Dawes, Billy Strings, Infamous Stringdusters among headliners at Hoxeyville music festival, Aug. 17-19,2018.
WELLSTON, MI — Folk-rock sensations Dawes and white-hot bluegrass musician Billy Strings are bringing something new and something familiar to the 16th Hoxeyville Music Festival.
The festival runs Aug. 17-19 at the Hoxeyville festival grounds in the Manistee National Forest in Wellston.
The California-based Dawes has been making waves of late, appearing on late-night TV and touring the country. The indie-rock group, compared to musicians such as Crosby, Stills and Nash and Neil Young, released its sixth album, “Passwords,” in June.
Strings, 24, orginally from Ionia and now a Nashville resident, has been receiving accolades nationwide. In 2017, Rolling Stone named him among the top 10 country and Americana artist you need to hear and he has been listed as one of the top emerging bluegrass artists for 2018.
MLive interviewed Strings (real name William Apostol) recently while he was on a 10-day touring hiatus and “holed up inside on a writing retreat” in his home in Nashville. His creative stretch, ahead of recording his next album in January, picks up where his most recent album, the acclaimed “Turmoil and Tinfoil,” left off, he said.
“My goal is to keep writing as many songs as I can until January, and get into the studio with about 30 songs, some of which may or may not make it onto the new album.”
Where does he get his inspiration?
“Life is my inspiration. Growing up in Ionia, I have the sense of small-town America — poverty, substance abuse, suicide. I just wrote a song about a friend who overdosed on heroin. I write about the truth. I want people to hear it and say, ‘I can relate.'”
Yet, while Strings’ lyrics have always had a sad, melancholy bent, his music is often upbeat, raucus and life-affirming.
As for what Hoxey fans can expect, Strings said he often picks his setlist while on site.
“I like to be at the venue, kind of eyeball it,” he said. “What’s the vibe? Are there seats, is it an older crowd? I might tame the music, if so, but maybe not, maybe I’ll just want to freak those folks out with some headbanging stuff. I love to get standing (ovations) from older bluegrass fans.”
Strings said his favorite moments are jamming on stage, going into unchartered territory with his bandmates, something he learned from mentors Greensky Bluegrass.
And for those missing usual headliners Greensky Bluegrass, three members of that band — Paul Hoffman, Dave Bruzza and Mike Bont — will be playing at various times, Hoffman and Bruzza as the band One Night Stand Band (a throwback to their early years) and Bont as artist-at-large, sitting in with other musicians during the weekend.
What is Hoxeyville?
Founder-organizer Jake Robinson called the blend of music “a good mix-tape for the weekend.”
Also headlining are Leftover Salmon, who have been “tearing the roof off of music festivals around the country,” Robinson said.
And the Grammy-winning Infamous Stringdusters, a “killer string band and great anchor point to the festival.”
“We wanted to breath new life into the festival (with Dawes) and yet respect our musical traditions,” Robinson said, referring to returning favorites Strings, Luke Winslow-King, Steppin’ in It, The Crane Wives and others.
Winslow-King is fresh off a European tour for new album “Blue Mesa.”
“We’ve been wanting to get the Stringdusters and Leftover Salmon here for years. It just all came together this year,” Robinson said.
Tickets for the family-friendly festival are $200 per person online or at the gate and include three nights of camping, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. New this year: Festivalgoers can pay an additional $30 to camp Thursday night. Day passes are $60 for Friday and Saturday, $50 for Sunday, and don’t include overnight camping.
Go to hoxeyville.com for tickets and the complete schedule.

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