Arts, Beats & Eats draws happy crowds to return to Royal Oak
It was a familiar and festive opening for Labor Day weekend in Royal Oak.
Two years after Soaring Eagle Arts, Beats & Eats last graced the streets of downtown, this holiday weekend’s biggest festival in the state was back with its vibrant array of sights, sounds and aromas on Friday.
Gorgeous sunny weather with temperatures in the low 70s certainly helped the cause, as people flocked to Royal Oak for the first of four days of music, art and restaurant offerings in the area.
With opening night headliner Stone Temple Pilots playing later that night, Friday’s crowd seemed on par with previous years – perhaps even bigger, according to the director of ‘AB&E, Jon Witz.
“After two years without hosting an event of this magnitude, seeing this attendance and the weather forecast is one of the best moments of my career,” said Witz, who founded the festival in 1998.
Like almost all large gatherings from March 2020, AB&E was canceled last year amid the pandemic. Witz organized a makeshift virtual drive-in event in his place.
Many festival-goers – but certainly not the majority – walked the festival grounds with face masks on Friday.
About 55 area restaurants and more than 100 art vendors from across the country were on hand, and those who spoke with Free Press were optimistic for the weekend.
“It was heartbreaking to see people locked in and depressed last year,” said Dave Price, owner of Hog Heaven BBQ, which has done a thriving business at its location along Washington Avenue. “Now we see people here with a renewed spirit and an appreciation for being able to be back. “
He said he arrived with 4,800 pounds of meat for his offerings of ribs, pulled pork and other barbecue items and was confident he would walk away without.
This weekend marks a big change for Arts, Beats & Eats: the festival ditched its long-standing ticketing system for food and drink, moving to a pay-as-you-go model. Customers who spoke to Free Press on Friday said they loved the move, saying it saved them time and the headache of unused tickets.
On the music side, the day started with lighter sounds across all seven stages, heating up as the day wore on. In the late afternoon you can listen to the melodic and crispy pop-rock of Channel 89 at the Rock Stage, hear MYB’s dose of ethereal alternative pop at the Alternative Stage or the kilted trio of Pictus serving bagpipes and tribal percussion at the International Organizer.
Just after 6 p.m., Detroit blues-soul greats Thornetta Davis kicked off the action on the Michigan Lottery Main Stage, followed by Guess Who and STP. Behind the scenes, Davis said it was a joy and a relief to perform again.
“It feels so good,” she said. “To be back in your hometown on the main stage is just wonderful. “
The Guess Who, making their third AB&E appearance, followed with a 75-minute set infused with early ’70s rock hits (“American Woman”, “These Eyes”, “No Sugar Tonight”), with singer Derek Sharp leads the entertaining debates up front. Drummer Garry Peterson, the band’s only original member, provided the nostalgic connection, including an anecdote on the Canadian band’s 1969 single “Undun” – first adopted in America by the border town of Detroit.
From there there was a reliable and very exciting set of Stone Temple Pilots, heralded by the organizers of AB&E as the biggest booking in the 23 year history of the festival. Jeff Gutt, the Michigan native who has led the band since 2017, was a dynamic presence from the moment he took to the stage with neon blue hair and a cigarette between his fingers.
Gutt was in a good voice alongside his fellow STP bandmates Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass) and Eric Kretz (drums), who showed their courage as a well-oiled machine in their second public performance since. October 2019. “Wicked Garden” led a set of vintage 90s rock dishes sprinkled with a pair of songs from the Gutt era, as the night rolled on with STP hits (“Vasoline,” “Big Bang Baby “,” Big Empty “,” Plush “,” Interstate Love Song “).
Debbie LaPratt, an artist specializing in ceramic bas-reliefs showcasing Detroit landmarks, has been a veteran of the Arts, Beats & Eats for 15 years. Based on Friday morning foot traffic, she predicted weekend footfall would be “wall to wall”.
“It’s so cool to be back because you can find your customers and see old friends,” she said. “I can feel the energy here.”
Arts, Beats & Eats hasn’t forgotten about the pandemic: the festival hosts vaccination clinics run by Oakland County Health over the weekends.
AB&E is part of the Labor Day festivities in the Detroit subway.
The weekend also brings the Detroit Jazz Festival, which has finalized its plans for an in-person event and will feature a second year of performances broadcast live from inside the Renaissance Center. For those who wish to gather downtown, the webcast will be shown on a big screen at Campus Martius Park, 12 hours a day until Monday.
The Michigan State Fair, which kicked off Thursday, will run at 10 a.m. daily through Monday at the Novi Suburban Collection Showcase, with live music, family entertainment and exhibits. traditions on agriculture and animal husbandry.
There is the 41st Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, which takes place from Saturday to Monday with local bands, carnival attractions and the annual ‘yacht races’ on Jos Avenue. Campau.
And, as always, Labor Day weekend marks the opening of Franklin Cider Mill, which will be operational in Bloomfield Hills from Saturday through November 28.