Second Run: David Roof’s Funky Rivertown Fest Returns October 10-14 at Riverside Arts Center in Ypsi
After playing outdoor music festivals in the summer for years, David Roof wanted to capture that same spirit indoors during the fall and spring.
The producer, recording engineer, and live performer launched Funky Rivertown Fest, a biannual music festival that debuted in March and returns October 10-14 for a second run at Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center.
“I love some of the music festivals in the summertime, including Holler Fest and Earthworks Harvest Gathering, and Blissfest and Wheatland are the old standbys and senior veterans of the festival scene,” said Roof, who owns and operates the Grand Blanc-based Rooftop Recording.
“But that’s all during the summertime, and in Michigan, we only have four or five nice months of weather, so that was the inspiration for me to want to do a live music series that could happen after the nice weather is gone and before the nice weather has arrived.”
At Funky Rivertown Fest, Roof features a lineup of Americana and rock-inspired acts that come from Washtenaw County and Metro Detroit. They specialize in folk-rock, blues-rock, power-pop, roots-rock, and country over five days of live performances:
• Wednesday, October 11: Eric Moore with Rochelle Clark and Jason Dennie
• Thursday, October 12: The Outfit and Songwriters in the Round with Scott Martin, Milan Seth, and Linden Thoburn
• Friday, October 13: Bobby Pennock’s Big Fluffy Band and The Dirk Kroll Band
• Saturday, October 14 (evening show): The Lucky Nows and Anna Lee’s Co.
“I tried to find artists that have something interesting and unique as writers … and ideally, I want to mostly take people who are from the local area,” said Roof, who’s a University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance alumnus.
“I really want to focus on the local music scene and people that are here in the state of Michigan and showcase for everybody that we have some great music going on that they should hear about.”
To bring Funky Rivertown Fest to life, Roof started searching for local venues last fall while performing in the North Country Opera tour with the Buckhorn Bar band.
“The final rehearsals with the cast and musicians were at the Riverside Arts Center,” he said. “One of their board members was our tour manager, Barry La Rue, and I was talking with Barry while we were on the road. I asked him about Riverside because it’s a great room and space, and I had done some performances there with Sara Randazzo’s dance company.”
After talking with La Rue, Roof learned Riverside Arts Center primarily featured theater and dance productions instead of live music.
“It has a big stage that’s really comfortable, and it has seats that came out of Hill Auditorium when they did a renovation,” he said. “It’s a black-box theater, so it’s a very neutral space … it just struck me that nobody’s doing live music performances open to the public there.”
Once Roof secured Riverside Arts Center as his venue, he started brainstorming festival names and remembered a track called “Funky River Town” from Anna Lee’s Co. The track appears on the Ypsilanti group’s latest album, Hoping to See You Again, which Roof mixed.
“Anna Lee’s Co. is headlining the final show this year. I wanted to have them on the first one because they wrote the song that inspired the [festival’s] name,” he said.
“It’s at the Riverside Arts Center, and it’s just up the hill from the Huron River that passes through. It just seemed like the perfect name when I was trying to decide, and I asked the band if it was OK if I used the name and then if I could use the song in promo.”
With the festival a week away, Roof is finalizing the event behind the scenes and planning to run live sound as well as perform sets with Bobby Pennock’s Big Fluffy Band and The Dirk Kroll Band.
“I performed way too many sets in the first [festival],” he said. “I’m only playing in two sets, and it’s the only show that I’m playing at all. I’m going to be behind the mixing console for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then I’m hiring somebody for Friday and Saturday.”
Once Funky Rivertown Fest wraps up, Roof plans to finalize recording albums with Dearborn singer-songwriter Jo Serrapere and Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Judy Banker. He’s also looking at scaling the festival back to an annual event instead of a biannual one.
“It may go back to being just in the spring, but this is only the second one,” Roof said. “I’ll give myself some time to figure out these pieces and make sure it makes sense.”
Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.