For the past few years, Earthwork Music has been teaming up with the like-minded arts promotion organization Fox On A Hill and downtown East Lansing art gallery/performance space (SCENE) Metrospace to put on a two-day mid-winter folk festival. Organized by musician Brandon Foote (of Gifts Or Creatures), the event is centered around the prolific Michigan independent singer/songwriter community, for which "folk" is a somewhat inadequate term. A quick glance at this year's lineup reveals what might be the best year yet, with a strong showing from the indie-folk camp as well as some of the Mitten State's more forward-thinking traditionalists.
Since opening in 2004, (SCENE) Metrospace has steadily built a reputation as the premier all-ages music venue in East Lansing. Just steps away from the campus of Michigan State University, (SCENE) is a wide-open, contemporary space that showcases cutting edge art in all mediums. I've witnessed everything there from motion-detecting, inflatable sculptures to experimental film. From rock shows to modern classical performances, (SCENE)'s stage has seen a constant stream of performers -- especially since moving to their current location at 110 Charles Street, in the lower level of the colorful "Habitrail," a.k.a. the Division Street Parking Garage (next door to Georgio's Pizza).
Earthwork Music is a collective of musicians founded by singer/songwriters Seth Bernard and May Erlewine (Daisy May). Headquartered in Lake City, Michigan, Earthwork' s artists are scattered across the state, and in the case of a few, like Daniel Kahn and Luke Winslow-King, call New Orleans their home. Earthwork blends social consciousness with a DIY work ethic and a passion for contemporary folk music. The collective hosts an annual gathering, The Harvest Gathering, at the Bernard family's Lake City farmstead, which has bloomed from a simple weekend of camping held for an extended family of friends, into one of Michigan's most acclaimed mini-festivals.
Jen Sygit, Sam Corbin, and Gifts Or Creatures all appear from the Earthwork artist roster. Brandon from Gifts Or Creatures commissioned the poster, pictured above, that I designed to promote the festival. I've had the pleasure of designing the posters for this festival ever since its inception in 2008.
Also appearing are two artists who appeared on ITAV's most recent release, the In The Orchard Of Osiris compilation. Steven Leaf, a Lansing-based songwriter, contributed the lush, layered instrumental "India Pale Ale" from his recent debut album We Are Ghosts. Leaf's music belies the folk tag: although it is primarily acoustic it is also clearly informed by electronic music and indie rock. We'd love it if Steve would consider ITAV as a home for his sophomore release! The other artist who appears on I.T.O.o.O. is mid-Michigan musician Chris Bathgate, who contributed vocals to the Syscrusher track "Between The Breath Of Infinity." We are big fans of Chris's music, and eagerly awaiting the follow-up album he's working on to A Cork Tale Wake, which is the album my wife and I fell in love to.
Someone I'm really looking forward to checking out is Photographers, based in Chicago. I've just heard intriguing things about Photographers, and tantalizing scraps of music.
My label-mate on GTG Recordings, Small Houses, will also appear at the (SCENE) Folk Festival. Small Houses is a unique blend of sparely gorgeous melodies, economic arrangements, and rich brevity. I happen to know there's some new music coming out soon from Small Houses, because I am designing the cover art -- utilizing some breathtaking photography by Maren Hoopfer (of Photographers, the band).
Also in the old friends category is the folk duo Nervous But Excited. Nervous But Excited is the fusion of two dynamic singer/songwriters, Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver. Both powerful performers in their own rights, Nervous But Excited have been touring and performing together since 2004, evangelizing their extremely engaging brand of "pleasantly aggressive folk."
And the wild cards, for me, are Doug Mains and Ryan Anderson. Who are these enigmas? Everyone loves a good mystery.
A quick hopscotch through the multitude of links in this post should give you a pretty good idea of the caliber of performance you can expect at (SCENE) Metrospace next Friday and Saturday. I would advise not showing up late, as the venue can only hold about 150 people and is known to sell out. Tickets are $10, available at the door only, and the music starts at 8 PM each night. Doors each night are at 7 PM.
Perhaps I'll see you there?
I have some other exciting things to write about, like a friend who found a cache of ridiculously out-of-print ITAV CDs that I'll probably devise some sort of giveaway for; an upcoming Stargrazer show; new developments with the 3-Way Singles Club... but those will have to wait for another post, because it's time to hit "Publish."