This weekend’s festival outside Empire will feature Joshua Davis, Laura Rain, Dana Falconberry, Jordan Hamilton, Mark Lavengood and more. Learn more about this boutique festival and view the schedule.
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LivelyLands aims to make a big impact in a small package this weekend.
As a boutique event expected to attract 300 or so attendees, LivelyLands Music Festival near Empire is nimble enough to make health protocol adjustments as needed and provide social distancing while still offering “a meaningful shared experience” with performances by well-known Michigan stars.
Those stars for 2021 include Traverse City singer-songwriter Joshua Davis, Detroit soul outfit Laura Rain & The Caesars, Kalamazoo hip hop cellist Jordan Hamilton, West Michigan bluegrass whiz Mark Lavengood and more.
For organizer and executive producer Emily Lively, it’s the culmination of a “pipedream” that began in 2016 when she traveled home to northern Michigan from Texas and decided to stage a cozy 2017 pilot event on her family farm.
“It had been several years since I had been home in the summertime and I was reinvigorated by the beauty of northern Michigan,” she recalled. “I had been working for festivals most of my adult life, and it dawned on me that I might be the perfect person to bring the best of what I’d learned home to create the kind of festival that I would want to attend.”
The festival, which offers camping, kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday, with performances on a single stage. Weekend tickets start at $75; day passes are $35 for Friday and $45 for Saturday, available online here. The festival site at 3805 W. Empire Hwy. is about two-and-a-half hours north of Grand Rapids.
With concerns about COVID rising again, Lively stressed that while the festival doesn’t require attendees to be vaccinated it’s “a relatively small event” that takes place outdoors.
“We are encouraging social distancing and masking in crowded areas and all of our ticket merch and bar staff will be masked,” she said. “We are also requiring that all staff, volunteers, and artists be vaccinated.”
The festival also features local food, wine and craft beer, games, art and a “barbecue welcome dinner” on Friday night. An 11 a.m. Saturday kids’ show featuring Emma Cook was recently added to the lineup, along with an acoustic yoga session at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Another change: Amber Hassan and Jordan Hamilton will join Mark Lavengood and Seth Bernard on stage, replacing Gregory Stovetop.
Ultimately, the festival outside the picturesque Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, represents the return of an artist-fostering event that Lively relishes.
“My passion of supporting up-and-coming touring and local artists and also supporting local food and farmers in northern Michigan was realized (with LivelyLands),” she said, “and our small team of festival misfits has created something beautiful.”
LIVELYLANDS: THE SATURDAY SCHEDULE
• FRIDAY: A barbecue dinner, plus a 7 p.m. concert by Dana Falconberry, followed by Mark Lavengood, Seth Bernard, Jordan Hamilton and Amber Hassan.
• SUNDAY: A noon “bluegrass brunch” will include a bluegrass jam and song swap hosted by Mark Lavengood.
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