The ninth annual Wheatland fundraiser takes over The Intersection Saturday with sets by Joshua Davis, Benzie Playboys, Gasoline Gypsies with Native Howl, Jimmie Stagger and others. See the full schedule.
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When it comes to Michigan’s robust cadre of roots and folk musicians, the feeling is mutual: The Wheatland Music Organization – which has staged the prestigious Wheatland Music Festival outside Remus every September since 1974 — is a beloved institution with a broad reach.
“The Wheatland Music Organization holds a very special place in my heart,” said Traverse City musician Mary Sue Wilkinson, of the vintage country act Drive South which also features Holland’s Roger Brown and Traverse City’s Joe Wilson.
“I have been going to the festival since the 1970s. My life has been so enriched by all the music I have heard and played at that festival, and by all the musicians and friends that I’ve grown to know and love who meet up there every year.”
So, playing the annual Winter Wheat fundraiser for the organization makes for a special, feel-good day of camaraderie.
“Winter Wheat gives us a chance to come together mid-year,” Wilkinson said of Saturday’s festival featuring more than a dozen bands at
The Intersection nightclub in Grand Rapids.
“It’s a shot in the arm to keep us going until festival season. I get to see friends and hear the music I love in the middle of the long winter. And the fact that it is a fundraiser for Wheatland is a bonus.”
A diverse lineup of Michigan acts – including the Joshua Davis Trio, K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys, Drive South and teenage blues-rock guitar phenom Jake Kershaw – pack the bill for this year’s Winter Wheat, which runs for 12 hours starting at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Also playing “the celebration of traditional music and dance”: Michigan Mafia String Band, Luke Warm and the Not So Hots, Jimmie Stagger, the Gasoline Gypsies with Native Howl, Celtic music’s Peat in the Creel, Bruce Gartner, The Palooka Brothers, The Journeymen and Josh Rose & The Founding Fathers.
Admission is $20 in advance, $25 day of show. Student admission is $15. Get more information and tickets online at sectionlive.com.
TWELVE HOURS OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND LOTS OF CAMARADERIE
Beyond supporting the Wheatland Music Organization, which operates a variety of educational programs in addition to staging the three-day Wheatland Music Festival in mid-September, music fans from across state have developed an “attachment and love” for the ninth annual mid-winter event, said singer-songwriter and organizing committee member Josh Rose, who also performs on Saturday
“It seems as if this event has taken on a life of its own and has become a destination music event for the Mitten State. Plus, I have to say the lineup is looking downright awesome this year,” Rose said. “Personally, my favorite part of this event is seeing all of my friends and listening to the best in regional music.”
Fellow organizer Bear Berends of Blue Water Ramblers, which hosts an open jam for musicians at 1:20 p.m. Saturday on the “Traditional Stage” in The Stache (front lounge), said the committee focused mostly on acts “with strong West State ties, including a nice mixture of the old Wheatland guard with some up-and-coming youngins as well.”
Among other things, funds raised by the event will help create a new Acoustic Stage at Wheatland.
“What makes Winter Wheat a terrific day is bringing back your pals from all over the region for 12 hours of traditional music on two different stages,” he said. “Plenty of time to verbally catch up with folks you haven’t seen since (the Wheatland festival) in September, but then also plenty of time to enjoy the mission of Wheatland – participating and listening to the best traditional music the great state of Michigan has to offer.”
For Cajun and Zydeco music favorites K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys – who’ve performed at eight of the nine Winter Wheats, inducing hundreds of attendees to dance throughout their set – it’s a rare wintertime opportunity “to see other acts we don’t get to see play,” said longtime band member Mark Stoltz.
“We get to see lots of friends that come to the festivals in the summer and we get to talk to them and converse. Sometimes at a festival, you’re so busy with workshops and sets, you don’t get to hang and the festivals cover a lot of ground. Here, everyone is in one building. We usually go somewhere to eat and the whole band stays with musician friends in Grand Rapids for the night and make a party out of it.”
Seeing attendees dance the night away is special, too.
“We love to see dancers and they respond almost on the first note. It’s way cool (to) see everyone enjoying Louisiana music at its best,” he said. “We feed off the dancers and they feed off us. They know we are having fun, so they do also, and I just keep on smiling.”
(K. Jones & The Benzie Playboys will follow that up by playing a benefit in Traverse City on Jan. 19th at Workshop Brewing Co. That event will help raise money to help a group of nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors provide medical equipment, supplies and a children’s party during a trip to the Philippines this spring. The band, which has been together for 18 years, also plays Right Brain Brewery’s 10th anniversary party on Jan. 27, along with Runaway Mule and Delilah DeWylde. “Both will be fun times,” Stoltz said. “We don’t get to play in Traverse City much, so they will be packed and high energy.”)
For coverage and photos from Winter Wheat 2017: Winter Wheat revs up Michigan-styled roots music for small but enthused crowd
THE 2018 WINTER WHEAT LINEUP
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