After a long hiatus, Blissfest returned to northern Michigan last weekend with a bevy of roots and folk stars. Revisit the musical fun via these highlights in words and photos.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Musicians and performers Sean Miller and Nicholas James Thomasma rolled up their sleeves for last weekend’s Blissfest near Cross Village in more ways than one. Not only did they perform over the weekend (and Miller even helped as a member of the Blissfest Music Organization) but they also picked out their favorite moments and highlights from the long-running Michigan music festival.
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The 40th Blissfest proved there was a lot of pent-up demand for original and bracing roots, folk, Americana, blues and rock.
Rolling out in-person for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID pandemic, thousands reveled in performances on several stages over the weekend on the festival site near Cross Village. Here are some highlights courtesy of performers/attendees Sean Miller and Nicholas James Thomasma. Scroll down for a photo gallery.
• Traven Michaels led the Galactic Sherpas’ horn section to a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the Blissfest Music Festival’s Michigan Stage on Friday. The Sherpas are an 8- to 12-ish-piece reggae funk band from Traverse City who have quite the northern Michigan following: They drew a crowd larger than Friday night’s headliner to help welcome back the annual festival.
• Erin Coburn, a Cincinnati native and artist I discovered over the pandemic through a Facebook group, out-performed many Bliss veterans with her blues- and rock- charged sets on the second stage Friday.
• Blissfest founder and former director Jim Gillespie was honored throughout the weekend — first, with a special cabin dedication on Friday, and then with a swarm of his closest friends and colleagues during his band’s Main Stage performance on Saturday.
• Traverse City’s The Accidentals stuck to their “Michigan roots” on the Michigan Stage, bringing on a handful of friends, including Jordan Hamilton and Mark Lavengood.
• Northern Michigan-based band The Third Degree closed out the Michigan Stage with a rock ‘n’ roll show with songs from Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash and a handful of classic rock-influenced originals. (I interviewed this band three years ago at the Petoskey News-Review, something they mentioned to the crowd. They reminded me that their dream was to perform at Blissfest and that they were honored to be closing out the Michigan stage and seeing that dream come true.)
NICHOLAS JAMES THOMASMA
• Over the past 10-12 years I’ve watched The Accidentals grow from shy teenagers to full blown rock stars. With recent addition Patty PerShayla, the transition is complete. Closing Friday night’s Main Stage with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was brilliant. Full. Blown. Rock. Stars.
• Erin Coburn destroyed The Song Tree. Of the many stages at Blissfest, The Song Tree is typically dedicated to acoustic acts. No one told Erin Coburn that. The 21-year-old Ohio native, Blissfest regular and guitar phenom shredded her electric blues as a two-piece with Brandon, her drummer, on cajon, creating one of the most memorable moments of the weekend.
• The generator going out on Nicholas James & The Bandwagon TWICE! When the power cut off mid-song we finished the tune and waited for the lights to come back on. When the power went out the second time, we stepped off the stage and went into the audience for our final song. The crowd gathered close and sang along creating an absolutely magical moment. We couldn’t have planned a better ending.
PHOTO GALLERY: Blissfest 2022
Photos by Sean Miller, Nicholas James Thomasma