This weekend, Lansing-area music lovers may be forced to make a difficult decision. There are three different music festivals happening throughout town, all with packed lineups of performers from Michigan and beyond.
Lawrence Cosentino covered the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, running 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday (June 23) and 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday (June 24) in downtown East Lansing, for last week’s cover story. For the full schedule of performances, as well as performer bios, check the pullout section that begins on Page 13.
In addition, the Fledge is hosting its first Fledge Fest since the inaugural event in 2016.
Attendees can enjoy a wide range of performances, from hip-hop, soul and many variations of punk music to comedy, spoken-word and Middle Eastern belly dancing. There will be an indoor and an outdoor stage; food from businesses such as Elite Eatery, La Cocina Cubana and Honey Bun Bakery; and a variety of vendor booths, including artists, jewelers, woodworkers, an author and even an optometrist.
Ari Baeza and Jaxon Kolhoff, who comprise the Lansing electronic-punk duo Crawl Spaces, have been working on putting the festival together for about a year.
“A lot of time was spent coming up with the logistics and thinking about how we wanted to approach doing Fledge Fest — what kind of environment we wanted to prioritize the space being. Obviously, we settled on the classic Fledge values of accessibility and acceptance, community building, all that good stuff,” Baeza said. “The most time was spent trying to find sponsors and food vendors. I made a post with a link to a Google Form, and I think that form has 70 or so responses on its own, and there were at least 10 to 20 people that reached out to me and Jaxon individually, so we didn’t have a whole lot of trouble finding anyone to vend or perform. It was mostly the funding to get the stages made and to pay the performers some amount of money for their time performing.”
An anonymous donor sponsored one of the stages and payment for the performers, and CATA funded the construction of the outdoor stage and other elements needed to get the festival up and running.
Originally, the festival was intended to be a one-day event on Saturday, but there was so much interest that it was extended to Friday as well. The performances begin at noon both days, and the last acts start around 10:30 or 11 p.m., Baeza said.
Rose Cora Perry & The Truth Untold, a rock ‘n’ roll trio from Ontario, Canada, will kick off its first United States tour since 2018 with a performance 6 p.m. Saturday at Fledge Fest.
“Canada’s lockdown situation has been vastly different than what has gone on with our friends in the States. Even last year, there were still restrictions on and off in the area that we live in,” said Rose Cora Perry, the group’s frontwoman. “It wasn’t until early this year that everything kind of finally melted away and we started to feel some sort of sense of normalcy. We basically did a handful of shows last summer, and then when things were looking like they were continuing to move in the right direction and everybody was able to go back out there, we decided to record ‘Not My Time,’ which is our big single right now that we’ve been pushing for the last couple months, which has had fantastic success.”
About the band’s set, Perry said, “We will be loud and high-energy, and hopefully it’s a lot of fun and they dig it.”
The Mighty Uke Day festival returns Friday through Sunday, offering a host of workshops for all skill levels Friday and Saturday mornings, live performances Friday and Saturday evenings and an Acoustic Afterglow Concert Sunday afternoon. All-access tickets are $169 for the general public and $99 for students, but guests can purchase tickets to Friday and Saturday evening’s concerts for $25 each and Sunday’s concert for $20. Additionally, Dave’s Ukes is hosting a variety of free workshops, performances, group strums and open mics all day Saturday.
Net proceeds benefit Music Is the Foundation, a nonprofit that was founded with excess funds from Mighty Uke Day festivals to bring music education to Michigan classrooms and communities.
“There’s a new fund, as part of Music Is the Foundation, called the Linda Hess Memorial Fund, which Linda Hess’ family generously helped sponsor. Linda was part of our senior group, the Prime Time Strummers, and suddenly passed away. Her husband, Hugh, and her family knew how much joy the ukulele brought to her life, and they wanted to help spread the joy,” said Ben Hassenger, the festival’s founder. “So, what we’ve done with those more recent funds is started a senior ukulele program at the Bath Senior Center and one at the Williamston Senior Center. We just sponsored a kids’ concert at the East Lansing Public Library, we’re using those funds to donate ukuleles to other senior programs around the state, and we’re looking to put more senior groups together.”
Since it began, the festival has taken place annually in Old Town, but this year, it’s moving to East Lansing.
“We love Old Town. We enjoyed having the festival in Old Town and people walking around to all the different places, but having it in the summer, you never know what’s gonna happen with the weather,” Hassenger said. “So, this year, we moved it into the University United Methodist Church on Harrison Road in East Lansing, where the Ten Pound Fiddle hosts most of their concerts. It’s all inside, and they’ve got nice classrooms, a beautiful sanctuary to have the concerts in, a big community room for all the free events we have, and there’s a lot of little restaurants nearby. We very much will miss Old Town, but this will make it a lot easier for us and a lot more comfortable for our attendees.”
Karla Kane and her husband, Khoi Huynh, half of the California-based indie- and folk-pop group The Corner Laughers, will perform an acoustic set at the festival Saturday evening.
“We first played at Mighty Uke Day back in 2018, and we had a wonderful time. We’d actually planned to return for the 2020 festival but, of course, the pandemic struck. We did end up performing that year via video,” Kane said. “We’re really happy to finally come back in person! Ben, who runs the festival, is terrific, and it’s a really special event full of amazing ukulele talent.”
The couple hasn’t traveled outside of the San Francisco Bay Area since the pandemic began, but Huynh grew up in Ionia County and graduated from MSU, so Kane said the return trip to Michigan is “both nerve-wracking and exciting.”
“Khoi has a lot of family in Michigan, and our daughter was so little the last time we were there (she’s 9-and-a-half now), so she’s really looking forward to it. The co-founder of the band, Angela, also now lives in Michigan. It’s a place we have a lot of connection to,” she said.
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