Switchback Summer Island Tour
by Brenda Winslow
It’s summertime and the living is easy, especially if you’re touring with Switchback.
Summer is beautiful up here. The sunshine shimmering off the water of the Great Lakes is mesmerizing. The pristine forests, rolling hills and clear blue lakes of northern Michigan are truly “God’s country” as everyone here reminds you (just in case you could somehow miss it). As August is quickly passing, people are soaking up this bit of heaven, before the cold north wind begins to blow. The seasons, like this life, are only temporary and not to be taken for granted. We’re enjoying every moment.
The nights are just as incredible as the days as the glowing full moon has been following Switchback with us. As if the moon wasn’t spectacular enough, the meteor shower has also been giving us a heavenly display. The streaking meteors are almost surreal. Up here the air is cleaner, the lights a little dimmer and the pace a little slower, making for an incredible nightly show.
We’ve been experiencing the incredible nightly shows of Switchback, too. Our travels have taken us to a wide variety of concerts, each one totally different from the one before. That’s the fun of a Switchback road trip. No two are ever the same. Starting August 10 at the Dhaseleer’s historic barn preservation project in the peaceful countryside near Charlevoix, to the glistening shores of St. Ignace, to the quaint portside community of Elk Rapids, each concert has been uniquely beautiful.
If you’ve never traveled with the Switchback family, all I can say is you simply have to. Everyone we have met has been wonderful. What I’ve noticed about Switchback fans is that do they not only connect to the incredible music of Brian and Marty that we all so love, they connect with life, too. They reach out to each other. We met complete strangers at the concerts who invited us to their homes. They made us feel like old friends. That comes from the energy of Switchback. It comes from their souls and the energy they generate through their music, traveling ever outward. The two guys in this band have soul. They have heart.
They demonstrated this at two benefit concerts on the tour. Now, I can hear some people say, “Yeah, benefit concerts, everybody does them,” but not like Switchback. First, the amount of work that goes into putting on a benefit concert was overwhelming. Second, the causes really hit home to me.
The first benefit concert was on the beautiful pier at St. Ignace on August 12 for the Fort de Baude Historic Museum. The fundraiser was for building a structure that can adequately teach this history and display the amazing artifacts of the Ojibwe, Huron, Ottawa and French people that inhabited the Straits of Mackinac.
Switchback’s music flowed across Lake Huron. The crowd was fun, but serious about the cause they were supporting. Native American culture is deeply rooted in this area and its importance now and in the future cannot be allowed to slip away. There is a wise old saying: “If we do not know where we come from, we cannot know where we are going.” I learned of the similarities between the Native Americans and the Irish and how our histories actually parallel each other in many ways. There is a connection – in the suffering of our people and being uprooted from our homelands, as well as the spirituality of our cultures. Darryl Brown, a Native American elder and artist, provided us with a tour and deeply emotional experience of his culture. We thank him for this journey.
[An aside: This was the first time that the band had played in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so we learned to say “Ya to da U.P.,” and met many “Yoopers” there, eh! We also learned that Jim Sundberg, the Switchback photographer on the tour, is the son of a Yooper! (Secret’s out now, Jim.) Now everyone just has to figure out what a “son of a Yooper” is!]
The journey continued the next evening in Elk Rapids on August 13. Over 250 people attended this concert in support of the Elk Rapids Cross Country team. Yes, a cross-country team. If you have kids in public school you know the massive budget cuts in education happening across the country. If you’re a runner, you understand the gifts of running, and Marty and Brian both having been runners, understood the importance of supporting the kids here. (For those of you who don’t run: Running, in many ways, teaches you many of the lessons you need in life – not to give up when things get hard, appreciation for the physical gift you’ve been given, working together as part of a team, taking responsibility for yourself and learning to truly relax in your mind.)
This was one of the most beautiful Switchback concerts I have ever attended. People were smiling, people were laughing and the energy simply flowed. The band was at their supreme. They were joined by two local musicians for the second half of the program, a Celtic fiddler, Ron Kendzierski and an inspiring new vocalist, Stephanie O’Dell. When the band received a standing ovation and played an encore, Switchback fans’ hearts overflowed at the sight. It was awesome to see the band receive the respect they so deserve.
Switchback’s electrical current is still resonating in the community of Elk Rapids. To have the caliber of talent that is Switchback in this small town was truly appreciated. Due to the incredible response of those attending, a DVD highlighting the concert is in production and will be available in the near future.
Life on the road, as many of us found, can be exhausting! I have a new appreciation for the sacrifices musicians (and their families) make to be true to their music. You’ve got to love it. And they obviously do.