Funky Rivertown Fest brings numerous Michigan bands to Ypsi for five days of music

This story is part of a series about arts and culture in Washtenaw County. It is made possible by the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Destination Ann Arbor, Larry and Lucie Nisson, and the University Musical Society.

Bands from across southeast Michigan will take the stage March 19-23 at Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St. in Ypsilanti, for the second annual Funky Rivertown Fest. Bands will play from 7:30-10:30 p.m. March 19-22, and 2-11 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd.
"I'm always looking for … some extra thing to give back and help support the musical community, because without that musical community, I wouldn't have a living," says organizer and host David Roof, who also owns and operates the Grand Blanc-based Rooftop Recording music studio.
Weeknight shows will feature two or three artists apiece, while six performers will appear on Saturday. Performers will include Cedar Bend, KILLER DILLER, Dani Darling, Nadim Azzam, the Judy Banker Band, and Premium Rat.
Roof says more than half of this year's artists are new both to the festival and to him, personally, because he wanted to "expand the reach and horizon" of Funky Rivertown Fest. Roof says he particularly wanted to provide some younger Ypsilanti-based bands, like Premium Rat, "a chance to take a bigger stage and a bigger profile for the first time."
Roof says he hopes to organize as a nonprofit before next year's festival, "and I'm sure that's going to present some interesting challenges that I haven't had to deal with before."
Ann Arbor musician Danielle Davis, known professionally as Dani Darling, will perform at the festival March 21. She describes her music as "ethereal indie soul," with elements of alt-rock, Motown, Radiohead, and "shoe-gazey stuff" that feels "like you were riding past Jupiter …  in outer space." Davis says she and her band will bring "upbeat funk energy" to Funky Rivertown Fest.
Her last EP featured strong '70s influences, and Davis says her band's set will include both originals and covers of songs by Sade, Stevie Wonder, and Blondie. 
Davis says Blondie's "Call Me" is fun to perform, but harder to sing than it first appears. 

"Blondie really takes it up there, you know?" she says. "But it's really fun because it's Women's History Month. … As a girl in music, you know Blondie. You know all the femme staples that really are our influences."
Davis was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021, a condition she describes as "a snowflake disease" with "not much consistency across the board with how it affects people." Davis ended up spending a week in the hospital, unable to speak. Re-learning to sing took time.
"I'm just now getting to the point where my confidence is a little bit close to where" it was pre-diagnosis, she says. Now, she says she's feeling "better in the last couple months than I've been in the last couple of years."
Tickets for Funky Rivertown Fest shows are available here. Discounts are available for students and residents of Ypsilanti.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photo by Kyla Preissner.
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