Kalamazoo’s own Greensky Bluegrass has played just about every summer festival in America. From the esteemed Telluride Bluegrass Festival to the massive Bonnaroo and West Michigan’s own Electric Forest, the band has become an absolute staple on summer stages over its nearly two-decade history.
So the idea of having its very own music festival is something of a dream come true for the wildly popular jam-grass band.
“We play a lot of festivals every summer, so getting to not only throw our own festival but curate it and create it as our own vision is super exciting,” Greensky Bluegrass dobro player Anders Beck told Revue.
The inaugural Camp Greensky will take place from May 31 to June 2 at the Hoxeyville Festival Grounds in Wellston. The camping and music fest will host two stages with a lineup that includes: Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Phish’s Mike Gordon, Trampled By Turtles, The Wood Brothers, Fruition, Rayland Baxter, Marco Benevento and Cris Jacobs Band. Several Michigan favorites are also on the bill, including: Billy Strings, The War & Treaty, Joshua Davis, May Erlewine and The Go Rounds. The stages will alternate, with no overlapping sets, so fans can see all of the music.
Greensky Bluegrass will perform all three nights, kicking the weekend off on Thursday with two sets.
“We do a fair amount of two-night, three-night, occasionally four-night runs, so we’re well versed in making sure each night is incredibly unique and different,” Beck said. “I think the cool thing is that since we’re going to have so many of our good friends around, you can expect some really cool guest stuff.”
Festival organizers anticipate approximately 4,000 attendees joining in for the festival’s first year, many coming in from out of state to experience the band’s unique sound amid Michigan’s summer splendor.
For Camp Greensky, the band selected the Hoxeyville Festival Grounds — which are surrounded by the Manistee National Forest and adjacent to the Pine River — because of many memorable past experiences performing there, and an eagerness to share that immersive “Up North” experience with fans.
The only member of Greensky Bluegrass not originally from Kalamazoo, Beck remembers being wowed by his first summer in Michigan when he joined the band 10 years ago.
“Summer in Michigan is pretty spectacular,” he said. “I really had that aha moment where I got it that Michigan is an amazing place to be.”
The name Camp Greensky goes all the way back to the band’s beginnings, when guitarist Dave Bruzza and mandolinist Paul Hoffman first went to the Wheatland Music Festival in Remus and dubbed their site Camp Greensky.
“(It was) their little site at that festival, and there’d be a sign, which I think someone still has,” Beck said.
The name spread onto the Internet, where Camp Greensky: Friends and Family of Greensky Bluegrass emerged.
“I think it started honestly as just friends and family for real,” Beck said. “And now there’s 14,000 people in that group. So that’s what Camp Greensky is now … but the bottom line is that the community is totally cool and really, really into our music, and into spreading the music and sharing it and embracing the joy that we bring to a lot of people. So as the name for our festival, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
With the emergence of Camp Greensky, Greensky Bluegrass will not headline the annual Beer Garden Opening party at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo this year, an event the band has performed at for the past 13 years. Already something of its own mini-festival, that event helped build the band’s fanbase and kick off its summer tour schedule, but in recent years has sold out almost immediately, proving that Greensky needed to do something to expand to a new location where it could welcome in more of its many fans.
Following the festival, Greensky Bluegrass will hit the road, including a return trip to Telluride, two nights at the legendary Red Rocks in Colorado, and the band’s first-ever performance at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan.
“We’re just trying to focus on presenting the best version of ourselves that we can, experience wise and music wise,” Beck said of the band’s many surreal new experiences. “We all sort of believe if we do that, all of these incredible opportunities and exciting gigs and things like that will just keep coming, if we just focus on doing our part.”
Hoxeyville Festival Grounds
11130 W. 48 ½ Rd., Wellston
May 31–June 2, $175-$375