Local Spins’ Looking for the Perfect Beat columnist Todd Ernst previews this weekend’s Breakaway Music Festival taking place at Belknap Park in Grand Rapids. Plus, check out the schedule and videos.
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In my preview of last year’s Breakaway Music Festival, I touched on the idea of the organizers’ commitment to the growth of the event.
I used the word “incremental” as it applied to their strategy and growth.
In 2023, the operative word is “exponential.”
I’m in no way exaggerating here when I suggest this is a tectonic shift of sorts, as the Grand Rapids market simply has never hosted artists of the magnitude offered this weekend.
Netherland’s Tiësto, the Friday night headliner nearing his 30th year as a DJ and producer, first went global in 2000 with his remix of Delerium’s “Silence” featuring Sarah McLachlan, and has been a mainstay at darned near every major festival since.
While he was originally pegged as a trance DJ, you’d make a huge mistake in limiting Tiësto’s efforts to one genre alone. More recently, his smash hit “The Business” featuring Ty$ has placed him in front of a new generation of club and festival goers alike, and his seminal anthem has been the music bed for more Instagram reels and Tik Tok’s than one can possibly imagine.
Canada’s Deadmau5 (pronounced dead-mouse), is perhaps most recognized for his ‘mouse helmet’ that he wears for many of his performances, but that is no way takes away from his absolute powerhouse productions that have earned him six Grammy Award nominations during his journey as an electro house and progressive house producer.
I think my favorite thing about Deadmau5 — who plays at 8:40 p.m. Saturday — revolves around his absolute refusal to be pigeonholed into any one genre or style, as evidenced by his recent collaboration with Kaskade as Kx5 that yielded the smash summer anthem, “pwdr Blu.”
(Read more news about Deadmau5 in this recent story at Billboard.com.)
OTHER STARS OF THE WEEKEND
RL GRIME (8:35 p.m. Friday) – RL Grime’s style of electro-house, future bass, and trap is going to be a fan favorite here in Grand Rapids, as West Michigan has long embraced the aforementioned electronic music genres. Just over a decade ago it was perhaps his remix of Benny Benassi’s song “Satisfaction” that catapulted him to the next level, as that effort placed Grime on the top five electro house chart on Beatport.com. In addition to massive appearances at Coachella & Lollapalooza, Grime holds a residency at one of the nation’s top nightclubs, Zouk Las Vegas.
PORTER ROBINSON (9:50 p.m. Saturday) – When Porter Robinson’s debut album “Worlds” first dropped at the ripe old age of 22, he kind of took the scene by storm peaking at No. 1 on Billboard Magazine’s top dance/electronic albums; and he has been on fire since, collaborating with Madeon and co-writing Zedd’s smash hit “Clarity.” Self-taught since a middle schooler, it’s kind of hard to lump Robinson into any one genre as he floats seamlessly between electro-house, indie dance and synth pop, but one of my favorite efforts from Robinson is his side effort under the alias Air2Earth which has more of an airy four-on-the-floor vibe to it.
BELKNAP PARK – One of the headliners for a lack of a better word at Breakaway has always been the natural setting, and in previous years, I’ve loosely compared it to Red Rocks in Colorado due to the natural amphitheater setting that the hill at Belknap Park provides. While many aren’t aware of this, the hill is actually a 1970s earthworks sculpture called Project X by Robert Morris. At the crest of that hill is the Breakaway Silent Disco featuring an impressive list upwards of 60 DJs from West Michigan and the surrounding area scheduled to perform over the weekend.
LOCAL HEROES & THE AFTER-PARTIES AT THE INTERSECTION – In addition to host Choff, who opens both days at the festival, Grand Rapids’ Lowke will play the main stage at 3:10 p.m. Saturday, putting West Michigan in the spotlight. And for those looking to extend the festivities, The Intersection will host a pair of official Breakaway after-parties. Friday night features festival favorite Dr. Fresch, joined by Michigan artists Attak and Dylan Delato in support. Fresch’s bass heavy forward thinking sound floats between hip-hop, house and grimy midtempo jams, and in my opinion, represents the perfect fit for The Intersection. For those craving a proper techno set, Deadmau5’s alias TESTPILOT is your move, with opening support from West Michigan’s KAR POW. I recently attended a Movement after-party featuring TESTPILOT at the Masonic in Detroit, and it was a relentless fist-pumping set from the first track to the final. Simply put, getting two doses of Deadmau5, aka TESTPILOT, aka Joel Zimmerman, is as unprecedented as it gets here in Grand Rapids.
ASSORTED TIPS AND OBSERVATIONSSome housekeeping stuff to consider: the Belknap Park area is a bit of a hidden gem in Grand Rapids, but it’s starting to show some ‘neighbor fatigue’ for a lack of better words from events like this, as the area isn’t really designed for the automobile and foot traffic Breakaway tends to bring about.
That said, please consider parking a few blocks west in the Monroe North area, as it is a safe/short walk to Belknap Park. Dare I even suggest if you want events like Breakaway to continue, it helps to be respectful to the surrounding area by not littering and the likes.
Keep an eye on Breakaway’s social media feeds for real time updates and optimal Lyft/Uber pick-up and drop-off areas.
Parents, if you’re thinking of dropping off your kids and returning for a pickup later, might I suggest the Embassy Suites on Monroe or Canal Park. There are plenty of people walking this same path, so they will be safe and in good company. Also, there are plenty of local establishments to hang out at if you’re looking to have a date night while the kids are off at the show.
It always helps to remember to be a good steward of your city as we aren’t afforded opportunities like Breakaway very often in Grand Rapids. Small gestures like picking up trash, helping strangers find their way, and thanking people like the Grand Rapids Police and Fire Department personnel for their respective efforts goes a long way in establishing the long-term success of something like Breakaway.
BREAKAWAY MUSIC FESTIVAL DETAILS
WHEN: 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday. 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Belknap Park, Grand Rapids
TICKETS: Two-Day General Admission, $164; One-Day Pass, $104; VIP options available. Get tickets online here.
Friday – High of 75 degrees, hazy
Saturday – High of 83 degrees, hazy
Tiesto, “The Business”
Deadmau5 (& Kaskade), “I Remember”
Testpilot @ Coachella Music & Arts Festival 2023
Porter Robinson, “Goodbye to a World”
RL Grime, “Pour Your Heart Out” (feat. 070 Shake)
Lowke, “Hands Up”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Todd Ernst has been an electronic music DJ and promoter for 30+ years and is half of the DJ duo DiscoBrunch. While his days are spent as the owner of an indie real estate brokerage, he also owns EXSIGN which is a creative concept that designs and manages corporate, non-profit and nightlife events. Todd is also one of the founding team members for TEDxGrandRapids.
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