The typical image of a barroom concert is anything but relaxing. We’ve all been victims to overblown guitars and cross-talk that seems to continuously amplify until reaching a volume comparable to standing beneath a helicopter.
Enter Cozy Fest, a musical event that takes place in a humble house draped in blankets and pillows. It’s the blanket fort of your dreams, and there are more than a dozen bands set to perform. Cozy Fest’s 2020 lineup reflects an interest in joining together spoken word poetry, somber ambient electronic, hip-hop and punk rock. Acts are encouraged to perform a stripped-down set. Even the usually loud-as-hell Scary Women will downscale to acoustic instruments for a hushed sound.
Cozy Fest founder A.J. Glaub began the now yearly tradition in 2016 out of an east-side Lansing apartment.
“Cozy Fest is an annual holiday where artists are invited to gather, stay warm and perform,” Glaub said. “It’s something they can look forward to in the winter, and something that’s uniquely theirs.”
Glaub was inspired to host a concert in a several-adult-size blanket fort in 2005, after playing a show similarly dubbed Blanket Fest. But the design of Blanket Fest was hardly ideal.
“It wasn’t the roaming blanket fort that I was envisioning,” Glaub. “So I dreamed of creating a version of what that event could have been.”
Blankets for the original Cozy Fest were supplied by Lansing’s thrift shops and as the years passed, Glaub and his collaborators acquired a hefty supply of blankets.
While the original Cozy Fest was designed to only have a few performers, it quickly began to feature larger bills. Glaub met with a Lansing band called Dirt Room that had several members with solo projects, all of which wanted to perform Cozy Fest. Glaub rolled with it and the event upscaled its volume and variety of acts.
But Glaub isn’t handling Cozy Fest 2020. He’s passed the torch to his friend Nathan Hallman, who’s hosting it at his house for the first time. Hallman enlisted help from his two bandmates, Jaxon Kolhoff and Bilal Baeza. And, of course, all three are performing sets at Cozy Fest.
“I’ve always wanted to do it. I thought it was one of the coolest events in Lansing I had ever been to,” Hallman said. “I really loved the DIY aesthetic, ‘cause I don’t really like going to bars.”
Kolhoff, now 21, went to the original Cozy Fest when he was 16 after spending an afternoon finding somebody to drive him there from Eaton Rapids. It became a yearly tradition for him.
“Even though you’re shoulder-to-shoulder, everyone is so friendly,” Kolhoff said. “There’s so much energy.”
“It’s like you’re at your grandma’s, dude, we’re gonna be serving tea,” Baeza added. “We’re gonna be calm and chilling — it’s all about taking a break from the cold winter.”
Cozy Fest’s other direct contrast to the bar rock show atmosphere is its emphasis on creating a safe environment for sobriety. “It’s welcoming to people that are younger, and people who have problems with substance abuse,” Hallman said.
While having moved on from the hosting gig, Glaub is optimistic about the local enthusiasm to keep Cozy Fest alive.
“I think it’s really cool that it’s been picked up by Nathan,” Glaub said. “And if you have a space in your life, do your craziest idea right inside there. It doesn’t have to be at a bar, or a theater. You can do it in your living room."
Cozy Fest 2020
Saturday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.
For more details search “Cozy Fest” on Facebook