Held at The Intersection, the 11th annual benefit for the Wheatland Music Organization boasted a dozen-plus performances on two stages exactly one year ago today. Revisit the event in words, photos, video.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Remember when an approaching winter storm was at the top of your worry list? After a devastating year of COVID and political tumult, that all seems long ago and far away. But exactly one year ago today, the Wheatland Music Organization’s 11th annual Winter Wheat unfolded at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, with a bevy of roots music acts performing for a relatively small crowd of fans who braved wintry conditions to attend the day-long festival. This year’s Winter Wheat, unfortunately, was canceled due to the pandemic. But you can revisit last year’s robust event in words, photos and video thanks to today’s Local Spins Rewind feature.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Winter Wheat 11 rolled on — refusing to be iced out by a snow and ice storm that swept into West Michigan on Jan. 11, 2020.
Despite ominous weather, the 11th annual benefit for the Wheatland Music Organization delivered nearly 12 hours of live music on two stages from Wheatland regulars and regional favorites at The Intersection in downtown Grand Rapids.
A small but hardy bunch of folk and roots music fans braved icy conditions for the indoor, one-day festival that kicked things off on the main stage with Crossbow, a dynamic West Michigan Celtic and string band.
Even with only four musicians from their standard seven-member lineup on stage, the group brought some needed warmth and instrumental chops to open the event in earnest with bombastic drums, dueling fiddles and acoustic guitar.
“The weather definitely affected everyone,” said fiddler Steve Lesko, “but people still showed up and we gave it 100 percent. Our roots are in Grand Rapids and it’s been such a supportive community from the start. We’re glad to be back.”
West Michigan’s Roosevelt Diggs turned up the heat on the main stage with its original blend of Americana, rock and old-timey music. The crowd began moving and dancing to the classic upright bass, drum and guitar combo as soon as the band began its set.
“There’s a battle outside,” singer and guitarist Logan Duddles said from the stage, “but we made it! We’re among friends. Lets soak this in.”
Their heartwarming energy, paired with the band’s musicality and soaring vocals, drew people to the stage for a rambunctious tour through their original music catalog.
MUSIC THAT’S ‘GOOD FOR THE SOUL’
Winter Wheat regulars Ruth & Max Bloomquist and the Palooka Brothers entertained fans from the acoustic stage with traditional tunes and originals that featured vocal harmonies, strings and a classic folk sound.
“Music is a huge part of my life,” said 20-year-old fan Isaiah DeVries, as he listened to the acoustic stage sets. “It’s good for the soul.”
Most fans echoed that sentiment as each act at Winter Wheat brought a unique spin on traditional music, from Full Cord’s bluegrass to Cabildo’s Latin rock to K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys’ Zydeco strains, playing to a growing crowd in front of the main stage leading up to the closing performance by headliner Front Country.
The acoustic stage closed with a lengthy set from the Earthwork Music collective, which showed up in force with a fusion of music from artists across the region, each taking a turn leading the group and performing an original song.
“We’ve been inspired by Wheatland,” said collective founder Seth Bernard, who hosted the set. “Many of us have had a long relationship with the organization and we’re happy to partner with them.”
At one point in late afternoon, organizers estimated about 500 people had turned out, though numbers grew and ebbed throughout the event.
Enthused fans certainly packed The Stache for the closing Earthwork set on the acoustic stage while others heated up the dance floor to the Cajun strains of K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys on the main stage.
PHOTO GALLERY 1: Winter Wheat at The Intersection
Photos by Anthony Norkus
Photos by Anna Sink
Video by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC