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The beat goes on

Matt DeYoung • Aug 22, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Jake Kershaw and his band spent the first two hours of Saturday’s Walk the Beat huddled up beneath a tent, trying to escape the pounding rain that soaked Grand Haven.

The sounds of drums, guitars and singing were replaced by the sounds of rain thundering down and the city’s tornado sirens sounding shortly before 2 p.m.

But finally, around 3 p.m., the rain let up, Kershaw’s band set up, and the crowds emerged for a rocking’ final two hours of Walk the Beat.

“It was great,” said Kershaw, 15, from Marshall. His band, the Jake Kershaw Band, took home the grand prize package worth $10,000. “It wasn’t great in the beginning. We had to sit out here for two hours and wait out the rain, but as soon as the rain cleared up, we got everything set up, and people just swarmed. I was surprised, because I’m not used to that. It was a cool experience.”

See more photos from Saturday’s Walk the Beat

Event organizer Dave Palmer said he was moments away from closing down the event when he heard the tornado sirens blaring.

“I was showing some friends Studio B at Third Coast Recording and somebody came in and said, ‘The tornado warnings are going off!’” Palmer said. “I was like, OK, time for an executive decision. I’m shutting it down. No reason for people to get killed over some music.

“As I’m saying that, another kid walked in and said, ‘It’s in Fennville.’ I said we’ll leave it open for 15 minutes, and by then, it all went away.”

Palmer and his volunteers had their hands full keeping things organized. Several bands didn’t show up because of the weather. Palmer didn’t know how many acts canceled, but it was clear taking a look down Beechtree Street in Grand Haven — the main hub of the event — that many of the venues were deserted.

Some bands simply moved inside. Melophonix, a band out of Grand Rapids, played in a garage attached to Third Coast Studios, 1447 Washington Ave. in Grand Haven.

“We just powered through the rain,” said band member Zack Volkers. “It was one of those forces of nature, we knew, rain or shine, we were going to make sure some good music came out today. The turnout was great, the atmosphere was great, and the fact that people came out and and had a good time speaks volumes to the amount of work these guys put in.”

“It was a fantastic day,” Palmer added. “The thing about people with music, they don’t care about the weather. All the bands had to be shuffled around, but everybody just made due. They made it work. We were just flying by the seat of our pants. The volunteers were just wonderful. And after it cleared up, it just started getting packed, and people loved it.”

Kershaw began playing guitar six years ago, and last March, started up his band, which also includes Terry Oosterhart on the guitar and Ryan McFadden on the drums.

He’s only 15, but Kershaw has already played with international blues greats including Jonny Lang and Larry McCray. He drew a big crowd to his location at the far east end of Washington Avenue.

“I started playing with the band last year, and we’re just trying to get bigger and bigger,” Kershaw said. “To win the studio time would be amazing.”

Kershaw spoke glowingly about Palmer and Walk the Beat, and how much the organization does to support and promote young musicians.

“Walk the Beat, it’s amazing,” Kershaw said. “Dave’s helped me through so much of this stuff. He gave me music video. He supported me 100 percent. Nobody else has really done it like they have.”

The honors for top song went to The Legal Immigrants, a four-piece band out of Grand Rapids that specializes in “gangster rock.”

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