For the first time, Cowpie will host a “Pathway to the Pasture” contest for local acts this spring to choose its final band for the August festival. More performers still to be announced.
The 2018 edition of Cowpie Music Festival in southern Kent County is upping the ante with some high-profile bookings while giving a dozen regional acts a chance to win the final performance slot through a series of March band contests.
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The annual festival being held Aug. 9-11 at Shagbark Farm has lassoed acclaimed national bluegrass acts Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper and The Steel Wheels, along with Grateful Dead tribute band Hyryder to pump up the three-day event.
Other acts and “the main headliner” will be announced in the near future.
Starting in mid-March, festival organizers also will host four band contests at locations in Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo and Lansing, with winners of each show competing in the finals on April 21 at The Intersection.
The champion of this “Pathway to the Pasture” competition will earn a Saturday performance slot at the Cowpie Music Festival, immediately following a set by Grand Rapids blues legend Jimmie Stagger and joining the roster of national and regional acts playing the 2018 event.
Travis Compton, Cowpie organizer and talent buyer, said the festival has long drawn interest “from so many gifted bands and we only have a limited number of slots to fill over the weekend. For that reason, we created one slot that would be reserved for the winner of a competition that still bares the Cowpie spirit.”
SHOWCASING ‘AS MUCH LOCAL TALENT AS POSSIBLE’
Compton said Cowpie has long supported “as much local talent as possible. The Pathway to the Pasture concert series allows the opportunity to promote bands that we think deserve more attention and also gives them a chance for more possible exposure at the festival itself.”
A Cowpie committee chose the 12 diverse, regional bands that will compete in each of the four preliminary rounds, starting March 16 at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids with The Zannies, Deerfield Run and Crooked Spires.
Holland’s Park Theatre hosts the second event on March 23, with The Smokin’ Dobroleles, As Am I and Mark Harrell; Old Dog Tavern in Kalamazoo will feature Quantum Fleek, Lushh and Trifocal on March 24; The Avenue Café in Lansing presents Biomassive, Stormy Chromer and Greggfish on March 30. The winner will be chosen April 21 at The Intersection from the four finalists.
Judging will involve “a three-way collaborative effort” on the part of Shagbark Farm owner “Farmer John” Crissman, a representative from Local Spins and fans. The “Pathway to the Pasture” band battle series is presented by Cowpie Music Festival, West Mitten Media and Further Frequencies.
“We aren’t looking for any specific styles in this competition. What we are looking for is a combination of creativity and musical craftsmanship,” Compton said.
“We take pride in the fact that Cowpie is such an eclectic festival and we encouraged that in this series as well. Several different genres will be represented throughout the series, and we will have to wait and see how diverse the finals are.”
The national acts announced thus far for Cowpie boast impressive resumes:
• Award-winning bluegrass fiddle player Michael Cleveland has earned lots of attention and praise along with his band Flamekeeper. The blind Indiana musician has been playing the violin since age 4, and his most recent album, “Fiddler’s Dream,” was nominated for a Grammy Award.
• Virginia’s The Steel Wheels has released 10 recordings since 2005, drawing kudos and awards along the way for music that spans folk, Americana, bluegrass, blues and old-time music.
• Hyryder returns to Cowpie after playing two sets at the festival in 2017, with the Indianapolis-based band touring the country and sharing stages with acts such as Keller Williams, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
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