The third year of the regional music fest unfurled last weekend in Sidney north of Grand Rapids. Local Spins asked some performers to pick their favorite experiences, with a photo gallery by Anna Sink.
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West Michigan's music scene
A unique, comfortable, inviting environment.
Late-night jams around a blazing fire pit.
One of the first Michigan shows by Grand Rapids-area fave Nathan Kalish & The Lastcallers since 2018.
An impressive lineup of regional acts representing a host of genres.
The third year of the Willowsong Music Festival on Eric and Jo Raby’s farm just outside Sidney (about an hour north of Grand Rapids) not only reveled in splendid weather after shifting from late September to late August for 2019, but also a communal experience with intimate performances.
So, we asked some of the weekend’s performers to list their Top 3 highlights of the weekend in Sidney, with photos by Anna Sink.
KYLE RASCHE (Chain of Lakes)
Willowsong 2019 was about as good as it gets on every level. Eric and Jo’s farmstead accommodated their growing festival with such charm and character. The sunsets this year were epic.
1. Hospitality – No one takes better care of musicians and artists than the Willowsong folks. “Artists Row” behind the stage was such a warm, community atmosphere. We all felt loved and appreciated.
2. The Fire Pit – The Willowsong fire pit is quickly becoming the face of the festival. James is a master fire-keeper and the nightly burn is such a cool tradition. For me, there isn’t a better place to party than the fire pit at Willowsong.
3. The Stage – Kevin Fein and Eric Raby built a great sound system and ran a smooth stage operation all weekend. The mix – for both the performers and the audience – was perfect for every band, and everyone was a pleasure to work with.
Honorable Mention – Churchill’s hole-in-one on the first hole of the disc golf course.
1. Stars and Fire at Nighttime – Such big sky and a fire to match. One of the best outdoor moments I got to witness this summer.
2. Staff and Their passion for Music and Hospitality – I’m a sucker for family and respectful environments. The staff did this naturally to the musicians and the attendees. The sound crew and announcer were very good, down to earth, and accommodating. Thank you.
3. Diverse Lineup – Any time I get to hear a diverse range of music in a short amount of time I feel that I walked away from a music festival with new perspective. That is a value I can’t put a number on.
BRENT SHIREY (Valentiger)
1. Hospitality – The whole crew is super-friendly and personable from top to bottom. The sense of genuine community is strong with this one. And while taking care of everyone and the smallest details, they keep it running tight as a drum.
2. Jordan Hamilton – Jordan’s set was intimate and refreshing; endlessly entertaining, all from a single performer. Cello, loops, expressive vocals. Always great to discover something new.
3. The Fire Pit – The shape of the pit is pretty similar to a the icon for a power button: almost a complete circle with a walkway allowing access from the outside to a center island. If you’re not mesmerized by the sheer size of the fire or the power and heat of that amount of wood being consumed simultaneously, then just watching the pit boss masterfully coax the fire should do it for you.
1. Aerialists – The aerialists silhouetted against the evening sky was an incredible view.
2. Escaping Pavement – Escaping Pavement set the bar high as the opening act on Saturday.
3. The Last Gasp Collective – Kalamazoo’s The Last Gasp Collective drew people up to the stage like human magnets.
Honorable Mention: Eric and Jo curated a show full of diversity and variety.
PHOTO GALLERY: Willowsong Music Festival 2019
Photos by Anna Sink
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC