It’s time for readers to speak out when it comes to their favorite concert and festival experiences of the past summer — and some of their comments show just how memorable those experiences were.
Local Spins has two ways of gauging what Michigan’s top shows and festivals of the past summer have been.
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First, there are the numbers — black and white stats reflecting which events drew the most readers when it comes to Local Spins coverage.
On that score, there’s a clear No. 1: Peter Frampton’s impressive June 19 tour kickoff concert at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture, with the Local Spins show review drawing the most readers by a fairly wide margin.
At No. 2, it was our coverage of late June’s mammoth Electric Forest festival, followed by the June 23 farewell concert by blues great Buddy Guy at Meijer Gardens, Jason Isbell’s rainy Aug. 6 tour stop at that same amphitheater and, finally, Snoop Dogg’s July 25 concert spectacle at Van Andel Arena.
But then there are the actual fan favorites, surveyed VERY informally via Local Spins’ Question of the Week which asked readers in the weekly Amplified newsletter and on Facebook: “What was your favorite concert or festival of summer of 2023 and what made it special?”
Of course, it’s a small sample size and completely unscientific, but it provides great insights into the concert and festival experiences that made a lasting impression on attendees.
With that in mind, Hoxeyville Music Festival held in Wellston Aug. 18-20 was cited by respondents more often than any other summer music festival and Michigan-bred bluegrass superstar Billy Strings’ eye-popping, ear-pleasing June 16 tour stop at Pine Knob Music Theatre earned the most mentions of any concert.
Other festivals lauded by readers: Shagbark Music & Arts Festival, Smiling Acres Music Festival, Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, Nor-East’r Music & Art Festival, Ludrock, Pond Jam and Blissfest. Frampton, Isbell, The Swell Season and Greensky Bluegrass also earned kudos.
Check out the reader comments below and add your own favorite concerts or festivals of summer in the comments section, or by emailing email@example.com. We’ll add your picks to this post and update it later this month. Sign up for email updates and our ‘Amplified’ newsletter here.
THE BEST OF SUMMER: THE READER FAVORITES
Mike Ward – For me Nor-East’r (festival) was so intimate, such a beautiful community of both musicians and fans plus it was made even better by perfect weather.
Shari Gillette – I loved Ludrock! It was super special because my grandsons’ band played there.
Sherry Beebe – Music on the Lawn in Ada. The Kari Lynch Band brought one of their old band members on the stage to play guitar & rock out with them on a few songs.
Pamela Metivier – Porcupine Mountains Music Festival is mine. Fantastic main stage lineup, Chalet Stage and Busking Barn are stacked with great performers. All on the edge of Superior.
Karmel Berens – That’s a tough one. Sooooo many great events. For me personally, it has to be Roosevelt Diggs at Buses by the Beach festival, or when Roosevelt Diggs played in Grand Haven on the Waterfront.
Jim Newman – Showing the western U.P. some love: The Dam Jam, Farm Block, Porcupine Mountains Music Festival.
Karen Dunnam – Haven’t got there yet, but I know it will be Tuba Skinny this Friday (at Wheatland).
Tami Ledger – Ludrock, especially the music and friends part.
Mathew Ulrich – There were quite a few great ones, but the one that stood out for me was Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, and Yonder Mountain String Band at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe lawn. A close second was Cow bark, no wait, Shag pie, no, Shagbark Music & Arts Festival.
Vicki Stein – Indigo Girls at Listening Lawn.
Chris VanWyck – Ludrock. As a fan and as a performer, it can’t be beat. Rock on.
Amy Theobald – For me and my teenage daughter, it was the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival and seeing THEEE baddest female guitarist ever, she is THEEE female Jimi Hendrix, Jackie Venson. She tore it up. And got to meet her and she did a birthday shout out for my daughter. This woman is a blessing, so down to earth. What a beautiful soul to bless us all. It was phenomenal. Can’t wait to see her again.
Jackie Venson – Amy: What a great time, much love.
Meagen Coburn – Hoxeyville Music Festival had such an outrageous lineup this year. It was an end-to-end delight. Weather was flawless. Family-friendly energy. Warblers (semi) surprise set. Molly Tuttle tearing her wig off and singing Crooked Tree. Marcus generally blowing the trees back.
Dks Kim – When I saw the Kari Lynch Band downtown G.R.
Michael J Vizard – Captain Geech & The Shrimp Shack Shooters.
Michael Feddema – So many to choose from. So here are the three festivals that stood out the most to me: Smiling Acres nestled in our tree-stump capital explores what it means to be part of a huge family reunion. Great food, kids running around everywhere and a resilient familiar feeling that we’re all in this together. Ben Traverse Airborne or Aquatic? Normal Mode The Accidentals Mark Lavengood. Shagbark Music and Arts Festival executed their inaugural year with a bang! Style and pyro, rich with a gaggle of local talent and celebrities all within the closeknit warmth of a hometown throwdown! Chirp Desmond Jones Earth Radio Full Chord Myron Elkins. Hoxeyville Music Festival aka the power house of magic within the north woods of Michigan. Stars, lights & lasers. National acts next to northern favorites grow a culture that endlessly harbors greatness.
Brock Brewer – Billy Strings @ Pine Knob: That ‘Highway Hypnosis.’
Barbara Hass – Greensky Bluegrass at Meijer Gardens.
Lynn Borema – Ludrock: 10 free, local, fun, friends. Great music for two days.
Alex Austin – The Swell Season show at Meijer Gardens was amazing, and despite Deerfield’s set getting cut due to weather, Smiling Acres was a good time overall.
Mike Schertenlieb – Maybe it’s some recency bias, but Pond Jam this past weekend was fantastic! Tons of great chats with musicians i don’t get to see very often, killer sets all weekend, a pretty wide variety of music, great weather, and good vibes in every direction.
Tom Wall – Agreed that Pond Jam was one of the best by far.
Vanessa Clark – Marcus King band at Hoxeyville Music Festival; My Son The Hurricane at Blissfest; Jill Scott at The Fox; and Dashboard Confessional in Detroit.
Bob Gould – Steep Canyon Rangers at the Listening Lawn was spectacular. Small crowd, but very enthusiastic and that fed the musicians on stage. It felt like a concert in your own backyard. Brandi Carlile at Interlochen was even more perfect. The crowd was electric and her voice is pretty terrific. The Twins (Tim and Phil), that perform with her, provide harmonies reminiscent of CSN. She is the real deal.
Craig Carrick – Erik W. Koskinen at Nor-East’r Music & Art Festival. Also, Good Morning Bedlam at the Skyline Event Center
Chad Michael Wedeven – Pound for pound, Smiling Acres has to take the trophy, for the mix of musical excellence and friendship opportunities. Blissfest being a close second. And Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello at Interlochen was a curmudgeonly treat.
Kelly Latimer – The Swell Season was my highlight this summer (and is probably Top 10 ever). The crowd, the realness of the band, and the atmosphere just blew me away.
Mike Dodge – Peter Frampton (at Meijer Gardens) was the best I thought. If one good thing came from COVID, there are more outdoor/summer venues than ever. Every little township now has a space for weekly music events. Keeps my gig schedule busy, I only have ONE week/weekend off from the second week of June until the end of October. That’s 20 of 21 weeks of gigging.
Chuck Whiting – Hoxeyville hands down. Molly Tuttle and Sierra Hull in the same weekend. So rad!
Joel Schultze – Yo La Tengo at Bell’s outdoors.
Jen Helsel – Each one was so special in its own unique way. From the really big ones to the simple gatherings in the woods, and the ones in between, I loved every single one of them this year.
Mark Sturr – Hoxeyville
Jay Jylkka – Nor-East’r Music & Art Festival was pretty darn special. Some great discoveries: Josh Rose and Erik W. Koskinen. Some amazing favorites: Mike Ward, Voxanna, Annie and Rod Capps, Amy Petty , and so many more. Great stages, great people, so friendly. First time for me and so looking forward to going back.
Randy Scott Marsh – My favorite concert experience was playing with the legendary Bob James in a trio setting for a festival in early July in Suttons Bay.
Sonja Garcia – Hoxeyville Music Festival, hands down. We had loved ones from age 4-85 in our group, enjoying everything Hoxeyville has to offer. Lifetime memories made.
Melodee Van Bogelen Horsford – For sure, Peter Frampton (at Meijer Gardens). It is now one of my “all-time” favorite shows.
Troy Brock – In order so far: 1. Arctic Monkeys/Fountaines DC; 2. Beck/Phoenix/Weyes Blood; 3. Manchester Orchestra/Jimmy Eat World; 4. Bonnaroo in general, very good overall.
Kyle Rasche – Sweet Water Warblers w/ R.O. Shapiro at Midtown GR. Unreal.
Thomas Fouts – The Schrock Bros with Peter Madcat Ruth and Michael Shimmin.
Jake Robinson – Our family was lucky to enjoy our first Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit show together at FMG. Such a fun night.
Brad Hastings – Michigan Summers are INTENSE. The amount of music that you can go see on any given night is magical and we are lucky, despite sometimes feeling like I will never catch up on rest and relaxation. Here are some of my favorites from this summer. Concert: Billy Strings at Pine Knob was one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life. I have seen quite a few and quite a few Billy shows, but man, they lit that place on fire. Festivals: Hoxeyville, Shagbark and Pond Jam. And if anyone likes to travel out of state for a fest, 4848 Festival in West Virginia is amazing.
Bruce Ling – The best one we’ve played this summer was the Beer Tent Stage at Buttermilk/Circle Pines Center, with new band members Austin Benzing and Jeremiah Wenger. But we have the same lineup this Sunday at 1 at the Wheatland Dance Pavilion for the Waltz Hour, with Keala Venema playing twin fiddles with me. I think this’ll top our summer. Hey, how about that Breakaway Music Festival at Belknap Park?
Michael R. Hampton – Andy Grammer
Justin Stover – I’ve honestly listened to more podcasts than music and attended more movies than concerts this summer. But the best concert I saw was Lord Huron at Milwaukee Summer Fest. I could barely see the show because we were in the back and it was still incredible. I honestly didn’t give a fart about the band at first, but that concert made them a fave.
Annalee Burns Baxter – I’d say I love the Rockford Rogue River Blues Series. Rochelle and the Spoilers absolutely blew me away.
Stacy Noonan – Forest Trail Music Festival. It feels like one big family reunion.
Ryan Dahlberg- Sav Buist of the Accidentals’ solo show at French Valley Vineyard in Cedar, Mich.
Jim Marcusse – Jason Isbell at Frederik Meijer Gardens. It rained the whole show. Didn’t care.
Carol Cornett – Smiling Acres had a great lineup. It is a music festival filled with peace, love, music, sunshine.
James Wolf – Hamtramck Labor Day Festival.
Steve Goeddeke – Marcus King at Hoxeyville threw down. Best show I’ve seen in a very long time.
David Bauman – Pato Banton at the July 15, 2023 Battle Creek Caribbean Festival just plain amazing. Nobody wanted to go home, Pato just kept playing until we were told we had to pull the plug.
Brenda Lavengood – Smiling Acres by far was the best. It just gets better every year.
Wendy Dykman Baker – 100 percent Smiling Acres. Always my favorite, three years and counting. Greensky Bluegrass at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Billy Strings at Pine Knob Music Theatre & Shagbark Music and Arts Festival.
Patty Williams – Sounds of Summer, Cutlerville
Jennifer Alexander – The Dirty Nil at Pyramid Scheme, plus Act Casual & NOMO all melted my face clean off.
John LaCross – French Road Bash. Nothing close.
Bob Crissman – I may be a little biased, but LOVED the Shagbark Music and Arts Festival this year. Myron Elkins was awesome and the crowd equally enthusiastic.
Mamie Graziano – Blissfest: International, national and local musicians that create a heartfelt experience. Now on to the best fall fests: Wheatland and Earthwork Harvest Gathering. Also, right up there was the CJ Chenier Zydeco in Caledonia.
Nic Stubbs – Shimmie Pearl at the Park Theatre and Comments of Aether at The Intersection.
Mark Lavengood – Damn, that Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. #returntotheriver celebration was next level. Hard to pick just one though as Michigan is rich with the sweetest community of live music patrons and venues to showcase our Uber talented artists.
ADD YOUR FAVORITE FESTIVAL OR CONCERT PICKS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OR EMAIL THEM TO firstname.lastname@example.org.
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