|Expanded Cowpie Music Festival Returns to Caledonia|
by John Sinkevics
To hear longtime concert promoter David Deaver tell it, the Cowpie Music Festival is “a unique celebration of mostly local and regional musicians on 160 beautiful acres of pure Michigan farmland.”
Veteran Grand Rapids singer and stand-up bassist Delilah DeWylde, who played the festival last year with her band, the Lost Boys, puts it this way: “The environment is very friendly, laid-back and fun.”
Once touted as a purely blues event staged “on a working cattle farm” near the community of Alaska in rural southern Kent County, this year’s retitled Cowpie Music Festival on Aug. 10-11 has been revamped considerably by expanding the musical genres covered by a larger number of artists performing on two stages over two days.
To be exact, the festival sponsored by the Michigan Heritage Music Association boasts 226 musicians from 43 bands embracing 17 genres – blues, country, Americana, rockabilly, Zydeco, surf, jump swing, rock, reggae, bluegrass and more – with an eye toward drawing a broader audience than previous years’ Cowpies.
Consequently, the Saturday lineup alone for the 11th annual festival features a dizzying array of artists: singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles, The Grand River Big Band, rockabilly’s DangerVille, surf guitar’s The Concussions, folk-rock’s The Soil & The Sun, blues icon Donald Kinsey and the Kinsey Report, bluegrass’ Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, honky-tonk’s Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys, country’s Kari Lynch Band, the Detroit blues-rock of Motor City Josh and much more.
Even though the event casts a wider net and aims for a “better festival experience,” Deaver – who’s assembled Cowpie in partnership with David Burns of The Alto Bar – insists blues fans won’t be disappointed.
“Twelve-bar blues is the fundamental basis for so many original American musical styles that it is virtually inescapable and pervasive in almost all popular music,” he says. “I think that our diehard blues fans will be very happy to see the absolutely badass blues bands at the festival, but also to enjoy the multiple variations and evolutions of that theme.”
DeWylde¸ who credits Cowpie for treating its musicians “so well,” also appreciates organizers’ efforts to broaden the roster of performers.
“I think expanding the lineup is a great idea and will really open up the fan base to more people,” she says. “I’m excited to see and talk to other bands, since we don’t often get to do that.”
Performances are strategically structured to alternate genres as well as give concertgoers sitting at one stage a chance to hear music from the other stage during changeovers.
Deaver also points out the unique festival site is only 15 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, with ample parking and camping for concertgoers, not to mention “an earful, a glass-full and a spoonful of everything,” including brews from Founders Brewing Co., Bell’s Brewery Inc. and New Holland Brewing Co.
More than 50 vendors are lined up for the weekend, with music starting at 5 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Get the full schedule, rules and camping information online at www.cowpiemusicfestival.com.
“We are ready to handle upwards of 15,000 smiling Cowpiers this year,” Deaver says, crediting volunteers, staff, vendors, sponsors, township officials and the media for helping build this “huge outdoor party with a veritable tsunami” of performers.
Still, it’s “not such a huge event that you get lost in the stew,” he crows, “or can’t get a beer or to the other stages to see the acts. You get to see all the bands at an intimate distance in a comfortable rural setting.”
Veteran music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at www.localspins.com, and spotlights artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW).
Published: August 2, 2012
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