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17th Porcupine Mountains Music Festival this weekend | News, Sports, Jobs

todayAugust 22, 2023 3

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Luke Winslow-King entertains the crowd at the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival in 2022

PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS STATE PARK — The musicians who play the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival rave about the experience to others on the festival circuit. So when organizers are building the lineup each year, there’s no shortage of artists to choose from.

Artists writing and playing their own music are a priority, said festival director Cheryl Sundberg. So is bringing a wider mix than people would normally get to see around here — bluegrass, R&B, rock, folk, even zydeco.

It’s also true geographically. This year’s lineup brings the Slocon Ramblers from Canada; past lineups have included acts from Ireland and other countries.

“We just never know what the mix will be, but we like for them to be performing primarily their own music,” she said. “We look for that, and we try to keep the mix very eclectic.”

Crowds can enjoy this year’s mix of genres at the 17th edition of the festival, held Friday and Saturday at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park ski hill. Twenty-three acts will play on the outdoors and indoor chalet stages.

The festival has continued growing, reaching a record attendance of 1,750 during the last pre-COVID festival 2019. Last year’s festival, the first after a two-year hiatus, drew 1,658.

“Last year, some people still weren’t out festivaling yet, so we’re expecting a big year,” Sundberg said. “It’s very exciting.”

Music lovers can watch from the ski hill as six performers take the main stage each day. The acts come primarily from national and international touring circuits.

Headlining the first night is Jackie Venson, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Austin, Texas, who starts at 8:30 p.m. Her melding of blues, pop and soul has drawn comparisons to Gary Clark Jr. and Amy Winehouse.

“I think she’s been playing music since she was eight years old,” Sundberg said. “The music just flows out of her. She’s amazing.”

Before her Friday set, Venson will also do a question-and-answer session in the chalet from 6 to 6:45 p.m.

The Commonheart, a nine-piece band from Pittsburgh, will close out the festival on Saturday, with a set of soul, blues and vintage rock.

“They have horn players and their sound is reminiscent of maybe a Joe Cocker or Nathaniel Rateliff,” Sundberg said. “I think the audience will really like them — very high energy, positive messaging.”

Kicking off the festival on a high note will be Myron Elkins, a rising singer from Otsego, Michigan who recently moved to Nashville.

Recent performances included several dates on the Outlaw Music Festival, where he joined Willie Nelson onstage.

At 22, Elkins surprises and wows crowds with his voice, which Sundberg compared to country singers like Jamey Johnson and Chris Stapleton.

“He’s got that gravelly voice and the band really, really rocks, so I think people are going to be blown away by him,” she said. “He will definitely kick the festival off on a high note.”

More acts will play in an intimate setting in the chalet behind the stage throughout the two-day festival.

Up the hill from the stage is another unique feature — the Busking Barn, an all-acoustic setting with no amplification where performers can play for tips. It’s open to local performers and bigger names curious to try it out, including the acclaimed Duluth singer Charlie Parr.

“He said it was such a good experience for him because there were no wires, cords or microphones, and he hadn’t played that way in so long,” Sundberg said. “He felt free when he played, and everybody seems to enjoy that in there. And we do get a lot of young people that will play in the Busking Barn, maybe in front of an audience for the first time, so that’s really exciting for them.”

During both days, the festival has a children’s area where kids can do crafts and games. People can also buy merchandise and food at the chalet.

The festival receives support from the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and the National Endowment of the Arts. This year’s project support grant of $24,000 goes solely toward paying a portion of the artists’ fees.

That support is huge for being able to bring artists to rural areas like Ontonagon, Sundberg said.

“That really helps us to be able to step up the artists that we bring in and make sure that they’re very quality acts,” Sundberg said. “It makes a huge difference.”

For more information, including a full schedule and a digital version of this year’s program guide, go to porkiesfestival.org.



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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