[Words & Photos by Charles Izenstark]
The promoters of the Hoxeyville Music Festival could easily be accused of false advertising. Their event is not the typical festival and it might be better described as a family reunion (with attendees ranging in age from newborns to at least 72 years of age) with great music. Situated in picturesque northern Michigan and with an emphasis on homegrown Michigan music, complimented by emerging regional acts and established national headliners, the tenth edition of this reunion was a rousing success. The weekend started early with a brief Thursday pre-party featuring the Joshua Davis Band, a Michigan songwriter of significant talent (the first of several featured in the lineup), whose set, which included a cover of the Faces’ Ooh-La-La, established the mellow playful mood for the weekend.
The Friday lineup began with a set from the Talking Heads cover band Naïve Melodies. The northern California group provided a bouncy set that was satisfying even to those of us who were not particular fans of the actual Talking Heads. With a side-by-side stage set up (featuring a newly constructed second stage) that for the most part eliminated set overlaps (a remote “Mitten” stage was on its own schedule), the music continued with a performance of the Beatles’ album Abbey Road by the combined efforts of the Red Sea Pedestrians and the Corn Fed Girls. As a whole the project was successful with the musicianship being far more consistent than the vocal efforts.
George Porter Jr.
Next up on the mainstage were 7 Walkers, the Bill Kreutzman led project featuring Papa Mali on guitar, Matt Hubbard on keys, trombone and harmonica, and the extraordinary George Porter Jr. on bass. With a mixture of new tunes and Grateful Dead classics the set propelled the audience into a dancing furor. Highlighted by the new Robert Hunter penned tunes “King Cotton Blues” and (the eponymous) “7 Walkers” as well as the familiar “Sugaree” (featuring a hearty Porter vocal) the band delivered a memorable performance.
The rest of the evening was left to Michigan performers with Seth Bernard and May Erlewine taking to the second stage for a brief set that showcased their considerable songwriting talents. Following Seth and May, Michigan bluegrassers Greensky Bluegrass took the mainstage and delivered one of their trademark epic sets, complete with doses of traditional bluegrass, new-school jamgrass and spiced with their unique take on the Bruce Springsteen song catalogue. The first set ender of “No Lies > Dancing in the Dark” left the crowd breathless (and would have had Courtney Cox looking for a gingham dress and a hula-hoop).
The band returned with an almost twenty minute version of “All Four” that soared and spiraled with exceptional intensity. But it was toward the end of the second set (which featured guest saxophonist Bob Hemenger for its entirety), when the band returned to the Springsteen songbook, that the first bit of Hoxey magic emerged as the band performed a spellbinding version of “Atlantic City.” With a final tune to end the evening’s audible entertainment (there were after set silent disco sets on Friday and Saturday, but per Hoxey policy there is no amplified music after 11:30) the Hoxey family retired for the evening with the universal wish that, like the previous year, Greensky had been scheduled for multiple sets. (It should also be noted that the UV Hippo set was, most unfortunately, scheduled to coincide with Greensky thereby forcing festival goers to choose between two of their favorite Michigan bands.)