The sixth annual festival in a remote area of Barry County reveled Friday in rousing regional music and a family-friendly atmosphere with much more to come. (Photo gallery, video)
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Circle Pines Center has a history of social activism, of nurturing legendary artists such as folk-bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, of creating a community that builds community in a special way.
But in recent years, this enclave in a remote area of Barry County south of Grand Rapids has also carved out a new historical milestone – a family-oriented music and arts festival that showcases some of the region’s most important and promising bands and solo artists amid a comfortable atmosphere unlike any other in the smorgasbord of dozens of Michigan music festivals.
Celebrating its sixth year, Buttermilk Jamboree took another step toward cementing its historical significance in the Great Lake State on Friday night with an opening flurry of top-drawer, diverse Michigan acts ranging from surf rock’s The Concussions to psychedelic folk-rock’s Big Dudee Roo to funk’s The Mainstays to vintage retro-folk artist Megan Dooley to hip hop’s Lady Ace Boogie and Rick Chyme to Americana’s Nathan Kalish & The Last Callers to twang rockers The Go Rounds and much, much more.
And as vibrant and energetic as the performances on all of the festival’s stages were on Friday, the word used most often to describe the three-day celebration was “laid-back.”
“It’s a chill festival,” said Ryan Williams, frontman for West Michigan’s The Change and a longtime supporter of Michigan’s festival scene.
Organizers, including a happy Tom VanHammen, Circle Pines staff and an army of volunteeers, couldn’t have asked for a more perfect launch to this year’s affair, with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper ’80s.
EASYGOING MILIEU, MUSICAL CAMARADERIE AND TERRIFIC MUSIC
Children twirled, hula-hooped and scampered about the idyllic, forested site, adults wandered from stage to stage and quaffed Michigan beer in the beer tent, and grinning musicians hugged, collaborated and otherwise reveled in the easygoing, pressure-free milieu of a festival that continues today with a full lineup of performances (including a tribute to Broonzy, who worked a Circle Pines Center in the 1950s) and again Sunday with an impressive slate of regional artists. National act The Blasters plays at 10 p.m. Saturday.
This festival has grown over the years, attracting upwards of 2,000 people, but it hasn’t lost its charm. And the camaraderie and upbeat attitude weren’t lost on the performers.
“This is an amazing place,” Andrew Schrock, lead singer for Kalamazoo’s The Mainstays gushed at one point from the main Orchard Stage, just before his dad, Mark Schrock, and Dooley joined him on stage to sing with the funk band. “It’s all about cooperation and collaboration.”
And, of course, memorable times.
Graham Parsons of The Go Rounds, another Kalamazoo band that pumped up an overflow crowd on the Sugar Bush Stage deep into the evening on Friday, may have said it best.
“What a beautiful thing,” Parsons remarked. “What a beautiful place to come to.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Buttermilk Jamboree 2016, Day One
Photos by Anna Sink
VIDEO: Buttermilk Jamboree 2016, Day One Highlights
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC