With Desmond Jones, Bootstrap Boys, Cosmic Knot and more on the bill, next weekend’s cozy affair has ‘cute and endearing’ written all over it — part of a trend toward intimate regional music festivals.
Sure, it’s small, but organizers are proud of it, dubbing it the “best tiny fest in the Mitten State.”
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Tamarack Music Festival unfurls Friday and Saturday (July 29-30) on a 10-acre site outside Morley in Mecosta County, about 45 miles north of Grand Rapids
The two-day festival will a host of regional favorites, including jam bands such as Desmond Jones and Cosmic Knot, vintage country’s The Bootstrap Boys and bluegrass outfit The Smokin’ Dobroleles.
So while 40,000-plus wild country fans have descended on the Michigan International Speedway in Jackson County for this weekend’s over-the-top Faster Horses Festival, Tamarack is part of a growing roster of intimate summer music festivals that focus on Michigan bands, a family-friendly atmosphere and, well, small-time musical fun.
And that’s small as in a couple of hundred attendees.
“Tamarack Music Festival events were started by our love for music and the community it creates,” said John Harvey, who organizes the festival with his wife, Dee.
“We strive to create an environment of acceptance and being among friends with music and creativity bringing us together.”
With post-pandemic concert ticket prices skyrocketing and major festivals fraught with potential hassles, smaller gatherings and “boutique” festivals have found favor with music lovers seeking a low-cost weekend of camaraderie and top-tier entertainment.
Another small festival attracting a few hundred devotees, LivelyLands Music Festival near Empire, takes place Aug. 19-21. Executive producer and organizer Emily Lively describes it as “a meaningful shared experience,” with this year’s event featuring the likes of Avalon Cutts-Jones, The Sea The Sea, Good Looks and several others.
For the Harveys, it all started by hosting a small reggae event for a dozen years along with other intimate gatherings, eventually launching Tamarack Music Festival in 2019. The festival continued through COVID with a small socially distanced event, then grew last year with headliner Dixon’s Violin.
“The happy energy and enjoyment was obvious when you looked around,” he said, noting this year’s cozy affair expects attendance of about 200 people, with a diversity of genres and hands-on activities for festivalgoers.
Acts playing Friday include The Bootstrap Boys, Jaik Willis, Slow Foot, Abe Kurzer, Top Shelf Country, Cetan Clawson and Beaver Xing, the duo that kicks off the music starting at 2 p.m.
Saturday’s sets – starting at noon – will feature Top Shelf Country, Ted Bounty, Justin Wierenga, Les Older, The Smokin’ Dobroleles and Fay Burns & The Embers, with Desmond Jones and Cosmic Knot closing out the evening. The aerial artist Cassie Catania will also perform during the weekend.
“We are definitely rookies, but love all the talent we encounter in our festival-attending life,” Harvey said. “It brings us great pleasure to give them the opportunities to perform.”
Tickets, $50, are available online here, along with more information about the weekend festival.
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