The annual Upper Peninsula festival hosted by Graham Parsons of The Go Rounds once again attracted a loving bunch of regional bands and solo artists. Local Spins asked them for their festival highlights.
For a dozen years, Graham Parsons of Kalamazoo’s The Go Rounds has hosted a music festival in the farthest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he grew up.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Last weekend’s Farm Block Festival and Reunion in the Keweenaw Peninsula boasted performances by dozens of regional artists in an environment unlike any other. And for the first time, Local Spins dispatched photographer Anna Sink to help document this special Michigan festival.
We also asked some of the performers and musicians who attended the remote, three-day event to provide their Top 3 Highlights from the weekend, which included everything from inspiring musical sets to basketball, and raised money for the Dan Schmitt Gift of Music and Outdoor Education Fund.
Here are the “Musicians’ Picks,” with a photo gallery below.
MOLLY BOUWSMA SCHULTZ1. The basketball tournament – Playing in a basketball tournament on our anniversary with my husband and bandmate Scott Schultz on team “Magic Blood” against individuals from bands that performed throughout the weekend will be something we’ll be feeling in our bones for years to come. Needless to say, everyone took the games serious, and we played ball as with as much passion as we play our instruments.
2. The reunion vibe – The reunion aspect of the festival is something that overall sets Farm Block apart. The way the community pitches in to organize the fest feels very utopian with organic food, clean water and humble abundance all around you. When you’re there, it’s easy to imagine a society working the way the fest works, to serve everyone involved. They are doing so much social justice work all while creating safe spaces for people.
3. Playing “Sinnerman” – Performing “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone for the Farm Block Revue Set (a Saturday night finale where people from different bands play a set together) was a special moment. Playing that song with Charlie Millard, Scott Schultz, Heavy Color and The Go Rounds, to name a few, was overwhelmingly meaningful. The energy was like a tidal wave coming from both directions on stage and the crowd.
SETH BERNARD1. The setting — The Parsons Farm is pristine beauty, and a magical place for people of all ages. The gardens, the murals, the pond and the whole layout — with just one stage and the kids’ area next to it — is idyllic. Safe and sound for families. I’ve been coming up to Farmers Block Road North since I was a kid – Graham’s neighbors, Viki and Ray Weglarz, are dear family friends and the creators of Ray’s Polish Fire, and canoe enthusiasts who inspired May Erlewine’s anthem “River Jordan.” So this territory is dear to my heart and represents freedom to me.
(The music is all tremendous: beautifully curated and scheduled like a glorious wave to ride throughout the weekend.)
2. The “Sax Summit” — Where else do I get to be a part of an annual 20-minute improvised free jazz journey with five other sax players? Nowhere.
3. The basketball tournament — Even though we lost in the championship and my ribs are sore, the basketball tournament was again a highlight. Ben Cohen (Heavy Color) and I are going to be training in the off-season and will be hungry and focused next year.
CHARLIE MILLARD1. Rose Hotel (Atlanta songwriter) and The Thirties (Marquette punk-rock) – Two totally different bands playing sets at the same fest, Rose Hotel’s melodies plucked out my tears and The Thirties made me want to start my own garage band immediately. Diverse musical lineup, happens every year at Farm Block.
2. Lalo Cura/Kansas Bible Company “She’s So Heavy” collaboration – Huge horn section, two of the best live bands you’ll ever see, jamming hard on The Beatles’ greatest rocker. They slayed.
3. The 3-on-3 basketball tournament – Conducted by Drew Tyner of The Go Rounds, this is the most fun “extra-curricular” part of the fest, with teams made up of band members, volunteers and attendees. Tough play, great jokes and a cool off in the pond to finish.
JONATHAN TIMM1. Ohmme on Saturday night – It was amazing to watch this all-female indie-rock band from Chicago start with a crowd of five and attract hundreds by the end of their set. People seemed unprepared for the undeniable appeal of their complex-yet-accessible, energetic and lush music. This is the third show I’ve seen them play and it gets better every time. Really cool to see them play among ferns and cattails.
2. Saltbreaker on Sunday morning – John Hanson’s soundscapes were a simultaneously haunting and inspiring way to start out the day (especially one where you have a 7.5-hour drive head of you). There was probably no other band less intrusive on the natural setting.
3. The Go Rounds on Saturday night – After having seen this band an uncountable number of times, I can honestly say seeing them on Graham’s home turf is something else entirely. They command the Farm Block stage with technical prowess and confident energy.
PHOTO GALLERY: Farm Block Fest and Reunion 2019
Photos by Anna Sink