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Live Folk Music Returns To East Lansing Following Pandemic Hiatus

Dan Navarro photo
Courtesy photo
Dan Navarro will be part of the Pumpstock lineup on Saturday. He was nominated for a Grammy Award as a songwriter for "We Belong," a big hit for rocker Pat Benatar.

Pumpstock is Saturday in Bailey Park, and Ten Pound Fiddle will also be back in September.

After a more than year-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, live folk music is returning to East Lansing stages.

The first of East Lansing's folk music scene mainstays to return is Pumpstock. The outdoor festival in Bailey Park is associated with the concert series staged at the Pump House on Orchard Street.

Pumpstock normally takes places in June but was cancelled this year and last because of the pandemic. But organizer Smitty Smith says he recently decided to put it together for this Saturday. “When the city announced that they were going to have Art Fair in August, I thought, well, if the city of East Lansing’s comfortable doing an outdoor festival, maybe we should be too,” Smith explains. “So, I checked with some people in the neighborhood and talked to friends, and we picked the date two weeks after art festival. Here we are.”

Nathan Bell, Robert Jones and the Dangling Participles had been scheduled for the 2020 Pumpstock. All will be there this weekend. One performer added to the lineup is Grammy Award-nominee Dan Navarro. Smith booked Navarro after learning the musician was looking for an August date in Michigan. “I said well, hmmm….you never know. Let’s see!” Smith says, “and by the time that conversation started to grow, the city had announced art fair, and I thought, OK…we do it two weeks after art fair, the MSU students won’t really be back yet, my volunteers tend to be available, and Dan Navarro would be here, which is just a bonus, you know, having someone like that performing for us.”

Following Pumpstock on Saturday, there will be one Pump House concert featuring Mary Gauthier on September 12th.

The Ten Pound Fiddle concert series is also coming back after a year of canceled live performances. They’ll kick off with a Fiddle Scouts program at the Pump House Labor Day weekend on Saturday, September 4th, with performers including Rachael Davis and her husband Dominic Davis.

Organizer Sally Potter says the concert schedule for the autumn months is mostly Michigan artists. Potter goes on to say “Josh Davis and May Erlewine and Peter “Madcat” Ruth and Joel Mabus and others from the Midwest, that they aren’t on a long tour and if for some reason we can’t do the show, then they’re not stuck.”

Old Blind Dogs
Courtesy photo
The Scottish group Old Blind Dogs will open the 2021-22 Ten Pound Fiddle concert schedule on Sept. 17.

Fiddle concerts are moving from the MSU Community Music School to a place that was their home decades ago, the University United Methodist Church. Potter says she knew the church would work, with plenty of free parking, adding “they have three rooms within that church that we can use, kind of a small, medium and large. If we were going to do shows and people needed to space out, their sanctuary can seat 450. And so, a show of 100 or 150, 200, 250 is very comfortable in there, especially given CDC guidelines and the guidelines of the church.”

Ten Pound Fiddle dances will continue to be held at the Central United Methodist Church in Lansing.

In all, the Fiddle has scheduled 34 shows this year and next.

With the return of Pumpstock and the Ten Pound Fiddle, there will be a lot of events for folk music fans to consider.

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