Hoxeyville Music Festival in the Manistee National Forest closed with memorable sets by bluegrass star Billy Strings. But Local Spins’ Ricky Olmos found plenty more to like, with photos by Anna Sink.
Another Hoxeyville has come and gone in an epic burst of musical celebration and community.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Despite a rather stubborn rain, performers, staff and festivalgoers were able to come together to forge a beautiful
weekend that eventually ended in hope and soft golden sunshine. Here’s the weekend’s most memorable sights and sounds, in no order whatsoever.
1. Where Oh Where is Lindsay Lou? – Answer: Everywhere! Channeling all the groovy, spellbinding, rockstar-diva vibes, the powerhouse singer made a handful of knockout guest appearances with a plethora of other artists, including Railroad Earth, Dave Bruzza and Billy Strings. And of course, her own headlining performance proved to be soul-soaked and heartfelt.
2. The Go Rounds Do Silent Disco – It’s almost as if The Go Rounds’ music was made to be experienced while dancing carelessly under a spooky summer moon with glowing wireless headphones … and with a sprawling crowd of other bobbing headphones. Undoubtedly the most unique Hoxeyville experience, the silent disco structure saw bands ditch acoustic instruments for electric ones that were then routed to wireless headsets. With Graham Parsons at the helm, the band’s set was a nuanced, transportive journey filled with light and a cosmic swirl of radio-transmitted psychedelic indie-rock.
3. Airborne or Aquatic? and an All Star Cast – Taking the cake (and baking it too) for the most riveting, scorching set of rock ’n’ roll was this supergroup’s Saturday evening set. At its largest, the 10-piece
band was a musical dream team that included Seth Bernard, Jake Robinson, Joe VanAcker, Glenn Brown, Dan Rickabus, Scott Pellegrom, Mike Shimmin, Dave Bruzza, Luke Winslow-King and Jarad Selner, aka Saxsquatch. Throughout the entire set, the group stayed locked in tight and revving like a ’69 Firebird with the windows down.
4. Max Lockwood Band Brings the Heat – Mr. Lockwood is beginning to find his true artistic voice and his Hoxeyville set proved to further actualize his sonic vision. Backed by a rambling band of fellow rockers, the bonafide frontman sported an err of cool confidence and equally cool green pants.
5. Embracing the Weather – “I wanted it to rain, I wanted it to be like Woodstock and just pour down and for everyone to go dance in the mud … so I guess it’s my fault,” said the mystery man with a crazed but jolly look in his eye while huddling under a dripping tent. On account of 2019 safety standards, it wasn’t quite like Woodstock; music came to a halt on at least three occasions because of nearby lighting. But there was a prevailing sense of working (and playing) through the rain.
6. Late-Night Campsite Jams – Wandering along a tree-lined footpath on the outskirts of Hoxey-town, one might hear the distant pluck of a guitar accompanied by a banjo, a mandolin and a walking bass line. Upon following the almost visual music notes wafting through the air, an opening in the trees gives way to a nocturnal iteration of the bluegrass band, Full Cord. They perform at a cozy campsite for a few dozen listeners who spin and float between the circled campers.
7. Dave Bruzza – The mustachioed Greensky Bluegrass guitarist made the rounds as Hoxey’s artist at large. Bruzza sat in with a number of artists at both stages and performed his own riveting full-band set on Friday night. Not only was Bruzza’s musicality impressive, but his presence felt symbolic of the collaborative, communal nature of the festival.
8. Billy Strings and His Singing Six-String – The must-see spectacle of the weekend, Billy Strings and his lighting fast hands were pure, hypnotic magic. The bluegrass star’s double-set proved to be as entertaining, engaging and collaborative as any set of the weekend. With his talented band (Billy Failing, Royal Masat, Jarrod Walk), the main stage was ablaze from the start of Strings’ set, so much so that the rain decided to stay away. Special guests included Mark Lavengood, Lindsay Lou and Dave Bruzza. (And for those fortunate enough, another Billy Strings set took place out in the wild, on the cusp of a dark wood on a bright night with an intimate audience.)
9. Friendly Folk – As good as the performances were and as hard as the festival crew worked to make the event seamless, at the end of the weekend it was the festivalgoers that made the festival. Without them, there are no magical performances and certainly no Hoxeyville. At every corner, beautiful humans joined their festival neighbors to create beautiful conversations, beautiful movements and beautiful moments.
PHOTO GALLERY: Hoxeyville Music Festival 2019
Photos by Anna Sink