Following a slam-dunk debut in 2021, the Big Fam Music & Arts Festival is set to return to Michigan with its second annual installment in a new location.
While the first year was held in Lake Ann, MI, the second installment will be held in a more centralized part of the state, taking place at the Liberty Mountain Event Venue in Farwell, MI.
The electronic and jam music festival takes place this weekend from Friday, September 2 - Sunday, September 4, with attendees leaving Monday, which is Labor Day.
Just like with the 2021 debut, I had a chance to speak with Andrew Martin, Director of Marketing, Sponsorship & Communication for the event. Communicating via email, Martin says the team has ramped up production for the big return.
[Courtesy of Andrew Martin]
“We’ve learned to be more prepared for obstacles and set expectations early,” Martin said. “You will notice more staff, more vendors, more production and more infrastructure at the new property. The space we’ve curated at Liberty Mountain is more spread out than it was in the previous year. Each area has a unique experience and landscape to explore. The Apogee stage [main stage] is the largest permanent stage in Michigan, and the venue was a ski slope in the past.”
Even with a new property, the Big Fam mission statement remains the same.
“Big Fam’s main goal is to give an encompassing sense of community and togetherness,” Martin said. “We welcome open-minded individuals from all walks of life with open arms into this annual experience.”
True to its name, the lineup once again features instantly-recognizable big names from the festival circuit, while also including a “who’s who” of both local and regional artists.
“Every artist that we book is intentional,” Martin said. “We spent a lot of time curating the overall vibe and creating an experience that everyone can enjoy. You will notice jam bands, bass music and a lot more house music incorporated into the lineup than the previous year.”
Martin himself will be playing another set as well, bringing tropical house vibes under his name A Tropical Martian.
The Austin, TX-based dubstep producer known as The Widdler will be returning for round two, having already headlined the first installment. Just like his performance in 2021, his bizarre brand of reggae-tinged electronic music is sure to impress.
As far as the locals go, there are several new and returning artists who are ready to share their material with the Big Fam community.
One such returning act is the Ann Arbor-based jam group Chirp, who performed one of my favorite sets of the weekend during the first Big Fam.
Ahead of the big weekend, I touched base with Chirp guitar player, singer and songwriter Jay Frydenlund, who says the band is eager to make their return.
Returning Artist - Interview with Jay Frydenlund from Chirp
“We’re super excited to be back for Big Fam number two,” Frydenlund said in an email. “It’s awesome to have teamed up with [Magical Mitten Productions President] Chris Stewart for years now and see something on this level coming to fruition. We were blown away by the production level, lineup and professionalism of the first Big Fam, so being a part of the next one is really exciting.”
Anyone who has seen Chirp live can attest that the band incorporates many different styles, providing viewers with an eclectic sound and performance.
[Courtesy Jay Frydenlund]
“We tend to genre-hop a good deal both in terms of originals and cover choices,” Frydenlund said. “We bounce around between a lot of funk, prog, fusion, rock and more.”
Hard at work as always, Big Fam is only one of many stops for the group this summer and beyond.
“This year we have gotten the opportunity to play some amazing festivals like Electric Forest, Cowpie Music Festival, MeadowFest, Ohio Dreamfest and more,” Frydenlund said. “We’ve got some other fun ones coming up like Pond Jam and Handmade Music Festival as well.”
Chirp will be playing on the Canopy Stage at 7:00 p.m. Saturday night.
New to the Lineup - Interview with Spaceship Earth
[Photo by Chris Stewart, courtesy Ashton Robertson]
Making his debut at Big Fam, the lineup also features Spaceship Earth, the one-man project of Ashton Robertson.
Hailing from Davisburg, MI, Robertson produces electronic soundscapes that are tinged with sci-fi and spiritual themes while also playing live electric guitar. In my experience with festivals, a performance by Robertson is always a treat to witness.
“My music is psychedelic electronic bass,” Robertson said in a phone interview. “My style can range from downtempo to more drum-and-bass psychedelic, uptempo stuff, so there’s a bit of a range.”
Spaceship Earth was originally a three-piece band, but eventually came to be a one-man project with Robertson at the helm around 2014, with his debut album released in 2016.
“The first years were kind of amorphous and awkward transitioning, and by 2016, I feel like I really developed my own sound,” Robertson said.
Following the release of a new single earlier this month, Robertson adds that he has several tunes he is planning on debuting at Big Fam.
His appearance at Big Fam is an important milestone, as it marks two years since his last performance, as well as two years since medical complications left him with a loss of feeling in his legs.
“In 2020, it was a very small, outdoor, socially-distanced pandemic show, so I really haven’t played that much since 2019,” Robertson said. “I’m feeling super blessed to be able to come back, and I’m not only excited about the set, but I’m excited to see a whole bunch of people and friends as well.”
Robertson will be performing a “sundown” set Saturday night at the Canopy Stage, acting as the bridge between day and night.
“I love playing at night, especially if it’s outdoors,” Robertson said. “It’s under a tent, but it’s still night time under the stars. It’s hard to put into words how excited I feel that they booked me for this and that it’s happening in my home state around a bunch of friends.”
Further Attractions -
Attendees will also have the opportunity to engage with various yoga and guided meditation workshops, play disc golf across the grounds, and witness various fire and flow performers.
But aside from all of the music and workshops, the inarguable centerpiece of Big Fam 2021 was “The Bayou,” a section of the festival designed as a live interactable art exhibit.
The Bayou contained several surreal and psychedelic art installations, a sugar shack, projections and a boathouse.
[A scene from the previous Bayou.]
The area itself was Alice in Wonderland themed, including the ability to have a tea party with Alice and the Mad Hatter, and also contained the third music stage of the festival.
This year, the Bayou will be making a return to Big Fam, once again curated by Kat Fisher, the creative force behind KatFish EyeKandy. She also serves on the Big Fam Board of Directors with her husband Dave.
Speaking with Fisher, she didn’t want to give too much away, but clued me in a little bit on what to expect.
“The Alice in Wonderland theme was received so well by the community last year that we definitely decided to keep that for a second year at the Bayou,” Fisher said. “But this year we’ve gone bigger and better with the stage.”
The Alice in Wonderland theme will still be present, but with a new nautical twist.
“We’ll have a fish market area in the Bayou, there’s a spot you can come up where there will be fish hanging with nets,” Fisher said. “Periodically you’ll see fishermen come up with a ‘catch of the day’ - we have some mermaids that will be here at the fish market to greet our guests and have a mermaid experience. So if anybody wants to come and get pictures, they can do that, in addition to having tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter.”
The idea, Fisher says, is to add on to the Alice in Wonderland story and create a “new chapter,” as it were.
“So much of the inspiration for the Bayou comes from a fishing village, it being a play off our name ‘Kat Fish,’ so you’ll see fish scales through the Bayou and other nautical symbols in addition to the Alice in Wonderland theme,” Fisher said. “We’re calling it ‘Her Adventure through the Bayou’ - the next chapter in her adventure.”
Speaking on the building process, Fisher says she and her team have been working on the setup for months.
“We’ve been at this property since May and we’ve been working on these ideas for a handful of years, trying to develop this from an idea we had in our basement to a living, breathing stage and a full-functioning experience,” Fisher says. “We’re excited to bring that, and I think our guests will really enjoy it. We’ve done our best to clean the grounds and make sure there’s nothing they can poke their feet on or anything. We have a lot of features that I think our guests are going to enjoy.”
When it comes to the festival itself, Fisher says she is appreciative of the family-oriented aspect.
“I’m really glad Big Fam is a place you could bring your family to,” Fisher said. “A lot of times for people who work in the festival industry, their families don’t ever get to really see the nightclub where they have their show, or the festival grounds where they are playing on the second stage. It’s neat that people feel like they can bring their family members and share this experience with them.”
Further Information and Tickets -
Again, the second annual Big Fam Music & Arts Festival takes place this Friday, September 2, through Sunday, September 4, with guests leaving Monday morning.
For more information, including how to buy tickets, rules and maps, readers can visit the official Big Fam website at https://www.bigfamfestival.com/.
See you on the Mountain!