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MIS says that, despite controversy, MI Fest will go on

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Despite controversy over an eliminated stage and canceled bands for this weekend's inaugural MI Fest, Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis says that the event is still on and the facility is "ready to rock 'n' roll."

"This has been a black eye for some people but a shining moment for MIS," Curtis said on Friday, Sept. 16. "We kicked butt and pulled this thing out and made it happen. We think the people that come out here, it's going to exceed their expectations."

MI Fest, which starts at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17, takes place on land just southeast of the MIS track in Brooklyn. The festival will feature 17 acts on two stages -- but after a third stage and eight local acts were eliminated on Thursday, Sept. 15. Two more acts bowed out on Friday "out of solidarity" with those who were cut, while social media filled with negative comments about the event.

Curtis said that MIS stepped in earlier in the week to take over finances, operations and logistics from Farmington Hills-based TGIF Entertainment, which conceived MI Fest. "They did a lot of heavy lifting and got this thing going," Curtis noted. "There was a point where this thing was on life support. We've been working our tails off this week and gone through a lot to pull it out of the fire.

"My hope is that by what we did here this week leading into (Saturday), it insured MI Fest will go on into the future."

Curtis said that despite the issues, ticket sales on Friday were "good" and that with favorable weather predicted he hoped for a crowd of 10,000.

Curtis added that MIS and others on the operational end of MI Fest, including Livonia-based Thunder Audio, which is handling stage production, had been in touch with the remaining acts, including headliners Sheryl Crow, the Raconteurs and Ronnie Dunn, to assure them that the show will go on. He's also reached out to those that were cut to discuss potential future bookings at MIS. "We're going to be doing more concerts along with the races," Curtis said. "Hopefully they'll be back out here to performing again."

After acts began expressing confusion earlier in the week, MI Fest took its first hit on Thursday with the stage cancellation "due to unforeseen circumstances" that included lower than anticipated advance ticket sales. The eliminated acts included Alto Reed -- the saxophonist in Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band who's managed by TGIF -- and area favorites such as the Howling Diablos, Jill Jack, Hot Club of Detroit and Bear Lake.

On Friday, Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas and Whitey Morgan & the 78s dropped out in support of the other bands. TGIF and MIS reached out to those who had been canceled, but only the Thornbills agreed to return. Howling Diablos representative Linda Lexy posted on Facebook that the group appreciated the offer to return but "respectfully" declined "in solidarity with all the acts that were unfairly dropped."

The Hot Club's Evan Perri said on Friday that the situation was "frustrating. This festival's supposed to be about Michigan and Michigan bands...and those were the ones they cut. This is what we do for a living. We turned down work for this festival."

Both Curtis and TGIF's George Gikas said that the canceled acts would receive whatever compensation was due them according to their contracts.

Among those still performing at MI Fest will be the Rockets, the Romantics, Mitch Ryder, Jeff Daniels, former Grand Funk Railroad frontman Mark Farner, Ty Stone and several acts from Third Man Records, the Nashville-based label owned by Detroit native Jack White of the Raconteurs.

More MI Fest information is available at www.mi-fest.com.

Web Site: www.mi-fest.com

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