Aiming to educate and entertain, the two-day festival at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle will feature a keynote address by music industry expert Ari Herstand, live music, a robotics expo, gaming and more.
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When it comes right down to it, Grand Rapids’ Confluence Festival is all about engaging the community face-to-face and out in the open with technological advancements, cutting-edge designs, electrifying gaming, experimental art and musical exploration.
“Our goal every year is to remove borders and expand minds,” said Brian Cohen, executive director of Confluence Festival, which rolls out for the third year in downtown Grand Rapids starting Friday.
“Innovation usually happens behind closed doors, so by bringing it down to the street level, we have an opportunity to engage the entire community in the important work that’s happening across the region. Confluence is designed to be a platform to both educate and inspire.”
The two-day festival that moves to Rosa Parks Circle this year covers a lot of ground, including a robotics expo, an esports tournament, a “maker expo” featuring DIY inventors, engineers, crafters and artists, hands-on aeronautics displays and, yes, live music.
In fact, Confluence kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with a “Music Summit” that aims to entertain as well as educate. After an “open air jam” that allows fans to test innovative instruments, the nonprofit Michigan Music Alliance will present a 5:30 p.m. keynote address by acclaimed author, podcaster, CEO and Los Angeles musician Ari Herstand on “How to Make It in the New Music Business.”
Described by Forbes Magazine as the “poster child of DIY music,” Herstand is founder and CEO of the music business education and artist advocacy company Ari’s Take. As part of his talk, he’ll examine evolving technologies – from meta concerts to collection platforms – and how musicians can best use them to boost their careers.
“He’s viewed as the go-to authority on how aspiring musicians, promoters and agents can best harness these new tools,” Cohen said.
Rosa Parks Circle will also feature booths from the Michigan Music Alliance, Local Spins and WYCE-FM, as well as a drum experience area led by Josh Dunigan. Food trucks and a bar will also be on hand.
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“Live music has always been at the center of what we do,” Cohen said. “We’ve brought incredible performers like Robert Delong, Pat Lok, Tall Tall Trees and many others. What sets us apart is that we view music through the lens of innovation and use that to build our lineups.”
Cohen noted that the free-admission festival also “focuses on the Michigan scene. We’ve invited innovators from across the region who are transforming how music is both created and experienced. That includes tech innovations on the software side that connect touring artists with more gig opportunities and ground-braking instruments that are redefining live music.”
Confluence partnered with the Michigan Music Alliance – which focuses on collaboration and strives to educate Michigan musicians in ways to create successful businesses from their art – because “their goals align with ours.”
The Innovation Showcase (Super Smash Bros. Tournament), Future Innovators Zone, Maker Expo and Robotics Expo all take place starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Get more information online at confluencefest.com.
CONFLUENCE FESTIVAL 2023: THE SCHEDULE
CONFLUENCE FESTIVAL 2023: THE LOCAL SPINS PLAYLIST
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