The day-long free event at Kalamazoo Valley Museum drew hundreds of fans, luthiers and musicians, including guitar virtuosos Fareed Haque & Goran Ivanovic. Recap, photos, video.
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Virtuosos Fareed Haque and Goran Ivanovic stole the show with their acoustic guitar genius, but attendees at Saturday’s return of the Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival walked away with plenty of other musical stories to tell.
The free event proved that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, with hundreds of guitar lovers, music fans and musicians bringing a robust atmosphere to Kalamazoo Valley Museum for the first time since March 2020.
Indeed, the pandemic interruption seemed a distant memory as attendees roamed halls filled with familiar vendors and impromptu jam sessions, while cheering performances by several regional stars — from the folk/Americana songs of Darcy Wilkin and Mark Sahlgren (who impressed fans with his homemade banjo) that launched the day to the blues of Crossroads Resurrection that closed it all out seven hours later.
And while overall crowd numbers were down for the free event compared with pre-pandemic editions of the festival, organizers noted that hundreds of “virtual” attendees were tuning in online for the performances, workshops and other content that was being live-streamed by the museum.
“This is such a unique event,” said festival producer Bryan Heany. “What I’m super-stoked about is we’re live-streaming everything. We’re really happy.”
He said the museum will have 32 hours of Fretboard Festival content available online, including live-stream performances from the past two years. The footage is available on the museum’s YouTube channel.
As for in-person attendance, Heany noted that the auditoriums hosting Saturday’s performances were mostly filled with concertgoers and “if those rooms are at capacity, we can’t do anymore than that anyway.”
The return of this year’s festival featured fewer overall performances, with plans for expanding and possibly adding a play-in contest for 2024.
FROM ACOUSTIC FOLK FAVORITES TO JAW-DROPPING GUITAR PROWESS
Those enjoying the festival’s Saturday lineup (which included Kalamazoo’s Nathan Moore Affair as a replacement for the Grace Theisen Band, which had to cancel due to illness) ranged from raptly attentive fans of acoustic music uncorked by the Kalamazoo Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra to those dancing enthusiastically at the back of Anna Whitten Hall during the Green Valley Boys’ set.
But Saturday’s highlight – especially for guitar geeks – came in mid-afternoon with a performance by Chicago guitar whizzes Haque and Ivanovic, with emcee Wilkin rightly introducing them as “a couple of the best guitar players on the planet.”
The acoustic duo dazzled the standing-room-only crowd at Anna Whitten Hall with their modern guitar prowess, from edgy, experimental effects to lightning-quick, finger-picking steeped in more traditional, ever-rhythmic classical guitar wizardry.
Befitting the world-class performance, their selections spanned the globe – from Brazil to Greece to Macedonia – with Haque noting their music contains “a mix of our jazz influences with Eastern European and Balkan” inspirations as well as his own Chilean and Pakistani heritage.
Saturday’s festival was preceded by an opening-night performance on Friday by the Bahar Ensemble, along with a presentation on the history of the lute and oud by Beau Bothwell.
“It’s just a treat,” Heany told audience members while introducing the final set of the day. “I’ve heard so many positive things from vendors and everybody. It’s been a real hit this year.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival at Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Photos by Derek Ketchum
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