Ty Stone made a return trip to Hell, MI on June 26-27 to celebrate Ty Fest ’15 with over 500 friends, family, and fellow musicians.

Ty Fest ’15 was a private, invite only, weekend festival located at the Hell Creek Ranch Campground in Hell, Michigan. Headlining was Ty Stone & The Truth. Also playing were some of Ty’s friends, many of which belong to the Detroit area Inside Outlaws Songwriter’s Collective.

Ty Fest started in 2014 when a local music enthusiast named Chelsea Willis and her husband Jim Waldecker decided to get together to help Ty Stone raise money through Ty’s KickStarter campaign to record his The Boulevard album. One of the items you could pledge on was a private home-performance by Ty.

Using social media, Chelsea got together with many of her friends and turned this private house performance into an outdoor music festival celebrating Ty Stone’s music as well as many other popular Detroit area musical acts. With an abundance of amazing talent emerging out of Detroit, narrowing the lists of artists to play at this year’s festival was a difficult task.

Building on last year’s inaugural Ty Fest, Chelsea decided to turn the one-day event into an American summer weekend event; which included camping, swimming, horseback riding, BBQ, and music, all with friends and family. She also added a songwriter’s pavilion for lesser known musicians to get some exposure.

Friday’s main stage hosted Keri Lynn Roche, Tino Gross, Alyssa Simmons, Shotgun Soul, F. Patrick James, Mike Leslie Band, BoneHawk, Ned Van Go, and the Howling Diablos. The songwriter’s pavilion hosted Mike Leslie, The Wagner Act (John Freeman & Nick Manstieia), Pat V., Fifth and Main, White Shag, Joe Jaber, and Matt Dmits (with a special appearance by Ty Stone). Joe Michnuk returned as MC for the evening.

Saturday’s main stage hosted The Orbitsuns, Matt Dmits, Alison Lewis & String of Ponies, Jennifer Westwood & The Handsome Devils, After Dark Amusement Park, The Royal Blackbirds, The Infatuations, Brandon Calhoon, Benny Speer (from Benny & the Jets), Doop & the Inside Outlaws, Ty Stone & the Truth with Pat V and the Detroit 3 closing out the festivities. The songwriter’s pavilion hosted Jesse Passage, The Wagner Act, Brett Lee, Michelle Held, Mike McNaughtey, and Paulina Jayne.

This event was completely fan driven. Everything was coordinated and pieced together without the help of any big promoters. Chelsea and Jim rented out the entire Hell Creek Ranch Campground, brought in their own sound system, and hired their own security. Many volunteers came forward to help with all of the background needs. This year saw over 500 attendees. Even with this large amount of people, the entire festival felt intimate as if one was attending a family reunion or a backyard BBQ with friends.

National Rock Review was given the honor of being the only media outlet invited to this special event. As we arrived mid-day on Friday, Chelsea’s friendly staff of volunteers greeted us at the gate as they were doing for all incoming guests. We made it to our site to set up camp. As we set up, others were swimming in the pool, tossing a football, playing corn-hole bean bag toss, walking around with drinks in hand, socializing, and having a good time.

The music kicked off on Friday at 2:30. Here is a breakdown of the bands/musicians that played the main stage:

KeriLynnRoche-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleKeri Lynn Roche is a Michigan born and raised, singer/songwriter, who has been playing music since the age of 14. Her earliest influences were primarily female artists such as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow and Ani Difranco. Keri was recently placed in “top 24” girls on American Idol 2014, Season XIII. She is back home from her American Idol Hollywood experience and is moving forward with a renewed sense of passion and dedication to her craft. Regarding her initial Detroit audition, Keri explains, “It’s amazing how a three-minute clip on national television can affect someone’s life.” Indeed, the singer received an enormous amount of positive feedback and new fan support following her multiple performances on the show.


TinoGross-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150626-ThomSelingThis generation knows him mostly as the front man for the Howling Diablos, but Tino Gross is a man of many talents. He has been playing drums since the early 70s, was a founding member of the quirky 80s funk-rock band the Urbations, and is responsible for helping introduce Kid Rock to the idea of blending rap with live music (the rock-funk-rap hybrid known to many as the Detroit version of hip-hop). Tino also runs his own recording studio, Funky D Studios, as well as record label, Funky D Records. Martin “Tino” Gross isn’t just a familiar face around town; his years in the scene have helped turn him into one of Detroit’s unheralded musical treasures. He is a walking storybook with a lifetime worth of stories based in and around the Detroit music scene.


AlyssaSimmons-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleComing to us from the outskirts of Detroit, Alyssa Simmons mixes old school rock n’ roll with catchy pop melodies, combining these two genres with a voice that sounds like she has Motown in her veins. Alyssa began studying voice at 9 years old which led to local talent shows, recitals, and competitions. By the age of 12, she was opening up for big name acts such as Randy Travis, Diamond Rio and The Smothers Brothers. She performed at the Apollo Theatre in New York City as a “Showtime Kid” and was also titled “Detroit’s Super Singer” at just 13 years old after winning Detroit’s biggest singing competition on WDIV. She was part of the national cast for Des Moines Iowa’s Variety Kids Telethon and Disney flew her out to California to audition for the hit TV show later known as Hannah Montana. She has released four albums of original material and also sang backup for Ted Nugent on the song “Never Stop Believing” from his latest album, Shut up & Jam!


ShotgunSoul-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleShotgun Soul is funk, soul and Detroit rock n’ roll with powerhouse soulful vocals, a funky rhythm section, slick guitar licks, soaring horns, and high energy non-stop fun. With influences ranging from Motown, Led Zeppelin and Etta James, Shotgun Soul has that old school sound, with a twist. Led by powerhouse vocalist Liz Girard, the terrific tandem of Jason Mossburger and Jesse Wozniak on guitars, a funky rhythm section of Robby Berent on bass, Dave Bodanyi on drums, and featuring Mr. Bill Kunz on the trombone rounding out the lineup, giving the bands old school sound a swampy edge. Known for their live sound and performances, one cannot deny the infectious energy, passion and true musicianship that Shotgun Soul brings to every performance.


FPatrickJames-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-ThomSelingMichigan native F. Patrick James grew up living music, drawing influences from legends like The Beatles, Van Morrison, Tom Petty and others. When college came calling, he headed off to Lindenwood University with a baseball scholarship. Not long after leaving Michigan, FPJ realized his passion for music couldn’t be ignored any longer. As soon as he got home, he purchased his first electric guitar and began writing songs, ready to dive head first into pursuing a career in music. After playing and writing with friends, FPJ recorded demos. Those demos caught the attention of Decibel producer Bryan Reilly. Now, he’s hard at work recording material for his debut album set to be released early in 2015. James has been described by fellow musician Mike Leslie as a gifted guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is a triple-threat with a promising career in an industry that has recently been declared “dead” by KISS’s Gene Simmons. Maybe Gene should visit the ‘Detroit Rock City’ a little more often.


MikeLeslieBand-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-ThomSelingAs front man for the Mike Leslie Band (MLB), multi-talented singer, guitarist, and songwriter Mike Leslie has built up a loyal following with his intensely imaginative and uniquely distinguishing style of guitar playing. He has been known to sit at a kick drum while playing his guitar with his left hand and at the same time playing the snare drum with his right hand all while singing into the microphone. As a trio, the MLB offer their eclectic jam twist on pop progressions over rock structure. They have strong folk and classic-rock guitar chops yet write around hooks and lyrics to produce urban sonic jewels. In an interview with Real Detroit Weekly, Leslie stated “I want to have a conversation with listeners and tell them how I feel,” and that their debut album “Is an expression of feeling. It’s a dark record. Some of the songs are fun and poppy, but the lyrics are really troubled. It’s something that everybody goes through.” Candlebox front man Kevin Martin noticed Leslie’s talent as a guitarist and invited him to join Candlebox. After their upcoming tour dates, Leslie and Candlebox plan on hitting the studio to record some new music.


BoneHawk-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleLoud and proud, BoneHawk brought their behemoth modern-day mix of heavy rock, 90s stoner, and 70s groove to Ty Fest 2015. Calling Portage, Michigan home, BoneHawk consists of Chad Houts (Guitars), Matt Helt (Guitars/Lead Vocals), Jay Rylander (Drums) and Taylor Wallace (Bass). This line-up has been together for just over a year and in that time they have solidified themselves as a vital part of the Midwest Michigan groove oriented hard rock scene, which also includes the likes of Blue Snaggletooth, Bison Machine, Wizard Union, Chugger and Mehrunes Dagon. Although one might think of BoneHawk as a stoner/desert rock band, there is much more to their sound. Playing heavy and dirty guitar sounds to blues, metal, and 70s hard rock, the band likes to think of themselves more as heavy rock or riff rock. Chad Houts jokingly mentions the problem with calling them a stoner/desert rock band is that, “They are not big stoners nor do they live near a desert.”


NedVanGo-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleNed Van Go comes to us from Nashville, Tennessee. They are a ragged crew made up of small town boys who are influenced by a 12-pack of cheap beer put to good use, desperation, good love, bad love, and down home rock n’ roll. From breakdowns on the side of the road to raisin’ a ruckus during one of their songs, the boys of Ned Van Go are never boring. They rock with energy and simple ‘blue collar’ feel that tell stories of factory working, racism, love in prison, love in a small town and time running out on an aging musician. Drawing from his Horse Cave, KY upbringing, singer Ned Hill writes songs that hint at the turmoil inside a modern southern man. From misplaced southern pride, busted relationships, a murderous heartache to back-country meth labs, and the dark side of every small town, Ned sings it and means it.


HowlingDiablos-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomervilleThe Howling Diablos are Detroit’s Sons of Blues. Their rockin’, funky, blues jam style is an institution in Detroit. They bring a great live music experience everywhere they play, and according to J. Bowe of 168Mag and Creem magazine, these veteran blues-rockers have been mashing-up roots blues and modern-day urban music for more than a decade. The band started life as a pickup band backing blues legends like Hubert Sumlin and Bo Diddley at a Detroit nightclub. With the addition of an unknown turntablist named Robert Ritchie (better known as Kid Rock) the band helped create a hybrid style that has sold butt loads of records, for other people. The Howling Diablos eschew the loops-and-beats approach and instead kick out some blues jams so funky you’ll wonder who left the lid off the garbage pail. This approach was largely inspired by front man Tino Gross’ production work for Mississippi-based Fat Possum records. He has brought a modern touch to records by R.L. Burnside and Little Freddie King. He was then inspired to return to his own roots as a blues player. With droning slide guitars and propulsive bass and drums, the Howling Diablos take country blues and put an innovative big-city spin on them.

Although the Howling Diablos closed out the main stage on Friday night, the party didn’t stop there. Several people gathered around the bar and pavilion area afterward for some drinking, socializing, and music provided by Mike Leslie. Leslie had the whole pavilion singing along with him to many classic cover songs by such acts as the Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Steve Miller Band. The party went on into the wee hours of the morning. As the many campfires started to fade, so did the bodies as they disappeared into the darkness, preparing for another day of celebratory music.

Saturday was much different from Friday. Everyone woke up to a constant rain that developed overnight. Luckily, there was no thunder or lightning so the show was able to go on. It was cold and wet but nothing that a hot mug of coffee couldn’t help overcome.

Saturday’s main stage kicked off around 12:30. Here is a breakdown of the bands/musicians that played the main stage:

TheOrbitsuns-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingAlthough it was cold out, things started to heat up fast when the Orbitsuns took the stage. Riding their tired old horses across Detroit, their saddlebags stuffed with bourbon, cigarettes, Coney Island hotdogs, and worn Johnny Cash cassettes, the Orbitsuns are the Motor City’s finest purveyors of low down and dirty outlaw country. Summoning the spirits of all of their brethren, the Orbitsuns are as outrageous as Iggy Pop, as blue-collar as Bob Seger, as dark as Alice Cooper, as revolutionary as the MC5, and as boundary crossing as Kid Rock. Half of the band is made up of Vinnie Dombroski and Jimmy Paluzzi who found national fame in the 90s as the vocalist and drummer of the band Sponge. Although they are Detroit royalty, you wouldn’t know it. These guys were so down-to-earth that after their performance they were seen mingling with the audience while hoping from campsite to campsite.


MattDmits-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleA member of the Inside Outlaws Songwriter’s Collective, Matt Dmits has been writing and performing music in the Detroit area and the Midwest for the past ten years, and continues to be one of the hardest working musicians in the Motor City. Working as a vocalist, songwriter, and guitar player, he has shared the stage with numerous local and national artists both as a stand-alone performer of roots-rock-Americana, and as an accompanist. He played on all three Doop & The Inside Outlaws albums and Katie Grace’s debut album. Dmits recorded his first solo effort with legendary Detroit producer Jim Diamond at his Ghetto Recorders studio which features guest Inside Outlaw members Don “Doop” Duprie, Katie Grace, Ty Stone, Vinnie Dombroski, and Pete Ballard and Bobby Emmett (The Sights). He continues to collaborate, write, and perform with a hard-working sensibility that matches the area he proudly calls home.


AlisonLewis-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervillePlaying music for over a decade, Alison Lewis started out playing in Detroit area coffee shops, dive bars, street corners, and even flea markets. After a successful run with Detroit’s pop act, The Twilight Babes, Lewis moved to Chicago where she started working on a solo career. Lewis has taken her blend of Americana music nationwide, touring all over the United States and in other countries. She eventually moved back to the Detroit area and put together a group of musicians called String of Ponies. Although Lewis remains the same, the Ponies come and go, and sometimes come back again, which keeps the music fresh and always evolving. The one thing that remains are the songs she wrote, and that she will always show up and sing her heart out.
JenniferWestwood-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleJennifer Westwood cut her teeth on Detroit Gospel before hitting the gritty Detroit bars that set her career in motion. She has been a Detroit Music Award winner and nominee in several categories, and has contributed music to multiple Emmy Award winning commercials and documentaries. Performing in church lead to her first work in the outside world, singing backup locally for Motown artist Carl Carlton (Bad Mama Jama). Studio work for various local artists followed, first in R&B and soul genres, and then in roots and blues. Those experiences gave her insight on the direction she wanted to embark on for her own music before leaping out on her own. It also opened doors for commercial work due to her vocal flexibility and enthusiasm. Jennifer has fully embraced the character and spirit of Detroit and considers her greatest accomplishment to be creating a career in music during some of the most troubling economic times for her hometown. There are no musical limitations with Jennifer Westwood and the Handsome Devils. The skill-set and accomplishments that each member has earned helps them create a format where no style is out-of-bounds. Somehow, it all sounds familiar, but unique all the same. Truly a melting pot of musical ability and knowledge, the band makes a statement with each note.


AfterDarkAmusementPark-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingDetroit Indie rock band, After Dark Amusement Park (ADAP), is led by guitarist, singer, sole songwriter, and full-time freelance bassist, Gregory Beyer. Beyer is currently rounded out by Katie Grace on bass and backing vocals and Bryan Reilly on drums. Also a member of the Inside Outlaws Songwriter’s Collective, Beyer likes to call their blend of indie music “alt glam rock with a hint of power pop.” Beyer juggles a number of other musical projects. He was part of Sixto Rodriguez’s (Yes, Beyer did find Sugar Man!) U.S. touring band, and currently plays with Doop & the Inside Outlaws, Alison Lewis’s String of ponies, Matt Dmits, Grayling, Gold Crayon, The Bears Are Out, and Ty Stone’s The Truth. Beyer also has a heavy load as a music teacher extraordinaire. This one-time professor at Detroit’s School of Rock now teaches bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals privately, proving that he is a multi-instrumentalist with many talents. Not being able to define the band’s sound, Beyer says he is influenced by and feels equally indebted to the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, The Cure, David Bowie, T-Rex, The Supremes and Detroit rocker John Speck’s band Hoarse.


TheRoyalBlackbirds-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingThe Royal Blackbirds are a working-class, dirty bluesy influenced soulful rock band from the East side of Detroit. Rebecca Saad (Guitar, Vocals) and Jeanette “Nettie” Gadette (Drums) have been jamming together since they were 15. Music major at Macomb Community College, Saad cites Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimmy Page as influences. Gadette is self-taught. Dennis Burck (Bass) is a classically trained bassist at the Berkley Music Center and studied under Chuck Bartels (bass player for Bettye Lavette). Gadette and Saad met Burck in 2008 while playing a gig in Westland, Michigan. They have since released two full-length albums on Funky D Records.


Infatuations-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleSome might think that Motown is dead, but Motown comes back to us in the form of The Infatuations. This is not your parent’s Motown but a re-imagined version for a new generation. These guys are heavily influenced by the funk, soul and rhythm-and-blues that were so prominent in Motown. They are not trying to reinvent the wheel, however they play with such confidence that you would think they had invented the genre. It’s hard to believe that The Infatuations are a relatively new band. They play with the same heart and soul as such classic artists as Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Sly, and the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding mixed with the extraordinary musicianship of the Funk Brothers, 94 East, The Time, P-Funk, New Power Generation and Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, The Infatuations perform without being a derivative of any of these listed artists. The band has quickly become one of Detroit’s top drawing acts. They brought home 5 Detroit Music Awards in 2014 for Outstanding R&B Artist/Group, Outstanding Live Performance, Outstanding Rock/Pop Songwriter, Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording for “Yesterday Morning,” and Outstanding Video/Independent also for “Yesterday Morning.” The Infatuations are a must see live band. According to Gnyp, from 93.9FM The River, “You want to know how Detroit actually parties, watch The Infatuations!”


BennyJets-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleBenny Speer (Benny Jets) started playing music in the late 60s before forming The Jets. They took their band name from one of the street gangs in the hit musical West Side Story. Benny and some of his friends were playing with a band called Moose & Da Sharks before they splintered off to form The Jets. The band looked to the likes of Elvis Presley, Rick Nelson, and Detroit’s Jamie Coe for their musical direction. By 1971, The Jets were playing 5 nights a week, an amazing feet as they were still kids in high school at the time. They changed their name to Benny & The Jets in 1973, which was about a year before Elton John recorded his #1 hit of the same name. They would play at large car shows around the country and used the auto show circuit as their launching pad. These car shows were put on by a Detroit-based company called Autorama, who put on about one hundred and fifty car shows a year. Being part of the Autorama car shows allowed Benny & The Jets to play some of the biggest arenas across the United States. Jokingly, Benny would tell people that they were the most famous unknown band in the world as people would pull into places like the Silverdome, the Kingdome or the Superdome and see the band’s name all over billboards, TV commercials, and on entry tickets to Autorama. After many years of touring and recording albums, Benny now plays most of his shows as a solo acoustic performer. This is the show he brought to Ty Fest. Originally scheduled to play at the songwriter’s pavilion, Benny was moved to the main stage at the last-minute. This was an excellent decision since out of all of the famous musicians at Ty Fest; Benny was the most legendary of all.


BrandonCalhoun-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleBrandon Calhoon is a stripped down rock and soul singer based out of Metro Detroit. Brandon kick-started his career when he became the dark horse favorite on the short-lived “RockStar” TV series, RockStar: INXS. After the show, Brandon returned to Michigan where he wrote and recorded several albums. He was consequently nominated for several Detroit Music Awards, including “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Record.” In 2010 his song “Detroit City” was featured on FX’s hit TV show Justified. In early 2015, Calhoon’s song “Lost to be Found” was chosen as the theme song for CBS’s new show Battle Creek. Currently Calhoon is spending his time writing and recording music for television, film and his fans. Like Benny Jets, Brandon Calhoon was also moved from the songwriter’s pavilion to the main stage.


DoopandtheInsideOutlaws-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingDoop & the Inside Outlaws play a unique blend of honest, raw, and heartfelt Americana fused with a little Detroit grit. Don “Doop” Duprie is one of Detroit’s best-kept secrets. The roots of this working class singer songwriter shine throughout his lyrics, which he wears on his sleeve like a badge of honor. He writes honest songs about every day people. A laid off firefighter, born and raised in industrial River Rouge, Michigan, Doop has forged a successful music career as a solo artist and as the front man for his band, the Inside Outlaws. Doop and Ty Stone formed the Inside Outlaws Songwriters Collective in 2005. According to Doop, “The original vision was to get a group of songwriters and musicians together to make good music and really focus on writing great songs.” In addition to Doop and Ty, the group of alt-country and Americana musicians includes Matt Dmits, Alison Lewis, Katie Grace, Pat V, and Gregory Beyer. Since that time, the collective has morphed into a group of musicians who, not only play under the name of the Inside Outlaws, but also create their own music under their own name. Similar to Alison Lewis’s band, String of Ponies, the Inside Outlaws come and go, and sometimes come back again, which keeps the music fresh and always evolving. Doop is a self-taught guitar player. Doop says he remembers watching a PBS documentary about the tragic plight of the American farmer during the Reagan era and around that time he heard “Rain on the Scarecrow” by John Mellencamp. This, he says, changed his life. According to the article “Working Man’s Blues,” written by Bill Holdship of the Metro Times, Doop feels Bruce Springsteen is the very best. Doop even performs a countrified cover of the Springsteen’s “Prove It All Night,” which he recorded for the Everett Belcher album. Along with the Boss, Doop’s musical DNA is made up of the Charlie Pride, Hank Williams Sr., and Conway Twitty songs he heard in his grandfather’s pickup as a youngster. As are the Bob Seger tunes his hot-rodder dad had blaring in the garage while building cars. Doop strongly believes that all those distinct elements, even the soul part… no, especially the soul part, have a place in Americana’s unique musical blend.


TyStone-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingTy Stone is a powerhouse singer who can easily fill an arena sized venue with his voice. After cutting his teeth with his early band 2 Days Straight, Stone headed out west to Los Angeles, California. In between working minimum-wage jobs and playing music around L.A., Stone recorded his first solo album titled TCMFB. Stone got his big break when someone handed Kid Rock a copy of his demo. A phone call, and visit, from Kid Rock brought Stone back to Detroit. Rock took to Stone’s great songwriting and incredible voice, signing him to his Top Dog Records. Stone states, “I had that experience everyone fantasizes about; some rock star grabs you up out of your crappy life, moves you into his house, puts you on private jet, and introduces you to his rock star friends. That shit happened to me. I learned so much.” Rock executive produced Stone’s first outing for Top Dog/Atlantic Records, an EP titled 4 on the Floor and it’s follow-up début full-length American Style. Per Rock, “His soul and his Rhythm & Blues instincts are just spot-on. It’s exciting stuff to hear.” Stone has mentioned of Rock, “It’s an honor to work with him. He cares about the music and he basically sticks up for me in this business, like a big brother.” That extended to Rock taking Stone out as an opening act on two arena tours, opening concerts in the venues he’d only entered as a fan. Stone sees himself filling that void that guys like Bob Seger and John Cougar Mellencamp once filled that kind of Americana, normal, blue-collar, everyday man. Stone explains. “That’s something everyone can relate to, y’know? I’m not a super pretty dude. I lived like everyone else and had all the bullshit jobs people had. I just want to write about real things that normal people can relate to.” Stone has come a long way as a songwriter. He mixes the perfect blend of country, southern rock, and Motown soul into his unique sound. Most recently, he self-released his The Boulevard album financed through a successful KickStarter campaign which has him incorporating a little Detroit bred rock n’ roll into his music.


PatV-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSelingPat V. and the Detroit 3 consider themselves Detroit Outlaw Country. They like to put the ‘ill’ back in hillbilly with a honky-tonk sound that is half Hank Sr. and half Pabst Blue Ribbon. Their music immediately transports you back down the lost highway and throws you through the swingin’ saloon doors of a 40s honky-tonk. Classic stories of scorned women, over indulgence, and run-ins with the law fuel this good timin’ band’s music, and are guaranteed to fuel any party all night long. These guys are pure country gold, Inside Outlaw style! Although Ty Stone was the host of the weekend’s festivities, Pat V. and the Detroit 3 closed out the night. After a good-time rockin’ country set, Pat V. turned the stage into an all-star jam without even knowing it. He was finishing out a song and then, to his surprise, he turned around to find everyone standing on stage behind him. Ty Stone, Doop, Gregory Beyer, Brandon Calhoun, Joe Michnuk, Matt Dmits and Chelsea Willis joined him on stage to partake in the fun.

Although the main stage was where the larger acts played, some of the most moving performances were at the songwriter’s pavilion. It was nice to be able to see Mike Leslie, Pat V. and Matt Dmits not only rock out on the main stage, but also play an intimate set as well. One of the highlights of this smaller setting was seeing Ty Stone step in and perform with Matt Dmits. Their set together was so moving that it drew a large crowd away from the main stage and had everyone in the pavilion stomping their feet and clapping their hands along to the songs. It gave you the feeling of sitting on the back deck of a cottage in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains with all of your family and friends stomping and singing along to some good ol’ home-brewed mountain Americana music.

Here is a breakdown of the other musicians who played the songwriter’s pavilion throughout the weekend:

TheWagnerAct-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomerville-001The Wagner Act is a songwriting collaboration between Nick Mansfield and John Freeman (both of The Codgers) that started a few years ago over Canadian whiskey and Guy Clark tunes.


WhiteShag-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-ThomSeling001Laura Mendoza and Jorge Cortez, of White
, rocked the acoustic stage with as much energy as if they were playing a dirty Detroit rock club such as P.J.’s Lager House. They say that their M.O. is energy and their tastes are for the seediest, prickliest, raucous roots of rock. This is evident in their set even though they were only using acoustic instruments.


JoeJaber-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomerville-001Joe Jaber is the lead singer for his band The Great Divide. He is a self-made singer, songwriter and guitarist who plays a heady, captivating mélange of rock n’ roll, blues, roots and Americana with just the lightest touch of country.


Fifth&Main-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150626-RobertSomerville-004Fifth and Main is an alternative-folk act that started creating music in 2012. Their sound has been compared to having similarities to Kings of Leon, John Mayer and The Fray.


JessePassage-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSeling-003Jesse Passage says he is “A songwriter trying to understand.” He plays indie, folk and melodramatic popular songs along the lines of Ray LaMontagne.


BrettLee-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleBrett Lee performs outstanding originals and a large variety of cover tunes from many different genres, and many different eras. He has been performing live with his acoustic guitar since the age of 9 years old. Lee has not only performed solo, but also in several acoustic duos, and of course has fronted several bands, including those from the classic rock, country, and modern rock genres.


MichelleHeld-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleMichelle Held emerges with an incomparable sound and style. Brett Callwood of the Detroit Metro Times says, “Held plays gentle folk with oft scathing lyrics. It’s her voice that adds the X-factor; that little bit of welcome strange.” Genuine and from the heart, strange yet comforting, let her music transport you to a different place and time.


MikeMcNaughtey-TyFest15-Hell_MI-20150627-RobertSomervilleMike McNaughtey is a Detroit singer/songwriter in the vein of Ryan Adams or Ryan Bingham.


PaulinaJayne-Tyfest15-Hell_MI-20150627-ThomSeling-003 Paulina Jayne is an up and coming country singer on the rise. She has been writing with hit songwriters and performing in high-profile venues since the age of 14, cutting her first record in Nashville during her freshman year of high school. This Detroit girl with an urban country music edge has caught the attention of nationally respected producers, including multi-Grammy Award Winner Tobey Wright and multi-Emmy Award Winner Trey Bruce with whom she is currently an artist in production.

In my many years of attending concerts, I have never been to one that ran as smooth, and friendly, as Ty Fest. This weekend celebration was put together by avid music fans for avid music fans with artists performing who are as much avid music fans as they are artists. There were two stages running with no interruption of music in between them. Even with the drizzling rain on Saturday, the party was happening and everyone was having a good time. Kudos to Chelsea Willis and Jim Waldecker for a job well done!

Photography by Thom Seling and Robert Somerville