Stepping into Hunter Park on Saturday night, the T-Mobile Stage was set to host the two biggest performers on the lineup for the 2022 Stoopfest Festival. People sat on picnic blankets sat waiting for the indie and folk artists to rock the park.
Eli Hart found herself at the music festival by pure curiosity, checking out the lineup, listening to snippets of the artists, and deciding Frontier Ruckus was one band she had to check out.
“This was my first live music since the pandemic started and for Stoopfest specifically, I was sold by the pre-show of Screaming Females, but I saw all the other artists, and I just moved to Lansing and I haven’t of any of these people, so I’m going to have a great time," Hart said.
I would have to agree with Hart that this was one of the bands that I was most excited about. After interviewing Milia for one of my coverage articles, I listened to his band in a Starbucks and fell in love. I have always been one for dense and meaningful lyrics, and Frontier Ruckus is the epitome of a band with an original and unique vision behind their lyrics.
The minute their set started, the indie voice of the band was prevalent, immediately grabbing this niche audience's attention. I also loved that they opened with something that included brass-heavy music, including a trumpet in their set. This set them apart from other indie artists, making their music sound almost jazzy in places. The addition of banjo sounds also made it sound more authentically folk.
One of the highlights for me was not even a song I had been listening to on repeat, but a debut of a new song on the first sticky days of summer. One of my favorite lines spoke about wanting to get out of both the physical location and mental place you are in, but also not wanting to go anywhere else, which I think is such a universal thought and a dense idea to cover in a song.
The songs that got the biggest reaction were some of the more well-known ones that were older from their first album in 2008 such as “Latter Days” and “Dark Autumn Hour.” “Dark Autumn Hour” was definitely my favorite song, having me singing along quietly to the song I had fallen in love with over the past week, only wishing they would have played my favorite: “What You Are.”
The band was so into their setlist that they did not realize they only had three minutes left of their set, being in tune with their audience and ignoring the time. Throughout their set, the band was able to show off their lyrical talent while also nailing the folk sound that rings nostalgic to Michiganders, hitting on the Midwest emo genre.
Hart went from hearing punk rock all morning of the festival to folk-country, and she welcomed this change wanting to hear all the artists' sounds.
“I think there’s something really special about being local and being able to appreciate the Midwesterness of it,” Hart said.
Olivia Perry, who came to the festival to support her friends in another band that performed enjoyed seeing a band that made her feel relaxed, which she believes most audiences want from a band like this.
“I thought they were really good … everyone seems to be enjoying themselves when they play,” Perry said. “It's a nice atmosphere to create.”
The crowd that was sitting down now stood to storm to the stage as they saw Gish setting up for her set as the headliner and most well-known artist with over 8 million streams on her top song that went viral on Tik Tok, as well as my favorite tune of hers: “Presumably Dead Arm.” One audience member, Jocie Osika, came out to support this artist, as well as the iconic song, that she has supported for years.
“I had her on my Discover Weekly in 2018 and I got super obsessed with one of her songs … and her song ‘Presumably Dead Arm’ was my top song in 2020, which for everyone was such a hard year,” Osika said. "So I saw that she was coming to this and I had to come too.”
Like Osika, I had been a long-time fan of Gish, being most excited for this set since I covered the release of the festival's lineup in January. I had also found her music on a whim from Tik Tok, then deep-diving into all her older music.
The set was just how I imagined it when I first listened to her music: super guitar dense, indie and alternative vibes, and lyrics so emotional that they are universally felt.
While she opened with a cover of a well-known Zombies song, it was inspiring to see one of her old originals get a bigger reaction from the audience, proving that her audience was truly there for her and her words. At only 25, it was obvious she had made a following for herself.
Her stage presence was both uber-cool and alternative rock heavy, capturing her audience looking for music heavy set with all of their favorites being played. She, however also took time between every song to talk to the audience, thanking them for coming, and engaging in light conversation on what every song meant to her, getting them to laugh and sing along.
“She has a really good personality … she seems like a relatable cool person,” audience member Miranda Felty said.
While she played two of my favorite songs that I had known, “Persephone” and “Imposter Syndrome,” she also made me discover a new favorite of mine, “Sin Triangle,” which is always a goal of mine when I go to a concert of artists I enjoy.
However, I would have to agree with Osika that “Presumably Dead Arm” meant a lot to me when I first listened to it, making it my favorite song of the whole show. She sang it with such emotion, reflecting how I felt when I discovered it.
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“It was a big full circle moment for me and it has been so long, and I was in the worst place at that time,” Osika said. “Being at a better place now, it’s really cool to hear that song that was so important to me at that time.”
After her set, I was able to talk to Gish about the music she played and what inspired her the most to create such emotional music.
“I think a lot of artists are really inspiring,” Gish said. “I like making Spotify playlists a lot, seeing all sorts of music that’s out there and collecting things that I think are interesting.”
Gish said that she was pleasantly surprised with the turnout in Lansing, and was excited that some of her fame over the pandemic due to social media presence drew audiences to her sets.
“Ever since COVID when I play ‘Presumably Dead Arm,’ I think some people on Tik Tok are listening to it and that might have been what’s driving it more, but that’s really interesting to see,” Gish said. “I feel lucky that people listen to them and know any of the words to them at all. It’s up to the audience to decide what songs they like, and I just want to make sure everyone has a good time.”
Gish also expressed that the music she performed would not be the last time this newfound audience would hear for her with new music and projects in the works to look forward to.
“If you had told me like five or six years ago that I was doing specifically this, I would be like ‘What the h---?”’ Gish said. “So I feel lucky that people even want to come to this. I feel really happy that people came.”
In my opinion, the Stoopfest headliners were some of the most original artists I have seen perform, and I am so excited to see where the artists go from this stage forward.
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