The sixth annual Gridlife Midwest Music and Motorsports Festival may have just been the best installment yet. Thanks to several continuing improvements, the premier automotive event in the region continues to outperform itself, even in the face of extreme weather conditions. It was yet another wild kick-off to the festival season in Michigan for both racers and music fans alike.
Background for the Unfamiliar -
Several Gridlife events take place in different areas of the country throughout the year, with the Gridlife Midwest installment being the most iconic.
Taking place at the beginning of each summer at Gingerman Speedway in South Haven, MI, some of the best drivers in the country and beyond compete in different categories of drift racing and time attack battles, while a curated selection of artists provide the soundtrack to the madness. Generally, the lineup consists of local and big-name electronic and hip hop artists who perform throughout the day and long into the night.
Some famous returning drivers returning to the track this year included Ryan Tuerck, who was driving a new Toyota Corolla Hatchback with 1000 Horsepower this year, as well as Vaughn Gittin Jr., who drives a Monster Energy Drink Mustang, and is my personal favorite driver to watch at the festival.
Meanwhile, a massive car show is on display, where drivers are able to show off their custom-built rides. Just about every make and model is lined up and down the grounds, making it a cornucopia of eye candy for automotive enthusiasts. All of this is rounded out by the different stages, where DJs and artists pump out sick beats and hot jams throughout the day.
As I’ve written before, this festival is unique to any other on the circuit, as the focus is predominantly on the motorsports and racing, whereas the music is more of a bonus, taking a backseat to the daily drift battles.
The biggest new addition this year was the installment of a classic arcade and console gaming lounge. After hosting different “GameNight” events in both Chicago and Los Angeles, the decision was made to bring the event to the festival this year. All games available were free to play.
The selection of games was excellent, both modern and old-school. Consoles available to play included the Nintendo Switch, which had games like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart, while classic Super Nintendo games were also available. There were also full seat-and-steering-wheel setups for the new Forza game, which multiple players could compete in at one time. It proved to be the most popular through the weekend, as there were hardly ever any seats unfilled.
There was also a superb selection of arcade cabinets available to play. They ranged from the classics like Galaga and NBA Jam to other favorites like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mortal Kombat 4. Having the fourth game in the series available was a nice touch - in my own experience, arcades usually only have Mortal Kombat 1 or 2 on display, and rarely 3 or 4.
Improved Bus Stage
Last year, one of the features of Gridlife included a Silent Disco stage built out of an old school bus called the “GoodBus Stage.” This year, the bus had been fully upgraded, completed with a whole extra stage added to the top.
If you don’t know how a Silent Disco works, participants are given a pair of wireless headphones with multiple channels. Different DJ’s spin music into the channels (blue and green) without creating external noise, which is ideal for after-hours dancing.
The GoodBus is ran by the Chicago-based electro-funk duo GoodSex, who also performed on the main stage that Friday. Gridlife isn’t their only stop on the circuit - the GoodBus travels to multiple festivals far and wide, setting up their own renegade stage all over the country.
I briefly met the pair last year, who gave me an impromptu tour of the bus. This year, however, I was able to sit down after their set and have a full interview with Joe Domingo, one half of GoodSex, to find out the story behind the bus and the GoodSex philosophy.
Interview with Joe Domingo from GoodSex
“Good Sex is the one thing we all agree on. It’s black, white, tall, old, gray, doesn’t matter who you are, you enjoy good sex,” Domingo said in an interview that Friday. “It’s love, it’s the one thing we can all agree on. Our mission statement breathes from that ethos - it is better to be good to people, you get a better return. Life is easier when you’re nice.”
While the group plays mostly electronic funk music, each set is specially catered toward the setting and the crowd, depending on the festival.
“Tonight, I knew SoDown would be playing after us, and we’d have more of a dubsteppy sound after us, so we were transitioning that sound,” Domingo said. “I think our set was indicative of that, in the way that it transitioned the flow from a heavy dubstep bass sound to a funky feel-good throwback sound, and it left room for the remaining artists to build it back up.”
The GoodBus serves not only as a fun after-hours stage, but also as a full-on vehicle for getting the GoodSex message out to people.
“As GoodSex, we decided to figure out a way of getting our message out to a mainstream audience,” Domingo said. “We bought a school bus, gutted it, decked it out with birch wood and steel, sound and speakers and love, and turned it into a mobile soundstage. So now we parade from festival to festival, utilizing it as a tour vehicle and also a sound stage.”
The GoodBus has already been to festivals like Summer Camp this year, and will continue onward to Electric Forest and other festivals.
“The GoodBus is our embodied brand,” Domingo said. “It’s how we get our music and our word and footprint out there. It is a culmination of everyone on the team coming together, doing what they’re good at, and showcasing that GoodSex vision and embodying it into a personable form.”
As previously mentioned, the GoodBus received some upgrades this year, mainly in the form of a better and safer stage on the top.
“We had the roof last year, but we did not have railings up,” Domingo said. “When you’re on top of a bus, you don’t feel safe. Now it’s fully projection-mapped and everything is enclosed, it’s officially another level of the bus.”
Other Musical Highlights (Friday)
Besides the funky sounds of GoodSex, other highlights from Friday night came by way of Houston, TX-based rap duo Blackillac. The pair provided plenty of hyped-up rap songs interlaced with funny banter to an enthusiastic crowd as the sun was beginning to dip, setting the bar for the events of the evening.
Second to last for Friday night was EDM DJ Luca Lush, who provided the crowd with several dubstep and hardstyle remixes of popular songs, both in the world of EDM and beyond.
Following Luca Lush was headliner Ghastly, whose sound is difficult to describe in words. His set took elements of different genres and presented them alongside bizarre visuals, creating a visceral audio and visual experience. I was mostly transfixed by his presentation, and the set was over before I even realized it.
He ended his set by encouraging the fans to come to the Silent Disco, saying that he’d be happy to hang out and talk with fans, and to not be shy. I found this to be a classy touch of showmanship.
Saturday Night Shenanigans
It’s impossible to explain the events of Saturday night without first discussing the weather situation.
Gridlife 2017 was marked by extreme heat, while Gridlife 2018 saw its fair share of storms. Gridlife 2019, however, was characterized by both extremes of good and bad weather. While the temperature was very comfortable and ideal throughout the weekend, Saturday evening was ravaged by a storm that rolled through.
Around 7 PM, one of my neighbors ran by my tent. When I popped out to say hello, he was getting inside of his, and yelled “See you tomorrow, dude!”
“What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
“Look behind you!”
When I turned around, a MASSIVE black cloud was rolling in FAST. Text messages began coming in on my phone from Gridlife, advising patrons to take shelter. I hunkered down back inside my tent, and wisely so. If I hadn’t, my tent would have blown away, like several others did.
Here’s a video that someone else took of the storm