Two music festivals unfurled south of Grand Rapids the same weekend with distinctly different vibes: Country music’s B93 Birthday Bash in Martin and the eclectic Buttermilk Jamboree in Delton. (Photos)
For the first time ever, two of West Michigan’s summer-launching music festivals took place on the same weekend south of Grand Rapids with thousands aboard — and each boasted a different vibe and plenty of fan enthusiasm for their respective musical charms.
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For the 25th year, radio station B93 hosted its Birthday Bash with a cadre of country stars, including Big & Rich, Jake Owen, Granger Smith, Parmalee, Brooke Eden, Tucker Beathard, Michael Ray, Joe Diffie, Luke Combs and more playing the 2017 edition. Thousands of fans poured onto the grounds of the U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin on Saturday and Sunday, with the weather cooperating sufficiently for most of the weekend. (Scroll down for a Local Spins photo gallery by Eric Stoike.)
Meanwhile, about 14 miles to the east, Buttermilk Jamboree unfurled in family-friendly fashion with five dozens acts playing over three days at Circle Pines Center near Delton (after moving this year from the second to the third weekend in June).
Get a separate Local Spins roundup and video highlights from opening day at Buttermilk via the link here, and read Matt Marn and Schyler Perkins’ recap of Saturday-Sunday performances below.
(The busy weekend also featured Founders Fest in downtown Grand Rapids, which drew another 8,000 people for a sold-out 10th anniversary street party. Check out the separate Local Spins recap and photo gallery.)
PHOTO GALLERY: B93 Birthday Bash Day 1
Photos by Eric Stoike, On the Run Photography
Local Spins writer Matt Marn marveled at his first Buttermilk Jamboree: “Featuring such a great variety of great music has been established already, but the bonds you form with fellow passionate music lovers along the way are a special thing that continued to amaze me. There was the sound tech across several stages who, seeing my press badges, opened up a few times with me about the snags and successes of that day.
There was the Beer Tent bouncer with a sense of humor, who shared enough people watching with me that by the end of the weekend, we had our own inside joke that broke both of us into smiles each time. There was the avid photographer who frequents music festivals all over the region. He didn’t have press credentials, but heck, his camera was better than mine, and he had a devoted eye and ear for great music. He said he has been to festivals all over, but he sees the Buttermilk Jamboree as truly special.
I have to say, I agree with him. And while I admittedly never learned their names, I saw them over and over again over the wekeend, and we bonded, in a small way. Sometimes, it’s about the big, show-stopping finales that leave the crowd screaming for encores which steal the headlines and make all the buzz about what was special about an event.
And then sometimes, at some places that are really special … even the little things can leave a huge impact, long after everyone has gone home.”
Here are some of his highlights from the weekend at Circle Pines Camp:
• From time to time, campers wandered around the grounds, playing acoustic music just for the fun of it. Sometimes in a group, sometimes alone, these ‘minstrels’ entertained the festival attendees, and helped make everyone feel welcome to express themseleves through the music they love.
• On Saturday morning, acoustic duo Thunderbolt and Lightfoot began to perform a song partly in French. They asked before beginning the tune, whether anyone present knew French. After a moment of silence from the crowd, a fan piped up, rattling off several lines of smooth French. The duo flinched, smiling. “Shoot,” one said with a laugh. “Well, look away for the next few minutes… look away.”
• A family sits at the Beer Tent patio, inspired from the events and music of the day so far. “This festival has such an eclectic mix of music and genres,” the mother said to me. “We have saxophone and all kinds of instruments over here, then an acoustic set with banjo and violin at the next tent. Plus, the great spirit of the place, Circle Pines Center, and what they do here. I love it. I mean, we just got a harmonica lesson from MadCat Ruth himself… where else can you do that?”
• Contemporary indie-folk duo Channing & Quinn brought the crowd to its feet, cheering Saturday afternoon at the Broonzy Stage. New fans who had happened to wander by the tent flocked to the pair to sing their praises. “I’ve never heard of you, but you were so good,” one new fan said. “You blew the other bands out of the water! I just got here recently, and was going to walk by, but what a pleasant surprise. I was in tears.”
• Broonzy Stage featured a special performance Saturday from some of the musicians from the festival. The performers took turns, sometimes collaborating, playing lively blues tunes from Big Bill Broonzy, a historic blues musician who spent time at Circle Pines Center and had a large impact on its community. It left the crowd cheering and clapping along, honoring the legend’s memory the way only the Buttermilk Jamboree can.
• Brotha James brought his lively, inspirational message to multiple stages Sunday. Earlier up on the main Orchard Stage, he had a popular set which had the crowd, young and old, clapping and dancing right with him. At one point, he jumped down into the crowd, mic in hand. And later, at the Kids’ Commons area, he played the same music, for kids and families. His inspirational messages are so positive, he didn’t need to change a thing to make it kid-friendly. And all the while, kids learned about fearlessly pursuing your dreams, and believing in themselves.
Local Spins writer Schyler Perkins offered up these highlights:
• Robin Connell and Kathy Lamar on Friday evening – The stage emcee introduced Robin and Kathy by saying, “These two don’t play together that often, but when they do, it’s like a blind date. You don’t really know what you’re going to get, and I’m all for that.” They couldn’t keep it a secret for long. Midway through the set, Robin introduced the band, which included her husband Paul Brewer (trombone), step-son Matt Brewer (bass guitar), and son Benny Brewer (saxophone). The family exhibited stunning musicality with melodies that blossomed with the volcals of Kathy Lamar.
• Diff & Dudley on Saturday afternoon – Smack in the middle of a set from Diff & Dudley at the Beer Tent stage, a power outage struck the tent. “It must have been the Merle Haggard gods!” called out one of the performers, “We’ve always said this song sounds too much like Merle!” Fortunately the event coordinator was close by with a solution. “They just had more amps onstage than we are used to having,” she said while directing crew to split up the electronics among multiple circuits nearby, “Everything seems to work out here, always.”
• Fable the Poet on Saturday evening – Under intimidating storm clouds, Fable the Poet fought off the rain with moving poetry as all of the seats filled up in this small side stage. Performing poems about reckoning with your past and mental illness (among other topics) the packed crowd only grew, despite the big band’s performance on the main stage which had its own lawn of observers. During the set Fable directed an exercise with the crowd. “I want you all to put your heads down — no peeking — and for every hardship I list off that you’ve experienced, hold up a finger.” The list ranged from abuse to addiction to family life, and when everyone opened their eyes, a sea of fingers hung in the air.
• Tia Imani Hanna on Saturday evening – Improvisational jazz group Tia Imani Hanna took to the Sugarbush stage on Saturday as the clouded light was fading at the jamboree. “You have just heard the world premiere of those last two songs,” said Tia, “What should we call them?” With the instrumentation of lute, percussion, violin, and vocals, this group brought life to the stage with driving rhythms and melodies from around the world, occasionally accented with scat singing from Tia. The crowd grew as the light shrank, and some spectators couldn’t help but dance along the sides of the pavilion.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buttermilk Jamboree
Photos by Derek Ketchum
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC