T.J. Grech, drummer for the fabulous Pretty Ghouls, took the time to answer our questions on this year's Hamtramck Music Fest, what they learned from last year, how the bands are picked, and the non-profit that the festival support.
Metro Times: What's your affiliation with the Hamtramck Music Fest? Do you have a title? T.J. Grech: This is my second year with the festival, I was one of the founding members. Last year I was responsible for booking 7 Brothers bar, and this year I'm one of the head organizers, while also responsible for booking the P.L.A.V. Post #10.
Metro Times: What acts are you most excited about and why? T.J. Grech: All bias aside, I'm genuinely excited about every band I booked at the PLAV this year. From the Hentchmen to Rebel Kind, Prude Boys, Mexican Knives and all the others, I'm really proud of the line up I put together. But also, Pink Lightning and Duane the Brand New Dog are playing at New Dodge, they're both great. There's a band called Black Fruit coming in from Grand Rapids playing upstairs at Polish Village whom I'm only aware of from their submission to the festival, but they sound like they should be rather impressive too.
Metro Times: How do you guys go about choosing the bands? They really are all playing for free? T.J. Grech: All of the bands really are playing for free, and everyone involved with organizing the festival is volunteering their time and hard work to make it a great event. I think it's an awesome testament to the charitable nature of our music scene and community.
As for how booking works: Each participating venue is designated a volunteer from our committee to act as their booker. The booker pretty much has free reign to curate their venue however they wish. They are responsible for booking eight bands split across two nights. The first six bands they book can either be bands who they request to submit, or bands they choose from our pool of band submissions. But the last two bands they book must come from the submissions pool. This not only gives them the freedom to book an event reflective of their personal tastes, but also helps guarantee acts who might have otherwise been overlooked.
We want people who come to the festival to be able to see the bands they love, but we also want everyone to get exposed to new bands who they might not of otherwise been exposed to. But a lot of bookers relied heavily on the submissions pool, so there's a good chance you're going to discover a lot of great bands that you've never heard before.
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Metro Times: What was the highlight for you from last year's fest? T.J. Grech: Last year was great, but it was also crazy. Due to circumstances of how the festival came about, we had four weeks to plan it. Which is insane and should of been impossible. But remarkably, it came together beautifully. Last year I was tied to 7 Brothers, which probably holds 30 people on a busy night. Yet I'm pretty sure we had about 100 people crammed in there, ha. They were practically standing on the bar, stomping and hollering.
I had a great line up of bands. My band, the Pretty Ghouls, played and it was one of my favorite shows we've ever done. Everyone went nuts. Blaire Alise played, and it was one of the most raw punk sets I've ever seen her do. It looked good on her. Whenever I stepped outside, the streets were just filled with happy people and friends telling me about how much fun they were having, so that was really rewarding. It was very loose and ramshackle, it was a community that came together for a good time, and it was glorious. That's how it should be.
Metro Times: What can you tell me in your own words about the 501(c)3 this supports? T.J. Grech: Ben's Encore is the benefactor of our efforts. They are a great organization who I've only become familiar with because of the festival. They raise money and take donations to supply local underprivileged kids and underfunded school music programs with instruments, music lessons, and scholarships. They also put on workshops teaching kids how to make their own instruments. It's a very cool thing.
Last year, I think the festival raised them almost $7,000, which is awesome. I think we'll do even better this year. They will be putting on a free all ages event in the daytime at Polish Sea League Saturday March 7th, as part of the festival. Kids can come down and take part in one of their workshops and see some young bands play. Ben's Encore will also be making a big announcement at our kick off party on March 5th at the Fowling Warehouse. People will be very excited about it. I'm very excited about it.
We work very hard on this festival. It's a labor of love, and it's very cool seeing our efforts benefit a greater cause.