Celebration of Music, Beer and Food Brings Diverse Acts to GR Stage E-mail
by Brandy Arnold

From the day Pyramid Scheme opened in 2011, Co-Owner Tami VandenBerg knew an outdoor urban festival would be one of many projects she and her brother/Co-Owner Jeff would undertake. VandenBerg is not only a huge fan of urban festivals, she’s been pretty successful at planning them in the past. She is the co-founder of Eastown’s Bizarre Bazaar, now a Grand Rapids institution.

A year later, they’ve cemented Pyramid Scheme as a reputable venue, bringing in both local up-and-comers and national acts to perform for capacity crowds. Now, VandenBerg and staff have turned their efforts toward T Rex Fest, a celebration of music, beer and food.

“The reason we opened was so people could see great music,” VandenBerg said. “For T Rex, we wanted different genres, different races. We wanted to see women on stage. For the most part I think we really pulled that off.”

The festival will feature Pinback, Dead Prez, El Ten Eleven, The Men, Jon Connor, Frontier Ruckus and Leslie and the Ly's. Booking of the acts came together pretty easily.

“We each had about 10 to 20 that we personally wanted to see,” VandenBerg said. “We put them together and prioritized from there.”

One band on everyone’s list – indie rock group Pinback.

“They’ve been in the Meanwhile (another establishment owned by the VandenBergs) jukebox since it opened. We have a special affection for them,” VandenBerg said.

An act they definitely wanted to bring back was hip-hop group Dead Prez, who played to a capacity crowd earlier this year.

“There’s a stigma around booking hip-hop. I’m happy we’re changing some of that. Dead Prez was one of the most successful shows we had. A huge range of people were (there), coming from all over the state,” VandenBerg said. “I’ve just discovered hip-hop recently, but I’m blown away by the talent, rawness and authenticity.”

Tickets for T Rex are selling at steady rate, and while there will be some at the gate, VandenBerg recommends buying them early. She expects a crowd of more than 3,000. The festival is shutting down Oakes Street from Commerce to S. Division Avenues. The stage will lay at the bottom of the hill at the Commerce and Oakes intersection, and the beer and food tents will take up the Pyramid Scheme parking lot.

To keep energy up for the marathon of musical acts, festival go-ers can chow down on food from Stella’s, Bartertown, and Rockwell’s Republic. Libations will be provided by co-sponsor Short’s Brewing Company with a few specialty brews you won’t find anywhere else in Grand Rapids, plus cans of PBR and a handful of liquors.

While Pyramid Scheme will be closed during the festival, it will re-open for the T Rex after party, featuring Party Supplies, DopeHead, Spydre Murphy and Dreas. It’s free for those with festival tickets, $5 for everyone else.

VandenBerg said they are absolutely bringing T Rex back in 2013.

“After, we’ll assess and decide whether we should expand it. Maybe two days or two stages. This year will be a really good learning year,” she said.

Is she nervous that in a month full of Grand Rapids festivals, T Rex may lose crowd numbers to festival fatigue?

“I don’t think so. A lot of our customers would go to a festival every Saturday in the summer,” she said, laughing. “It’s just another opportunity to add to the vibrancy of downtown.”

T Rex Fest Info:
June 16
Pyramid Scheme
Gates at 2 p.m. Music 2:30-10:30 p.m.
$20 advance tickets $25 at the Gate


Published: May 11, 2012

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