The two-day event at West Ottawa High School boasts familiar names American WiFi, Brother Adams, Olivia Mainville, Midwest Skies, Red Legs, Lipstick Jodi and emerging high school acts, all for a good cause.
“We’re very excited to play at an event that showcases such a diverse selection of fresh and more established acts,” said Jairimi Driesenga, bassist for the folk-rock band that features three West Ottawa graduates – Driesenga, his brother, Bryce, and Shane Adams.
“We’ve seen everything from one-time special performances from West Ottawa staff members to bands like Pop Evil and La Dispute on the WO-Stock stages. This isn’t your average high school talent show.”
Indeed, from well-known West Michigan bands to groups featuring local students, this weekend’s student-organized festival not only showcases 28 bands on two stages but raises money for the school’s Cultural Technological Environmental Exchange program which sends computer stations and other technology overseas to aid the Republic of Cameroon.
The 14th edition of the two-day festival boasts sets by well-known regional acts such as Brother Adams, Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Red Legs, Midwest Skies, Lipstick Jodi, Tom Hymn and American WiFi, a popular Grand Rapids pop band that played WO-Stock last year.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but it was a fantastic experience,” said American WiFi drummer Levi Lilly. “The venue was great, and had a great sound. People were lining up to meet us and say hello after our set. We wouldn’t be here without fans like them. It’s a complete honor to return to play for them again.”
The festival also gives emerging high school bands a chance to play in front of big crowds for the first time.
“Never before have we played at an event of this magnitude,” said Cole Hook, a West Ottawa senior and member of The Oxford Commas, a band making its WO-Stock debut on Saturday.
A STUDENT-RUN FESTIVAL WITH ESTABLISHED BANDS AND NEW ACTS ALIKE
“The platform is a huge way to increase the public’s knowledge of The Oxford Commas. We love playing this stuff. Music makes us who we are. It runs in our veins, so every chance we get to make music, we will take with pleasure.”
All of The Oxford Commas are students at West Ottawa and part of the school’s top orchestra group. Hook, a cellist and keyboard player, hopes to share the ensemble’s music with people looking for the non-traditional kind of orchestral music.
West Ottawa teacher and CTEE organizer Mike Jaeger said WO-Stock serves as the major fundraiser for the organization, offering high school students a chance to grow in their awareness of other cultures around the world through a variety of projects and activities, including a summer service learning project in Cameroon.
“It’s great to see the bands perform for this good cause,” Jaeger said. “Many of the bands are pretty well-established in the area. It’s cool to have such diversity in genre and style.”
He said he’s also impressed every year by the way students work to set up the festival, with all of the unseen tasks and roles required to create a successful event.
“I think the best part is providing the opportunity for students to organize and present the music festival,” he said. “The students do everything. Food service permits, donations, advertising and printing, paperwork, they do it all.”
It pays off for bands, even those who’ve been performing in front of large crowds for years because it exposes them to a new audience.
Greyson Bos, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for American WiFi, said students who saw the band at WO-Stock last year have since attended other American WiFi shows to show their support.
“They ask us about our next shows and they love our music,” Bos said. “Fans like that motivate us, push us harder. To see that we excite kids like that – especially since we were there a few years ago – it inspires us to write new music for them to dance to, to live their lives to.”
Added lead guitarist Sam Starkie: “I always enjoy watching the other bands. It’s good to see the music scene in Grand Rapids. It helps us see more about other genres and music in West Michigan.”
Driesenga said he also hopes some of the younger musicians get inspired by the established bands who perform at WO-Stock. Brother Adams plays the White Stage at 9:15 p.m. Saturday.
“I’d certainly like to think our passion for the craft will rub off on the younger, less experienced bands and artists,” he said. “There’s been a lot of eager music lovers and hungry new musicians at each and every WO-Stock Festival we’ve attended, and I’m sure this year’s event will be no different. We have every intention to give them something to remember.”
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC