Four years in, the Audiotree Music Festival still knows nothing but growth. Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thursion, the one-day event has already showcased an impressively diverse range of artists in its short history. This year, it’s taking over the city’s landmark Arcadia Creek Festival Place for the first time ever.
“I think each year we learn a lot and try to take those lessons we learned to make the next year’s festival that much better,” said Johnston, who also described the concert as a “unique boutique festival.”
Unlike the festival’s first three years, which alternated bands on two different stages, this year’s Audiotree is taking place entirely on one massive stage that the organizers plan to build onto Arcadia’s existing amphitheater structure. They are also offering more craft beer options and welcoming area food trucks and other vendors to help connect fans with the community.
“We are excited to have a great group of vendors on site representing Kalamazoo,” Johnston said. “A couple that I am personally excited about are Satellite Records, Green Light Records, Handmade Kalamazoo and Underground Printing, just to name a few.”
This year’s lineup is led by Colorado livetronica duo Big Gigantic, who last played in Kalamazoo at the State Theatre back in 2012.
|Audiotree Music Festival
w/ Big Gigantic, Ra Ra Riot, Robert DeLong, Judah & the Lion, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, Rayland Baxter, Ripe, and Cereus Bright
Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., Kalamazoo
Aug. 20, 2 p.m.
$32.50 advance, $45 door, $85 VIP, audiotreemusicfestival.com
“We are incredibly excited to have Big Gigantic headline this year’s festival,” Johnston said. “Not only will their music have the entire downtown dancing, but we should be able to see their light show from space.”
The bill also features indie-rock group Ra Ra Riot, electronic artist Robert DeLong, alternative-folk band Judah & the Lion, alt-country singer Rayland Baxter, and more.
The festival has always made sure to highlight area artists, with Kalamazoo’s own Greensky Bluegrass taking the stage in 2013, Grand Rapids’ The Soil & the Sun in 2014, and Heaters, hi-ker and The Cardboard Swords in 2015. This year, indie-pop outfit Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers will help represent the Mitten.
“We never wanted to be painted into a corner,” Johnston said about Audiotree’s diverse lineup. “We didn’t want to be known as a festival that was solely [one genre]. What you can expect from an Audiotree Fest lineup is to be blown away by a band you have never heard of and become a fan for life.”
In addition to bringing one-of-a-kind performers to Kalamazoo, the festival is also a celebration for the Chicago-based music production company Audiotree.
“Since we founded the company in 2010, we have grown in ways we would have never imagined,” Johnston said. “We now have several divisions within the company which are comprised of our music discovery platform, Audiotree Live, our for-hire live streaming production company, and our music venues in Chicago that we own and operate.”
Their long-running in-studio live series is watched by 2.5 million viewers a month via YouTube and has just under three million streams a month via Spotify and Apple Music.
“We are proud that Audiotree Live has grown into a true music discovery platform for millions of people around the world,” Johnston said. “Our production company now works for many large brands and ad agencies around the country.”
Almost half of the company’s employees were raised in Kalamazoo, so despite their success in Chicago, Audiotree hopes to hold onto its roots here too.
“We feel a strong connection to Michigan and want to continue to create amazing experiences throughout Michigan in the future,” Johnston said. “Our goal is to expand the festival to a multi-day experience. We also envision creating free workshops and networking events revolving around the arts leading up to the festival.”