A solid first-day crowd at the music fest in southern Kent County reveled in impressive sets by May Erlewine, Hyryder, Mungion and more while finding a groovy new second stage. Photos, video.
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Rolling up to the rustic entrance to Shagbark Farm on Thursday for opening night of the 2018 edition of the Cowpie Music Festival, things looked homey and familiar as always – from the goat greeting happy kids to the smiling attendants handing out wristbands to campers.
But the simple sign outside the gates hinted at some changes, proclaiming “The New Cowpie Music Festival.”
Indeed, while the down-on-the-farm atmosphere, unparalleled camaraderie and laid-back vibe remain, Cowpie 2018 has definitely upped the ante in a variety of ways – from extending electricity to the main Pasture Stage, thus avoiding any brownouts, to significantly enhancing the second, very groovy Frontier Stage to booking ever bigger national acts and regional stars.
Now firmly established as a three-day affair, Thursday’s opening night seemed like the ideal warm-up to a weekend of musical bliss, led by Farmer John Crissman and his army of organizers and volunteers.
With a gentle breeze blowing amid wonderfully overcast conditions (thus avoiding the searing August sunshine), opening acts Quantum Fleek from Kalamazoo and Olivia & The Aquatic Troupe from Holland regaled a small but growing cadre of festival attendees and campers setting up their sites.
By the time Earthwork Music artist and Michigan indie-folk star May Erlewine took the stage in early evening, Cowpie-goers had gathered a tad closer to the stage, with children and families relishing one of the sweetest voices this side of the Mississippi – a voice that drew goosebumps more than once, especially during Erlewine and band’s rendition of “That’s My Home,” her musical “letter to the President.”
Erlewine also expressed the sentiments of many musicians and fans: “What a beautiful piece of land. It’s an oasis,” she remarked. “This is my first Cowpie and I’m so grateful to be here.”
GROOVY, TENTED FRONTIER STAGE AN INSTANT HIT
Of course, so were those lounging in the pasture-turned-amphitheater, a grateful bunch that quickly morphed into start-the-weekend-early party mood after the Indianapolis-based Grateful Dead tribute band Hyryder took the stage for late-night set that had folks dancing, hooting and otherwise rollicking in front of the stage – a stage that this year also featured video projections.
Meanwhile, a short hike away on the mucho-amped-up Frontier Stage at the edge of the campground, rock band Uncle Rhombus got the evening started amid a colorful video backdrop.
Chicago’s Mungion then kicked off a post-midnight set with its incredible, instrumentally adroit jam-band magic, igniting an instant dance party inside the new tented venue that’s liable to become a big Cowpie hit, thanks to its nifty lighting, decor and bar.
By the time the band launched into that set in the psychedelically adorned Frontier tent, the clouds had cleared, exposing a star-filled night sky, making for a grand finish to a nearly perfect opening day.
“So far, so good. Nice crowd for a Thursday,” Crissman conceded. “I think we’re established (as a festival).”
And to think: Thursday’s opening volley of this musical celebration on a gorgeous patch of paradise near Caledonia was, so to speak, just the tip of the Cowpie.
The rest of the weekend features national headliners such as Keller Williams, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, The Steel Wheels, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus and many more. See the schedule below.
(Check out a full recap of Cowpie next week at Local Spins. Friday-Saturday festival tickets are $80 at the gate, or $40 for Friday-only, $45 for Saturday-only. Details online here.)
PHOTO GALLERY No. 1: Cowpie Music Festival Day 1
Photos by Anna Sink
Photos by Veronica Leigh Anderson
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC