From the first glimpses of the venue to a closer view of the grounds, camping and stages we knew this festival was going to be special. Hoxeyville’s 10th anniversary celebration promised to yield a variety of great music, good times tasty treats, excited fans and a list of talented musicians enough to satisfy the eclectic tastes of any hard core festy fan. Anticipation set in as we prepared to “get lost in the great north woods” of Michigan. Tucked away in the lush greenery of the Manistee National Forest, near Wellston Michigan, The Hoxyville Festival has been a picturesque and visually down home setting for audiences for a decade, ensuring musical delights from across a variety of genres. This year the event planning included several wonderful bands from our own back yard in addition to rock solid headliners like Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, 7 Walkers, The Mickey Hart Band and many other of Michigan’s own, including Seth and May and Greensky Bluegrass.
Beginning with the Corn Fed Girls and The Red Sea Pedestrians, we were treated to a spot on rendition of The Beatles Abbey Road Album. Chunky chords and delicate melodies of a time past made for a very sweet beginning and a sign of things to come. These musicians exuded passion, and soul kicking out the energy any Beatles album would require.
7 Walkers, the newest collaboration between Bill Kreutzmann and New Orleans legend Papa Mali is the band, 7 Walkers, featuring Billy K on drums and Papa Mali on guitar with George Porter Jr. and Matt Hubbard.
The Walkers opened up with Dead favorites of Going down the Road followed by He’s Gone. They next broke into a sultry version of I know you Rider, jammed out to a few of the songs from their new album, 7 Walkers' self-titled debut album, and finished with enthusiastic and compelling versions of Sugaree, Cottonwood Blues and 7 Walkers. Hoxeyville was in official festival mode.
Greensky Bluegrass was truly a headliner band with two full sets of material covering their four previously released albums including their latest album, Handguns. Greensky has polished its own place in Bluegrass circles collaborating with the likes of YMSB and Railroad Earth. Complete with mandolin, banjo, upright bass, an acoustic guitar and a dobro guitar, their sound brings on the flavor of a true bluegrass experience while keeping a tight yet jammy edge.
It had the flavor of a true bluegrass experience combined with a spirit of improvisation that takes their music into the realm of psychedelic bluegrass. This was all the more powerful because of the obvious musicianship that they all displayed.
Greensky is really an act to catch as they seem to be on the verge of really breaking out as a huge attraction.
To get their own moves on, fans also were able to take in the silent disco set enjoying some beats and dancing until 2:00am.
Day two of the 10th annual Hoxeyville Festival was just as eventful as the fest’s first day. Festivarians were less frenetic. The bands were polished and at ease and the weather was a jacket-defying mixture of sunny-warm and overcast-chilly.
We started our viewing pleasure at the Timber stage with the Josh Davis band. This group, lead by front man Josh Davis rocked and sang their way into our hearts with a wide variety of selections from rocking riffs to heart sung ballads. This was a strong set and Josh looks like a seasoned vet transcending cultural divides with his sweet guitar and his smooth vocal message of peace and unity. Just right for the Hoxeyville scene.
We were next treated to some high energy blue grass tinged harmony from The Crane Wives. This eclectic band featured strong female front singers and by using three-part vocal harmonies, their high energy singing and tight delivery really started to get the good times going.
Over at the Mitten stage which featured main stage caliber performances as well, we caught a great set by the Jen Sygit, Sam Corbin & Lincoln Co Process. With a packed audience Jen sang and played with confidence and spunky melodic rich vocal storytelling accompanied by laying down some extremely tight and virtuosic guitar. Jen’s style made it easy to forget about the sleep deprivation, the hangovers, or the cool of the northern skies. We could help but wonder if this group has something to prove with special guests joining in on the fun.
Back at the main stage Rootstand and Airborne or Aquatic kept the party going with solid delivery. Airborne came with a truly rocking sound that reminded us all that Hoxeyville can crank out the jams.
Next MacPodz brought their high energy psychedelic funk which got the Hoxeyville collective up on their feet and dancing. Lead by the funky bass and percussion sounds were colored by trumpet, flute and a solid lead guitar. MacPodz was highlighted by a rousing rendition of Buddy Miles song, Them Changes.
Just before Bruce Hornsby and the NoiseMakers, we caught most of the BoomBox set, featuring Zion Rock Godchaux. This was also a heavy funkfied set up for the gathering Bruce fans and had them warming up their dancing shoes, with a set closer take on the Grateful Dead’s funkfied ode to disco, Shakedown Street. Everyone was ready to party down.
Bruce Brought it. No really… he brought the dulcimer, the accordion and his Steinway piano.
Bruce started things out with a delicate yet strong Candy Mountain. It didn’t take long but in true Hoxeyville style, Bruce got the funk out with a fun version of Superfreak, which he played his accordion to the crowd singing, “She’s a Super Freak!”
With Bruce next calling out “what do you want to hear?” …Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass suggested from the crowd… “Jacobs Ladder!”. Bruce agreed and lit it up nicely.
We were next treated to the favorite Hornsby/Henley collaboration, End of the Innocence. Hornsby and the NoiceMakers next romped through old time favorites, Funhouse and Valley Road. The crowd was treated to his prowess on the use of the Dulcimer and the Accordion during his set.
Bruce next offered up That’s Just the Way It Is and teased China Cat Sun Flower and a little …”I like the way you work it”, before ripping through a raucous Rainbows Cadillac closer. What a really great set with time to dance, reminisce and finish off a great day two at the Hoxeyville Music Festival.
The last day of Hoxeyville and we were treated to full sets from The Go Rounds and Rachel Davis, Breath Owl, Breath and Van Ghost featuring TAB’s own Jen Hartwick. At this point in the day, fans were able to participate in a Mickey Hart Percussion seminar drum circle. Hoxyville, with its intimate setting and close up interaction was now in the final stages of a jam packed weekend. After hearing Mickey speak and play with the small crowd that had gathered, we made our way over to the main stage to hear the Mickey Hart Band.
Mickey Hart Band
Mickey Hart has released his long awaited and most masterful album to date. Mysterium Tremendum has been described as an “astral-trip through space and time riding upon the rhythm of sound waves, defying physics at the speed of light.” The Mickey Hart Band was a great culminating headliner to a very diverse yet cool weekend of talent.
The set started off with spacey sounds and effects. It moved smoothly through each transition including Dead favorites like …I Know you Rider, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, Not Fade away, and Brokedown palace. The energy in the crowd picked up as everyone was brought back to their roots and why they love music so much. Mickey’s set was a gem of a show and the sound was crystal-clear and well-mixed.
Hoxeyville offered various forms of camping including a VIP camping area, motor home and RV camping, General Admission sites, and a drag and drop camping area.
With ample accommodations like First Aid, ice, water stations, Disc Golf, recycling, and port a johns the venue offered all the necessities for a value packed weekend of camping music and fun.
The Layout - A two stage, easy to navigate circle with no sound bleed. The Timber stage right next to the Hoxeyville stage represented our home base and 2 main stages. Off around the bend behind us sat The Mitten stage.
Libations/Food – With a Beer tent erected on site, festival-goers had a great time and festival fare was easy to find with excellent organic chili, Thai spicy noodles
Bathrooms – There were enough port-o-johns to accommodate Hoxeyville’s several thousand music fans.
Non-Musical Activities – A Disc Golf course and canoeing on the nearby Pine River with Hammocks nestled into the woods between everything.
Vending – With a variety to shop at, vending provided a quality of options for food, art, jewelry, clothing etc.
The Vibe – Extremely chill, especially for a rock festival. Not too crowded, not too empty with just the right amount of crazy when you went looking for it.
Improvements Needed - Not many that were visible, perhaps a few more food outlets and somewhere to get wet once you got hot, also, a phone charging station would be awesome! But kudos to Hoxeyville planners for coming out of the gate and spending the money to make Hoxeyville glow!
In my review of the Hoxeyville Festival, with beautiful sunny skies and cool air along with periods of night rain (which included a monster storm Saturday evening), people were still smiling throughout and were genuinely excited to see and talk about the music and compare notes about what they may have missed at another stage. Security was nonintrusive and no discernible law enforcement issues or hassles were to be found. Hoxeyville Festival fans want to have fun! They also want crisp, bright, expertly mixed music and in this respect, and many more, this year’s Hoxeyville Festival has given us another great addition to the memories and good times in the great north woods of Michigan.