Kalamazoo’s 2017 Fretboard Festival unfolds once again this weekend at Kalamazoo Valley Museum. Musician Megan Dooley has been a regular attendee. Read her Local Spins column about this special event and check out the complete performance schedule.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Megan Dooley has been a regular participant at the Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival, and will stage a workshop at the 2017 event. Local Spins asked her to describe what makes it all so special.
Once a year, I get to float around a museum filled with amazing musicians, friends, people and players, elated and breezing through a whirlwind of picks and twangs, as if in a dream.
Except that it’s a real day, known to we musicians who live around Kalamazoo as “fretboard fest,” a celebration of music and the city’s historical roots as home to Gibson and now Heritage Guitars.
I am expecting another weekend celebration inspired and bursting at the seams with the lovely sounds of our state. This gem of an early indoor Michigan music festival draws folks from all over into the unique historical setting, and greets them with the sounds of West Michigan’s rich musical heritage and incredibly diverse area talent.
2017’s festival, which spans over a day-and-a-half spread across two buildings — inside the museum and next door on the Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s downtown campus — kicks off with a performance by the widely celebrated and universally loved Lindsay Lou and The Flatbellys at 6 p.m. Friday on the Anna Whitten Hall stage.
On Saturday, Fretboard Fest boasts 14 musical performances on four stages, plus nine musical workshops designed to engage musicians and patrons alike and more than 40 vendors.
This free (What?! Yeah, I said free) family-friendly event invites visitors to meet instrument designers, learn their trade, interact with stringed instruments of all kinds at a “petting booth” and hear live performances by some of the best local artists from Michigan and surrounding areas.
Musicians of all stripes and abilities will want to get started with something new this year: “Coffee and Donuts with the Luthiers,” a special event to put you in touch with the folks who make the stuff you love to pick.
ATTRACTIONS FOR KIDS, HUNDREDS OF INSTRUMENTS TO HOLD AND BEHOLD
Check it out at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Mary Jane Stryker Theater with free donuts and coffee from Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (voted No. 2 in the country by the Food Network and my personal favorite), when these incredible guitar-makers will share stories of their trade, and why and how they do what they do.
Also new is Small Sounds, a quirky, fun and upbeat music session for children and their adults. Live shows will span all day Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Feed The World Cafe will serve food and drinks from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Adding to the unique charm of this inimitable annual event, almost the entire museum transforms into a huge showroom holding some of the finest stringed instruments made by local and international luthiers, even the strange and unusual.
Visitors are often encouraged to touch, play and purchase what’s displayed. You know you will want to buy all of the stuff. I always do.
Fretboard Fest never disappoints.
Last year, this seemingly small indoor festival drew more than 3,700 people (and raffled off a $5,000 Heritage Guitar) — and that turnout isn’t surprising considering it’s an entirely free event with a music/workshop lineup that is pretty amazing.
And Local Spins and representatives from WYCE-FM (88.1) will be on hand, along with numerous vendors, so stop by and say hello.
Find a detailed rundown of events and more online at kvcc.edu.fretboard.
And check out Local Spins’ coverage and photo gallery from the 2016 festival online here: String Paradise – Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival draws thousands for upbeat West Michigan bands, instrument displays
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC