It didn’t take long after arriving at Hoxeyville Music Festival to realize what an amazing weekend was ahead of me. In fact, the last hour of my four and a half hour trip, with perfect weather and sights of Michigan’s hardwood forest, quickly put me in the mood for the three days of great music and fun. The excitement could be felt right at the gate where volunteers cheerfully welcomed me into the festival grounds. One even went out of his way to help me set up my tent and shared with me his enthusiasm for the upcoming days. His name was Martini.
As I walked through the campground, I could hear Funktion kicking off the weekend with their soulful horns and rhymes, as well as smiling campers wishing me “Happy Hoxeyville!” While some were just arriving, others were well underway getting their weekend started, drinking and chatting with friends. Yet others couldn’t resist the dancing rhythms and gladly gravitated toward the stage. In a designated area for families, kids laughed and threw around a big beach ball while their parents produced wonderful smells on the grill. It was almost like coming to a big family reunion that only the nice relatives showed up for.
Coming up to the Mitten Stage, Graham Parsons and the Go Rounds had my attention till the end with some good old Americana Rock ‘n Roll. A blue and white tent covered the stage and the pleased crowd, creating an up close and personal encounter between the band and the audience. I finally made it to the main area of the festival to find the other two stages right next to each other so that the music never stopped for more than 15 minutes at a time. As the sun went down, Ella Riot brought everybody to the Cadillac stage with one of the most energetic sets all weekend. The Ann Arborgroup fired up the evening with powerful techno pop beats, including a cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better off Alone”, and coming to a magnetizing close with electrified Irish bagpipes. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk kept the party going well into the night bringing to the stage two bass players and stimulating grooves that kept bodies moving all night. Two hours later it was time to go back to camp and lay under what looked like the entire Milky Way spread across the Manistee Forest sky.
A rainy Saturday morning was not enough to inhibit fellow “Hoxies” and soon the sun came out. I took the time to walk around the vendor village and spotted rather interesting Michigan arts and crafts from jewelry to photographs, glasswork and clothing. A wide variety of foods and a Founder’s Brewery tent completed the half circle that faced the two main stages. The Ragbird’s frontwoman Erin Zindle charmed the audience with an array of instruments and folksy rhythms. Following, The Macpodz’s extremely engaging “disco bebop” sound proved to be the most pleasant surprise of the weekend. Having played at Hoxeyville every year since its birth, the announcer called Greensky Bluegrass “the true house band” of the annual festival that started in 2002. Starting the evening, The Digital Tape Machine came like an electric blast to the ears and left people begging for more. The Festival’s headliners Umphrey’s McGee ended the night strong with covers of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh?” and “Another Brick in the Wall” in their encore. While I sneaked back to my tent, a solar glow disc golf tournament was about to begin featuring members of Funktion, Strange Arrangement and others.
My last day at Hoxeyville was the first for many, since day passes were still available at the door. I wandered through the more woodsy areas of the campground and met people from all over Michigan. For some, like me, it was their first time at Hoxeyville, others were veterans, but all agreed they were coming back next year. I even ran into Martini, the friendly volunteer, once again, who now got to enjoy the festivities like the rest of us. Back by the stage I watched hula hoopers, dancers and lovers while the Ultraviolet Hippopotamus rocked the Hoxeyville Stage with vibrant progressive rock / electronic tunes. Later on, The Itals talked peace, love and unity to joyful listeners whose thirst for roots reggae was being rightfully quenched. Mickey Hart Band’s enlivening performance of world music, rock jams, and master percussion brought the weekend to a fantastic finish, leaving behind new and old fans.
Leaving Sunday night, I was really excited to get home but even more excited to have been a part of Hoxeyville Music Festival. On the drive back I thought about the many talented local musicians I had never heard of, and all I had been missing out on. I also reflected upon how easy it can be for people to come together, enjoy one another and make something beautiful happen when they really want to. From start to finish Hoxeyville was a terrific experience that I can’t wait to repeat it next summer.