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MI Fest elminates one stage, nine acts

for Journal Register Newspapers

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For Journal Register Newspapers

The inaugural MI Fest music festival is still a go for Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

It will just be smaller than planned.

Festival organizers announced on Thursday night, Sept. 15, that one of the three stages would be eliminated, along with nine bands that were slated to play. Those getting the axe included Alto Reed, the saxophonist in Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band who's managed by Farmington Hills-based TGIF Entertainment, MI Fest's principal organizer.

Also out of Saturday's show are the Howling Diablos, Jill Jack, Bear Lake, the Hot Club of Detroit, the Juliets, the Ragbirds, the Thornbills and Marnee.

Organizers blamed "unforeseen circumstances and scheduling conflicts," but TGIF's George Gikas acknowledged that pre-sales that were lower than hoped-for factored into the decision to downsize.

"When we originally looked at this, we had a much larger picture of the size of attendance," Gikas said. "We're not ashamed by the number of people that will be there, but we wanted to make this, visually, an appealing event, something where people wouldn't be spread out over a large territory."

General admission tickets for MI Fest had been reduced this week from $79 to $59, according to Gikas. Those who paid the higher price will be "accommodated" with upgrades and "promotional items," he promised.

Eighteen acts are still slated to play on the two festival stages, including national headliners the Raconteurs, Sheryl Crow and Ronnie Dunn plus regional favorites such as the Rockets, Ty Stone, Jeff Daniels, Mark Farner and the Romantics. Singer-songwriter Wendy Starland has been added to play a 15-minute set, while Jack White's Third Man Records label will still have a strong presence with its acts Jeff the Brotherhood, Black Milk, Pujol and Black Belles.

"We still have 18 bands in a 12-hour period and a bunch of other stuff going on that makes MI Fest special," MIS President Roger Curtis said. "The bands that aren't playing are probably very upset, understandably so, but we're still proud of the event we're putting on," which will also include an art exhibition, a food court and a farmer's market.

Jill Jack said that she was "very disappointed" to receive the call on Thursday canceling her performance. "My sympathy goes out to" the organizers, Jack said, "but on the other hand, it's my career, my band. A lot of us turned down other gigs for this. To find out in the 11th hour, it can be pretty tough. I can't imagine they didn't see this coming before 2 o'clock (Thursday) afternoon." Jack noted on her Facebook page that "the music biz ain't for sissies, that's for sure."

Alto Reed posted a note on his Facebook page Thursday saying that his cancellation was "not my call...just don't wan people showing up wondering where I am." Several fans posted online messages expressing disappointment that Michigan artist bore the brunt of the cuts.

Gikas noted that Thursday's move "was a very tough decision." He said the MI Fest organizers will "certainly following through on all contracts and agreements" with the festival's canceled acts.

One artist manager said Thursday that there were signs of trouble earlier this week. "We couldn't get answers about" logistics, he explained. "There were no answers about parking, backline (equipment)...There was just a real lack of communication."

Gikas said he and his partners are still hopeful for a strong walk-up attendance at the event thanks to weather that's predicted to be clear, sunny and in the mid- to high 60s. "We know people will sit on the fence for an outdoor event until they know there's going to be good weather," he said. "We still feel we're putting on an event that's worth every penny."

For updated information on MI Fest, visit www.mi-fest.com.

Web Site: www.mi-fest.com

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