The festival’s opening night at Camp Blodgett along the lakeshore boasted sets by The Waverlys and Nicholas James & The Bandwagon, plus the usual VW bus-inspired camaraderie. (Photo gallery)
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY AND AUDIO FROM FRIDAY’S PERFORMANCES
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Festival returnees Neil and Mary Harrison — and plenty of other Volkswagen bus owners and music lovers — concede there’s nothing quite like the annual Buses by the Beach Bus Benefit.
The one-of-a-kind event located at Camp Blodgett in West Olive along Lake Michigan boasts a welcoming atmosphere, not to mention more than 100 VW buses camped out for a Memorial Day weekend of music and more.
“It’s a beautiful organization: the most loving, caring group of people that I’ve ever come in contact with, and I’m proud to be part of it,” said John Shears, president of the Buses by the Beach organization and bassist for Roosevelt Diggs.
“Everything (money raised) is for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. That’s what brings us together.”
AUDIO: Nicholas James & The Bandwagon live at Bus Benefit 2017, “Bus Life”
The three days of live music, of course, makes for another big draw, with Friday’s opening volley featuring sets by The Waverlys and Nicholas James & The Bandwagon, festival regulars who played a nearly two-hour set. A few raindrops on Friday didn’t interrupt the festivities.
“We definitely consider ourselves a festival band,” Thomasma said, though he insisted there are elements that set the annual Bus Benefit apart from other summer events the group plays.
“It’s very different. For one thing, it’s not just a music festival. The common bond that most people have is the VW buses. The music is an added on bonus, because you find that people who are interested in VW buses are also interested in music.
“The difference is that the music doesn’t start until the evenings, so during the daytime, people will walk around to each other’s camps and check out each other’s buses, share stories from the road, make meals together. There’s just a general fellowship and community around the buses themselves.”
Of course, Thomasma’s fondness for the festival is also evident in the song he wrote about the event, “Bus Life.” (Listen to the band’s live rendition of the song during Friday’s show above; scroll down for “I Need a Dollar” by The Waverlys below.)
The Bus Benefit will continue all weekend, with Melophobix headlining Saturday night and The Giving Tree band closing out the Sunday slate of performers. (See the schedule at right.) This year’s festival also boasts an acoustic stage for Saturday with singer-songwriters and Michigan natives Sam N’ Eye, Sydney Burnham and Loren Johnson.
Day pass ticket prices are $45 for Saturday and Sunday; weekend passes are $90. Children 17 and younger are admitted free. There’s also a $20 non-VW bus pass required for vehicles that aren’t Volkswagen buses.
In addition to live music, there’s a $15 option to buy a pass to gain access to the rock wall and high ropes course.
PHOTO GALLERY: Buses by the Beach Bus Benefit 2017
Opening Day photos by Anna Sink
AUDIO: The Waverlys live at Bus Benefit 2017
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC