Ninth Annual Pumpstock Hits Bailey Park This Weekend
This Saturday, June 9, East Lansing’s own grassroots music festival will take over Bailey Park.
Pumpstock is named after the adjacent Orchard Street Pump House, and is headed by local promoter and booker, Dudley “Smitty” Smith, and partner Kristin McCool, who book concerts for the Pump House on a year-round basis.
Smith has many fond memories from every Pumpstock, but one in particular involves an audience providing shelter to one band during a downpour.
“I think it was in 2016 when it started to rain and the sound system went out.” Smith said. “The Accidentals (pictured below) were performing, and the hardy members of the audience stayed, all crowded up to the stage, making a sea of umbrellas into a sort of audience tent, and the band played on acoustically. It was a near disaster turned into a very special moment. The Accidentals, who have gone on to a fair amount of fame, still talk about it.”
This year’s Pumpstock will feature local Lansing blues legends Root Doctor, The Crane Wives, an Americana/folk band from Grand Rapids, Nashville’s The Rough and Tumble, and the self-proclaimed “bluegrastronauts” The Matchsellers from Missouri, as well as progressive soul musician, Alex Mendenhall.
“After starting Pump House Concerts in 2009, we realized that some bands were too big and loud for the Pump House as a venue which is really better suited to solo or duo acoustic acts” Smith said. “So, we decided to start a festival that we also thought the neighborhood would enjoy. A summer outdoor event for the whole family, kind of a musical picnic, and they sure have!”
Since its inception, Smith has watched the festival grow into an event that is not just his own creation, but a part of the community. That’s what he’s most proud of.
“The primary focus, besides the obvious needs for logistics and publicity, is keeping costs low so all or most of the audience donations can be given to the musicians,” Smith said. “This is not a for-profit event. All money that comes in each year goes to a few expenses and the musicians, and we start over the next year. To keep expenses low, we count on donations of time, gear, and money. An army of volunteers sets up and runs the festival on event day. The City of East Lansing loans us their stage. Music Manor donates the public-address system. Friends donate the tents that we use for the stage, merchandise sales, and the green room. A few local businesses, and some neighbors, donate money.”
During the planning stages of the first Pumpstock, the City of East Lansing was initially not on board with the festival.
“The first year almost didn't happen due to some resistance within the staff.” Smith said. “Since then, the city's been wonderful to work with, providing great support and making everything easier.”
The acts are chosen by Smith and McCool are mostly national, and have never performed in East Lansing before. Often these musicians have previously performed at the Pump House.
Smith is a fan of all the acts this year, but particularly The Matchsellers, which bring a combination of bluegrass and comedy.
According to Andrew Morris, one half of The Matchsellers with partner Julie Bates, the idea to incorporate comedy into their music was an easy decision.
“It was a pretty conscious decision from the beginning.” Morris said. “There's so much comedy in old-time music, as well as first generation bluegrass musicians such as Flatt and Scruggs, Reno and Smiley, Jimmy Martin, etc. We always felt like folk musicians were taking themselves too seriously and were overlooking this side of the old masters. So, we started emphasizing humor.”
The Matchsellers' latest album, “Bluegrastronauts,” was released in March. When asked what a “Bluegrastronaut” is exactly, Morris has a quick answer.
“Bluegrastronauts are bluegrass heroes who are flying around in outer space in rocket ships.” Morris said. “The album was an idea that popped into my head a few years ago, so I tried to write a whole outer-space bluegrass opera. I wrote a lot of really terrible songs including, but not limited to "The Dinosaurs Didn't Go Extinct They Went to Outer-Space" and "Zero Gravity Barn Dance/" The concept was getting out of hand. So, I cut out all the bad songs I wrote and kept the good ones. Then the album "Bluegrastronauts" became a reality.”
In addition to the headlining acts on the main stage, Pumpstock’s second stage will feature local East Lansing musicians The Stump Brothers and Two Faced Wilson, as well as a Ukulele strum. There will also be a playground, face painting, children’s art activities by The MSU Broad Museum, and a “Ukulele Petting Zoo.”
Food and drink will be sold by Blue Owl Coffee, Cottage Inn Pizza, Clint’s Hot Dogs, and Traveling Tacos and more.
Music is set to kick off at 2:00 p.m. and will run on two consecutive stages, a main stage, and a side stage.
There is a suggested donation of $10, and kids will be admitted free.
Bailey Park is located at 300 Bailey Street in East Lansing.
More information is available here.