The 41st Blissfest electrified fans in northern Michigan last weekend with dozens of sets on eight stages. Browse the photo galleries and check out the festival highlights at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERIES
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Thirty-two years after its humble beginnings, Blissfest uncorked a magical display of performances on eight different stages over three days last weekend outside Harbor Springs — electrifying fans with national touring acts as well as regional favorites.
Colin Hay, of Men at Work fame, and Molly Tuttle, with her bluegrass band Golden Highway, both brought top-notch performances to the Main Stage on Friday night, with Hay dusting off songs from both his solo and Men at Work catalogs.
Tuttle, meanwhile, delivered A-game, rip-roaring bluegrass licks with help of her powerhouse backing band.
Mid-Michigan’s Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers made a triumphant return to Blissfest with a Friday night set that turned the Second Stage into a party and a Main Stage performance on Saturday that had festivalgoers of all ages dancing in late afternoon.
“This weekend was filled with fun conversations with friends while meeting new folks so casually as peers,” said Dutcher Snedeker, keyboardist for Grand Rapids neo-soul band Earth Radio, which played Friday and Saturday nights.
“It felt like a community regardless of who I was talking to, and I credit Blissfest for doing such great work to curate a solid lineup of not just good musicians, but good humans all around.”
The 41st edition of northern Michigan’s Blissfest also featured a completely rebuilt and revamped Blisstrodome stage and redesigned Club Bliss, which featured a few larger groups than usual, including Petoskey’s Levitator and The Third Degree as well as a more typical lineup of singer-songwriters such as northern Michigan’s Eliza Thorp and Lara Fullford. – By Sean Miller
Local Spins asked Michigan musicians Nicholas James Thomasma, Dutcher Snedeker and Grace Theisen — who was performing at Blissfest for the first time — to provide their Top 3 highlights from Blissfest 2023. Check them out here:
GRACE THEISEN1. Gina Chavez: Chavez brought the most epic mix of Latin-folk-pop-singer-songwriter music to the Second Stage Saturday night. She captivated the entire audience and had everyone up and dancing. I did not know her music before Bliss but now I am a HUGE fan and fully understand why she is a Grammy-nominated artist. It was a stellar performance through and through.
2. Samuel Nalangira: Nalangira brought the house down Sunday night with his powerhouse African music accompanied by fellow Kalamazoo musicians Carolyn Koebel, Nathan Durham and Joe Chamberlin. He brought up regional djembe artist Sundance DiDomenico to sit in on the set. The whole tent was singing and dancing to every single tune. It was a high-energy and magical experience.
3. The Crane Wives: These Grand Rapids folk-rockers continue to blow my mind. This was my second time seeing them live. The vocals and passion of Kate Pillsbury and Emilee Petersmark together are a force to be reckoned with. You could feel the energy and power of their music across the entire festival when they played on main stage Sunday evening.
DUTCHER SNEDEKER1. Interacting with Artists: So often as musicians we are so busy that we can’t chat with folks beyond saying hello right before or after a set, but this weekend was filled with fun conversations with friends while meeting new folks so casually as peers. … Whether it was relaxing at The Crane Wives camp, cracking jokes with Abigail Washburn, or hours of post-gig chats with Gina Chavez’s group, it felt so good to feel the love and unity among every artist there.
2. Playing Music: While this year was less busy, I still had four wonderful sets (two with Earth Radio and two with Moss Manor) in front of some truly enthusiastic and kind audiences. Earth Radio’s sets were the talk of the festival even before we played our first notes and Moss Manor created moments that surged with uplifting energy and healing soundscapes, so I was so pumped to be able to really let loose and enjoy these performances. Earth Radio’s Saturday night set was one for the books: dozens dancing late into the night, artists standing in the wings supporting and delighting in the music, and some of the trippiest funk we’ve ever displayed for a psychedelic dance party.
3. Sharing Conversations and Moments with Staff: One thing about Blissfest that really showcases it as a festival that has endeared itself to the community is the hundreds of volunteers who made the experience that much better and had me as an artist feeling so supported. I met folks who had been with the festival since its infancy among a fresh crop of first-year festivalgoers, and these folks worked tirelessly to coordinate dozens of transportation pickups, provide meals for hundreds of staff and artists multiple times a day on top of a constantly refilling hospitality area, and keep the wheels turning as smoothly as possible. It takes a village, and Blissfest has that in spades with the caring folks at the helm coordinating generations of loving volunteers.
NICHOLAS JAMES THOMASMA
1. Uncle Earl: Uncle Earl, aka Abigail Washburn with Kristin Andreassen and Chris “Critter” Eldridge (Punch Brothers) at the Song Tree on Saturday afternoon. I was sitting so close that in lieu of a guitar stand Kristin reached out and handed me her guitar.
2. The Sweet Water Warblers: The group’s harmony singing workshop at MI Pickin’ Stage. Have you ever sang three-part harmonies with 200-plus people led by May Erlewine, Lindsay Lou and Rachael Davis? I have. I’ll never forget it.
3. Molly Tuttle: Molly Tuttle’s masterful band and Main Stage performance, where she unleashed an absolutely explosive cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and “let her hair down” with incredible originals such as “Crooked Tree.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Blissfest 2023
Photos by Sean Miller
Photos by Nicholas James Thomasma