Still growing bigger every year, the Audiotree Music Festival will celebrate its fifth year in Kalamazoo by expanding to two full days of live music.
Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo area natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thurston, the genre-defying festival has already showcased a diverse range of artists in its short history. This fall, it will return to the city’s landmark downtown location, the Arcadia Creek Festival Place, for the second year in a row, featuring headlining performances from rising California hip-hop star KYLE (aka SuperDuperKyle) and freewheeling Australian psychedelic rockers King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.
Born and raised in the Kalamazoo area, Johnston and Thurston both have deep roots here in West Michigan, and it’s their strong passion for bringing new live music to the area that first brought the Audiotree Music Festival to life.
“Growing up there, anytime there was a band we wanted to see, we were either driving to Detroit or Chicago or even Grand Rapids to go see shows,” said Audiotree co-founder Adam Thurston. “But we always thought it would be cool to have more music here, so once we got Audiotree up and running, we wanted to get something going here in Kalamazoo.”
After leaving West Michigan for college, Thurston and Johnston started Audiotree together back in 2010 as a music production company based in Chicago that combines high-quality, in-studio audio and video production with a live streaming blog and other management, promotion and recording services. Since then, Audiotree has expanded to become a premiere music discovery platform online, pulling in millions of viewers worldwide each month.
“Audiotree was founded on essentially the discovery of new music,” Thurston said. “For me and Mike and the rest of our team, one of the biggest things about our love for music is discovering new music and then getting the word out about that. … It’s all about finding bands that are talented that might not have 4 million likes on Facebook, but they’re just as talented as some of the biggest bands out there. So we founded the company on that principle … and we’re carrying that over into the festival.”
Packed with eight performances on Friday and 10 on Saturday, Thurston said he doesn’t expect festival-goers to know all the artists on this year’s lineup, but instead hopes to have them leaving with an unforgettable experience from an unexpected artist.
“This year, we figure some people might know KYLE or King Gizzard, but then they’re going to discover someone like BadBadNotGood for the first time, or someone like Noname or Smino – artists that we know are going to blow people’s minds, but maybe they hadn’t heard of them,” Thurston said.
Curating each day, festival organizers have more of a hip-hop vibe planned for Friday, with KYLE being preceded by indie rap queen Lizzo and Chance The Rapper-collaborator Noname. Saturday, on the other hand, will lean more rock-centric with buzzy Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks and breakout New Jersey indie band Pinegrove playing before King Gizzard. Both days will feature a wide variety of sounds, including local performances by Grand Rapids’ own hi-ker and Kalamazoo’s Less Is More.
In addition to anticipating around 2,500 festival-goers each day, Audiotree has several other late-night events planned in the area surrounding the festival that will be announced soon.
“Expanding to two days is something we’re really excited about,” Thurston said. “We think it’s something that’s going to take this to the next level. The possibilities are endless.”
Audiotree Music Festival
Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., Kalamazoo
Sept. 22-23, $32.50-$60