Live Music in the Mitten

WRITER | RACHEL WHITE

When you think of live music, what comes to mind? In summertime in Michigan, it’s the sunshine, the fresh air, the friends, and the tunes! Music festivals are the best because you get a variety of acts, and the relaxed but excited vibe in the air can’t be replicated anywhere else. Some of my best memories are listening to live music on the grass, holding my husband’s hand, sipping a cold one, and hearing my favorite music. It’s like a one-day mini-vacation. Don’t fret; not all music festivals are Burning Man or Woodstock, many cater to a more diverse group! At their core, these are celebrations, opportunities for you to relax and enjoy songs you love. There are so many music festivals to choose from this summer – definitely something for everyone. Which ones will you get to? Here’s a roundup of some you can’t miss!

Common Ground, July 6-9, Lansing
With Toby Keith headlining this year, some tickets are already sold out, but it’s sure to be an awesome time. This festival does a different genre every night. Don’t miss the “Hammock Hangout” to really unwind, or the world’s longest and tallest mobile zip line to get the heart hammering.

Michigan Elvis Fest, July 7-8, Ypsilanti
A couple of years ago I took a boat ride through Michigan’s Inland Waterway with my husband and two young daughters. When we stopped for dinner, as we sat on the deck, one of the most entertaining acts of my life came to the stage. An Elvis tribute, my first, gave me a brief taste of what you will find at what the Chicago Tribune calls “one of the best music festivals in the midwest.” Yeah, I couldn’t help falling in love. And you won’t be able to either.

Blissfest, July 7-9, Petoskey
Featuring American roots music- a combination of folk, traditional, and roots music – this festival up north gets to the heart of summertime in Michigan. Get a wristband and camp on the Blissfest Festival Farm for this 37th (!) annual fest. Have a crafty kid? Get them involved in the junior crafter program where they can sell their wares.

Beaver Island Music Festival, July 20-22, Beaver Island
Okay, this one might be the most difficult to get to. You either have to fly or take a boat to this festival, but what an adventure! Getting there may be half the fun. Camping is free with your ticket, but if a bed is more your style, book one of the hotels or cottages on the island. Either way, after enjoying the music, be sure to stay up late for one of the best stargazing spots in America. This festival prides itself on bringing community and families together to “make music in the woods.” Let’s get our ferry tickets!

Traverse City Microbrew & Music Festival, August 11-12, Traverse City
A combination that can’t be beat: local craft brews from all across Michigan along with local and national music. You get a commemorative glass and sample tastes from your pick of breweries, kicking back on the grounds of the picturesque Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Book your hotel now; Traverse City gets busy in the summer.

Porcupine Mountains Music Festival, August 25-27, Ontonagon
The acts booked for this Upper Peninsula festival range from blues to indie rock to folk. The party (BYOB) is in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park on the shores of Lake Superior. Surrounded by this much natural beauty, you can’t go wrong. Make it part of your UP trip this summer.

Detroit Jazz Festival, September 1-4, Detroit
If you’re more of a hip cat who loves those jazzy rhythms, head over to the world’s largest free jazz festival. Bring your folding chair, as this festival takes over several city blocks in cool-again downtown Detroit, and stay for the late-night jam sessions.

Wheatland Music Festival, September 8-10, Remus
If pluckin’ and strummin’ and fiddlin’ are more your jam, then you have to get to this traditional music festival that has been going on since the early ‘70s. A truly multigenerational place (I went with my grandparents as a youngster), it has dancing, storytelling, music lessons, and fun for all ages. If you haven’t been in a while, now’s the time to get back.

DON’T FORGET:
Hand Sanitizer– Eating from food trucks is delish, but keep it clean.
Sunscreen– No great time is worth a sunburn.
Cash– Not everyone accepts credit cards.
Sunglasses– Quit squinting.
Evening Cardigan or Sweatshirt– Michigan nights can get cool.
Water Bottle– Don’t pay $2 to quench your thirst.
Bug Spray– No mosquito bites!

So get your friends on board, book your tickets, and make a weekend out of it. It gives you a great excuse to see a part of the state you haven’t been to in a while – or maybe never. You can enjoy old favorites and discover amazing new music. Let loose and dance, or bring the lawn chairs and chill. The communal atmosphere gives everyone, no matter your age, a sense of belonging and makes for a friendly and fun time. The energy at these concerts is unique. Any way you slice it, music festivals are truly a highlight of summer.