Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Music festivals abound in U. P.

Erik Koskinen will open
Gladstone's Rockin' the Bay
Music Festival on June 12.


If you want to enjoy musical entertainment in a festival setting this summer, the Upper Peninsula offers many worthwhile events.

More than a dozen festivals are scheduled, featuring a wide variety of musical offerings.

Some of these events, like Hiawatha and Grand Marais, have been going on for decades, while Gladstone's Rockin' the Bay is new.

Here are some details to help you decide which ones to attend:

Swamp Rock Bash, June 3-6, Stephenson

Featured entertainment for the 9th annual event includes Strutter, a Kiss tribute band; Free Fallin', saluting Tom Petty; and Jasmine Cain. Born in Sturgis, South Dakota, Cain has been playing for major motorcycle rallies for much of her career. For details go to

Thunder Fest, June 6, Brimley

Sponsored by the Bay Mills Resort & Casinos, Thunder Fest is billed as a "veterans charity biker/ musicfest on the shores of Lake Superior." The evening concert features Bobby Friss, the Outer Vibe, and blues band Measured Chaos. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the D. J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette. Go to for details.

Rockin' the Bay Festival, June 12-13, Gladstone

This is the first of what organizers hope will be an annual event. Seven acts covering jazz, blues, Americana, rock and rockabilly will be presented. Friday's line -up includes Erik Koskinen Band, Alex Wilson Band and Hillbilly Voo Doo Dolls. Saturday's entertainment features Ben Durbin's Modern Antiques, Molly Maher and Her Disbelievers, Cadillac Kolstad & the Flats and Randy Weeks. Rockin' the Bay is sponsored by the Gladstone Yacht Club and supports the Gladstone Schools' Fine Arts Dept. For details call 428-4924.

Jam Dam Jamboree, June 26-28, Wilson

Among the performers at this year's Jam Dam Jamboree will be Grassfire, an Escanaba-based bluegrass combo.

U. P. Hog Wild, July 17-19, Kingsford
Held at Lodal Park, U. P. Hog Wild is actually a championship barbecue competition, antique car show and music festival. The featured acts this year include Pink Houses, Johnny Wad, Fat Brass, Inc., Big Mouth, Red, White & Blues Band, Next Myle and Whiskey Stil. For more information, go to

Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival, July 17-19, Marquette

This year marks the 31st annual Hiawatha Festival, held at Tourist Park. Entertainment includes bluegrass, old-time, Cajun, Celtic, blues and folk music. Scheduled acts include Tangled Roots, Derrell Syria Project, Lucy Kaplansky, Cafe Accordion, Mamadou Diabate, Josh White Jr., Rhythm in Shoes, Stairwell Sisters, Feufollet and Pat Donohue. For details, go to

Aura Jamboree, July 17-18, Aura

In case you didn't know it, Aura is located 15 miles north of L'Anse in Baraga County. The 33rd edition of the Jamboree presents regional bluegrass and acoustic musicians playing inside Aura Hall and jam sessions all over the grounds. First called "The Fiddlers Jamboree," the event raises funds for the Aura Community Hall. Tickets are $5 per day. For details, go to

Motongator Joe's Country Music Festival, July 22-26, Wallace

Put together by Joe Grinsteiner, also known as Motongator Joe, this is the 13th annual event. Featured entertainers this year are Buddy Jewel and Tommy Horton. The 120-acre festival grounds can accommodate 5,000 music fans. For details, go to

Woodtick Music Festival, July 30- Aug. 2, Hermansville

The 16th annual Woodtick will again feature a main stage and an acoustic "front porch." Main stage performers on Friday include: Acoustically Challenged, Bordertown, Next Myle, Schizophonic and Billy Shears Show. Saturday's line-up is Sawdust Symphony, Rainbow Stew, Suns of Memphis, Flat Broke Blues Band, Bad Axe Rodeo and Night Train. Sunday's acts are Norton & Chartier, Bill Martin & the Blasters and Woodtick Jam. Entertaining at the front porch are Buffett Bash, Bounty Hunter, Willow Ridge, Grassfire, Sawdust Symphony, The Martinz, Cosmic Bob, Fossil, WG3 (Whitens Generation Three), and Crooked Creek. For more information, contact

Grand Marais Music & Arts Festival, Aug. 7-9, Grand Marais
Friday's line-up features Tanglemere and the Town Pants for the 28th annual event. Performers on Saturday include Greg Koons, the Overtones, Red, White & Blues, the Harvestmen, Charlie's Root Fusion and Macpodz. Sunday's schedule features Grassfire, New Third Coast and Cabin Fever. For details, visit their website.

Mackinac Island Music Festival, Aug. 18-20, Mackinac Island

Presented by the Mackinac Arts Council and Great Turtle Festivals, the 5th annual event will feature Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels on the 19th at Mission Point Resort Theatre. The festival will also stage a recreation of the Band's "Last Waltz," performance as seen in the film directed by Martin Scorsese. Other weekend entertainers will be Kraig Kenning, Ash Can Van Gogh, Barbara Payton, Michelle Chenard and the Forbes Brothers. For further information, go to

Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, Aug. 28-30, Ontonagon

This year marks the 5th annual event, held at the Ski Hill and Chalet area of the Porcupine Mountains State Park outside Ontonagon. Entertainers include Cadillac Sky, Clumsy Lovers, Gandolf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Deke Dickerson & the Eccofonics, Pieta Brown, Seth Bernard and Daisy May, Drew Nelson, Charlie Parr and Reverend Eddie Danger. For details visit

Marquette Area Blues Fest, Sept. 5-6, Marquette

Staged at Lower Harbor Park, Blues Fest is now in its 6th year. The Saturday performers are Zydecology, the Original Delta Fireballs, Biscuit Miller and the Mix, Gina Sicilia and James "Super Chikan" Johnson. Millie Street, Reverend Sexton, Maurice Davis, Curtis Salgado and Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King will entertain on Sunday. There's also a don't-miss after party for fans who can't get enough of the blues. For details, visit

Like thousands of other fans, my wife Sue and I are planning to attend some outstanding music festivals around the Upper Peninsula this summer.

Maybe you should, too.

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