Usually, mid-July means Beaver Island teems with festival music. With the event canceled due to COVID, things were quieter this year, so Local Spins looks back at highlights from 2019 in words and photos.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Local Spins photographer Anna Sink had planned once again to attend the Beaver Island Music Festival this past weekend before it got canceled due to COVID-19. And while things were considerably quieter this year, a few folks did gather over the weekend for some fireside music, captured in the image above. But for those missing the real thing, Local Spins Rewind takes a look back at highlights from the resplendent 2019 festival in words and photos. Scroll down for photos.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Since 2003, folks have gathered on Beaver Island every summer for a little “music in the woods.”
Until the coronavirus pandemic pulled the plug on things for 2020, this festival in a remote and beautiful spot had grown ever since, with performances by national touring artists as well as regional favorites.
Because the 2019 edition of the Beaver Island Music Festival had all the elements that have made this event unique and keeps attendees coming back year after year, Local Spins revisits some of those charming moments here — with 2019 performers listing their three favorite moments and attractions from the festival.
Check them out below along with a photo gallery by BIMF veteran Anna Sink of Local Spins.
BEAVER ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL: 2019 MEMORIES, HIGHLIGHTS
JAKE STILSON (The Bootstrap Boys)
I can’t say all I have to say about Beaver Island and/or the music festival in just a few sentences. This magical piece of land in the middle of Lake Michigan is a modern day Wild West. The completely off-grid festival grounds (stage and lights are run on generators) are nestled perfectly in the middle of nowhere, yet right around the corner from some of the island’s main attractions. Even the air breathes differently than on the mainland. Carol and Dan Burton have carved out a little slice of heaven on earth here. If you ever get the chance to attend this destination festival, take it immediately.
1. The full moon behind us at Circle M: We arrived early (Wednesday) in 2019 to play at the Circle M (monastery turned bar, cemetery adjacent, independently owned/operated, best old fashioned ever) on a giant flatbed truck, to a hot crowd, with a huge blood red moon rising behind us as we played.
2. Disc golf with Dan: On Friday morning, we played a nine-hole round of disc golf with the man (Dan) behind the woman running the show, star of TV’s The Boonies, and creator/curator of one of the most beautiful courses we’ve played. Some of the boys got in 45 holes.
3. Peppermint schnapps with old Joe: After a long night of going hard in the paint (too hard, honestly) there’s not a lot that’ll put things into perspective like 6:30 a.m. shots and beers with a generous old Beaver Island native that truly knows how to party.
EMILY BURNS (Escaping Pavement)
1. Dave Boutette, two-thirds of Escaping Pavement and Wayne from Hymn for Her improvising backup music for the Masterpiece Circus performers – Dave Boutette has been an emcee at BIMF for 11 years and he has seen Carla and Scott of Masterpiece Circus perform at the fest many times. In 2018, he decided to accompany their fire-ring-throwing routine with live, ambient and intense music. It apparently worked so well that for 2019 he wanted to do it again during their routine, so he employed the help of part of Escaping Pavement (Aaron Markovitz on mandolin and Kosta Kapellas on upright bass).
I was given the super important, non-musical job of “towel girl” — snuffing out any object that accidentally flew into or near the audience that was on fire. I was also to yell and tell Carla or Scott if parts of their bodies or clothes were on fire. It was a bit nerve-wracking but exciting! Dave, Aaron and Kosta did a great job backing up the routine and Wayne from Hymn for Her decided to jump in on snare about halfway through. It was just a really cool, one-time-only experience. Super fun.
2. Hymn for Her’s daughter singing, “It’s Only a Paper Moon” – Probably the most endearing and heartfelt moment of the whole weekend. It was so sweet. They did it as the very last song of their Saturday night set and it was so cool to see this huge festival audience fall right into the palm of their young daughter’s hand. So cool, and the audience went absolutely crazy over it.
3. Escaping Pavement getting a standing ovation after our set on Friday – Festivals were something that we once had to work really hard to convince people to let us do. At one point in our career, we thought people were never going to let us play at festivals as a primarily, acoustic-based duo/group. It hasn’t really been until very recently that festivals have started agreeing to have us perform. To have the validation that people really liked us just feels great and goes a long way toward helping us feel like all of our hard work and struggles were worth it. I think any musician would agree that’s a great moment when you realize some of your hard work has truly paid off.
MARC KANITZ (The Hacky Turtles)
1) The pace of life on Beaver Island – The pace of the entire island was at a different speed than us mainlanders are used to. It was so great to put ourselves in a creative and welcoming environment that allowed us to reflect on our love for music and the way it can bring folks together.
2) The hospitality – Carol and Dan Burton open up their property and homeland every year to hundreds of friends and strangers alike with open arms. A festival takes so much effort before, during and after to keep running. Our hosts Kim and Dennis Moline treated us like family and made our stay so comfortable and memorable. Wow.
3) The encouragement – We had the chance to play two sets at the festival stage in 2019 and were flooded with feedback and encouragement that is very healthy for an artist. All the volunteers and attendees really made us feel glad that we could share our music and energy with them. This weekend was a great step into a different world that was magical.
SHELLY SMITH (Late-night MC)
1. Moonbeau’s late-night set – The Cincinnati electronic, indie dream pop group brought so much originality and energy. Holy cow, what a surprise. And they are so young, but their sound had this great ’80s vibe that was bringing me way back. Love, love, love.
2. Riding in cars with strangers – Had to include this. Nowhere else in this world do I get in cars with strangers like Beaver Island. It is how you get where you are going. It is how you make the friends you’ll hang with all weekend. There is pure trust on the island. Thanks to all who picked me up in a crazy island truck and drove me through the woods and gave me the best stories.
3. A tie: Flexadecibel and The Hacky Turtles – These guys were total gems to hang out with backstage and rocked the late night and gave us such a big fun show. I am so sore from dancing right now and it is their fault. Keep up the jamz. I want more from both of these bands.
PHOTO GALLERY: Beaver Island Music Festival 2019
Photos by Anna Sink