After a three-year hiatus, Lightning Bug Music Festival will return to Sunset Hill Farm in Valparaiso, IN from September 9-10 with an expanded multi-day, multi-stop format and a renewed focus on community thanks to the new president John Westbrook and his team. Founded as a non-profit organization in 2014, the Lightning Bug Music Festival is stepping up its game this year, bringing an array of top talent to “The Region” in Northwest, IN, including railroad land (two nights), ghost light, Lindsay Lou, The Lil Smokies, Cedric Burnside, Duane Betts, charlie parr (two nights), holly skittles, Mikaela Davis and the Southern Starand more.
In previous years, the Lightning Bug Music Festival took place on one stage in one day, but this year the festival is adding a new main stage right next to the existing barn stage, so performers will alternate stages with quick five-minute scenes. changes between sets, and attendees won’t miss a thing of the action.
This year’s lineup is basically consistent with previous years, featuring mostly bluegrass, Americana and folk and a few electric acts to break things up. “I wanted to keep the style of music while incorporating other bands that complement the strictly bluegrass, newgras genre,” said John Westbrook. live for live music. “It was important for me to include bands like Ghost Light who don’t usually go to a festival like this, but I think the flow of music is very, very important.”
Westbrook was especially thrilled to spotlight lesser-known artists like Milwaukee old puppy and Pajamas, of Ann Arbor, MI. “[Pajamas] turned very hard. They’re just starting to get their feet wet, but they’re all incredibly talented musicians. Drummer Graham Low has a classical education at music school and sings. He is like Helm of Levon. The purpose of music festivals in my eyes is to attract people who know bands to the festival. Best festivals I’ve been to, you see a handful of bands you’ve never heard of before and walk away as a fan.
The festival will also host the debut of Marcus Rezakit is Led is deadwhich mixes the music of Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. Weekend performers in general will include Trevor Shepicha 17-year-old guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who sat with Billy strings in Louisville last May, and Rushad Egglestonwho passed Rushadicus.
“He’s probably the most unique person I’ve ever seen or met in the music business,” Westbrook said of Rushadicus. “He plays the cello with a kazoo on top. He was nominated for the Grammy Awards in 2003. All he does is beat his own drum and he’ll be sharing his music in a very unconventional way all weekend. So you might not see it on a stage, but you will probably see it on the way to the stage or in the campgrounds or during an on-site activity.
Additional artists on this year’s lineup include Cordoba, Hollow of Sicard, Beginnersand river spell. The festival is also adding camping for the first time this year. Campers can pull their car to their campsite, which will be located on virgin land just steps from the stages. There will also be RV camping and a family camping area.
Children are welcome at the festival and those under 12 enter for free. There will be kid-friendly activities throughout the event, including slackline lessons offered by Slack Librium, a skipping competition inspired by Lake Michigan and friendly barn animals. There will also be bubbles, lots and lots of bubbles. “Bubbles are very important. Very, very important,” said John Westbrook. “A guy’s whole job is just blowing giant bubbles all day and teaching kids how it works.”
Children and adults are invited to enjoy nature walks led by professional arborists who will teach all about trees and foliage on site, and a local yogi and professional chiropractor will provide morning yoga and meditation sessions. A health and wellness market will also take place on Saturday, featuring different local vendors.
Lightning Bug Music Festival was originally founded as a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting nearby Indiana Dunes. This year, the festival is associated with back linea non-profit organization that strives to provide mental health resources to professionals in the music industry.
“For me, it was an absolute no-brainer to make it our mission to highlight and help support causes that allow live music to happen,” Westbrook said. “As we were considering who to support, we thought of Backline because they are such a strong organization. Jeff Austin was my spirit animal throughout my youth, and Neal Casal-surprising. Seeing these two people commit suicide was really hard to understand. And knowing that Backline was created from that was so powerful for me. I think everything Backline has done since its debut is super impactful. And we, as fans, would never have the ability to be happy through music if the musicians didn’t exist, if they were unable to perform their craft.
He continued, “We recognize how important live music is to the mental well-being of not just artists, but fans as well. And it’s kind of a circle. So we’re super, super excited to support Backline through this cause and a portion of our proceeds will go to Backline. They were helpful throughout the process. And I hope to support them for a long time because I know how much they have helped the artists who are close to my heart.
Tickets for the Lightning Bug Music Festival 2022 are on sale now. Check out the daily festival lineup below, and to find more information and buy tickets, visit the festival website.