Aug. 2 2016 11:20 AM

Indie music festival kicks off Saturday in St. Johns

TUESDAY, August 2 — Festival season is in full swing in Greater Lansing, with JazzFest taking over Old Town this weekend and the Great Lakes Folk Festival preparing to invade East Lansing the following weekend. But 30 minutes north of Lansing, a new event is giving festival seekers another option. The first-ever Mint by Midwest indie music festival comes to the St. Johns City Park Saturday.

“It’s Mint by Midwest because St. Johns is apparently the mint capital of the world,” said festival coordinator Aiden Pope. “We just wanted to find independent artists from all over the state and bring them to St. Johns.”

The name is a play on South by Southwest, usually stylized SXSW, one of the nation’s premiere indie music and culture festivals. Pope, an employee at St. Johns’ Wilson Center Auditorium, had coordinated bands before but never on this scale. He enlisted the help of two friends, Brendan Seyke and Brant Boettger, to make the festival a reality.

“[At first,] a few people reached out to us and asked if we had room on the bill, and we did. But we ended up having to turn a few people away,” Pope said. “Towards the end of our selection process, we had people finding out about it and asking us to play, but we were already booked up. It was neat that people were showing interest.”

He also managed to get three sponsors onboard to help with the event. The festival will feature nine musical acts, including Lansing acts like Rent Strike and Lucy. Pope, who tried to line up a diverse slate of artists, said he was looking for “people we thought were doing interesting things.” Saturday’s performers include hip-hop artists, folk singers and even a former Motown artist.

Like the festival that inspired it, Mint by Midwest will not be bound to a specific genre featuring “everything from folk to hip-hop to electronica;” the selection of each group was motivated by said Pope.

Beyond the music, the day-long festival features food and merchandise vendors. The stage is also a gym for the popular Pokémon GO smartphone app, which Pope hopes will bring in more foot traffic to the free event.

“We knew it was going to be at the band shell before Pokémon GO came out. It’s not intentional,” Pope said. “But it’s definitely going to work in our favor.”

Considering that the festival that was pulled together in just five months, Pope is relieved by how smoothly things have fallen into place.

“It was a lot of hard work, but we understood that that was part of it. Everything has gone pretty well so far,” Pope said. “We’re definitely interested in doing it again. Doing it this year has been a learning process. If we do it again next year, we can make it better.”

Mint by Midwest Music Festival
3-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6
St. Johns City Park
805 W. Park St., St. Johns
(989) 227-2425,