Steppin’ In It, Rachael Davis & Peter Madcat Ruth, Fauxgrass, The Mainstays, DarlenYa and more delivered opening night gems, with organizers expecting up to 2,000 family-oriented festivalgoers this weekend at Circle Pines Center. (Photo gallery, video)
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It’s Buttermilk-ing time.
The fourth annual Buttermilk Jamboree at the Circle Pines Center between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo unfolded Friday amid chilly-for-June temperatures but with an upbeat attitude that had the family-friendly crowd — and organizers — smiling, dancing and embracing some of Michigan’s most compelling musical acts.
“What brought me back are the people here – just so friendly and kind-hearted,” said Dan Foster, of Kalamazoo and the West Michigan Glass Art Center. “As a vendor last year I left my booth unattended, using the honor system while I went for a swim in a nearby lake. When you can do something like that, that’s something special.”
For musicians, even those who were only performing at campground jams and open-mic sessions, it’s a time to lay back and enjoy diverse entertainment, workshops and a family vibe.
“The bigger the festival, the less kids you see. It’s irresponsible to bring them to the bigger ones, like Bonnaroo,” said singer and guitarist Nicholas Thomasma of Grand Rapids. “Here, there are kids everywhere. They make it about the kids.”
FROM BILL GROGAN’S GOAT TO RICK CHYME
They also make it about the music.
Early in the evening, Bill Grogan’s Goat from eastern Michigan unleashed their fast-paced fusion of Detroit rock and classic Irish folk music, telling tales of love, war and whiskey, and performing Scottish tongue twisters such as “Mary Mack.”
Having recently ventured all over the map, including time in Ireland, Morocco and northern Ontario, it comes as no surprise that Grand Rapids multi-instrumentalist and singer DarlenYa was so eager to blend a whole slew of genres into her set – from folk to jazz, calypso to samba, and plenty of other sounds that would catch you off guard. The sheer variety found on the now Grand Rapids-based musician’s latest album, “Curves Ahead,” not only kept Buttermilkers on their toes, but also dancing on their feet.
Though it has been six years since the release of her most recent studio album, Nashville-based Michigan native Rachael Davis certainly brought a few new gems with her to West Michigan this weekend. And while her primary instrument is most definitely a powerful and versatile voice, throughout her performance Davis rotated between acoustic guitar, ukulele and banjo, and was joined by beloved Michigan harmonica ace Peter “Madcat” Ruth.
Looking at Buttermilk’s lineup this year, it’s clear organizers have worked to round up a whole host of local and regional vets, but that isn’t to say that they aren’t also highlighting emerging acts such as Kalamazoo-based funk/soul quintet The Mainstays. Making its debut appearance at the jamboree, the soulful group brought a fresh sound to the stage with the groovy funk and dance-inspiring elements found in original works “Love” and “Feels Like a Great Day” off of the band’s most recent EP.
Another Buttermilk first-timer this year was progressive bluegrass quartet Fauxgrass, equipped with quite a few new songs, including “Lay that Hammer Down” (and with Mark Lavengood on Dobro).
DOZENS MORE ACTS ON TAP SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Heating up the chilly night with their traditional country swing, blues and roots rock, Lansing’s four-man band Steppin’ In It had the visitors at Buttermilk dancin’ in it. And as if group members don’t bring enough instruments to the stage of their own, they were joined by harmonicist Ruth for his second performance of the evening.
The festival continues today with national headliner Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, plus the Conklin Ceili Band, Ralston Bowles, Tony LaJoye, Luke Winslow King, Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, Tree City and much more. There will be a tribute to the legendary Big Bill Broonzy today and a festival-ending Pete Seeger Memorial Sing-Along on Sunday.
Get more information about Buttermilk Jamboree, along with the full lineup/schedule of bands you can save on your smartphone and take with you in a Local Spins advance story online here. Check out Friday’s photo gallery and some video highlights below.
— By David Specht and John Sinkevics for Local Spins
BUTTERMILK JAMBOREE PHOTO GALLERY WITH: The Mainstays, Rachael Davis & Peter Madcat Ruth, Fauxgrass, DarlenYa, Steppin’ In It.
Email John Sinkevics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music