They came, they saw, they strummed guitars and watched regional acts on four stages at Kalamazoo Valley Museum this weekend. Check out the Local Spins roundup, photos and videos from the 2017 festival.
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If the Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival were held on a city block full of nightclubs and bars, there’d be a venue for everyone — from a honky-tonk to an R&B nightspot to a coffee shop for up-and-coming Americana and folk sensations to a local brewery where jamgrass fans could get down and boogie.
Sans the beer and cocktails commonplace at such locations, that’s exactly what the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in downtown Kalamazoo turned into on Saturday afternoon.
After Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys played to a record opening night crowd Friday evening, the 12th annual festival kicked into high gear on Saturday with a diverse musical sampling featuring everything from the hip-hop flair of Kalamazoo’s Last Gasp Collective to the bluegrass sounds of Ann Arbor’s Dragon Wagon and Grand Rapids’ Fauxgrass to Kalamazoo country artists Double-Strung and Bob Rowe & the Green Valley Boys to emerging artists such as Marshall blues-rocker Jake Kershaw, Kalamazoo’s Mechele Peters and more.
“It’s important that attendees get to check out a lot of different types of music, which is why we brought in the Orquestra Tradicion this year, with their Latin sound, we brought in Nashon Holloway (R&B), and then we have the Seventh Son Blues Band which is the oldest blues band in Kalamazoo,” said Chris Falk who has been serving as the special events coordinator of the festival since 2013.
When Falk took over the festival, it was a small get-together featuring approximately five bands, three or four workshops and about 10 vendors. In the past five years, the festival — now boasting more than a dozen performances on four stages — has grown to the point where artists and vendors are now contacting Falk about being involved and not the other way around.
While attendance was down from last year’s record-breaking turnout of 3,700 people — something Falk attributes to a lot of other things happening in Kalamazoo over the weekend — many of the performances drew capacity crowds. Falk said he hopes continued interest in the festival translates into a third day being added in coming years.
A true paradise for a musician or music fan of any age, attendees had the opportunity to attend one of nine workshops ranging from to instrument-specific classes that honed in on the hammered dulcimer, mandolin, banjo and the ukulele to more wide-ranging performance- and songwriting-driven workshops to “Coffee and Doughnuts with the Luthiers,” which drew nearly 100 people.
CATERING TO KIDS AND ADULTS ALIKE
Impromptu jam sessions hosted by the Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association and K’Zoo Folklife Organization saw musicians from all backgrounds drop in, and families dotted the festival landscape with Small Sounds giving children the opportunity to play multiple instruments at one of the three hands-on concerts they put on over the course of the day.
“The museum is great and there’s so much hands-on for kids, but I really wanted there to be something for kids to do music-related,” Falk said. “Small Sounds nailed it, they did such a great job. I just feel it is very important to start kids out at a very young age, learning and wanting to play music.”
With 40 vendors spread between two museum floors and in the Anna Whitten Hall next door, adults and older children also had the chance to get hands on, and pick up instruments from numerous top-tier Michigan brands such as Kalamazoo’s own Heritage Guitar, Inc. and Kalamazoo Guitar Company, Lansing’s Elderly Instruments and Caledonia’s Sola Gratia Custom Bass Guitars to name a few.
The community aspect of the festival was felt by most it seemed and definitely not lost on the artists.
“It’s been delicious,” Holloway said not long after her band walked off the stage. “I’m still feeling it. It’s still resonating. Hopefully people feel the same way. For me, coming to festivals like this, it feels like the audience the way they pay attention is different than any other kind of audience. I feel very warm and thankful.”
So while the weather outside was indeed cold, inside was nothing short of that warm, thankful vibe by artists and attendees alike.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival
Photos by Derek Ketchum
VIDEO: Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival 2017 Highlights
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC