs and Likemelikeyou, along with many emerging young, high school-age bands.
The wildly popular annual event takes place Friday and Saturday nights, with 32 bands playing two stages. And if that doesn’t quite seal the deal, the entire event is a fundraiser for a charitable cause.
West Ottawa teacher Mike Jaeger, an adviser for students organizing WO-Stock, noted students are key players behind every aspect of the event, from planning and organizing performances to printing T-shirts and making posters, as well as running the concession stand and setting up stages.
“They know how it runs,” he said. “It helps that some students have done this before in past years. They learn, and they know what needs to be done.”
Jaeger said it reminds him of a time-tested lyric from the group, Ten Years After: “I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do, so I’ll leave it up to you.”
“These students are so motivated: They don’t know what they can’t do,” he said. “So when they are surrounded by so many supportive, open-minded teachers and adults, they find a way to solve the problems, and put together something really amazing.”
One local favorite planning a return to WO-Stock in 2017 is Midwest Skies, which plays the Black Stage at 11:05 p.m. Saturday.
Guitarist James Johnson said when he first went to WO-Stock, the event blew his expectations out of the water, resembling “a mini Warped Tour,” complete with professional lighting and audio stages.
“We have performed there about six or seven times now, and every year it gets more and more fun,” Johnson said.
“We get to showcase our music to a crowd who might not have the opportunity to go to shows in Grand Rapids, so it is great meeting new fans and playing our tunes live for them. My favorite part is meeting all of the kids who aren’t familiar with the local music scene, and getting them to check out all the talent in our area.”
‘INCREDIBLY HELPFUL’ STAFF AND A ‘POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT’
Johnson said his group is thrilled to be performing WO-Stock again this weekend.
“The staff is always so incredibly helpful and friendly, and it is such a positive environment,” he said. “There are no egos – everyone is there to have a great time, enjoy some great music, and raise money for a great cause.”
Added Morehouse of Lipstick Jodi, which plays the Black Stage at 9:20 p.m. Saturday: “The volunteers were all very welcoming. … I felt happy to be there playing to people that were just as into the music as we are.”
Admission to the event is $10 per night, with proceeds going to support CTEE, West Ottawa’s Cultural Technological Environmental Exchange, which gives students a chance to grow in their awareness of other cultures. The organization sends used computers and technology stations to the Republic of Cameroon in Africa.
Last summer alone, CTEE shipped over 500 computer stations. This summer, the organization plans to send over 750 – the biggest single shipment they have yet undertaken.
“I think the coolest thing about this experience is, I don’t think any American can have the same view, or the same respect, as someone who has worked to help in a developing nation,” Jaeger said.
“It helps you understand and appreciate what you have here – but it also helps show you how small the world is… everyone is so welcoming and accommodating.”
In a way, Jaeger said, the service project has a lot in common with WO-Stock.
“You’ve got people coming together,” he said. “It’s not about what you have or what you don’t have, but what we can enjoy together, and why.”
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC