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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Right Under Your Nose

Festivals: Brighton American Music Festival

Sometimes, the coolest things in life are found in your own back yard.  I found a hidden gem in the Brighton Americana Festival, 10 minutes from my house!

The Flutter and Wow.  Who knew?
This  music festival was (barely) on my radar.  Even though it was in my home town, I figured it would be another collection of aging classic rock cover bands in a downtown park.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce and 2 Stones Events have teamed up to create one of the finest downtown events I have ever attended.  Coupled with a large sidewalk sale in the barricaded downtown business district, and complete with an incredible children's "bounce house" area and some killer food vendors (including a terrific barbeque house) a very family-friendly, small-town feeling, summer weekend of live outdoor music was born.  I took my 9-year old daughter and we had  a ball!

Ann Arbor's Dragon Wagon
We arrived early and paid our ridiculously low entry fee ($5 for me, kids free!) and entered the concert and beer garden area.  For those not interested in paying the entry, the festival offered a cool, and rather unique feature.  Located all over the downtown area were speaker stands, broadcasting the live music from the stage to all corners of the festival grounds.  Very cool.  Since we had some time to kill, we grabbed some seats and checked out the band on stage: Detroit-based husband and wife band The Flutter and Wow.  While the drum set, pedal steel guitar and song list pegged them as squarely alt-country, the inclusion of a doghouse bass, dreadnaught guitar and killer harmonies was just "SeMiBluegrass" enough for my tastes.  I loved this band!  Very entertaining.  Easy to listen to and very high energy.  Go see them.

Steppin' In It hits the stage
As night fell and we narrowly skirted the torrential rains that soaked mid-Michigan, Ann Arbor's Dragon Wagon took to the stage for their set.   I am used to this band in their energetic, somewhat baudy, bar-band persona and was pleasantly surprised by the polished, professional way they took to the festival stage.  A couple more traditional bluegrass tunes filled out their mostly-original set list.  Outside of a noisy bar, I was captivated by the subtle details of their instrumental work that often go unnoticed.  Given the tremendous sound system, I could hear every nuance of every note and really got an appreciation of the varied musical backgrounds this band draws from.  Is if bluegrass?  Folk rock?  Irish fiddle tunes?  I don't know...but it's awesome.  The more I see this band, the more I appreciate them.

Lansing's very own SeMiBluegrass band Steppin' In It closed the show and the festival with their unique take on Americana music (Harmonica, accordion and trombone?  Why not!)  Unfortunately, a long day of swimming and playing with friends began to take their toll on my daughter and we only stayed for a couple tunes.  This band understands a "groove" and really caught the fairly large crowd's attention.  As we left, we were amazed at the sea of bodies we saw swaying back and forth to the infections rhythms and melodies booming off the stage.  I really need to go see these guys at their weekly gig at the Green Door in Lansing.  Watch for a future show profile.

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