The season-ending Lake City-area music festival drew hundreds of musicians and thousands of revelers for a “perfect” opening salvo of magical experiences. First-day highlights, photo gallery.
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For centuries, farmers across the globe have celebrated the gathering of crops with harvest festivals that revel in – as Wikipedia puts it — “eating, merriment, contests, music and romance.”
Since 2001, Earthwork Farm’s annual Harvest Gathering outside Lake City has certainly embraced that time-tested tradition. And this year’s festival, with 130-plus performances on four stages, has more of all of the above than any in the event’s history with a record turnout of thousands to boot.
It’s also hard to imagine a more impressive start to 2019’s edition of this season-ending, universally adored celebration than Friday’s kickoff slate of regional bands and solo artists amid stunning weather.
And then there’s that upbeat, rock-the-stage-with-passion, we’re-in-this-together, we-can-make-a-difference attitude that pervades every aspect of the event hosted by musician/activist/environmentalist Seth Bernard on the farm owned by his father, Bob.
“Live like life matters,” Bernard proclaimed at one point from the stage in welcoming attendees to the “cultural celebration” that oozes diversity, inclusivity and jaw-dropping, Michigan-bred talent.
ENDLESS HIGHLIGHTS ON DAY 1
From the Market Stage to the Hill Stage to the main Cedar Stage to the snapshot-worthy indoor Barn Stage, the opening salvo of performances was, quite frankly, just one highlight after another:
• The most inspiring set of the evening belonged, not surprisingly, to beloved songbird May Erlewine and her superstar band, who drew one of the biggest crowds ever seen to the Hill Stage. At one point, Erlewine dedicated a lovely rendition of The Beatles’ “Mother Nature’s Son” to Seth (appropriately enough) and later rolled out the politically powerful “That’s My Home” and a brand new, poignant feminist anthem. She wrapped up magnificently with her upbeat, audience-interactive “Never One Thing.”
• The most fun performance of the night? Public Access romping on the Barn Stage for a late-night, rock ‘n’ roll party unlike any other. Seven guitarists in an 11-piece instrumental rock band with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor all wearing jumpsuits: What’s not to like? That’s especially true when that band closes out its set by bringing The Crane Wives’ Emilee Petersmark on stage to perform an absolutely incendiary version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Epic.
• Under-the-radar gems included The Schrock Brothers Big Band’s dance-fueled wizardry on the Hill Stage, Micaela Kingslight with Flylite Gemini on the Cedar Stage, the Mark Lavengood Band’s jam-packed hootenanny on the Market Stage, and Barn sets by The Crane Wives’ Kate Pillsbury, rock super-group Airborne or Aquatic and the Detroit Hip Hop Showcase.
• Seth Bernard & Friends’ traditional “Earthwork Welcome” set on the Cedar Stage was everything that reflects Bernard’s approach to music and life: collaboration, diversity and calls to action. There was even a ballet dance performance on the grass in front of the stage featuring a couple of Bernard’s comrades from the Interlochen Center for the Arts.
‘A DIFFERENT FEEL THAN OTHER FESTIVALS’ WITH MUCH MORE TO COME
Kalamazoo hip hop cellist Jordan Hamilton, who performed with Bernard’s band, said no other event during the year compares to Harvest Gathering.
“It has a different feel than other festivals,” he said. “It’s the one festival musicians look forward to every year.”
And Friday’s lineup was just the tip of the cornstalk, so to speak.
The rest of the weekend offers a ceaseless supply of fan-inspiring stars, including Last Gasp Collective, Molly, The Go Rounds, Lady Ace Boogie, The Crane Wives, Appleseed Collective, The Accidentals, Desmond Jones, Jen Sygit, Joshua Davis and more, plus panels on everything from the climate crisis to Native justice.
Of course, there’s also lots of “eating” (courtesy of delectable food from area farms) and plenty of “merriment” (hundreds of musicians getting reacquainted, collaborating and generally, just having a joyous, relaxed time after a hectic summer).
And let’s not forget the “romance.”
At 4:35 p.m. Sunday on the Barn Stage, world-class drummer Scott Pellegrom, from Grand Haven, will get married to tour manager/artist development professional Elle Lively, with Bernard officiating.
“We’ve been dating for awhile and met through Seth, so it was only fitting to do it at one of our favorite places,” Lively told Local Spins.
“Plus, when all your wedding guests are musicians, it’s hard to get them in one place for a wedding on a weekend. So this is perfect.”
Perfect just might be Harvest Gathering’s operative word.
PHOTO GALLERY: Earthwork Harvest Gathering Day 1
Photos by Anna Sink and John Sinkevics
VIDEO: Harvest Gathering Day 1 Highlights
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC