The 16th annual festival on this island in northern Lake Michigan boasted regional stars, from Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band to The Legal Immigrants. Check out the recap and photo gallery at Local Spins.
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For a three-day period in July, Beaver Island’s population more than triples as concertgoers and artists board ferries and single-engine airplanes to reach the 56-square-mile island, which lies about 32 miles off the coast of Charlevoix.
From views above, the island appears to act as Lake Michigan’s stepping stone between the upper and lower peninsulas.
The Beaver Island Music Festival itself is known for combining diverse musical tastes with a family-friendly atmosphere of pure and mostly untouched Michigan wilderness. The island boasts beautiful beaches along its coast in the middle of Michigan’s second largest body of fresh water.
By the time the two-hour boat ride from the mainland hits its halfway point, ferry riders find themselves surrounded by the mighty presence of Lake Michigan, where even on a clear day, the distant outlines of civilization can barely be made out over the massive expanse of dark blue water.
I was returning for the second year in a row, having made my Beaver Island debut in 2017 performing with Melophobix. This year however, I was assisting my good friends and fellow GR-based band Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys.
The festival’s lineup was comprised of various artists, ranging from solo acoustic singer-songwriters act to multi-member in-your-face rock ’n’ roll bands. With Grand Rapids’ flourishing music scene, it’s no wonder that several GR-based artists made either their first or repeat appearances among the ranks of musicians featured over the weekend.
The festival grounds contain a one-of-a-kind three-part stage, offering bands the opportunity to set up and tear down out of sight while music is simultaneously playing on another part of the stage. This format allows for quick changeovers and essentially non-stop action from the first to last note. Plenty of vendors, sponsors, and art and crafts accompany the musical portion, offering essential food, drink, and the occasional souvenir into the mix. In the early hours of the morning, there’s plenty of majestic beauty to explore in the island’s wilderness and beaches before the music kicks off in the afternoon.
DANCING, LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE AND SOME WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS
This year, despite numerous showers and late-night pouring rains, performances would continue without hesitation as prepared fans battled the storm with dancing, laughter and applause.
“I thought it was cool how everyone stuck it out despite the weather,” noted Robby Mason of Gunnar & the Grizzly Boys. “I wasn’t expecting very many people to stick around for the whole show, but they came prepared with rain coats and ponchos and partied all night.”
Beaver Island’s 2018 lineup included Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys, The Legal Immigrants, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, Roosevelt Diggs, The Gasoline Gypsies, The Novel Ideas, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Oh Brother Big Sister, The Cerny Brothers, Slim Gypsy Baggage and The Bootstrap Boys among others.
• The Cerny Brothers – Robert and Scott Cerny’s performances were among the top rung of the weekend’s performance ladder. The multi-talented brothers play various instruments throughout their set, switching from guitars to banjos to keys, all while banging various percussion instruments and singing their heartfelt tunes. From subtle lows and exuberant highs, this duo can fill any concert goer with all the feels.
• Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys – These Michigan-made boys are no strangers to the Beaver Island scene. Bringing a mix of traditional country and modern rock to stages across the country, the group’s songs contain simple messages that seem to resonate well with the masses. Coupled with a high-energy stage presence and ability to connect with their audiences, they are just about the only Grizzly you’d want to encounter in a relatively uninhabited forest.
• The Legal Immigrants – Another heavy hitter in the Grand Rapids scene, these bright young lads continue to impress audiences with raw and unrefined Rock and Roll. Unique melodies and tasty licks brought this party rock band a wealth of applause from Beaver Island crowds.
• The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Neither big, nor damned, this Indiana three-piece high-energy country blues band brought some foot stomping tunes to the stage. Rev Payton can play some serious guitar and harmonica, which explains why the other two members of the group hold down the percussive rhythms and backing vocals. Big band? Not really. Big sound? Hell, yeah.
• Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish – Leading the rockabilly revival is no easy task. This dynamic duo is also listed here for their high energy performances and bluesy rooted rock and roll. Between guitar strings and harmonica sings, the band is stellar at simplifying melodic melodies for maximum ear appeal.
With the festival growing year after year, and an obviously larger vendor presence than what I witnessed in 2017, it’s no wonder that Beaver Island will be a sought-out destination for those looking to escape traditional city life for some good-ole rugged camping and backwoods boot-stomping fun. The Island’s natural seclusion provides all the resources one needs to get back in touch with nature and do some much-needed soul searching.
Combining good music and good people, it’s no wonder the multi-genre festival normally includes some of Grand Rapids’ prime picks when it comes to performances. It’s definitely a weekend worth experiencing.
PHOTO GALLERY: Beaver Island Music Festival
Photos by Anna Sink
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC