The music festival on Shagbark Farm near Caledonia reveled in perfect summer weather while firing up stages with music by Sophistafunk, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish, Cabildo, Mungion and more.
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“This festival is a special one because of not only the incredible lineup of local and regional bands and artists, but the true family vibe that is put out on the site for the weekend,” he said of the festival on Shagbark Farm near Caledonia where Desmond Jones is playing three straight nights of jams.
“There’s plenty of room to camp where you please with whom you please, no long lines, tons of families and good people.”
And Cowpie 2019 got rolling Thursday with what can only be described as perfect festival weather, much to the delight of farm owner and Cowpie honcho “Farmer” John Crissman.
It all began with an impressive mid-afternoon, warm-up set by the Detroit-area’s Gasoline Gypsies on the Haywagon Stage.
“It was awesome,” said Caleb Malooley, singer and guitarist for The Gasoline Gypsies, who romped into their first Cowpie by unleashing a nostalgia-tinged set of rock.
“It was a good experience to open the whole thing, better than I thought it would be, bigger crowd than I thought it would be. The vibe reminds me of … Wheatland that I’ve been going to my whole life.”
As far as the main Pasture Stage, the festival officially launched with a sun-splashed rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” cranked out in grinding, growling fashion by the inimitable Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish duo, who regaled early arrivers with their old-school rock, blues and rockabilly. (The song, by the way, is played traditionally to start the festival in tribute to Crissman’s late father.)
VIDEO: Cowpie Music Festival Day 1 – Some Highlights
Another tradition: Many sets this weekend are paying tribute to the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, with bands rolling out versions of tunes performed by bands at that milestone 1969 music festival.
Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Megan Dooley – recently named the region’s best solo artist in Revue magazine’s “Best of the West” readers’ poll (and Local Spins’ Kalamazoo correspondent) — followed Jesse Ray with a genre-hopping duo show.
“Cowpie is one of the smaller festivals,” she said, “but it’s definitely one of the more exuberant. The energy is great and the people are great.”
Other highlights of the family-friendly, camaraderie-filled opening day:
• Sophistafunk traveled all the way from Syracuse, N.Y., to play Cowpie then turn around to head back to the band’s home state to play another festival on Saturday. The Cowpie crowd appreciated the band’s unique “renegades of funk” approach that melded rapping, synthesizers, bass, saxophone and more. The group wasn’t afraid to get political, taking on the horrors of modern life, but also preached an equally important message of hope and self-love.
• The Frontier Stage – set in a tent deep into the festival campground – boasted several standout sets, including a lively and upbeat genre-bending performance by St. Joseph’s SlimGypsyBaggage, followed by Grand Rapids Latin rock faves Cabildo, which unfurls “a unique blend of cumbia, ska, folk and other genres of music from Latin and South America.” Though Cabildo’s set began in admittedly quiet fashion crowd-wise, the audience quickly filled in as the band dove into its set. The tent filled with dancers and Cabildo kept it rocking even through an unfortunate power outage.
The musical fun continued deep into the evening with Mungion, The Legal Immigrants (with special guest Mark Lavengood), Desmond Jones (with special guest Don Julin on mandolin) and much more, leaving some festivalgoers wishing they would have discovered Cowpie sooner.
“I feel angry that we didn’t come here sooner, the vibe is so great here,” quipped Jack Hunger of Silvan Lake.
The festival continues Friday with headliner Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers as well as sets by The Bootstrap Boys, Biomassive, Don Julin, Desmond Jones, Fauxgrass and much more. Saturday’s lineup stars Cracker, along with Hyryder, Galactic Sherpas, Lady Ace Boogie, Olivia Mainville, Dalmatian Stone (winner of the Path to the Pasture band contest) and a host of others. Day passes are $55 Friday and $65 Saturday, available at the gate. Details online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Cowpie Music Festival 2019 – Day One
Photos by Anna Sink, Derek Ketchum and John Sinkevics
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC