While the headliners are what bring the large crowd to the stages at Stoopfest, there would be no festival without acts that attract new, niche and different audiences that are looking to expand their taste with lesser-known, but talented and fresh faces in the music industry. Stoopfest has many opportunities this weekend to find new favorite artists.
Just off his first big tour after lockdown, performing for audiences all over the country, James Wilson of Paisley Fields said that performing shows like Stoopfest is the most rewarding part of being a musician.
Singing his own genre of country music, Wilson is hoping that the Stoopfest will resonate with his new music such as "Jesus Loving American Guy" as much as his tour audience did.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions about country music, so I’m hoping that anybody maybe who isn’t a fan of country music for whatever reason, I can bring them over to hearing a different kind of country music that would maybe resonate with them more,” Wilson said.
On tour, Wilson talked to lots of college kids about the music he was playing and learned they were receptive to it, fueling Wilson to take the gig at Stoopfest. Wilson is hoping that his show will be a hit with college country fans in Lansing.
Rachel Curtis is a folk-pop artist that has been a part of the festival for years. She feels proud to be a part of it this year, being able to perform new music, such as her pandemic release songs, in the community she grew up in.
One song she feels ready to premiere for this audience is one of her new songs: “To Arise.”
“It’s a song off my new album and it’s about the struggle of being an artist and continuing to pursue that even though it can be difficult at times,” Curtis said.
Curtis said she aims to write lyrics that are emotionally deep and relatable enough to connect to her fans.
“Hopefully they can relate to some of the songs," Curtis said. "I love performing just because I am able to connect to people and relate through music, like one of my songs ‘Dandelions’ is about … totally accepting who you are no matter what that may be. Hopefully, they get something from the lyrics.”
However, Curtis believes that her whole discography is able to relate to her target audience, meaning something different to every listener.
“I think a lot of my songs just relate to everyday life and everyday struggle, but also the joys that come with it too, so hopefully there should be a song for everyone,” Curtis said.
All the members of the band A History of Accidents have always been fans of environments like Stoopfest where the energy at the festival is totally unique, safe, fun and easygoing.
“As far as festivals that go on in and around Michigan … I think it's a unique (festival)," A History of Accident member Keith Music said. "It's very DIY. It’s very by the people that are doing it for the people that are doing it. It's also really interesting acts that get pulled. I always come across something really weird and really interesting and unique anytime we go out for it.”
At a recent show, A History of Accidents was introduced as a feral and fuzzed-out indie rock band, and member Champ Richardson said that it was their favorite description of the band ever. They explained that this description and their new music are evident of the path they are going down as a musical act and exemplary of exactly how they want to sound.
Richardson also explained that the diversity of the band was one of their main brandings focuses, striving to push this diversity that so many people look for in the music industry.
“Me and Gabby are people of color and me and Micah are queer, non-binary people," Richardson said. "I can’t speak for everybody, but I know when I go to shows and I see other people like me, I get real excited. Even if I don’t like their music that much, I want to follow them and support them.”
Micah Cotner also thinks that their band could be prevalent in Michigan State culture, reflecting the vibes that they perceived when they spent their time as an undergrad partying on campus.
"We are very loud," Cotner said. "We are very unapologetic and we are very obnoxious. I mean this with all the love in my heart, that tracks with every MSU experience I have ever had.”
Ally Evenson is another artist excited to play alongside musicians and close friends at this festival, especially as it is the first festival she has ever performed, bringing fresh new sounds to the Lansing scene.
“I feel like my music is cinematic emo music," Evenson said. "I think that’s a funny genre name for it, but if I’m being more blunt it’s probably just alternative indie folk."
Evenson will be playing with a full band, playing what she describes as heavy, sad songs, but also covers as well. She is excited to play new live music that may sound more fun than when she first recorded it, and she hopes to reach a new audience.
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“I feel like the music I write is therapeutic for me, so I hope that new fans can connect to it and I feel the way I feel," Evenson said. "If anything, I just want to help people. Music is therapy to me in a way, so I want it to be that way for my fans as well. I would like it if people listening to it were like ‘Wow, I really connect to this and I’m super into this artist.’”
She also thinks that her music was made for a certain audience that will be at the festival.
“I feel like my music in general is for younger people," Evenson said. "I’m sure older people also resonate with it, but I started writing these songs when I was 21. I think it’s all about my life growing up and figuring out who I am and what kind of person I want to grow up and be, so I think it’s definitely geared towards a younger college audience. I also wrote most of these songs when I was struggling in college.”
Evenson said that it was surreal to be on the same festival lineup as Sidney Gish who she has been a long-time fan of and is excited to check out what else the festival has to offer.
“There’s a lot of people that I do know that are playing and there’s a lot of people that I don’t know," Evenson said. "I’m always super super interested in finding new bands to listen to and be friends with.”
Just like Evenson, Dana Skully of the band Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks have many connections and close friends in the lineup and are exhilarated to see them after almost four years. They were stifled by scheduling and the pandemic, but their music is a culmination of influences over this time.
“We are a punk band, but we take a lot of influence from a bunch of different genres that all of us are interested in," Skully said. "A lot of us really love country music, so we write country music sometimes, but we always have that edge and it always means something to us and has some sort of message.”
Skully will be performing new music that the band just finished writing even a week ago, such as their song, “Student Loans.” As a graduate student, she thinks that their music can relate to the college student's plight.
“A lot of the music for us does involve that frustration with academia and that frustration with studying and…life to school balance,” Skully said.
Skully also commented on bringing a queer perspective to the stage, wanting to fix that deficiency of queer people fronting punk bands and depicting this representation in their music.
Another band new to the festival scene is Xanny Stars. One of the members Allie Mattis said that their music is fun, poppy and danceable.
“Our music is influenced by the 90s and females bands,” Mattis said.
Most excited to play their newest single titled "A," Mattis hopes to bring sounds of Cleveland to Lansing.
Every band is sure to bring their A-game to Stoopfest this weekend, creating a whole new ballpark for music to be discovered.
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