There’s a good chance fans of downtown Farmington are already familiar with Alexander Steward. You may have seen him working at Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market since 2015. Or maybe you know Swing Farmington, the swing dance group that Steward has been organizing and DJing since 2010 — although they’ve been on hiatus since COVID-19, Steward hopes to revive the long-running hit soon. Steward ventures further and also runs Ann Arbor’s Westside Farmers’ Market, which has become known for its vendors as well as the musicians that Steward plays each week.
That’s all there is to say that Alexander Steward is a man of many hats. His latest cap brings him back to downtown Farmington as the new organizer for Lunch Beats in Riley Park. a weekly concert series starting at 12 noon every Wednesday throughout the summer. Kyle Chase begins Wednesday June 8th and Bob Skon concludes Wednesday August 24th. The family-friendly event features free live music, food vendors, and performances by local businesses.
Steward has been tasked with bringing an exciting new energy to the concert series and has a wealth of experience – and connections – to do so. And given his enthusiasm for supporting the region’s thriving music scene, it won’t be a surprise when he does just that.
We spoke to Alexander Steward late last month to get an idea of the shape of things to come.
Metro mode: Let’s start at the top. What is the Lunch Beats concert series?
Alexander Administrator: The idea really is that people can bring their lunch, experience some live music in the middle of the week and just take a break from whatever’s going on. It’s all about enjoying the great outdoors and hearing some great local artists play for you for an hour. It definitely has more of a café vibe in the sense that it’s a bit more low key. But it’s a lot of fun, just a little breather from the rest of the day. Music brings joy to many people.
Metro mode: What are your plans for this year?
Alexander: We will have some different musicians bringing different styles. And we bring a little acquaintance with some of the people who have played at Farmington Farmers Market, musicians who are really popular and who I’ve seen over the years. But we will also bring some freshness into it by trying to have different styles, different people playing different songs; some will play more original songs, some will play some covers. With Lunch Beats you get many different things. We’re also trying to reach more people and connect with more people by including some younger musicians and also some people who have more experience performing.
Metro mode: Tell us about this year’s lineup. what have you planned
Alexander: Chris DuPont is one of those guys I’m really looking forward to. That was a really big and exciting thing for me because Chris ran The Ark in Ann Arbor. He’s been messing around and is quite well known, he’s been on the radio with 107.1 FM and I know WDET has mentioned him before on Culture Shift. And I really like Chris’ music. I’ve seen him play many times over the years and I’m really excited to take him with me. He’s a little known name around and he’s traveled and toured the Midwest. Lilly MacPhee is another one I know who has traveled and done tours and other things. Heart Cruise is one that I think a lot of people will really enjoy. They have a bit more rock ‘n’ roll feel, they’re a lot of fun.
All musicians just bring something different to the table. I mean that’s one of the things I really like about our lineup is that they all have their own individual things that they do. Great original songs, great covers, and they all seem easy to understand for the audience. For me, supporting musicians who are looking for venues is part of it. When you meet great musicians, they’re happy when other people appreciate what they’re doing, they’re happy to have the opportunity to see different parts of the city. And that could open more doors and more opportunities to play even more, whether it’s in a restaurant or a coffee shop, a concert series or a private event or something. There are many great styles and different perspectives and different types of musicians.
Metro mode: What makes a concert series like Lunch Beats a success?
Alexander: Oh, that’s a good question. I think first and foremost you have to have good music. I think if you don’t have a good musician or band, the rest of the experience won’t be as enjoyable. I also think that with an outdoor music show it is important to have the right setting for it. The Walter Sundquist Pavilion in Riley Park – I’ve hosted many events there running Swing Farmington and collaborating with the farmers market and it’s an incredible venue. I think it’s very underrated. I think a lot of other communities don’t realize how great our pavilion is compared to many other places. So it’s about having a great venue, having great musicians, and then it’s the people who are excited to hear live music. That’s the other. The people there are having fun. That’s the most important thing: people can connect through music and just relax from what’s happening today, whether it’s an evening concert or a lunchtime concert. It’s about having that connection and community and sharing that love of music with each other.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.