After a three-year COVID hiatus, the festival resumed in July with Shawn Colvin, Leftover Salmon and more. The festival announcement and coverage were among Local Spins’ top stories of the year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our countdown of the Top 12 Local Spins stories of 2022 based on reader traffic continues with No. 10, a testament to the popularity of Michigan’s music festivals, and specifically, Blissfest near Harbor Springs. Check out our story announcing the 2022 lineup, along with coverage of the festival itself.
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
For the first time since 2019, Blissfest pumped up northern Michigan with a star-studded summer festival that featured the likes of Shawn Colvin, Leftover Salmon, Donna the Buffalo, Laith Al-Saadi, Patty Larkin, Nicki Bluhm, Miko Marks and more.
After being forced to cancel the festival two years in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of Michigan’s most-beloved, longest-running music festivals returned to its familiar site near Cross Village July 8-10.
Dedicated to preserving the traditions of American and world roots music, the 2022 edition of Blissfest boasted performances by more than 70 bands and solo artists, many of them regional favorites.
The Accidentals, May Erlewine, Harper & Midwest Kind, Luke Winslow-King, Jackie Venson, Making Movies, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Davina & The Vagabonds, Parsonsfield, Eddie 9V, Taj Weekes & Adowa, Damn Tall Buildings and many more were among those booked for the festival hosted by the Blissfest Music Organization.
“The Blissfest team is excited to present the festival, very excited,” Cindy McSurely, executive director, told Local Spins in March when the lineup was announced.
“The first-year cancellation was difficult; that was the 40th anniversary. It did not occur to me, or many others, that we would not present the festival. There were financial difficulties associated with losing our primary income stream. There was an emotional toll, too, a sense of loss.”
McSurely said the 2022 roster of artists is designed “to honor as many of the original 2020 lineups as possible,” with some new acts added to the mix by talent buyer Caroline Barlow.
McSurely noted there are third generation family members that attend Blissfest every year.
“We’ve heard from many people how important the event was to them; connection with loved ones, the music, being on the farm, longtime friendships developed at the festival, musicians meeting their future collaborators and bandmates, musicians being inspired and more.”
One of those Bliss regulars is singer-songwriter and Earthwork Music founder Seth Bernard, who jokes that he’s the same age as the long-running festival and has been attending the event since he was a baby. Bernard, who lives a half-hour east of Traverse City in Kalkaska County, is part of this year’s performer lineup.
“I’m excited to be back. Blissfest is a reunion, it’s a midsummer night’s dream and every square foot of that entire acreage is packed with meaningful memories,” he said.
“Some of my earliest musical inspirations and my first musical performances happened there. I’ve met and made friends with musicians from across the country and around the world at Blissfest. And I always get surprised by bands that I’ve never heard of at Blissfest. There is a beautiful musical cross-pollination of the local, the regional, the national and the international that takes place every year. I feel really honored to take part in Blissfest every year and to know and love and be in beloved community with the folks who put it on.”
Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Nicholas James Thomasma, who’ll appear at the festival with The Bandwagon, said he was “thrilled to be performing at Blissfest,” an event he attended for more than 10 years before being booked to play the event in 2022.
“Blissfest is one of my all-time favorite festivals. It’s big enough that you can really soak up the best of the festival vibe with great vendors, wooded or field camping, multiple stages, healing arts and world-class entertainment, but still small enough that it feels like a family reunion,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what path you’re on or which direction you’re heading: All roads lead to more music at Blissfest.”
BLISSFEST 2022: THE LOCAL SPINS RECAP
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
Copyright 2022, Spins on Music LLC