Friday, 26 July 2013 12:28

Sink’s Spins on Music: Plug pulled on Cowpie Music Festival; WLAV-FM celebrates 40 years

Written by  John Sinkevics
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Last summer’s much-expanded Cowpie Music Festival didn’t work out the way organizers had hoped.

Plagued by heavy rains on the festival’s opening day at Shagbark Farm south of Grand Rapids – forcing tractors to tug cars out of the mud – the turnout for the 43-band lineup covering 17 genres on two stages fell far short of expectations, despite a groovy regional vibe.

But farm owner and music maven John Crissman’s middle name must be 'Resilient,' because he tried to “forge ahead and do it” again, in hopes of assembling Cowpie for the 12th time on his property near Alaska in southern Kent County. He decided to trim the Aug. 9-10 festival to feature just 15 bands on a single stage and charge only a vehicle fee for entry: $15 per axle.

Over several weeks of preparations, organizers managed to line up Detroit blues-rocker Motor City Josh – a Cowpie regular – as well as local bands such as Big Dudee Roo, Luke Warm & The Not So Hots, Fauxgrass, The Thirsty Perch Blues Band, Tony LaJoye Trio, The Turnips, Jimmie Stagger, The Hula Dogs and more.

But ultimately, time and financial considerations forced Crissman to pull the plug on the 2013 event.

“We tried and tried and tried. We just couldn't climb the mountain,” Crissman said in a Facebook statement posted in mid-July, indicating the event would be “mothballed” for 2013. But he also told REVUE that the festival – which lost money the past couple of years – would definitely return in 2014.

“It’ll be back,” he insisted. “We aren’t killing it.”

For 40 years, Grand Rapids’ WLAV-FM (96.9) has been a staple of West Michigan rock radio. I vividly recall Aris Hampers introducing hitherto-unknown-yet-superb progressive bands in the mid-1970s and reveling in WLAV’s “One-A-Day” spins of entire new albums at midnight.

The classic rock station shares its 40th anniversary celebration with listeners via a free concert at Cannonsburg Ski Area starring Loverboy and Mark Farner, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad. Marcus Bradman, marketing and promotions director for Cumulus Media Grand Rapids, told me the Aug. 4 concert pays tribute to the “heritage station” and its loyal listeners.

“It’s unheard of to have a station stay in the same format for 40 years, and it’s a station so many people have grown up with. It really is the people’s station,” Bradman said, noting popular DJs Tony Gates, Ed “Uncle Buck” Buchanan, Rob Brandt and Steve Aldrich have spent decades cultivating WLAV’s audience.

The afternoon concert is free; parking is $10. Tickets are required and available at  WLAV prize parties and events. VIP seating is $35; some event proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids.


The Bangups

Fierce. Raw. Lusciously retro-flavored. That The Bangups can generate such infectious rock ’n’ roll power as a duo is a testament to the Grand Rapids band’s cantankerous dedication not only to its garage-rock roots but to the purity of its two-man approach. With the musical blood of Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, The Ramones and Delta bluesmen coursing through their veins, longtime pals Joey Dornbos and Brent French finally have untethered this lyrically edgy sophomore project recorded with “all natural reverb” and a refreshing pugnaciousness at Stone House Recording. Parts of it boast a surprising psychobilly twang, others ooze rugged, blues-infused rock. All of it rings true, which makes this one hell of an irresistible musical critter.

Antrim Dells
Given Name

Close your eyes, lean back and imagine the most beguiling, stirring indie-folk vocals that you can. Fleet Foxes will come to mind, along with Iron & Wine, Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver. Add Grand Rapids’ Antrim Dells to that list. This band (Jacob Bullard, Laura Hobson, Brian Voortman) has turned heads and tickled ears at live shows for some time. Their studio album, recorded in Nashville by Chad Wahlbrink, adds deliciously to that buzz with clever-yet-subtle hooks, a graceful atmospheric power and those miraculously alluring harmonies. A languorously lovely affair.

Music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at, spotlighting artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM.

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