Innovation groups, no matter where you live, seem to run around engaging in high-fives and self-congratulatory behavior in the pursuit of awesomeness. However, if no one is listening outside the community, and I hate to break it to you, but such behavior comes off a bit incestuous and frankly irritates the rest of us who are patiently waiting for the next innovative idea to transform a region.
Fortunately, there are exceptions: One breakout Michigan team, Grand Circus Media and the Spencer Management Group, are already known individually for their ability to spark attention outside their city limits, and garnering notice around the state may be broadening their reach.
Michigan Tastes and Tunes
, powered by Pittsburgh’s Showclix will be arriving in Austin, TX on March 15. The effort and innovation harnessed to a plane ticket could transform the outside perception of our community when MT&T export the powerful Michigan brand to the ultimate world stage of cool: The South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival.
Billed as a destination for discovery, SXSW is the perfect platform to launch a Michigan showcase because this festival focuses on indie films, interactive technologies and, the real meat of the event, music from the creative community.
It's not as if the Michigan brand, or in this case Michigan's musical artists, haven't been present at SXSW. In fact, before Detroit’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. loaded up the minivan and headed down to Austin, they were just a local indie darling for our region to enjoy until Warner Bros. Records snatched them up.
The infusion of the Michigan brand is not foreign to those in Texas, since Pure Michigan has had an aggressive campaign showcasing the beauty and fun found in Michigan.
“For most people outside of our region, our story is one of gloom and doom,” says Joe Choma of Grand Circus Media. “With Michigan Tastes and Tunes, this old model is kind of upended as we get to showcase the best of our area that is available for export in the form of entertainment.”
SXSW is an opportunity to shine a light on the very best music of our state for all the international arbiters of good taste who will be descending on Austin, looking for the best in new music.
Choma, manager and talent buyer for Grand Circus Media, along with his partner Spencer Management Group, have represented many acts from around the state and for their debut at this year’s SXSW, they have rented the Palm Door venue for this day-long showcase.
The Michigan music showcase for year one includes Greensky Bluegrass (Kalamazoo), Stepdad (Grand Rapids), The Ragbirds (Ann Arbor), Flashclash (Detroit), Garrett Borns (Grand Rapids), Bye Bye Birdie (Detroit), Nick Urb (Detroit) and Nightlife (Detroit).
And while all of these acts each have a very respectable resume and following in our state, it is Grand Rapids’ 20-year-old Garrett Borns who is generating incredible buzz, earning him two spots (one electric and another acoustic) on this single-day showcase.
To entice people to check out these acts playing outside of the official SXSW festival program, Choma and partners are making sure the venue is stocked with the very best and uniquely Michigan products from cuisine to beer. To ensure a good turnout, they are offering these items for free.
Guests will enjoy complimentary food and drink with Michigan favorites American Coney Island coney bar, Better Made Potato Chips, St. Julian Wine, McClure’s Pickles & Valentine Vodka Bloody Mary Bar, Hard Luck Candy vodka drinks, Boxed Water, and complimentary beer from Rochester Mills Beer Co. (While supplies last) Other partners helping to make this event a success in Austin are Fishbone’s, Metro 37 Recording Studio, The Magic Bag, The Majestic Theatre Center, GHS Strings, Metro Times, AV7 Productions and Ticketsavers.
Choma is not worried about filling this spacious 500-seat Austin venue with two stages as they have received in just a few days of their launch more than 600 RSVPs.
“People who go to SXSW are more often a pop in and catch a band or two crowd,” says Choma. “People will drop in, hang out, have a beer and hear an awesome new band or two, so 600 people is not a problem for our venue.”
It is not easy at this point to predict which acts will transform from buzz to the next big thing on the music scene, but that’s the beauty of SXSW.
Austin is a place where Choma has identified to propel our Michigan brand, but knows it is not a one-shot deal as he is already talking big picture, envisioning this day-long event becoming a week-long Michigan showcase at SXSW as they approach years three, four and five.
For now, with the help of their strategic partners from Michigan and the awesome power of fellow rustbelt city business Showclix, our Michigan bands and brands are about to get an innovative exposure on a stage that the world is looking to take in…if only for one day.
After all, one day can make a big difference in someone’s life. Soon, we may find out of our own stars shining on a national playing field. But we always know our state is full of so many stars, we just need to venture West sometimes in order to really shine bright
The Future Needs All of Us.
Tommy Allen, Lifestyle Editor
Email: [email protected]
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