The good-time vibe of last year’s festival may have made it the best in Cowpie history, thanks to The Bootstrap Boys, Fauxgrass, Desmond Jones and more. Relive the highlights in words, photos and videos.
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It was supposed to be the final Cowpie Music Festival ever, with a re-branded celebration unfurling on southern Kent County’s Shagbark Farm in 2021.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
COVID-19 — which has wiped out nearly every Michigan music festival this summer — forced organizers to pull the plug on this year’s three-day festival which would have wrapped up on Saturday (Aug. 8) after performances by Spafford, Tunde Olaniran, Dixon’s Violin, Desmond Jones, Mungion, Lady Ace Boogie, Motor City Josh, Sophistafunk, ClusterPluck and more.
Instead, “Farmer John” Crissman and the rest of the Cowpie crew now plan to hit the re-start button in August 2021.
Until then, we thought it apropos to revisit the glory of Cowpie 2019 in words, photos and videos — a slice of nostalgia to help carry fans through what’s been a nearly silent summer of music.
COWPIE 2019 REVISITED
The Saturday night finale of the 2019 Cowpie Music Festival had all the elements of a perfect party.
A dazzling, muscular set by national headliner Cracker, with its bracing, smart rock and “weird country” music, a wild Desmond Jones “Squids on Fire” jam deep in the pasture adorned by spectacular fire dancers, and a funky post-midnight blast from Melophobix.
Oh, and absolutely ideal summer weather for an outdoor music festival.
A smiling and emotional chief Cowpie honcho “Farmer” John Crissman certainly appreciated the outcome of the three-day festival held on a working cattle farm, likely the most impressive and satisfying in the event’s history — even if it continues to be an economically and physically challenging labor of love.
Through it all, the 2019 festival featured more than 50 performances by local, regional and national acts on three stages with a rootsy, friendly and camaraderie-filled vibe. Here are some highlights from Days 2 and 3, with a recap of Day 1 here: Cowpie Music Festival’s ‘awesome,’ sun-filled opening day exudes upbeat, eclectic vibe
• Cracker — Saturday’s closing set on the main Pasture Stage impressed even those unfamiliar with Cracker, an alt-country-hued rock band with a 29-year legacy still led by singer-guitarist David Lowery and lead guitarist Johnny Hickman. The band cleverly weaved its biggest hits (“Low,” “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” “Euro-Trash Girl,” “Get Off This”) into a set that also featured newer classics such as “King of Bakersfield.” And they did so in nearly flawless fashion enhanced by Hickman’s tasty, scintillating guitar leads. – John Sinkevics
VIDEO: Cracker, “Low” (Cowpie Music Festival)
• The Bootstrap Boys — Grand Rapids-based country four-piece The Bootstrap Boys hit the main stage early Friday afternoon, the music and singer Big Jake’s overalls rocketed me back to the hometown country of my youth for a supremely enjoyable and nostalgic set. It was the band’s third year performing at Cowpie. “What draws me to Cowpie is it’s on a beautiful farm, good people come here, it’s a good crowd,” said singer and guitarist Jake “Big Jake Bootstrap” Stilson. “I’ve never seen a fight. Everyone is just here to have a good time and Farmer John always chooses good bands.” – Molly Long
• Mark Lavengood’s All-Star Band — The group featured Cowpie’s two “Artists At Large,” Mark Lavengood and Hannah Rose Graves, and members of Fauxgrass, Desmond Jones and more. The Frontier stage provided the perfect backdrop for the intimate set which included Mark Lavengood originals like the new song, “Age Of Barns,” and stirring full-band pieces, including a rendition of John Prine’s “Angel Of Montgomery.” – Molly Long
• Trifocal — Down the “Happy Trail” at Cowpie, Kalamazoo three-piece Trifocal made a dance floor out of the Frontier Stage early Saturday evening with its upbeat funk-rock tunes. – Liv Conaty
• Fauxgrass – Fauxgrass turned heads Friday evening as band members played their groovy fast-paced string set to kick off the second evening at Cowpie. The band created a lively atmosphere with its wild melodies and catchy songs. The progressive bluegrass band had the crowd “wooing” for more, drawing many fans to the front of the stage, jumping up and down to the danceable beats on the sunshine-filled evening. “We have played at Cowpie for the past four or five years,” mandolinist Jason Wheeler said. “I love the camaraderie with all the other bands and getting to spend time with each other.” – Autumn Babas
• Desmond Jones – Desmond Jones hit the stage full of energy on Friday evening. The five-man rock/jam band from Grand Rapids unleashed its unique and eccentric twist on music with spontaneous dance moves to begin the breezy night. With the band blasting out head-bobbing guitar solos and smooth saxophone riffs, many fans couldn’t stay seated but turned the area in front of the stage into a dance floor. The band, which recently released its sophomore album, “Hello, Helou,” also unveiled some fresh new material for the Cowpie crowd. “We have been a band for seven years and that helps us perform so well,” noted singer-guitarist Chris Bota. “We are just ourselves and nobody is like us.” – Autumn Babas
VIDEO: Desmond Jones: Squids on Fire
COWPIE QUIPS AND QUOTES
• “It feels like home, that’s probably the best way that I can phrase that. I look forward to it every year, it’s like an escape from reality.” – Hannah Rose Graves, of Hannah Rose & The GravesTones and a Cowpie “Artist At Large”
• “What I like most is that it’s a small festival. I don’t like the bigger ones so this is just the perfect-for-me size.” – Festivalgoer Jenne Tokarczyk, a sophomore attendee of Cowpie browsing the vendor tents.
• “I couldn’t wait to see Fauxgrass. They make the atmosphere fun wherever they go.” – Festivalgoer Erica Weller of Grand Rapids
• “I came for the day, my first time at Cowpie, for my favorite local band Melophobix. Their guitar player is playing his last few shows (with the band), so I had to come see.” – Festivalgoer Jessica Hower, of Grand Rapids
• “We love it here, telling people the stories of my shop, and being able to hear the music just down the hill.” – Vendor Henny Shauffer, of Caledonia, who’s been selling her handmade accessories at Cowpie for more than 14 years.
• “I love how Desmond Jones isn’t afraid to hide their outgoing personalities when they are performing. They’re awesome and this is the second time I’ve seen them.” – Festivalgoer Taylor Lorren of Grand Rapids
• “Cowpie is so much fun. I love the beautiful weather and how you can dance to the music with your family. Desmond Jones is the perfect dancing music.” – Festivalgoer Haley Stone of Grand Rapids
VIDEO: Cowpie 2019 Recap
PHOTO GALLERY: Cowpie Music Festival
Photos by Anna Sink
Photos by Derek Ketchum
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC