Three weeks ago, about 12,000 people packed the Jackson County Fairgrounds for Rockapalooza.
The day featured six stages of music ranging from hip-hop to mainstream rock to speed metal.
All the while I'm thinking, "Why isn't there something like this in Traverse City?"
TC is a city of festivals — film, comedy, cherries, horses, beer, wine, etc. — but none for rock music.
That seems to be a gaping void in Traverse City's extensive offerings. The Cherry Festival started realizing that, offering the first modern rock band in Open Space history this year when Pop Evil rocked out Sunday on the Bayside Music Stage.
Setting out at Rockapalooza to talk to a few band members, finding ones who had previously played in Traverse City wasn't difficult.
And all of them thought something similar to Rockapalooza was doable in Traverse City. Of course they would, as it'd present additional opportunities for them. But beyond that, they indicated it's a good location because its a tourism-oriented destination.
- "Traverse City has a really receptive music scene, as far as rock goes," said Saliva drummer Paul Crosby, whose platinum-selling band has been a frequent performer at Streeters over the years. "They don't get much stuff like this happening, so if something like this were to come through, I bet it would just be flooded."
- "I think if you bring in the right bands, anywhere in Michigan would work," said We Came as Romans singer David Stephens, whose Detroit-based group played in both Traverse City and Petoskey early on. "Traverse City is a beautiful city, and a lot of people wouldn't mind making the trip up there."
- "There's a young enough crowd in Traverse City," said Andy, the frontman of up-and-coming Detroit-based alterative/electronica first-names-only band Rotation, which played at Union Street Station last winter. "They actually really keep up on music. I think a festival like Rockapalooza would do really well up there, definitely during the vacation season. People are going up there anyway."
Rockapalooza packed 'em in for its fifth run in Jackson this summer, with six stages blasting out loud music — right in the middle of a residential area of the city. Jackson has several major metropolitan areas nearby, which gives it a large population to draw from. But it also has a lot of downstate competition.
With no other such big event in the vicinity, Traverse City could draw from the huge slice of the population up here that yearns to see live big-name rock acts, as well as a regular stream of tourists.
Streeters has done an excellent job of bringing very good rock acts (along with some country and hip-hop) to Traverse City, but is limited a bit by its building. An outdoor venue is much more free from that restriction, although is limited by the seasons. Heck, the headlining act at Rockapalooza was Puddle of Mudd, which played at Streeters the night before.
The Open Space is likely too small of a venue, but there's the fairgrounds, the newly minted Southside Festival Grounds and other areas that could be possibilities.
"The big cities get everything anyway, but people really appreciate it when it's in a city like Traverse City or Jackson," Rotation's Andy said. "You're a part of something.
"I love Traverse City. It's beautiful. More people need to go up there. But everything is beautiful compared to Detroit."
If Traverse City can pull off festivals for tables and trains, then why not for rock?
James Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.