Classic rock dominates this years National Cherry Festival with six of the eight nights featuring bands rooted in that old time rock and roll. There really is something for everyone musically with the blues and country tossed into the mix.
The National Cherry Festival Bay Side Music Stage continues to be the best music value in Northern Michigan with an eight-day general admission pass for $50, individual tickets for each show are also available.
Styx in the Mix Saturday, June 29 It has been 40 years since Styx released their first album and the band finds themselves at the top of their game, filling arenas. They plan to pack their suitcases with all their hits including “Lady,” “Come Sail Away,” “Babe,” “Fooling Yourself,” “Mr. Roboto,” “Renegade,” “Blue Collar Man,” and “The Best of Times,” kicking off the National Cherry Festival on Saturday June 29.
Styx got its start in the Chicago area. The original incarnation formed in 1968 with the band taking the name Styx in 1971.
Guitarist, songwriter and vocalist JY Young has been there every step of the way. Intimately involved, the mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate is very analytical about Styx’s success and staying powers for the past 45 years.
“I think there are several factors. Certainly our songbook is strong and continues to resonate with our fans and now a whole new generation of fans,” Youn said. “Our songs are being used by professional sports teams and in the movies, guys like Adam Sandler are huge fans and use our music in their movies. Plus, classic rock radio is very strong right now as well so we get a lot of radio airplay. I also believe that we work really hard and this is a very talented group of musicians on stage right now.”
Young is now 63 and is closing in on retirement age, but with Tommy Shaw just turning 60 this year, as is Ricky Phillips (the rest of the band is younger) there appears to be no retirement on the horizon.
“No I don’t think so. I know people I went to college with who are retired because they were tired of their jobs or others who have lost their jobs or no longer needed at their place of employment. I feel fortunate not to be in that position and I know the rest of the guys feel the same way,” said Young. “I am so lucky to be doing what I do and it is very rewarding going on stage every night and playing our music to thousands of people. I like looking out at the crowd and see what these songs mean to the people. So I don’t see us retiring.”
Styx has played Northern Michigan a few times over the past 40 years. Do they have any recollection of the very first show they played at the Glacier Arena in TC in 1975?
“We have played so many shows over the years but that is one you remember and occasionally people remind us of it,” said Young.
“Rush went on stage followed by us with Kiss going on next. But the power went out at the end of our show and Styx never made it on.”
Styx played the Cherry Festival in 2001 with Bad Company and Billy Squier at the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds and most recently Interlochen last summer. They just wrapped up a tour with Ted Nugent and REO Speedwagon for the second year in a row and are touring solo for the summer.
The band called it quits in 1983 to pursue other projects and for Styx fans, a big thank you for their return is owed to the band’s manager.
“We took about a 13-year hiatus from the band. I did some solo work; Tommy did the Damn Yankees,” said Young. “Then our band manager came to us and said that we should start touring again, that people wanted to hear our music live. He was right and I see us doing this until we are so old they have to scrape us off the stage.”
There won’t be any “scraping” the band off the stage on Saturday June 29 when Styx plays the Bay Side Music Stage at the National Cherry Festival. After their concert, a night time air show will take place -- a Cherry Fest first.
Foreigner Rocks July 1 On Monday night July 1, classic rock fans will be back in full force as Foreigner takes the stage. Since their first release in 1977, Foreigner has sold more than 60 million albums behind such hits as, “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Dirty White Boy,” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” In all, 20 of their songs reached the Billboard Top 20.
Guitarist, lyricist and co-founder Mick Jones has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the music business. He is the only original member left in the band. Along with Lou Gramm (now on a solo career) Jones penned the hits of Foreigner; they both were just inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also a respected producer in the business and when Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth, Van Halen asked Jones to produce their “5150” album.
The group is touring in support of their first studio album in 15 years, “Can’t Slow Down.” Jones explains the hiatus was due to the band going through some transitions.
“There were several reasons for the delay between albums; certainly the personnel changes were part of it,” said Jones. “I kept putting off recording. It was a little bit scary after awhile as well. You start to wonder if people will accept your music. But finally I felt we needed to take the plunge, this lineup had been together for a few years and I thought we were ready. What I like is that when people listen to ‘Can’t Slow Down,’ they recognize it as a Foreigner record.”
Considering Jones is the only original member of Foreigner that formed in 1976, the band still maintains that signature sound.
“It is a testament to these guys in the band. They are very conscientious and respectful of the past. They have a tremendous amount of dedication to the catalogue of songs the made Foreigner,” said Jones.
“For me this has been a blessing. I got caught up with the demons of this business and left for awhile and really felt I was done for good. But eventually I came back and these guys in this band have really inspired me and I have people tell me I am playing better now than I ever did in the past.”
Despite the fact that Jones and Gramm have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the band had not received the invitation in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I think a lot of us are confused over the criteria to get in. Look, I have no problem with Madonna being in but there are a lot of rock bands -- again, emphasis on rock -- that are not in,” said Jones. “My sense is that there is a small club of decision makers who want to seem cool with who they select to get in. I am not sure that those making the selection have a very good handle on the last 35 years of rock music. There seems to be a lot of bands that had a major impact on rock music who are not in. I do not know if we will get in or not, it would be a nice honor and certainly, Lou Graham, myself and others from the original band would go and perform.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame credentials will not be necessary for Foreigner to pack the Bay Side Music Stage on Monday July 1.
Other acts for the week include: • Country legend Montgomery Gentry on Sunday, June 30.
• Blues Rocker Duke Tumatoe on Tuesday. • Country superstar Aaron Tippin on Wednesday.
• Simon and Garfunkel Tribute on July 4. • Edgar Winter and Rusted Root Friday, July 5.
• Closing out the Festival, 1964 the Tribute on Saturday.
Ticket options may be found at cherryfestival.org.
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