2009-08-08 / Top News

Mitch Ryder To Headline Mackinac Island Music Festival

By Jane Alexander

The Mackinac Island Music Festival will be Tuesday, August 18, Wednesday, August 19, and Thursday, August 20, featuring many returning artists, including Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, as well as several new artists and events.

A highlight of the festival this year will be "Mackinac Island's Last Waltz." This is in tribute to "The Band's Last Waltz," the first "rockumentary" filmed by Martin Scorsese of the final concert of rock group The Band, and featuring guest performances by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Ringo Starr, Neil Young, and Neil Diamond.

"It was The Band's last concert, and so they had a huge roster of musicians play at it," said Mary McGuire Slevin, director of the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, "and we thought that there are a lot of musicians [here] playing covers, like Myk Rise, Paul BeDour, Jason St. Onge, the people that aren't doing the original music that are great musicians that work on Mackinac, and I was trying to figure out how to draw them into the music festival. So we decided that we would do a tribute to 'The Band's Last Waltz.' ...I think it's going to be really cool to kind of throw back to the 1970s to that whole era of singer/songwriters and bands that lived, worked, played together, and toured together. This whole crowd of people is similar in that way, because we were all influenced by the work that the Forbes Brothers did individually and in their own bands, and then the next generation of us is all here, and the new generation is coming up. So it's just kind of a nice way for all of the musicians to get together, play music that they love, and feature something very cool and historic in a great theater."

Also new this year are CDs of festival music, which will be on sale for $15.

The event is hosted this year by Great Turtle Festivals, with some funding provided by Grey Goose Vodka, which donated $5 for every bottle of Grey Goose purchased on the Island last year, amounting to $12,840. This year, Grey Goose will donate $6 per bottle if the Island meets last year's amount sold, and will donate $4 per bottle if sells are less than last year's amount.

Ticketed events include the Mitch Ryder dinner, Mitch Rider show, and The Last Waltz performance. All tickets may be purchased at the tourism bureau. For more information on the festival or bands, visit www.mackinacislandmusicfestival. org.

Events in the 2009 Mackinac Island Music Festival include:


An evening with Mitch Ryder at 7 p.m. at Hotel Iroquois, featuring dinner and drinks, in which Mr. Ryder will talk about his life and career. The cost is $135 per ticket. The dinner will be a unique opportunity, Mrs. Slevin said.

"Last year Mitch said to me as he was flying off the Island, 'you know, I know it's not common to have the same major act headline, but I'm not getting any younger!' He's a great guy," she said. "He is really the white godfather of soul. When he was younger, everyone called him the white James Brown. Soul music was such a big deal in the 1960s, but then rock hit really hard with the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, so that kind of killed a lot of careers with all these soul musicians, but Mitch kept plugging away and plugging away. He does rock, but he's really kind of a rock, soul, and funk musician to me, and he's one of the best vocalists I've ever heard in my life, and I'm a singer. It's hard to do what Mitch Ryder does. It's hard to do that guttural scream. There'd be no Steven Tyler or John Mellencamp or a lot of these singers [who] wouldn't be here without the influence of Mitch Ryder."

The Alex Graham Quartet will play a Jazz and Wine Night at The Gate House at 10 p.m.


At 1 p.m. Roger Humphrey and Heather May will perform at the library, playing classical guitar and flute.

From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mark Arminski, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist, will be signing posters at Horn's Gaslight Bar.

At 8 p.m., Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels will perform at Mission Point Theatre. Tickets cost $35.


From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Michelle Chenard, Barbara Payton, Kraig Kenning, and Ash Can Van Gogh will perform at the Mackinac Island Hoe Down at Windermere Point.

At 8 p.m., "Mackinac Island's Last Waltz" will be at Mission Point Theatre, featuring the Forbes Brothers portraying The Band, and Charlie Springer, J.C. Whitelaw, Mary McGuire, Billy Brandt, Nino Dmytryszyn, Michelle Chenard, Myk Rise, Paul Bedour, and Jason St. Onge portraying special guest artists. Tickets cost $10.

At 10 p.m. a pub crawl jam session will tour the pubs and taverns of Mackinac Island with festival musicians.

At 11 p.m, there will be a jam session at the Pink Pony, with a raffle of a Greg Bennett acoustic guitar, contributed by Michelle Chenard and her sponsors.

Tickets for the raffle cost $10.

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