LAKE CITY — Attracting one of the largest crowds at the Hill Stage in the 19-year history of the music festival, Traverse City-area singer-songwriter May Erlewine delivered what was undeniably the most inspiring performance on opening night of last weekend’s Earthwork Harvest Gathering.
Performing on what she called one of the “sacred stages” on Bob Bernard’s Earthwork Farm outside Lake City, Erlewine unfurled not only crowd-interactive favorites such as “Never One Thing,” but politically powerful new songs from her forthcoming studio album, “Second Sight.”
Those new Erlewine songs included the protest anthem “That’s My Home” and a new feminist ballad she said she wrote while watching the recent Supreme Court nomination hearings for controversial nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Backed by a super-group of Michigan musicians, her performance earned a rousing standing ovation and came just a few weeks before official release of “Second Sight.”
Erlewine has released more than a dozen solo recordings since 2003 and she describes the new album as “a record of reflection with songs about existing, connecting and moving forward through very turbulent times as a country. The lyrics strive to deepen our awareness and emotional connection while drawing on our intuition and vision as a people.”
The album was self-produced and recorded with multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer Tyler Duncan. Special guests on the album include a host of well-known Michigan musicians, including Phil Barry, Max Lockwood, Michael Shimmin, Joe Hettinga and Eric Kuhn.
Erlewine will celebrate release of the new album with performances Oct. 5 at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo, Oct. 6 at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids and Oct. 13 at Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake.
At Harvest Gathering, Erlewine also paid tribute to Seth Bernard – the musician, activist and environmentalist who spearheads the annual event – by performing a fetching cover of The Beatles’ “Mother Nature’s Son” and praising Bernard for his “dedication to this community and to this land.”
Attracting a record turnout of 3,000-plus attendees, this year’s Harvest Gathering kicked off with more than 30 rousing, opening-day performances on four stages by Michigan-bred stars, including Public Access, Mark Lavengood Band, Fauxgrass, Earth Radio, The Crane Wives’ Kate Pillsbury, a Detroit hip hop showcase and northern Michigan’s The Real Ingredients, Derrell Syria Project and others.
The passionate performances reflected Bernard’s philosophy for the weekend.
“Live like life matters,” he proclaimed from the stage at one point while welcoming attendees to the “cultural celebration” that promotes diversity and inclusivity.
Although the rest of the weekend saw attendees and bands dodging rain that swept across the state, it didn’t alter musicians’ enthusiasm for the event.
Kalamazoo’s hip hop cellist Jordan Hamilton, who performed solo and with Bernard’s band, said no other event compares to Harvest Gathering.
“It has a different feel than other festivals,” he said. “It’s the one festival musicians look forward to every year.”
Sunday’s lineup even included a wedding on the Barn Stage. World-renowned drummer Scott Pellegrom, from Grand Haven, got married to tour manager/artist development professional Elle Lively, with Bernard officiating.
“We’ve been dating for awhile and met through Seth, so it was only fitting to do it at one of our favorite places,” Lively said.
“Plus, when all your wedding guests are musicians, it’s hard to get them in one place for a wedding on weekend. So this is perfect.”