Short's Festival 8.4.18

Short's Brewing Co.
Elk Rapids, MI

Words & photos by Kevin Alan Lamb

When I learned the Michigan Rattlers were playing Short’s Fest it felt like I was supposed to be there. When I learned that the Paddlebots were headlining the very same evening I opened myself to the realistic possibility, that I would be finding my way up north for an overnight filled with joyous smiles, delicious beers, and the medicine I cannot live without - music.

I spent the Friday prior on a beautiful, secluded, and quite possibly sacred property in South Lyon. These lives we live push and pull us to and away from those we are supposed to spend our time with, but the trick is letting your intuition and imagination decide just who. The more in tune we are with each, the more efficiently we navigate one story into another, until eventually all of our stories intercept, and carry on as parallels.

While on Beaver Island with The Gasoline Gypsies, I met a wonderful woman named Nancy Phares, who in addition to renting a lovely lake home on the island, hosting, and feeding us, has had a major role in the success the Gypsies have experienced over the past year. She wanted to get together before I left town to visit my family on Hilton Head, and was kind enough to pick me up from Ferndale, invite me into her home, and onto her pontoon where we discussed our philosophies on living, love of music, and best intentions while enjoying some cold brew. Following a majestic late-afternoon, early-evening cruise on the lake, she made us a delicious steak dinner, indulged in red wine, and it was suddenly time to catch a Lyft home.

Turns out, getting a Lyft at 9:00 or 10:00 PM on a Friday night in South Lyon (or any other night for that matter) isn’t an easy thing. I stayed the night, missed my ride to Short’s that left Detroit at 8 AM (plan a), then Nancy completed the process and dropped me off in Ferndale. After learning that my buddy Justin’s car wasn’t even going to be looked at for a few hours in the shop (plan b), it was time to take the taco by the shell and rent a car (plan c) and be off!

The cruise went quickly thanks to good music, conversation, business ventures, and some road sodas. I had arranged a campsite but it wasn’t exactly close quarters (30 minute drive) when the night reached its inevitable conclusion. We decided to wing it and headed right to Elk Rapids where Short’s Production Facility is, found a parking spot, liquor store, slice of pie, and a beach. Yes, in no uncertain terms we pregamed a beer/music fest and were more enthusiastic because of it.

We arrived just in time to be greeted by the fine folks of Short’s Brewing who have a great way of making a giant viking feel right at home. Armed with wooden tokens, Short’s brew and my camera, I quickly connected with Adam Reed of the Michigan Rattlers who I last caught up with at Electric Forest. I’ve never lived in LA (nor do I want to), but he does, and it must be mighty sweet to return home to Michigan to play a sweet gig like Short’s Fest 50 miles from the town you grew up in (Petoskey).

May Erlewine was first on the docket (which I knew), joined by Joshua Davis (which I didn’t), along with Max Lockwood (which I suspected), and Michael Shimmin. Like many others I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of versions of May between The Sweet Water Warblers, May & the Motivations, and the original in my world, Seth & May. It was the ideal ensemble to kick off the evening, allowing most folks to remain in their comfort zone sitting in their chairs, quietly enjoying the show from their respective grass knoll. A comfort zone I’d soon disrupt…

Welcome to the perfect early August, Michigan summer night; Elk Rapids was glowing from Harbor Days, Short’s was flowing, and each band had a distinct sound complimenting the one before and/or after. Towards the end of May’s set I found myself hanging in the green room with the Michigan Rattlers, smiling ear-to-ear as they practiced a few songs to dial it in for the home crowd. It’s a special thing to keep the company of the ones you love. There is great intrinsic value knowing the person beside and across from you appreciates, respects, and is brought joy by your gifts, company, and livelihood.

For the first time in my life, I was friends with, and had deposited energy into members of each of the bands on the bill. It was especially exciting because there are so many members of the Paddlebots, and I was proud to see them headline such a quality festival! My band family is a lot like my regular family; we don’t see each other very often but when we do it feels like no time at all has passed, and celebration is in order… so celebrate we did!

Andy Wade, not to be confused with D Wade, is the Paddlebots drummer who I’ve grown close with this past year. Andy is a high school percussion teacher who once agreed to play a gig with my friend Dominique who was in from Germany, then both managed to forget about the conversation, yet pulled off an awesome performance nonetheless. Andy was instrumental in challenging the crowds comfort zone, as we gave them permission and encouragement to stand up, approach the stage, and do what people are supposed to be doing when music is played - dance.

With the scene showing signs of life, The Rattlers played an awesome set with a great Warren Zevon cover, “Lawyers, Guns And Money” that I had never heard. With the help of lead singer and guitarist Graham Young, we even orchestrated a Phun Photo with the crowd in front of the stage, band’s eyes on me. I’m not sure how long set times were but it felt like a really good amount of time. I could walk away and get a beer, unless “Brutus Road” was about to be played, and feel like I wasn’t missing anything critical.

While the stage security officer was intent on restricting my access, despite multiple requests from multiple bands, I was able to play pre-show liaison and give the Paddlebots a little pep talk that acknowledged the quality, and regional history of the artists who had warmed up the stage for them. They may be young, but their talent can only be rivaled by their kindness, respect, and downright delight making music. It really has began to feel like all of the musicians, artists, humans… are my talented family, and I’m the wild-weird older uncle with enough tricks up my sleeves to keep around.

Although Paddlebots had played Short’s before, I feel like most people on this particular evening were experiencing them for the first time. They didn’t half ass it; nope, they gave them the whole ass. Kortez the Thriller (Buckner) is a frontman you won’t soon forget, or want to. When you’re a band from Detroit you have to be careful who you cover Michael Jackson around, but not Kortez, he’s magnificent. I really believe that Paddlebots will be perceived as a headlining band who can deliver that knock out punch of positive energy, enthusiasm, joy, and freakin’ boogie that every event so desperately hopes to capture.

The music reached its conclusion but as it turns out, or decision to bypass our campsite and wing it worked out… all the way up to Petoskey with Reed and The Rattlers. Justin knew this was a possibility and decreased his intake while I stayed the course. We graciously found ourselves in the childhood home of Reed, which was a beautiful labrinth, with a hot tub, that yes - I fell asleep in; but not before last call at your local watering hole (which may or may not be minus a 30 rack of PBR bottles).

The life I once dreamt of living seems to be unfolding before my eyes and that’s an interesting thing. I am getting better at articulating my journey to remind others that there is a fine line separating us all from waking our dreams to reality; your passion and will are it. Quit letting other people, your fears of failing, or not knowing where to begin, get in the way of life itself. You are capable; you are extraordinary; but only you can realize it. Just in case you were listening for one, This is a Good Sound.

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