The Rapidian

Beatles tribute band, author Wade Rouse highlight Bookfest

Folk-pop group Ribbons of Song, author Wade Rouse, and Beatles tribute band Toppermost entertain Bookfest attendees on a windy Saturday afternoon in front of the Public Library.
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Upcoming Events at the GRPL

June 11 to May 4: Summer Reading!

June 14: In the Writers Kitchen with poet Hope Anita Smith.

June 19: Chasing the Impressionists with author Elizabeth Kostova

June 28: Documentary Filmmaking with indepentent film producer RIch Brauer.

See all the events and get details on the Grand Rapids Public Library's events page.

Toppermost perfoms at Bookfest

Toppermost perfoms at Bookfest /Ryan Yuenger

Ben Scott-Brandt of Ribbons of Song

Ben Scott-Brandt of Ribbons of Song /Ryan Yuenger

Wade Rouse speaks to the crowd

Wade Rouse speaks to the crowd /Ryan Yuenger

At 2:00 p.m. this Saturday, the folk-pop band Ribbons of Song took the stage at Bookfest to a crowd of both friends and strangers. Bookfest, an adjunct to Festival of the Arts, took place in a tent outside the Grand Rapids Public Library. The morning events included Jim Gill’s Family Room Tour, a storybook character parade, and a poetry slam with Romeo Ray.

Several of Ribbons of Song’s dedicated fans filled the first few rows of seats, and others took a seat in the grass at Memorial Park to enjoy the music along with the sunshine. It quickly showed why their fans are so loyal, as their accessible rhythms and layered harmonies had festival-goers tapping their feet and nodding along with lead singer and guitarist Ben-Scott Brandt.

Ribbons of Song ended on a high note, performing a never before played song. It was their most energetic and complex song of the afternoon, with several three part harmonies and a rumbling bassline that got some of the children in attendance out of their seats and dancing.

Next, speaking to the crowd was Wade Rouse, a comedic nonfiction author. He began his presentation by reading an essay called "Where's my Marshmallows?" which, according to Rouse, "is one of my favorites." The essay, from the book “It's All Relative,” describes the Rouse family Thanksgiving traditions of alcohol drinking and eating entirely too much. Rouse described his family’s household as “insane. But they were insanely funny too.”

The essay turned a different direction when he began describing his partner’s family traditions. "There had always been one Thanksgiving constant in my life," Rouse read. "Marshmallows were always melted on top of the sweet potatoes. Until today." The essay continues describing this Thanksgiving dinner that gets worse until someone farted loudly. After that, all was well. The essay concluded with the realization that he was "afraid of a little holiday change."

After the reading, Rouse explained that he tries to "take the comedic memoir and reinvent it. To make it funny but also to make sure you learn something by the end." He added, "the best way to [preach] is to make people laugh. And when they do, they see themselves in your situation. They are able to see the world from a different viewpoint. That's exactly what I try to do every single time I write a book."

Rouse advised aspiring writers, "Be completely honest all the time. There’s something that happens between your brain and the page, and it's up to you to eliminate any filters that exist there." Rouse himself was once given the advice to "write as if your parents are dead" and suggests that this will help writers to stop worrying about how others will perceive their writing.

What started off as a beautiful slightly windy day at Bookfest turned into a brisk rainy affair by the time Beatles tribute band Toppermost started playing. However, festival-goers were not deterred by the rain. Many people sought shelter under the tent in front of the Grand Rapids Public Library only to hear some of their favorite Beatles hits of the 60’s including "She Loves You," "Day Tripper," "Paperback Writer" and the finale "Hey Jude."

Even as the weather cleared up, those who sought shelter stayed to enjoy the entire Toppermost set. Conor Mulhall, an attendee of the show, said, "It was unbelievable how much they sounded like the real thing. Down to the banter between songs, these guys were authentic. The energy, the sarcasm, the hair, the music: all of it was on point. I feel like I got a little slice of the real thing from [Toppermost]."

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