By Joseph Beyer | Aug. 6, 2022
As author Denis Mackail wrote of the approach of August, we may “sigh over the vanished strawberries and all that they signified” … or we can keep the camp chairs in the sandy car, knowing full well that summer is only half over and there’s more acoustic exploring to do.
To take us up on the latter, consider a trip to the boutique multi-genre music festival Livelylands—taking place Aug. 19 to 21 in Empire and now celebrating five years of unique music.
Highly curated by founders Emily Lively and her husband, Robert Chacon, the Livelylands vibe combines camping, a vegetable and flower farm and market, late night song circles, local beer and food, and a smaller stage than the big venues that really connects performers with the audience.
“We’re still building it, but now we have a genuine community here,” Lively says. “We always wanted to connect traveling musicians with a new region for their work while remaining a festival for music lovers where you’ll get to explore new performers, new ideas, and genres, [where] the bands and artists are still hanging out and accessible,” she adds.
Lively and Chacon spent years in Austin, Texas, and have worked for the famed SXSW Music Festival, among other live events. Those connections have followed and benefitted them as they moved to Michigan, where Livelylands is a family affair and includes Lively’s parents, Kelley and Jim, who help manage everything, along with her sister Jane who runs the onsite vegetable and flower farm.
The three-day experience opens Friday night with a Farm-to-Festival dinner and sundown concert from The Sea The Sea, an upstate New York-based indie folk-pop duo featuring Chuck and Mira Costa, who are returning to Empire. According to Lively, 98 percent of the ingredients for the dinner last year came from the on-site farm or sourced locally, a goal they’re hoping to hit again. “We did have to buy some mayo and mustard, but almost everything else came from the region,” Lively says proudly.
Saturday is the all-day music jamboree featuring acts like Austin’s indie rock outlaw country fusion band Good Looks and Austin singer-songwriter Rebecca Loeb. Detroit’s rock group Zastava plays alongside singer Fay Burns performing solo (you may know her as one half of Escaping Pavement). Also playing are folk singer Michael Camp, Michigan-based acoustic pop musician Sierra Cassidy, and artist Allie Kessel from Traverse City. Jason Weems acts as the maestro of intros and stories in between acts.
Closing the festival and new this year is the Gospel Brunch. “I used to go to this taqueria in Austin on Sundays where we’d drink frozen margaritas, eat breakfast tacos, and listen to this unbelievably cool gospel jam. I’ve been wanting to do one here for a while, and it finally came together this year,” Lively says.
Grand Rapids based Avalon Cutts-Jones, a self-described “choir girl with quartet roots who loves jazz harmonies while performing classical with a neo soul vibe,” headlines on Saturday night and then leads the Gospel Brunch lineup on Sunday morning with other visiting artists.
There is a lot to love about this gem of an event, from the laid-back and authentic atmosphere, to the beautiful NoMi outdoor setting, to the genuinely great music treated with respect by those excited to discover new acts and hear new sounds. Families and children are welcome, parking is easy, and you can create the perfect seat by bringing your own chairs or blankets.
The festival offers several packages and passes, along with individual tickets to select events and on-site camping options. It runs Aug. 19 to 21, 2022. For more information, visit thelivelylands.com