By Rick Coates
Now in its 31st season Blissfest should be on every music festival-goers bucket list. Among Northern Michigan music festivals this is the grandaddy of them all. If someone says a festival cant be all things to all people they should come and check out Blissfest, located just north of Harbor Springs near Cross Village that takes place this weekend Friday July 8 - Sunday July 10.
Along with 60s folk legend Buffy Sainte-Marie, headlining this years festival is Tom Rush, who Rolling Stone magazine credits as the artist responsible for ushering in the singer/songwriter generation. Rush helped Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and many others gain recognition by covering their songs.
Rushs impact on the music industry has been felt for the past 50 years, inspiring musicians from Bob Dylan to Garth Brooks to Bono.
Tom Rush was not only one of my early heroes, but also one of my main influences. said Garth Brooks in an interview with Country Music Television. He is definitely one of my top five musical influences of all time.
U2s Bono echoed that sentiment after incorporating Rushs No Regrets into their setlist and performing it on Saturday Night Live.
I am a big fan of Tom Rush and admire his songwriting talents. He is one of the songwriting greats, Bono told the BBC in 2009. I often incorporate his song No Regrets, into our setlist.
Rush got his start 50 years ago playing Boston area clubs while attending Harvard (he graduated from Harvard in 63). His distinctive guitar style, wry humor and warm, expressive voice caught on quickly. He recalls his first gig as if it was yesterday.
My first gig was in 1961 at the Salamander Coffee House in Boston. A friend asked if Id like to take over his night at the club as he traveled Europe and I agreed, said Rush. I think I was paid $10 and all the coffee I could drink. I guess I was too successful because the owner told me there would not be a second night because his customers werent buying enough coffee because they were listening to me instead of drinking lots of coffee.
Rush was signed by Elektra in 1965, releasing three albums for them, with The Circle Game, which, according to Rolling Stone, ushered in the singer/songwriter era.
Despite his early recording success and impact on several musicians Rush stayed out of the studio for 35 years before returning in 2009 with the release of What I Know.
I dont have any real excuse for taking so long between records. I basically recorded my live shows and released them, said Rush. It was easier and less expensive I guess just releasing live albums. What a difference 35 years has made in the recording business. We did this album in five days compared to what would have taken months back then.
For Rush, while his records sold well it was a recent YouTube video that he credits for making him an overnight sensation.
I have been waiting 45 years to become an overnight sensation and some guy posted a video of me on YouTube and it has had well over four million views, said Rush. It was one of my concerts and I was doing the Remember Song, and I didnt even write the song -- Steven Walters did, oh well.
Now 70, Rush is not sure when he will go back in the studio again but he has no plans to retire from touring.
I know I wont wait another 35 years as I might not be around, so sometime in the next couple of years for another album, said Rush. I really enjoy touring and performing in front of audiences so I will continue touring as long as I am able.
Tom Rush will take the main stage of Blissfest this Saturday night July 9 at 8 pm. For a complete musical itinerary of the weekend that kicks off Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday evening, check out www.blissfest.org Here are some of the non-musical highlights for the weekend:
Beer and Wine Tasting Event- The Taste of Bliss is returning for its second year of sampling some of the finest Michigan beer and wine selections around. The event will be in the shade tent Fri. 5-8pm and Sat. 2-5pm. Includes a beautiful commemorative wine and beer glass for each participant. A $10 donation gets you in the door with a glass plus 2 pours. Additional pours are available for 2/ $5 or $3 each. All proceeds go toward the Blissfest Arts Recreation Center.
19 Hole Frisbee Golf - The 19 hole Frisbee Golf Course was a big hit last year. New to this years Blissfest, Big Ds Discn Supply will be hosting two disc golf clinics and a Saturday tournament. The Beginner Clinic focuses on the disc golf basics of putting, approaching and driving while the Intermediate Clinic offers tips and techniques to improve putting accuracy, up shots and increased distance in your drive. Bring your own discs to the clinic. All clinics will be held at Big Ds tent located near Hole One.
BlissStory Booth - Additional filming will take place for the Blissfest Documentary, If you want to tell a BlissStory from your own personal experience stop by the BlissStory Booth on Sat 9:30am -11am and Sunday 9am to 10:30am at the craft area tent in the woods.
Blissfest Birthday Party - All the Blissters who are celebrating their 60th birthday in 2011 are invited to a birthday celebration backstage on Sun. at 4:00pm. Simply show your ID at the backstage entrance next to the volunteer booth and enjoy ice cream, pictures and back stage hospitality. It just so happens that Mr. Bliss himself has joined the 60 club.
New Showcase Stage - The Instrument workshop will be transformed into the Woods Stage in the evenings this year. Check out this scene for some experimental and electronic music.
Folk Alley - Folk Alley is recording the Blissfest for broadcast on their internet radio concert series and plan a live feed on Saturday night. Folk Alley offers live-streaming music over the Internet 24 hours a day and are based in Kent, Ohio at the NPR affiliate WKSU.