The Rapidian

Founders Fest proves itself supreme Grand Rapids party

Despite a very hot and humid day, Founders Fest draws thousands of people to their sixth annual celebration of beer and music. Highlights included Minneapolis band Roster McCabe and Detroit performers Satori Circus.

/Ryan Yuenger

Food and Beer Highlights

The clear food favorite this year, as well as last year, was What The Truck. Their Asian inspired tacos have been a hit everywhere I have seen that food truck. Not wanting to wait in that line, I chose the shortest line, which was Pita House. I very much enjoyed my gyro, and their baklava looked delicious as well. 

Also not feeling like waiting in a 20 minute line, I did not get to enjoy any of the Founders special beers. However, their regular beer is just fine with me, as I had three deliciously dark Porters before the day was over.

/Ryan Yuenger

/Ryan Yuenger

On the brick-laced Grandville Avenue in between Cherry and Bartlett, the sixth annual Founders Fest once again lived up to my expectations of being the ultimate one-day celebration of beer and music.

Even on this incredibly hot and humid day, the line to enter before the gates opened stretched around the corner to Cherry Street. This year, as a change of pace, folks waiting in line were treated to a high-energy performance from Chicago’s Lowdown Brass Band right as the gates opened.

In an attempt to stay cool for as long as possible, I holed myself up in the air conditioning of a friend’s apartment inside conveniently located Hopson Flats. From the windows on the second floor, I watched the street fill up with people, and people’s hands fill up with cups of craft beer.

At about 4:30, the clouds parted and my crew headed down to join the festivities. With my favorite Founder’s staple, the Porter, in hand, I headed over to capture what ended up being my favorite musical act of the day, Minneapolis’ Roster McCabe.

With styles ranging from reggae to funk to jazz to electronic, all with a modern rock jam band vibe, Roster McCabe appealed to everyone in the crowd with their dynamic instrumentation and lovely vocals. Not only was their playing tight, but their passion on stage topped any act all night, despite playing during the warmest part of the day.

Roster McCabe closed out their set with a praiseworthy cover of “Kashmir,” the classic Led Zeppelin song. Those familiar with Robert Plant’s vocals know that it takes a very talented singer to even come close to the original vocals. That being said, Roster McCabe’s vocalist Alex Steele did a fantastic job, making the lyrics sound like his own, all while doing great justice to Plant and Led Zeppelin.

During the Roster McCabe set, two members of Detroit’s Satori Circus sang to a small crowd. One member was playing banjo and the other was playing accordion. This would be a theme throughout the show, as there were many other performances by this troupe, including a very entertaining trapeze act, juggling and much more. The first character appeared to be a clown with a painted white face with sloppy black lips, wearing a pink tutu and shading himself with a bright red umbrella. He also occasionally dragged around a stuffed puppy on a leash. It was a hilariously sad sight to behold. His traveling companion was a 15 foot tall, fluff-bearded goblin who held a wooden staff, randomly staring and pointing at festivalgoers.

Following Roster McCabe was Founders’ own FBC All Stars, who played some delightful covers including songs by Michael Jackson and George Harrison. At the end of their set, the crowd erupted in a chant of “F-B-C,” and the mutual love and respect that exists between the city of Grand Rapids and Founders was very profound in this moment.

New Orleans funk band, Dumpstaphunk, led by multi-instrumentalist Ivan Neville, turned up the heat even further with their unique brand of blues and gospel-tinged funk., The band’s rumbling low-end bass guitar work and infectious drum grooves got plenty of feet moving.

Finally, after a great set from Man Man, G Love and Special Sauce got their turn on stage. The band entertained the crowd with their interesting combination of hip-hop and blues, a combination that personally is not my cup of tea. Other than a very nice cover of a Wu Tang song, I was not really feeling G Love and Special Sauce.

Despite my thought that the band’s hip-hop and blues combination came off as gimmicky, most of the crowd was dancing along for the entire set, sometimes even singing along.  What I do respect about G Love is that he is a showman. He had the crowd at the edge of their feet the entire night, and the band even came back for an encore.

As my friends and I finished our final beers and walk back up the now-sticky Grandville towards the exit, we stopped to take in the scene from a distance. The moon, exceptionally large and nearly full, shone down on what remained of the crowd as they jammed out to G Love’s encore. As this happened, I took a brief moment to be grateful for all of the wonderful culture Founders continues to brew on a daily basis.  

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