It’s time to settle into Fall here in Nashville. That means (hopefully) more work in-town as the tour season closes and time spent in the woodshed, rather than in airports or vehicles hurtling down the highway. It’s also a nice time to reflect on some of Summer’s highlights as the sky turns grey.

My wife is from Michigan, so between visits with her family and my work with Detour, I find myself in Michigan a lot. I have come to really love it, especially in the Summer and early Fall. It’s a beautiful place, tons of lakes big and small and lots of trees. Not to mention that some of the best small breweries in the country are in, or near, Michigan. With long cold Winters and so much great beer around, it’s not a surprise that Michiganders tend to play a lot of music and throw fantastic parties. They wrap up the Summer (or some of them do, anyway) by throwing a huge one just as the first hints of Fall are in the air.

Truly great festivals go beyond hosting great music. Even the combination of excellent music and amenities, like food vendors, crafters, etc., can’t elevate a festival. The great ones are knit into their landscape somehow and have a sense of really being OF the place where they are held. Not only that, these events have a way of making everyone feel that they are there to be a part of something big. From the organizers to the performers, the volunteers, the vendors and, most importantly the fans, everyone is there to be a participant. The Wheatland Music Festival, hosted by the Wheatland Music Organization,  is definitely one of those events.

It takes about 30 seconds while walking around the grove behind the main stage for you to be totally captured by the place. Rock sculptures ranging from micro to waist-high appear in spaces between the trees, and are built and re-built over and over again throughout the weekend. Stumps and benches dot the area and give pickers places to jam, you can hear them playing if you warm-up behind the stage as I did one morning. On the other end of the concert area, you can look up the hill at the main stage, which is relatively new, but its huge timbers and copper details make it seem like it has been there forever. Just looking at it makes you tingle, eager to play your best. I know the volunteers, tech crew and staff feel the same way. Even the fans are there to make their contribution, the positive energy that they bring is probably the most important factor. They KNOW it’s going to be great and they want to help it happen. You can feel it talking to fellow performers too. Everyone is engaged and ready to play great music. When you step onto the stage, the performer’s view of the crowd and the forested hills behind them is honestly inspiring. It makes you want to play things you haven’t played before, to give that crowd something that’s really of yourself. Performers always want to do a good job, but the right kind of place pulls your best work from you effortlessly. Wheatland is one of those, I can’t wait to get back.

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