On Saturday, Battle Creek will host the second annual music festival Leilapalooza at Leila Arboretum. WMUK's Rebecca Thiele spoke with executive director for the Leila Arboretum Society, Brett Myers, to find out how the festival is working to revitalize the Battle Creek music scene.
About five years ago, Myers got together with the Battle Creek Metropolitan Area Mustache Society, or BCMAMS, to create Leilapalooza. Myers says the Mustache Society helps start up events like the multi-genre music festival to help keep twenty and thirty-somethings from moving out of the area.
“In our Michigan cities we’re losing population," says Myers. "Folks are born and raised here, finding jobs—finding opportunities elsewhere in the country, elsewhere in the world and relocating. And the Mustache Society, the MAMS, really you’ve got a core group of local kids that love Battle Creek, want to have fun things to do here and keep people around.”
The music lineup at Leilapalooza will have a variety of rock, indie, blues, folk, and a few traditional acts like the Cereal City Concert Band. Almost all of the 36 musicians on the bill are from Michigan and about half are from Battle Creek, like Dan Barry, known as Various Barryous.
“Various Barryous has always been my solo moniker, but now I’ve got my girlfriend, Michelle, playing with me, playing keyboards," says Barry. "We’re going to move forward to kind of a new sound, so this will actually be our first show together and our last show together as Various Barryous. And then we’re going to be changing our name to Patient Paths.”
“It’s always been kind of difficult in Battle Creek to be in a band and gig consistently," Barry says. "You always have to go to Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids. There’s not too many venues in Battle Creek. At least Leilapalooza gives once a year, a showcase of all the talent that’s in the area. For people to come out in play, not have to drive an hour to play a show.”
“I had lived in Battle Creek for my entire life and I had never played there until Leilapalooza last year,” says Mallory Cobb, singer and guitarist for Brown Cow.
The Battle Creek based band Brown Cow is returning to play the festival again this year. Cobb and bassist Morgan Ramon describe their sound as "catchy songs to cry yourself to sleep to.”
“I mean, there were 3,000 or more people at the festival last year," says Cobb. "So I think they’re expecting a bigger turnout and if they see the interest is there, maybe something else could open up.”
“It’d be really awesome to have young bands play at somewhere other than Planet Rock so there’d be a little bit more variety," Morgan Ramon says. "And, I mean, if they do have another venue other than Planet Rock, more bands will come from out of town and more bands will be inspired to start up and start playing at those venues.”
'Lefty' Russ Cohen is the bassist for Blue Haze. The Battle Creek band plays a style they call “front-porch blues.” Cohen says it’s clear that local musicians, the arboretum, and many other groups want Leilapalooza to be a long-running success, something for residents to look forward to every year. Cohen says the City of Battle Creek has even changed a few bylaws to accommodate the festival.
“They changed it so now they can have an open container in the city park and that was because of this event," Cohen says. "Last year, we were restricted to the parking lot of the museum where they had the beer tent and now they’re moving the beer tent out where the main stage is."
“But I think that’s a big step and showing that, ‘Hey, with some success, some things can be changed to help events like this grow even more and open up some doors for other events to come,’” says Cohen.
Blue Haze will play at Leilapalooza tomorrow at 5pm. You can find the full lineup for Leilapalooza here.