Celebration on the Grand and Wheatland: Celebrating West Michigan’s burgeoning musical talent E-mail
by John Sinkevics

Summer’s not over yet, Grand Rapidians, not by a longshot.

cranewives1 For more than three decades, West Michigan has had ample reason to celebrate the second weekend in September in riveting musical fashion.

And this year, in particular, more local bands and solo artists than ever will find the spotlight in two of the region’s biggest, most popular end-of-summer bashes: Celebration on the Grand and the Wheatland Music Festival.

One of folk music’s most endearing national events – the 39th Wheatland Music Festival in Remus – puts two Americana-styled Grand Rapids acts on the high-profile Main Stage this weekend: Drew Nelson & Highway 2 and The Crane Wives.

Not only that, but the jam-all-weekend festival’s Centennial Stage boasts a smattering of other area favorites, including up-and-coming bluegrass band Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, folk’s Ruth & Max Bloomquist Band, vintage country/swing’s Sister Wilene and Michigan singer-songwriters such as Petoskey’s Pete Kehoe and the Lansing area’s Jamie-Sue Seal.

Grand Rapids’ own folksy Blue Water Ramblers will host a “family dance” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on the Dance Stage, along with playing Kids Hill on Friday and Saturday. But it’s the ascension to the festival’s Main Stage that really stands out for Nelson and The Crane Wives.

drewx “For a Michigan act to get a Main Stage performance at Wheatland is a big deal,” concedes Nelson, who released his first album on Americana’s Red House Records earlier this year. “To get a 10 p.m. Friday night Main Stage slot is incredible. I feel like I have to live up to the faith they have in me and my band. It's like moving from the kids’ table at Thanksgiving to sitting with the adults. There is some responsibility involved.”

For the fast-rising Crane Wives, who release their sophomore album on Sept. 22 during a show at The Intersection, it’s “confirmation that our music is worthy of the attention it has garnered,” says bassist Ben Zito. “My opinion of the attendees at Wheatland, audience and artist alike, has been that they have high standards for their music.

“And knowing that the producers of the event have deemed us a good fit is a personal vindication for what we have been doing. Having us on the main stage only serves to amplify that feeling, and I hope we don't disappoint. Altogether, it is a very unreal and gratefully appreciated opportunity.” (The Crane Wives also play the Centennial Stage at 9:05 p.m. Friday; Nelson plays the Centennial Stage at 10:40 p.m. Saturday.)

Closer to home, Grand Rapids’ Celebration on the Grand also pays tribute to the region’s burgeoning musical talent on two stages as well as bringing in the hard-rocking Great White as a Saturday night headliner.

With local stalwarts Jimmie Stagger, Deborah Kay & the Bluebloods, Jack Leaver’s American Heartbreakers (Tom Petty tribute), The Tom Hagen Trio featuring Mary Rademacher, Creolization, Vincent Hayes Project, Delilah DeWylde & the Lost Boys, The Concussions, Brena, Alive & Well, 13th Hour, Mustang Band and The Cones, this year’s Celebration on the Grand is a testament to West Michigan’s diverse musical mix.

“It has always been a celebration of the cultural life in Grand Rapids,” insists musician and promoter Michael Packer, who has booked past Celebration on the Grands and will perform as part of Deborah Kay & The Bluebloods at this year’s event. “It still celebrates how much this community has to offer in Grand Rapids.”

Jay Round, bassist for 13th Hour who was asked by the festival committee to help book this year’s acts, said Friday’s Rosa Parks Circle lineup represents an eclectic blend of blues-hued bands, with Stagger serving as the “traditional closer.” On Saturday, the stage takes on a classic rock theme.


Published: September 7, 2012

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