• Will Kriss

Big Fam Preview


Festival fans across the state will have an opportunity to experience a new and independently-run music and arts festival in Northwest Michigan at the end of August.


The Big Fam Music and Arts Festival will be celebrating its debut in Lake Ann, MI, after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The festival will take place from Friday, August 27, through Sunday, August 29 at Harmony Pines.


The lineup boasts big names that are recognizable from elsewhere on the Festival Circuit, as well as a cornucopia of local and regional artists - many of which are from Michigan.


On a personal level, this weekend will be very important to me, as it will be my first festival since September 2019, and the first opportunity I’ve had to write a story about one since August of the same year.


Ahead of the big weekend on the horizon, I had a chance to speak with Andrew Martin, who acts as the Marketing and Communications Director for Big Fam.


Since we run in the same circles, I’ve met Martin a handful of times, but have never actually had an opportunity to talk with him at-length. Earlier this week, Andrew communicated with me via Email to fill me in on the details.


Martin, along with several other people behind Big Fam, has been involved with other small, independent festivals and small-scale events in the past, such as Sacred Vibrations and UpNorth Music Festival.


“Our team has contributed to many different festivals and events over the years,” Martin told me. “Those experiences have led us to collaborate with one another and achieve total comradery to create this immersive and unique experience at Big Fam.”


Speaking on the mission statement for Big Fam, Martin says the team is looking to create an enjoyable and unique experience for all involved.


“We aim to produce a top notch, professional event that builds relationships spanning near and far,” Martin said. “Our goal is to support the community that we are making our home in, we hope to be an impactful and helpful entity in the local community. I hope the attendees will love and cherish this event as much as I do. We’ve devoted our hearts and souls to this project for over two years, and it’s great to see how much support we’ve gained already. My intention is for us to be a bright light for not only the attendees, but the community as a whole. That’s all we can ask for.”


With the pandemic considered, Martin says that postponing the event has given the team more time to get creative and reassess the production side of things.


To help make up for that, the Big Fam team also hosted a series of livestreams featuring the artists on the lineup, which were viewable on Twitch.

“To give a simple response, 2020 gave us an opportunity to sit back and take time to look at this project from a birds’ eye view,” Martin said. “We got to reevaluate some things, gain more production and put a lot more detail into this project in all aspects.”


As previously mentioned, the event will take place at Harmony Pines at the Harm Farm. As its name suggests, the venue features several acres of property surrounded by a pine forest.


“This property is a hidden gem of over 300 acres of gorgeous fields, forests and magic that we’ll get to unfold together,” Martin said. “One of our Directors, Kevin Kreta, found this property a couple years back, and I'm beyond blessed that we found him and have him as a part of our family and team.”


When looking at the lineup, many festival-goers should recognize names on the top bill. For example, Sunsquabi is an electronic jam group who has collaborated with artists like Griz in the past.


In addition, readers may recognize Dixon’s Violin, who has played at events such as Electric Forest. Those who have attended may have seen him play his ethereal electronic violin music during yoga workouts in the early afternoon.


“We’ve been curating the lineup for about two years now,” Martin said. “At this year’s event, you’ll get to experience a glimpse at each one of our favorite music styles and projects.”


In fact, Martin himself will be performing under his DJ Moniker “A Tropical Martian” on Saturday at 1 p.m.



Interview With a Local Artist-

Undated Courtesy Photo of Patrick McKenzie, one half of FENDZ

While the lineup boasts these well-known names, the lower bill also features a curated selection of local and regional artists as well.


Among those are the Kalamazoo-based electronic duo FENDZ, who have been active in the local scene for years.


Earlier this week, I was able to speak with Patrick McKenzie, one half of the duo. McKenzie had previously been performing under the name Large Mouth Bass before joining up with Travis Wagner, who makes up the other half of FENDZ.


To start with, McKenzie explained the style of FENDZ.


“We like to do a little bit of everything, but the main chunk of our music comes from the 2012-era dubstep, a little more melodic rolling bass,” McKenzie said.


However, the duo’s style isn’t limited to dubstep. Recently, they released the “Chemicals EP,” which encompasses more of an alternative rock sound.


“When me and Travis teamed up, he made it clear that he didn’t want to have any side projects, and that whatever kind of music we wanted to create, we were going to put out under one name,” McKenzie said. “That’s truly shown by the Chemicals EP. It’s something he wrote like five years ago. We’ve also been working with a live bass player and a drummer, just writing whatever kind of music we want in hopes of making a live performance stage show out of it at some point.”


While McKenzie was originally a solo artist, he joined Travis Wagner about two years ago.


“About 2019, we came to the conclusion that we enjoyed making music together more, that we made better music together,” McKenzie said. “I have a pretty good connection as a DJ and a pretty good following in the local scene, and he had a lot more experience producing and marketing. We both figured that we complimented each other perfectly, so that when we teamed up, it would really benefit each other.”


In speaking of Big Fam, McKenzie says he is excited to see how Big Fam will fare on its debut installment.


“A lot of people that are doing work behind the scenes, I worked with them on Sacred Vibrations too, so I know what kind of work ethic and attention to detail they bring to throwing shows,” McKenzie said. “I know a lot of people that are involved, I’m really excited that it’s like a grassroots festival. No corporate big interest, it’s all put on by people that love music and have been doing it for a long time.”


FENDZ plays Sunday night at 7:00 p.m., and McKenzie says he has some surprises in store for the crowd.


“A lot of times, I like to play based on what kind of crowd is gonna be there, and we’re gonna play a lot of our originals,” McKenzie said. “We have a ton of unreleased material, we have two EP’s that are almost done. You can expect a mix of everything. We’re just gonna play the music that we love to make.”



FENDZ - Photo courtesy Travis Wagner

After discussing the basic details of FENDZ, the conversation turned to the rest of the lineup.


“I feel like they did a really good job of putting on people that have been working for a long time, who have been really supportive of the Michigan scene,” McKenzie said. “There’s a couple Michigan people that have blown up and done well, such as Angelic Root, he’s from Ypsilanti and moved out to Colorado. Viskus and Super Future have both blown up in the last year and a half.”


He also noted the mix of genres present on the lineup.


“I also like the mix of bands and everything they have, like Act Casual,” McKenzie said. “Sunsquabi is an amazing mix of jam band and a little electronic, they’re really fun to see. Yheti brings the weird bass, and the Widdler plays some massive dubstep. The old dubstep where it’s deep and heavy, and not so metallic and crunchy.”


McKenzie also said that the lineup appears to live up to the festival name itself.


“I really feel like it is ‘Big Fam,’ like they literally reached out to all the people in the Michigan and Midwest area here, that have been doing music, those are who you’ll see there,” McKenzie said. “And the people that are attending are going to be your friends, the other people you see when you go out to these shows. That’s what I think is the most exciting thing about it, it’s literally going to be a big family reunion.”


Further Attractions -


Aside from the music, there will be other attractions, as well.


Several visual artists and painters will be on hand to display their creative works. There will also be several workshops available, including activities such as yoga and guided meditation.


There will also be an art gallery and even a recently announced disc golf course. Visitors can also look forward to the KatFish EyeKandy Wonderland, which is an interactive visual experience based on Alice in Wonderland.


The festival grounds are also a short drive from Lake Michigan, should anyone feel like going for a swim.


Closing -

In closing, Andrew Martin offered these words for those that are preparing to embark on this journey -


“Big Fam will be an experience not even myself can quite yet fathom, I never imagined being part of such an amazing community and talented individuals,” Martin said. “Everyone is beyond passionate and cares so much about each other. We welcome everyone with open arms and accept them into our Big Family, why would you ever want to miss out on an event like that?”


More Information -

All information about Big Fam, including how to buy tickets, is available online at https://www.bigfamfestival.com.


Again, Big Fam will take place from Friday, August 27 - Sunday, August 29, with everyone leaving for home that Monday.


Harmony Pines is located at 4846 N Hulbert Rd, Lake Ann, MI 49650.


Recently, WIDR FM held a ticket giveaway contest, during which one lucky winner was selected for two digital passes. We here at WIDR would like to congratulate the winner, who has already been contacted, and wish them a great weekend ahead.


RADIO PREVIEW SPECIAL -

Under my radio host moniker [DJWILLKILL], I will be hosting a special one-hour preview that will highlight a selection of artists performing at Big Fam. To listen, tune in to WIDR FM This Monday, August 23, at 1 P.M. EST. You can also tune in through www.widrfm.org.


In the meantime, readers can enjoy a preview playlist featuring some of the artists that will be performing.


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