Where to hear local and touring musicians in the North
By Brighid Driscoll | August 6, 2022
Live music is abundant in Northern Michigan, and with it plenty of places to sit back, relax, and enjoy with friends and strangers. From farms, parks and beaches to vineyards, bars and clubs, there is an atmosphere for everyone. We’ve picked a sampling of NoMi’s coolest live music venues to make the most of those fleeting summer days.
Fragrance-sational: Lavender Hill Farm, Boyne City
Immerse yourself in the purple waves (and soothing scents) of Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City. Their live music series, simply called The Series, takes place in a renovated 1920s barn, where local and traveling talent graces the stage every summer from June to September.
Some will recall the previous barnyard live music series at Aten Place, which had a rich history of live music that developed from a house concert and potluck in 1995. More food and more people started showing up, until 23 years and some 200 shows later when Lavender Hill Farm took over the tradition of their farm.
The series intentionally chooses a variety of musical performers that will give everyone something to look forward to. Upcoming artists include Tom Petty tribute band The Insiders (August 13), slide guitar expert Mark Lavengood and his band (September 3) and Charlevoix’s Horton Creek Bluegrass (September 4). Visit their website for tickets and more information at lavenderhillfarm.com/the-series.
Scenic: Bonobo Winery, Old Mission Peninsula
If you like a glass of wine paired with your jams, look no further than Bonobo in Traverse City. This Old Mission winery offers a bonus view of the vineyard and Grand Traverse Bay as you log in. The wine is grown and made on site, which is made even more appealing by the name of famed co-owner Amy Smart (rat racesomebody?).
Every Friday evening, a musician or DJ performs on the Bonobo patio. The musicians are based in Michigan and start playing around 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. No tickets or cover charges, just good wine with friends. Coming soon are folk singer-songwriter Luke Woltanski (August 12), bluesey Sam & Bill (August 19), and eclectic acoustic pop duo Rhett & John (August 26).
Small plates and charcuterie are available to order while you sit down and sip. If you can’t choose between red and white, tastings are $20 and are fun, with a knowledgeable staff member to guide you. Check their website for their upcoming music lineup on bonobowinery.com/events-2.
Artsy: Michigan Legacy Art Park, Thompsonville
Located in the woods near Crystal Mountain, Michigan Legacy Art Park (MLAP) offers a magical outdoor musical experience. This Benzie County treasure sits on a 30-acre preserve, and throughout the acreage are more than 50 sculptures that mesmerize and educate, along with a network of trails that allow visitors to see them up close.
At the start of the route is an amphitheater where MLAP currently hosts their Summer Sounds concert series. Every Friday evening, a musician plays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The final show of the summer is this week on August 12 with Hatchwing Rider, bringing a mix of Americana, rock, country, soul and blues.
Early bird tickets are $10 and are available on their website at michlegacyartpark.org/summer-sounds-2022, or at the door for $15. Children 12 and under are free. Make it a night by arriving early to explore the trail and bringing a picnic basket to the show. (Pro tip: Outdoor seating is rustic, so bring chair pads or blankets!)
Tube: Kilkenny Irish Public House, Traverse City
Lots of young (and young at heart) TC locals have fond memories of playing a Kilkenny show. This beloved watering hole is downstairs from the dimly lit North Peak Brewing Company, and has some of the most demanding doormen our team has ever encountered.
Join the party every Saturday at 9:30 p.m. for live music meant to get you dancing (or, you know, just dancing). The Four Horsemen (rock & roll) appear on August 12, followed by One Hot Robot (dance grooves) on August 26 and The OffBeat (modern and classic rock) on September 2.
Bands play until last call, so you can party most of the night until the bar closes at 2am. Check Kilkenny’s Facebook page for updates on upcoming events and weekly drink specials. Of note is Whiskey Wednesday, which offers half-price whiskey specials as well as $3 pints; live music from local band The Pocket plays from 8 p.m. to midnight. (And be sure to have some corned beef spring rolls before the kitchen closes.)
Waterfront: Douglas Park at First Street Beach, Manistee
Manistee’s ShoreLine ShowCase offers two of our favorite things in one place: great music and even better views of Lake Michigan. The musicians perform at the Rotary Gazebo on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., with the concert broadcast on 99.3FM as a bonus for those who listen from their car, at home or with a portable radio with their feet in the sand.
Since its inaugural summer in 2003, the showcase has grown to offer 11 weeks of free live music to the community. Lawn chairs, picnic blankets and the perfectly stocked summer cooler are all encouraged, and when the show ends at around 9:15 p.m., you’ll have an unbeatable view of the sunset.
On the program for the rest of August: Grammy-winning band Paul Nelson (August 16), playing rock and blues; the Eat-It-Up Quartet featuring Ellie Martin (August 23) with blues and jazz; and Duffy King Koalition (August 30) which promises a mix of Latin, jazz, rock and funk. Get more details on manisteeshorelineshowcase.org.
In the club: Encore 201, Traverse City
Traverse City’s newest event venue has an intimate cocktail bar atmosphere. Encore 201 opened in March earlier this year above Sparks BBQ in downtown Traverse City. The nightclub has a full bar with a craft cocktail menu that features classics and twists on favorites like their Flaming Margarita.
The venue once had a full calendar of events, including comedy shows and DJ sets, as well as local, regional and national music acts. Tickets are general admission with standing room, limited seating at the bar, and multiple cocktail tables. (Prices are usually $5-$10 at the door.) The comfortable surroundings paired with a clear sound system were created to provide customers with a memorable, quality listening experience.
The venue has already hosted a variety of local talent, including TC-based bands like The Truetones, Soul Patch and Drew Hale. Upcoming performers this month include rising stars Phoebe and Jaclyn of the Keynote Sisters (August 13), American Idol’s Natan Walton (August 19) and Cincinnati-based Erin Coburn (August 26). Buy your tickets online or at the door. Check out the rest of their lineup at again201.club.