2008-08-30 / Top News

Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels Headline Island Music Festival

Event Draws Varied Performers, Shows Promise for Growth
By Allison Levy

Mitch Ryder and his band, The Detroit Wheels, headlined the Music Festival and drew a large crowd Wednesday night. (Photograph by Kate Levy) Mitch Ryder and his band, The Detroit Wheels, headlined the Music Festival and drew a large crowd Wednesday night. (Photograph by Kate Levy) The 38th Annual Mackinac Island Music Festival lineup surpassed the previous four in grandeur and length, say organizers, and holds promise for continued growth and exciting music in the years ahead.

The festival began Tuesday night at Mission Point Theater with Texas singer and songwriter Colin Gilmore and Colorado bluegrass band, Elephant Revival, and continued throughout the day Wednesday, leading up to that night's performances by Chicago folk band Switchback and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

Colin Gilmore and Bill Crompton and their light country vibe impressed the audience with their intricate lyrics as the warm-up for Elephant Revival.

"I really enjoyed listening to Colin's lyrics as he played," said Tom Storey following the performance, and other members of the audience enjoyed Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Crompton's harmony.

Later, Elephant Revival filled the old theater with youthful energy. The band draws its inspiration from bluegrass, Americana, and traditional Scottish tunes and makes use of the banjo and washboard in their music.

Colin Gilmore (right), joined by Billy Crompton, opened for Elephant Revival Tuesday night. (Photograph by Kate Levy) Colin Gilmore (right), joined by Billy Crompton, opened for Elephant Revival Tuesday night. (Photograph by Kate Levy) "We have a great time performing on stage," vocalist and guitar player Dan Rodriguez said. The rest of the band members, Bridget Law on fiddle, Dan Rose on bass, Sage Cook on banjo, vocalist Bonnie Paine on the washboard, and guest performer Annie Paine of the band, My Tea Kind, attribute their stage presence to being honest with their audience. If a bass string snaps, as it did Tuesday night, the group shares that experience with the audience, and lets them in on their conversation.

The festival's free events Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday showcased a variety of music styles. Highlights included Tuesday's performance by the Petoskey Steel Drum Band, Chordiology Barbershop Quartet, classical flute and guitar performance by Roger Humphrey and Lisa Wassom, and Celtic group Freshwater on Wednesday, and a Hoedown all afternoon on Thursday featuring the Forbes Brothers, Kraig Kenning, Shout Sister Shout, the Mickeys, and Rick Niemi with Shotgun Willie. The festival also brought authors Judy Davis and Jim Mitchell to the Island Bookstore for signings, and authentic rock artist Mark Arminski, designer of the festival's posters, to Horn's Gaslight Bar for a showcase of his work.

Wednesday night, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels both brought their own energy to the Mission Point Theater stage, with Pat Harwood on keyboard, Brian Lourd and Chris Brantley on guitar, Sean Bondareff on bass, and Jerome Day on drums.

"I'm here to entertain, by golly," Mr. Ryder announced part way into his show, and by his last number, his popular "Devil With A Blue Dress On," the audience was dancing in front of the stage.

Mr. Ryder's warm-up band, Switchback, which returned this year by popular demand, also impressed the audience.

"I really enjoyed their performance," said Island visitor Carol Bender of Illinois. "It's a style of music I had not heard before," she added, referring to the group's Celtic sound.

Since 2004, the Mackinac Arts Council has sponsored the Festival, which has evolved from a single afternoon's affair to the three-day-long event this year that drew acts from across the country. The Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau cosponsors the event, and its director, Mary McGuire Slevin, works side-by-side with Arts Council director Becki Barnwell to plan it.

Ms. Barnwell expects that, with sufficient advertising, the festival will continue to grow while continuing to compliment the Mackinac Island venue through careful selection of the performers.

"I know it could grow a lot bigger," Ms. Barnwell said. "Who knows? Maybe we could have Mackinac-stock."

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