Saturday’s first-time event stars Nathan Walton, Melophobix, Elijah Russ Collective & Whorled in a one-day festival challenging bands to raise as much money as possible through the Juke platform.
When longtime Rotary Club of Rockford member and diehard music fan Todd Olson pondered how the club might support the people of Ukraine displaced and ravaged by the recent Russian invasion, his thoughts turned — not surprisingly — to West Michigan’s robust music scene.
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“I was left with a feeling that we have to do something for these people that have lost everything. My heart went out to the families and the children that are caught up in a conflict, fleeing for their lives, and leaving everything they owned behind to get somewhere safe,” he said. “I felt I had to do something.”
What emerged from his discussions with fellow Rotarians Derek Reed and Kevin VanderWoude was a first-time event that pits four uniquely talented West Michigan bands in a competition to raise as much money as possible for ShelterBox, a disaster-relief organization that aids those who’ve lost their homes and belongings due to war, conflicts and natural disasters.
Rotary Rocks unfolds at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Garden Club Park stage in downtown Rockford with performances by Nathan Walton & The Remedy, Whorled, The Elijah Russ Collective and Melophobix — a diverse lineup spanning funk, soul, rock and world music.
Fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite bands and performances via the online Juke platform — an application that’s designed to allow users to tip artists, make song requests and donate to a band’s favorite charity. View the Rotary Rocks lineup and vote for your favorite band by making a donation here. The platform will show, in real time, how much each act has raised.
The Rotary Rocks band that raises the most money for Shelter Box will win free studio time with Joel Ferguson at Rockford’s Planet Sunday Studios, artist development classes with Elle Lively of the Michigan Music Alliance, a performance slot at August’s Hoxeyville Music Festival in Wellston and a special Local Spins gift pack.
West Michigan bands selected for the competition produce original music that’s “unique, but still has a broad appeal to a wide variety of potential listeners,” Olson said. “(Another) criteria is they have a heart for serving and giving back to those of need. We could not be more proud of the four bands participating in this event this year.”
Walton called the event “awesome. The name of the band, The Remedy, is exactly what it’s supposed to be. If we can help out around the world and make the world a better place, that’s what we want to do.”
Walton and his soulful rock band released their debut album in 2021 and hope to release a double-album follow-up later this year. Whorled is an emerging world music trio that recently won a battle of the bands hosted by The Stray in Grand Rapids. The Elijah Russ Collective is an energetic Grand Rapids ensemble led by Russ, who recently released two studio albums. Melophobix has long delivered a funk-rock-fueled spectacle at appearances across the region.
Beyond spotlighting compelling performances by Saturday’s bands, Olson noted the needs are great and the Rotary Club is dedicated “to making great humanitarian missions come to life and to fruition. … There will always be a need to help people displaced from their homes.”
Running from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, the event will be live-streamed by GRTV thanks to its mobile production studio. GRTV will also record the show for future broadcast.
Sponsors and donors assisting the event include Independent Bank, Juke, Planet Sunday Studios, Hoxeyville Music Festival, City of Rockford, Wolverine Worldwide, Michigan Music Alliance, GRTV, Joona Designs and The Big Rock Collective.
“The stage has been set, we hope for good weather and hope for a good turnout of people with generous hearts,” Olson said.
Read more about the Juke app/platform at Local Spins here.
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