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Rothbury Or Not, Michigan's Summer Is Rich With Festivals

of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

During the past two years, the Fourth of July weekend sent 35,000 or so music fans to Oceana County for the Rothbury Festival, Michigan’s entry in North America’s burgeoning “destination festival” market.

Not so this year.

Saying they were unable to assemble a talent roster that would allow the event “to move forward with … integrity and high standards,” Rothbury’s organizers opted against a third festival this year, vowing to return in 2011. Its absence has certainly left a void in the summer calendar, but not one that’s crippling. In fact, a combination of brand new and existing festivals in or within a short drive from the Detroit metro area still on the schedule, bringing music to areas outside of the traditional outdoor amphitheaters.

Here’s a look at the most notable gatherings, with enough stylistic diversity to satisfy all tastes:

* Perennial DTE Energy Music Theatre opener Eddie Money does double-duty this year as one of the headliners of the inaugural Uncle Sam Jam, a free festival taking place in Woodhaven’s Civic Center Park Thursday, July 8, through July 11. Money will top a lineup of local bands on a rock-oriented stage Friday, July 9, while Confederate Railroad and Bomshel will ride herd for a country bill on Saturday, July 10, and Detroit headbangers Ray Street Park will close things on July 11. The festival also includes carnival rides, a petting farm and a Friday night fireworks show. Call 586-493-4344 or visit www.unclesamjamfest.com.

* Traverse City’s annual National Cherry Festival keeps the beat going in the evening with a full concert series on the Bay Side Music Stage. This year’s performers include country star Randy Houser, Los Lonely Boys, Journey co-founder Gregg Rolie and his band, Tommy Castro, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and 1964 the Tribute. Amateurs, meanwhile, can test their tonsils in a Cherry Idol competition — assuming the cherry spitting contest is not their bailiwick. For schedules and ticket information, visit www.cherryfestival.org.

* Harbor Springs’ rootsy Blissfest turns 30 this year with its traditional three days of music July 9-11 on the Blissfest Festival Farm site. This year’s headliners include John Hiatt, Richie Havens and Patty Larkin, along with the bluegrass-rap troupe the Deadly Gentlemen and Michiganders Thornetta Davis, Steppin’ In It and My Dear Disco. Tickets range from $20-40 daily and $30-335 for the full weekend, with camping available for additional costs. Visit www.blissfest.org for information.

* Lansing’s Common Ground will be rocking — and more — during its seven-day run July 12-18 at the city’s Adado Riverfront Park. Among this year’s performers are “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Jimmy Cliff, Buckcherry, Ludacris, the Max Weinberg Big Band, the Pink Floyd tribute band The Machine with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. Tickets are $26 daily ($11 for the July 18 bill), with $125 VIP seats, a $93 week-long pass and a $350 UnCommon Club membership also available. Visit www.commongroundfest.com.

* A rare area appearance by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie with his other band the Country of Miracles, Foghat and Tab Benoit will help Windsor get the blues at this year’s Windsor Bluesfest, which runs July 16-18 on the Riverfront Festival Plaza near Caesars Windsor. Others on the bill include Ronnie Baker Brooks, Watermelon Slim, Janiva Magness, a Pazman’s Super Session and a “Bluesfest Idol” competition. Daily tickets range from $10-25, while a weekend pass is $35. Visit www.thebluesfest.com.

* The Metro Jazz Fest makes its first appearance on the summer schedule this year, taking place July 23-25 on Macomb Community College’s South Campus at 12 Mile and Hayes roads in Warren. Spyro Gyra, Mindi Abair, Marion Meadows, Alex Bugnon, Junior Walker’s All Star Band and Nelson Rangell are among the headliners for the free event. Information is available at www.metrojazzfest.com.

* If there’s a stand-in for Rothbury this year, then it’s the first Land of Nod Experiment, a three-day affair taking place July 23-25 in Jackson. Nearly 90 acts are set to perform, including Of Montreal, Eagles of Death Metal, Tokyo Police Club, Rasputina, Dr. Octogon and Michigan groups such as My Dear Disco, the Satin Peaches, Natives of the New Dawn, Cybertrybe, Sista Otis, the Rabgirds, Silverghost, the Motor City Vaudeville Revue and more. The festival will also include an art exhibition. Both single-day and weekend tickets are available, with prices changing as the festival draws closer. Visit www.noomoonlandofnod.com for details

* Roots music will be the focus at the nine-hour Hansens Island Bluegrass Festival on Aug. 15, where Lonesome County, Company of Strangers, Skin and Bones, Balduck Mountain Ramblers, Catfish Mafia and Deepwater Bluegrass will perform at the Schoolhouse Grille. Tickets are $20, with proceeds going to the local Lions Club’s Family Emergency Fund. The ferry ride to the island costs $7. Call 810-748-9551 or visit www.hansensislandbluegrassfestival.eventbrite.com.

* Uncle Kracker, Sponge, Hush, Motor City Josh, 60 Second Crush and the Reed & Dickinson Band are among the homegrown talent that will be the focus of L3: Lucky Lake Live, which takes place Aug. 20-22 at the Lucky Lake Campground — located, ironically, next to the Double JJ Ranch site in Oceana County where the Rothbury festivals were held. Two stages and a DJ area will run throughout the weekend, with plenty of camping available on the 200-acre site. Tickets are $33.50 per day, while three-day passes run $63.50 or $103.50 with camping. Visit www.luckylakelive.com.

* Detroit’s Majestic Theatre Complex is gearing up for its annual F***ing Awesome Fest, which is set for Aug. 20-22 featuring 50 bands on four stages at the Magic Stick, Majestic Cafe and Alley Deck. The lineup and ticket details are expected to be announced soon. Check www.majesticdetroit.com for updates.

* Arts, Beats & Eats shifts locales from Pontiac to Royal Oak for its 13th Labor Day weekend run, Sept. 3-6. The talent lineup is currently being assembled and is expected to be announced soon. Updates are available at www.artsbeatseats.com.

* The 31st Detroit International Jazz Festival will again feature four Labor Day weekend days jammed with free jams from Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, the Yellowjackets, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tower of Power, Allen Toussaint, 2010 Artist in Residence Mulgrew Miller and many others. Popular attractions such as the Jazz Talk Tent and the Kid Bop area return for this year’s event. Visit www.detroitjazzfest.com for schedules and other information.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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