The snow-pocalypse has canceled Michigan shows, including Saturday’s 12-band benefit for Wheatland Music Organization. But listen to the music and relive last summer’s Wheatland festival amid today’s storm.
It would take “a blinger of a storm” to derail Wheatland Music Organization’s Winter Wheat festival Saturday at The Intersection in Grand Rapids.
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Unfortunately, that’s what Mother Nature delivered this weekend, forcing cancellation of today’s day-long, 12-band benefit event, thus joining many other hosts of live music shows across the region who shut things down like dominoes starting Friday afternoon.
It was “a hard decision to have to make,” leaving organizers with the task of trying to reschedule the annual indoor festival and working out ticket refund details.
To ease the pain a bit for festivalgoers, ticket buyers and performers, Local Spins has assembled a special “Winter Wheat Playlist” featuring music from bands and artists who were slated to play the festival. Scroll down to listen, along with some video highlights from the 2023 edition of Winter Wheat.
And to further soothe Wheatland devotees, we’re also re-publishing our recap of last September Wheatland Music Festival outside Remus, including a photo gallery from the granddaddy of Michigan music festivals.
So, stay warm, stay safe, cuddle up around your computers or mobile devices, and toast Wheatland with the beverage of your choice.
WHEATLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL 2023 REVISITED
Above all, Wheatland Music Festival is a celebration centered around stories: songwriters telling their stories, audiences who relate to those stories, and workshops created to help those who wish to tell their stories through music.
And with Wheatland toasting its 50th anniversary last September, thousands of attendees had tales of their own from attending Wheatland year after year — with new tales created over 2023’s three-day affair outside Remus, Mich.
The half-century milestone event drew a sold-out crowd, a diverse lineup and some of the most beautiful weather that late summer in Michigan has to offer.
If there even was so much as a slight lull in energy and excitement throughout the weekend, all one had to do was yell out, “Happy Wheatland!” and instantaneously receive an echo of the same sentiment from hundreds of people.
Folks buzzing with excitement about basking in their favorite place packed every corner of the festival grounds. Even Wheatland’s youngest attendees perched on their parents’ shoulders for late-night, high-energy sets from acts such as The Gasoline Gypsies and Tuba Skinny.
For those who preferred a quieter environment at times, the Schafer Song Stage nestled in The Pines made the perfect contrast to the bustling crowds elsewhere. The Schafer Song Stage hosted intimate, acoustic performances all weekend from Michigan artists Audra Kubat, Nicholas James Thomasma, Ralston Bowles and others.
Angela and Andy Thompson look fondly upon their nine years of attending Wheatland, citing friendly camp neighbors, helpful volunteers and plentiful kids’ activities as their reasons for coming back to the festival.
“I love how everyone is so friendly even when we’re packed in so tightly for camping,” Angela remarked.
SELECT WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS
Among the weekend’s many standout moments:
• Kait Rose and The Thorns — It was hard to go anywhere without overhearing someone talking about this Friday night set. Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Kait Rose performed with her full band for the first time at Wheatland on the Centennial Stage and blew the crowd away with her soulful voice and earnest songwriting. After an impressive bout of finger-picking paired with atmospheric flute, one audience member declared Kait Rose and The Thorns, “the gem of Wheatland.”
• Lúnasa — In its return to Wheatland, this traditional Irish music group delivered soaring Celtic melodies for an early Saturday afternoon crowd at the Main Stage. In-between their entirely instrumental tracks, members of the band discussed the people and experiences in their lives that inspired each song, proving that music doesn’t need words to tell a story.
• Jake Blount Band – This Rhode Island-based band introduced its set as a tribute to black folk music, although Blount assured the crowd that he wasn’t just talking about “banjos and fiddles.” Instead of focusing on the stereotypical sound of folk music, Blount and his band reimagined the definition to celebrate black artistry and its role in the roots of several different genres from rock to disco to string band music.
• Josh Rose and the Founding Fathers – West Michigan singer-songwriter Josh Rose is involved in nearly every event Wheatland puts on throughout the year, making this year’s festival the perfect place to celebrate the CD release of his recent album, “Foreverland.” Rose’s songs draw on humor and past experiences to create a charming and authentic look into the singer’s life. The Founding Fathers accompanied Rose with upbeat Americana rhythms and vocal harmonies from Sierra Cassidy.
• Ruthie Foster – It took no time at all for the Texas-based blues singer to win over the massive main stage crowd Saturday night. Foster’s captivating vocals, warm on-stage charisma, and powerful messages made Foster’s set a highlight. The four-time Grammy Award nominee last played Wheatland in 2012 and expressed her excitement to be back. “This is such a healing place,” Foster remarked.
– By Holly Holtzclaw
PHOTO GALLERY: Wheatland Music Festival 2023
Photos by Holly Holtzclaw
VIDEO: Winter Wheat 2023
WINTER WHEAT 2024: The Local Spins Playlist
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