Despite early afternoon rain that wiped out some performances, dozens of regional acts played dozens of Grand Haven venues as fans strolled the streets and voted for their favorites. And a raffle raised upwards of $40,000 to support musical ventures for those in need.
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In spite of a Saturday storm that nearly swamped the first half of the four-hour Grand Haven festival, Walk the Beat 2016 delivered an unusually bracing and upbeat musical experience for just about everyone involved — and rewarded The Jake Kershaw Band and The Legal Immigrants with its top honors.
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Not far away, a full-blown tornado ripped through other parts of West Michigan, posing delays for other events such as GRandJazzFest in downtown Grand Rapids.
But eventually, the clouds parted, the sun peeked through, the music played and scores of fans got a chance to soak up this showcase of regional talent by strolling from venue to venue, voting for their favorite acts.
In the end, the winner of this year’s “best band” prize won by a landslide, Walk the Beat organizers announced during the event after-party held at Third Coast Recording Co.
The Jake Kershaw Band, led by 15-year old guitarist and singer Jake Kershaw, of Marshall, took home the grand prize package worth $10,000 — including a recording session at Third Coast Recording, professional video, a Local Spins Victory Tour of West Michigan performance venues and more. The young musician and his band attracted a big crowd on Saturday, delivering a fresh bluesy fire at the outdoor tented venue.
‘THE PEOPLE AT WALK THE BEAT ARE SO AMAZING’
“I would have never imagined this,” Kershaw said after the victory was announced to rousing cheers from the throng gathered at Third Coast. “The people at Walk the Beat are so amazing to us. We were up against people in the competition that were so good, it’s hard to believe we won.”
In a separate songwriting competition, Grand Rapids rock band The Legal Immigrants won for best song for “Fork in the Road,” netting the group $2,500 in cash (or 40 hours of production and recording time at Third Coast). The tune was chosen by a panel of judges.
Band frontman Joe Bockheim said the winnings would allow The Legal Immigrants to press its brand new album, “Panacea” on vinyl. He noted that it’s the second time the song, “Fork in the Road,” has won a songwriting contest: the tune also earned a $1,000 “critic’s choice” prize from St. Cecilia Music center during the 2015 ArtPrize competition.
Kershaw said his group also planned to put the prize package to good use and record its debut album.
“We put together a music video, and it got us a lot of great gigs,” he said. “But we didn’t have the money to shell out to record an album. Now we can. That’s what’s next.”
In spite of the weather glitches, Walk the Beat founder Dave Palmer said he can’t wait to get at it again for next year.
‘SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC’ AND LOOKING ON ‘THE SUNNY SIDE’
“It was so much good music,” raved Palmer, the brains behind the unusual event that also raised upwards of $40,000 through raffle ticket sales that will buy instruments and otherwise help finance musical ventures for those in need.
“It just inspires me to do it again. We’re always creating stuff. I’m so inspired by the professionalism of the participants in this event. And yeah, we had some rain, but we got the right volunteers for this event, they did what they had to do, and we got everything done. Why? It’s all because people who love music know how to make it all work. We look on the sunny side of life.”
For a brief period of time, it looked as though Walk the Beat might not continue at all Saturday due to a tornado warning and approaching storm.
Palmer was getting ready to take the stage to announce the unfortunate early end to the festival, when he was informed that the tornado was not quite as close as expected to Grand Haven.
He decided to wait another 10 minutes … and 10 minutes was all the event needed to recover.
The rainstorm and overcast skies began to fade, and before long, Walk the Beat was ready to carry on in in “Walk the Puddles” fashion in two different sections of Grand Haven, on the west side near downtown and on the east side at venues off Beechtree Street.
From jazz to acoustic singer-songwriters, from Celtic folk to heavy rock, countless styles of genres were represented at Saturday’s event. Walk the Beat spotlighted veteran performers such as Jack Leaver, The Luke Lenhart Band and Chris Wiser along with young, up-and-coming artists like Kershaw and others.
‘WHO’S SCARED OF A LITTLE RAIN?’
Volunteer Tammy Madline spent the day braving the rain under a tented booth, helping out at one of Walk the Beat’s outdoor venues with friends from her local Women’s Life chapter – a group devoted to community volunteering and fundraising.
Madline said Walk the Beat is just one small example of the good work that Palmer does for the community.
“I’ve been to every one. I’m a veteran,” she said of past Walk the Beat events. “For me, I just want to help kids learn to play music. It’s a way they can express themselves. And Walk the Beat is dedicated to helping with that.”
The women volunteering were laughing, cheering, and waving at people and cars as they passed by their booth. They had a great time at the event, rain or no rain.
“Who’s scared of a little rain?” Madline said.
Still, with heavy rains sweeping through the lakeshore on Saturday afternoon, some outdoor Walk the Beat venues canceled scheduled sets, while others gave bands the option of waiting it out and playing later. In many cases, bands moved to other locations protected from the rain.
Grand Rapids folk-rock band Watching for Foxes, which won the inaugural Walk the Beat contest two years ago, reluctantly opted to pack up amid the storm but insisted the group would be back for 2017.
“We love the Grand Haven and Walk the Beat music community. They’ve been great allies for us and been a huge support system,” said frontman Joey Frendo. “The event itself is very fun, it has a great street fair type vibe to it. That being said, rain is absolutely the worst thing that could happen to something like Walk the Beat (but) these things definitely happen though, being a Michigan festival.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Walk the Beat 2016
Photos by Matt Marn, Loren Johnson and John Sinkevics
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC