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Let There Be Music: Who‘s Playing Where on Northern Michigan‘s Summer Music Scene

Express Staff - June 10th, 2004
You don’t have to look far to find a musician in Northern Michigan: chances are he or she is sitting next to you at the coffee counter or at some lunchtime rendezvous. All of that musical energy demands expression, with both local and outside talent showcasing their best work at numerous festivals held throughout the summer.
Following is a rundown on some (but certainly not all) of the music festivals of note this summer.

Spirit of the Woods
June 19 • Brethren, Manistee County

The 27th Annual Spirit of the Woods Music Association Folk Festival features some of its biggest acts ever this year with Australian blues harmonicist Harper and nationally acclaimed folksinger Rachael Davis. Also in the lineup are Brethren’s own festival favorite Iowa Rose, West Michigan singers-songwriters Ruth and Max Bloomquist, Seth Bernard and Daisy May, singer/guitarist Rod Exo; and the folk/bluegrass band Cabin Fever.  The event begins at noon and will end at 11:30 p.m. – rain or shine.  In addition to music there will also be food, arts and crafts, and children’s activities – and there will be square dancing from 9:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m.  Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.  For info, see

Michigan Legacy Art Park
July 2 - August 6 • Crystal Mountain, Benzie County

Set in a 100-seat amphitheatre along a wooded sculpture trail, the Art Park offers an intimate concert experience on a series of Fridays each summer.
This year’s lineup includes Yid Vicious on klezmer July 2, Duck Soup bluegrass July 9, Song of the Lakes folk July 16, Grand Traverse Pipes and Drums July 23, Claudia Schmidt Trio jazz July 30, and Kinsolk family folk music August 6.
Admission is $6 adults, $4 kids, and $15 per family. Guests are welcome to bring lawn chairs and picnics, and don’t forget your mosquito spray. Details are at

Manitou Music Festival
Summer-long series • Leelanau County

Now in its 13th season, the Manitou Music Festival on the Leelanau Peninsula offers world class chamber music and jazz/folk concerts in some of Michigan’s most idyllic settings.
The Manitou Music Festival offers a free opening concert at the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Glen Haven. Ticketed events include eight chamber music concerts, two jazz/folk concerts and a benefit soiree.
The free concert at the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb on July 18 features jazz by the Bill Lucas Quartet, classical music by the Avatar Brass Quintet, and poet Anne-Marie Oomen. The concert features the world premier of “Fanfare for the Sleeping Bear,” composed by William Lucas.
Other concerts will be held at the Performing Arts Center in the Leland School and at the Leelanau School in Glen Arbor. Performers will include the Nuance Quartet, the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings-Woodwind Quintet, the Aurora Quintet, the East Coast’s Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, and Michigan’s own Tangerine Trousers, among others. Tickets are $15 per show, with info & full roster at

National Cherry Festival
July 3-10 • Open Space Stage, TC

Everyone seems to agree that the National Cherry Festival finally hit one out of the park with its selection of Big Bad VooDoo Daddy (July 3) and Asleep at the Wheel (July 6) this year at the Open Space stage. BBVDD lays down a juke joint swing groove that is sure to have hundreds up on their feet jitterbugging the sod away, while Asleep at the Wheel bring a Western swing tradition with roots in the ‘60s psychedelia era that makes them indefatigably quirky as well as top-flight musicians.
It’s a mixed bag from there, however, with the lineup including the local Encore Society playing patriotic tunes on July 4, a teen lip-sync night on July 5, the Beatles’ 1964 tribute on July 7, Eddie Money on July 8, and the U.S. Air Force Band wrapping up the fireworks on July 10. Whatever, you can’t beat the price -- a $3 pin gets you into the show all week.

The Blissfest Folk & Roots Festival
July 9-11 • Festival Farm, Cross Village
Going into its 24th year, the Blissfest is more popular than ever with its carefully selected blend of cajun, celtic, blues, roots and world music. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to find the original “folk” angle at today’s dance-friendly Blissfest, but that seems to be the trend at folk festivals across the country, and the capacity crowd of 4,000 keeps comin’ back for more each year for three days of music, camping and community.
The gospel and blues-flavored Holmes Brothers are headliners this year, a group the The Chicago Tribune refers to as “the undisputed masters of blues-based American roots music.“ The trio has recorded with Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, Jungle Brothers and Joan Osborne, and have gigged all over the world - even performing for President Clinton.
Also in the lineup are John Cowan with Vassar Clements, Brave Combo, Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart, Larry McCray, Tanglemere, Crazy Richard, Ignorant Mob, Grasshoppah, Daisy May, Seth Bernard, Robin Lee Berry, Kristin Sweetland, Jive at Five, K. Jones & the Benzie Playboys, The Duhks, Appalachian Roots, Mamadou Diabate, Kris Demeanor & His Crack Band, LaRon Williams, Benny Cruz y la Buena Vida, Ralston Bowles, Andy Young, Ron Fowler, Foghorn String Band, Kirby, and Darlene.
Advance tickets for the weekend are $65 adults, $30 for supervised teens and $55 for seniors -- add $10 at the gate, with day passes also available. Rustic camping is $10/vehicle advance and $15 gate for Friday, Saturday & Sunday nights with a Weekend Pass. Check out for details.

Suttons Bay Jazzfest
July 24 • Marina Park, Suttons Bay

Jazz legend Marian McPartland headlines this year’s Jazzfest, which is always rain-or-shine friendly with a big top tent by the bay. With more than 50 albums to her credit, Marian hails back to the days of be-bop and before -- she got her start entertaining the troops in Europe in World War II with a four-piano Vaudeville act.
Rounding out the Jazzfest are the usual suspects including the Harry Goldson Quintet, Jeff Haas performing with a Double Quartet, Marcus Belgrave’s Louis Armstrong Tribute Band, and the Suttons Bay High School Jazz Band. With food and wine provided by local vendors, tickets are $20 advance and $25 at the gate. For info see

Sleeping Bear Dunegrass & Blues
August 6-7 • Empire

The Dunegrass & Blues has a nice Grateful Dead, jam-band, neo-hippie vibe that consistently brings out a younger crowd of tie-dyed dancers. You can’t beat the location, with is just a few blocks from a gorgeous Lake Michigan beach in Empire.
The laid-back vibe means a no-hurry outlook to pulling the festival together -- the website notes, for instance, that a “stellar line-up is being booked.” Past festivals have highlighted performers from Benzie and Leelanau counties as well as a few ringers from the Kalamazoo/East Lansing orbit. Tickets are $20 for Friday and Saturday, or $15 for Saturday’s show with overnight camping available.

August 12-15 • The Farm, Johannesburg

Folk, blues, jazz and cajun sounds will fill a natural amphitheater blessed with an open-sided barn for a stage at the Farmfest just east of Gaylord.
This year’s lineup is heavy on local and statewide talent, with players including Jive at Five, Song of the Lakes, Jeremy Kittel, Blue Water Ramblers, Kirby, Ron Fowler, K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys, Cabin Fever, Like Water DrumWorks, Steppin’ In It, Seth Bernard, Madcat & Kane and Brian VanDeCar.
The Farmfest offers camping and a folksy, communal feel, with tickets at $50 in advance for the weekend, including camp fee, or $60 at the gate. Day passes are $30 at the gate. For info, see

Harbor Celtic Festival
August 28 • Harbor Springs

Looking forward to its sophomore outing, this newcomer celebrates the Celtic roots of Emmet County with a harborside bash, courtesy of the Blissfest Organization.
Performers this year include Bohola, a traditional Celtic band from Chicago; The Bowzies, who play Irish songs in the tradition of the Clancy Brothers; and local talents Tanglemere and Trailee. Other pending performers include: Step In Time Dancers, Ellen White, Ron and Jan Fowler, Dr. Goodhart, Ken Parada and George Colburn of the Robert Emmet Society.
The day follows up a month-long Irish film festival and also includes a number of Celtic workshops. Tickets are $25-$30 in advance and $10 for teens. See for details.

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