TRAVERSE CITY — Amid a pandemic that’s swept the globe, there’s nothing like looking ahead to the sunny, uplifting vibe of Michigan’s summer music festival season.
The burgeoning festival scene has soared in popularity over the past decade, with Michigan boasting upwards of 100 or more music festivals that draw thousands of visitors for a wide range of styles and milieus.
All of these festivals are keeping their fingers crossed that the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis won’t wipe out their 2020 gatherings (although Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts already has canceled its early June event).
The popularity of Michigan’s festivals was demonstrated by the 2020 readers’ poll hosted by the LocalSpins.com website that covers the region’s music scene.
The poll drew a record number of entries from folks across the state who picked their favorite festivals, with the results showing significant changes from the 2019 poll: The longstanding Wheatland Music Festival jumped from No. 7 to No. 1, Buttermilk Jamboree from No. 5 to No. 2, and Nor-East’r Music & Arts Festival — which didn’t even appear on the list in 2019 — debuted at No. 3. Last year’s top pick, Blissfest, retained a strong following, finishing at No. 4.
Local Spins cautioned that the poll is “a purely subjective and completely unscientific survey, based completely on the enthusiasm of festivalgoers who chose to participate.”
Here are the results:
1. WHEATLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (Sept. 11-13, 2020), Wheatland Festival Grounds, Remus
INITIAL 2020 LINEUP: Foghorn Stringband, Blue Highway, Racines and more to be announced.
It’s no surprise the granddaddy of Michigan music festivals would attract a loving following and the most votes in the Local Spins Readers’ Poll. The 47th festival is set to take place outside Remus in September, with folks and roots music traditions displayed via stage performances, educational workshops, children’s activities and more.
2. BUTTERMILK JAMBOREE (June 19-21, 2020), Circle Pines Center, Delton
2020 LINEUP: Funkadesi, Way Down Wanderers, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, Selwyn Birchwood, May Erlewine, Last Gasp Collective, Jordan Hamilton, The Mainstays
A “cooperative spirit” hangs in the air at Buttermilk, says performer Nicholas James Thomasma. The intimate, family-oriented affair blends mostly regional stars with a few national acts playing stages amid the woods and meadows of the progressively oriented Circle Pines Center.
3. NOR-EAST’R MUSIC & ART FESTIVAL (June 12-14, 2020), Oscoda County Fairgrounds, Mio
2020 LINEUP: The Jill Jack Band, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, The Go Rounds, Keynote Sisters, Cold Tone Harvest, Blue Water Ramblers, Escaping Pavement, Barbarossa Brothers
This June festival boasts “three straight days of eclectic music and art, food, dancing, camping, jamming, drumming and some of the greatest parkin’ lot pickin’ in the state.” Devotees cite the laid-back family atmosphere, good food, friendly attendees and compact layout.
4. BLISSFEST (July 10-12, 2020), Festival Farm, Harbor Springs/Cross Village
2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s performers included Amy Helm, Canned Heat, Sam Bush, Steve Poltz, Martin Sexton and more.)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of this much-beloved and diverse showcase of traditional and innovative American roots music, folk, world music and the arts.
5. EARTHWORK HARVEST GATHERING (Sept. 18-20, 2020), Earthwork Farm, Lake City
2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival included May Erlewine, Public Access, Mark Lavengood, a Detroit Hip Hop Showcase, Seth Bernard and more.)
It’s been described as a true musicians’ festival — a season-ending celebration with uber-collaborative performances on several stages scattered across Bob Bernard’s farm. There’s everything from environmental workshops to Bob’s Burgers, and lots of smiles.
6. HIAWATHA TRADITIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL (July 17-19, 2020), Marquette Tourist Park, 2145 Sugar Loaf Ave., Marquette
2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured The Fitzgeralds, Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Sumkali, Red Tail Ring, Jeffrey Foucault & Kris Delmhorst, Old Salt Union and more.)
The first Upper Peninsula festival to make the Top 10 in the Local Spins Readers’ Poll, the 42-year-old Hiawatha fest draws between 3,200 and 4,000 people every year for “an amazing weekend of music, blended voices and fiddle tunes” with a mission of promoting “traditional music and dance” and to “educate and inform society on traditional American music.”
7. COWPIE MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 6-8, 2020), Shagbark Farm, Caledonia/Alaska
2020 LINEUP: Spafford, Tunde Olaniran, Dixon’s Violin, Desmond Jones, Mungion, Lady Ace Boogie, Motor City Josh, Sophistafunk, ClusterPluck and more.
For nearly two decades, this music festival — three days of “peace, love and music” — on a working cattle ranch south of Grand Rapids offers a unique milieu for live music and camping. The 2020 festival will sport a Beatles theme, and the event will be “rebranded” for 2021.
(TIE) 8. HOXEYVILLE (Aug. 14-16, 2020), Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston
2020 LINEUP: Galactic, The Wood Brothers, The Sam Bush Band, North Mississippi Allstars, Michigan Rattlers, Luke Winslow-King, The Sweet Water Warblers, The Crane Wives and more.
The picturesque site in the Manistee National Forest has hosted diehard Hoxeyville devotees for an impressive lineup of regional acts, as well as a few national stars. (The Hoxeyville site also serves as the home for the newer Camp Greensky, taking place in June.)
(TIE) 8. WILLOWSONG MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 28-30, 2020), Willowsong Farmstead, Sidney
2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured Molly, Last Gasp Collective, The Bootstrap Boys, Valentiger, Nathan Kalish, Deerfield Run and more.)
In only its fourth year, this festival north of Grand Rapids organized by Eric and Jo Raby is intimate, eco-friendly and focused on showcasing local and regional bands in a hospitable environment, quickly cultivating a loyal following.
9. ELECTRIC FOREST (June 25-28, 2020), Double JJ Resort, Rothbury
2020 LINEUP: The String Cheese Incident (playing three nights), Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Diplo, Keller Williams, Lotus, Disco Biscuits, 12th Planet, FOTO, Major Lazer, Lindsey Stirling and more.
The biggest and most internationally celebrated festival on Local Spins’ Top 10 list offers an unmatched setting, with psychedelic lighting and the ever-magical Sherwood Forest art installation. Some 45,000-plus fans and hippies from across the globe pack the site for electronic music, jam bands and a mix of pop and soul artists. And it’s No. 1 in people-watching.
10. FARMFEST (Aug. 6-10, 2020), 1865 Roby Rd., Johannesburg
2020 LINEUP: To be announced. (Last year’s festival featured The Appleseed Collective, The Crane Wives, The Go Rounds, Luke Winslow-King, Dede & The Dreamers and more.)
Longtime performers at this festival east of Gaylord appreciate the unique setting, beautiful main stage and late-night jams that organizer Stacy Jo Schiller has long fostered. Attendees appreciate the dizzying array of performances, with more than 70 sets played by regional acts.
CAMP GREENSKY (June 4-6, 2020), Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston (with Billy Strings, Lettuce, Infamous Stringdusters, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, Greensky Bluegrass)
MICHIGAN IRISH MUSIC FESTIVAL (Sept. 17-20, 2020), Heritage Landing, Muskegon
PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS MUSIC FESTIVAL (Aug. 28-30, 2020), Winter Sports Complex in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon
BEAVER ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL (July 16-18, 2020), Beaver Island in northern Lake Michigan