Wednesday, 29 August 2018 12:32

Deep Roots, New Growth: Audiotree Music Festival brings forest of fresh sounds to downtown Kalamazoo

Written by  Eric Mitts
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Now in its sixth year, the Audiotree Music Festival continues to evolve, while firmly establishing itself as one of the marquee music events here in West Michigan.

Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo area natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thurston, the multi-genre music festival has experimented with different lineups and layouts over its half-decade run. This year, the two-day event will return to Downtown Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Creek Festival Site for the third year in a row, and will feature the beguiling live performance of indie-folk icon Father John Misty and the multi-part harmonies of Los Angeles indie-rock favorite Local Natives as headlining acts. 

More than 20 other bands also will perform throughout the weekend, between the festival’s mainstage and its brand-new second stage, co-curated with Western Michigan University’s campus radio station 89.1 WIDR-FM. 

“Every year, we always get dozens of submissions from local bands or smaller bands that are starting out, and we just don’t have enough slots on the mainstage in order to make it happen,” said Audiotree co-founder Adam Thurston. “So we thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce that second stage, and we partnered with WIDR for exactly that reason.”

Planned for a location on Edwards Street in the southeast corner of the park, the WIDR stage will host several area acts like Kalamazoo’s own Jake Simmons, Lushh and Moss Jaw, as well as rising new artists hand-picked by WIDR and Audiotree. The smaller stage will alternate with the performances set for the festival’s mainstage, providing attendees with two full days of nonstop live music. 

“Most importantly, it’s just giving more of those local bands and smaller bands an opportunity, which is what Audiotree as a company is all about,” Thurston said.

After growing up together in West Michigan, 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, best known for Audiotree Live, its live-streaming production company, as well as its long-running in-studio live series, watched by millions of viewers worldwide each month via YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music.

“When we started Audiotree eight years ago, our focus was on being an artist discovery platform, and we have these bands that we see the promise of that might not have the money or the opportunity to get into a professional studio and record a session, or have a video showing their live performance. So we’ve sort of built our company around that,” Thurston said.

Eager to engage with the community in West Michigan, Audiotree will welcome back several local vendors and food trucks this year, while also teaming up with area nonprofits and student organizations looking to share in the festival’s spirit of new discovery. 

For the first year, the festival will also partner with Virtue Cider out of Fennville as one of its official beverage sponsors, giving even more local flavor to the event. 

Looking back on a strong turn-out last year where organizers fended off fiercely hot temperatures with some of its biggest crowds to date, Thurston sounded excited and optimistic when talking about the possibilities for this year’s Audiotree and its future as a growing part of Downtown Kalamazoo’s cultural landscape.

“I think if done properly in that space (Arcadia Creek Festival Place), we could feasibly fit 4,000 people in there on a daily basis,” he said. “We’re just going to increase the experiential side of it and hopefully we can have it packed from fence to fence this year both on Saturday and Sunday.”

Audiotree Music Festival
Feat. Father John Misty, Local Natives,
Real Estate, and many more

Arcadia Creek Festival Place,
145 E. Water St., Kalamazoo
Sept. 22-23, $45-$135

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