The 14th annual festival along Lake Michigan between Grand Haven and Holland kicked off the holiday weekend with live music, a family vibe and VW buses. Story, photo galleries.
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The first day of the Bus Benefit presented by Buses by the Beach in West Olive was a near-perfect summary of summer in West Michigan: live music, dancing, grilling burgers and, of course, rain.
“This breeze feels good, except my piano is getting leaked on,” Ryan Williams, lead singer for The Change, said from the stage at one point. His slow drawl matched the ambiance that evening — a powerful rasp, extending itself as steady and climatic.
The wet weather on Friday couldn’t deter these festival-goers. The lively audience filling the tented stage area at Camp Blodgett danced and clapped along to beats by The Change and Nicholas James & the Bandwagon, with fans young and old up on their feet.
Smiling in triumph underneath the dimly lit tent, fan Wendy Hoerner insisted, “We love the rain. We come for the rain.” Of course, she also came for the impressive lineup of regional music, which will feature the Tony Lajoye Trio, Adrian & Meredith, Fauxgrass and Third Coast Kings starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, and Brother Adams, Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe, Roosevelt Diggs and The Way Down Wanderers starting at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Change’s shifts between alternative rock, bluegrass, and piano-driven blues started off the evening with a bang, followed by Nicholas James & the Bandwagon’s uplifting, folk-inspired tunes that gave listeners a sense of comfort.
The vibe for the night was the feeling of being at home in a community of complete strangers, drawn from a place of genuine love. With its brightly colored Volkswagen buses, and children running through rain puddles with dogs following close behind, the Bus Benefit perked up spirits in the midst of the dreary weather.
FEELING ‘AT HOME’ AND AIDING A GOOD CAUSE
“Appreciation is a very good word for it,” said Williams. “Not often do you go to a venue to play a show where the crowd is actually quiet, just listening because they’re there for the musician.”
The presence of friends and family, he said, have kept him coming back to Buses by the Beach the past three years.
“It does feel like you’re at home,” conceded attendee Mary Avery, as she watched performers from a distance outside the tent, “even though there’s a bunch of people you don’t know.”
There was much to do at the event beyond listening to the bands, from observing the gorgeous VW buses to checking out a silent auction to admiring local VW-inspired art.
Family was a common theme brought up by audience members and band members — a sense of belonging, whether you are a first-time festival-goer or a veteran — making this a perfect kickoff to the summer music festival season. Just as important, Buses by the Beach donates all of the weekend’s profits to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.
The 14th annual festival will continue through Monday morning.
Weekend passes are available at the gate for $75; day passes for $35. The festival takes place at 10451 Lakeshore Drive between Grand Haven and Holland (on the east side of Lakeshore Drive across from the main entrance to Camp Blodgett). Get more information online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buses by the Beach Bus Benefit 2016 Opening Day
Phootos by Deshia Dunn
Photos by Anna Sink