Chelsea Sounds and Sights Festival 2023


There were over 100 volunteers who helped with this year’s festival. Chuck Marshall / Life In Michigan

From Brenda and Chuck Marshall / Life in Michigan

“It’s the most wonderful time of the YEARRRR!” Christmas in July sprang to mind as I hopped out of my car and into the sticky sauna that was downtown Chelsea on Friday, July 28th. Santa, the reindeer, and Christmas elves were taking it easy. However, the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce elves were in high gear as it was time to celebrate a summer packed with two days of fun at the annual Sounds and Sights Festival.

The Sounds and Sights Festival, held on the last Friday and Saturday in July, is a time to celebrate a summer of music. The Sounds and Sights on Thursday nights were spectacular this year. We witnessed the roots rock of Ladyship Warship, the psychedelic romp of Warhorses, and the heavy metal of Imminent Sonic Destruction. We caught vintage rock, acoustic duos, bluegrass, and more along the way. While in town, we shopped at the fantastic shops and enjoyed amazing meals along Main Street. Seeing the hum of Chelsea on a Thursday night showcased the power of a great chamber of commerce and the passion of those who live and work there.

Chelsea’s own Ben Daniels Band charmed the audience with their clever covers and unique sound. Chuck Marshall / Life In Michigan.

As I walked toward the Art market on this balmy Friday evening, Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce volunteers in their cosmic rainbow tie-dyed shirts could be seen bustling about town (aka Chamber elves). They were either answering questions, picking up errand litter, or setting up various event spaces, such as the huge social tent. I couldn’t help but marvel at the dedication and hard work of so many people. All summer long, the chamber core of Terris Ahrens, Denise Cugliari, and Shasta Grifka have led a mighty team of volunteers. Their efforts make Chelsea a destination for fantastic music all summer long. Hats off to these super folks that give us wonderful opportunities to enjoy a memorable evening in Chelsea.

For those looking for a less hectic art fair experience, the Art Market at the Sounds and Sights festival is just the ticket. On Friday and Saturday, you could roam the booths on the Chelsea Library lawn in search of a special gift or that unique piece of art to fill in the void in your living room. You know, that spot next to the couch that is boring and bare. The Art Market is the perfect place to pick up a new treasure to enjoy for years to come.

On Friday night, E. Middle, East, and Harrison streets became a gallery for moving sculptures. Vintage automobiles of all shapes, styles, and colors showcased the art crafted by the blue-collar artists of the Motor City. Amongst the gleaming steel polished to mirror perfection were a few gems that stood out in this brilliant field.

Both nights of the festival drew quite a crowd! Chuck Marshall / Life In Michigan.

Big L and Code Blu were on hand again on Middle Street during the car show to enliven this celebration of steel with tight blues, vibrant R&B, and a double shot of Motown heat. This band is as tough as a ‘67 Chevelle, hotter than a ‘56 Belair, and as slick as a purple Impala. Don’t miss a chance to rock out with Big L and Code Blu.

The only word that seemed to fit as I photographed the chalk art competition at the Palmer Auto parking lot on Saturday afternoon was “breathtaking.” I had to stop in stunned amazement at several entries in the adult and child chalk art contests. The depth of color, creativity in arrangements, and countless touches of detail were enthralling. From boring blacktop to bedazzling canvas, the chalk art competition was stupendous. Then I walked down Main toward Ugly Dog Distillery and marveled at the professional artist’s awesome renderings.

Friday night in the Social tent at Sounds and Sights festival was all about country music.

Bovine got things started with classic country played with unbridled passion. We had the good fortune to see them at Sounds and Sights last year, and this year was even better. Folks flocked to the dance floor to move to honky tonk staples from Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and more. Swinging steel guitar, steady bass and drum, guitars twanging, and vocals dripping with southern drawl, Bovine country has it all.

The stage was blazing with country standards, modern country boogie, and a splash of hard rockin thanks to Union Guns. This band smokes. I’ll be honest in that I’m not a fan of pop country. While Union Guns have a clear modern edge, they keep the old-school grit intake creating a compelling combination of old and new school. Their set was instilled with energy that had everyone out on the floor moving. I may have been seen throwing the horns when they cranked up a cover of AC/DC.

The Crasherz Band kept up the energy all night on Saturday! Chuck Marshall / Life In Michigan.

The party vibe shook the social tent on Saturday night to wrap up the Sound and Sights festival.

Easing into Saturday night were the sublime tones of Joshua Silas. Armed with a tantalizing acoustic guitar and a velvet voice, Joshua played covers from Jim Croce, Eric Clapton, and a dandy from Joe Cocker. Each tune highlights his talented playing and soulful voice.

Crafting a scintillating amalgam of rock and Americana with a propensity to jam, the Ben Daniels Band never fails to impress. Playing a mix of original and cover tunes, the band drew in the crowd with their warmth and energy. The jams were a highlight with extended covers of “Midnight Rider” and “Harvest Moon,” allowing the band to pay homage to superb songwriting while injecting their personality into the arrangement and performance.

Thankfully the temps were mild because The Crasherz
were hot, hot, hot. The band features a full ensemble of drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, horns, and a bevy of unbelievably talented vocalists. The range of music this band covers is impressive. Rock, soul, Motown, funk, disco, big band, you name it, the Crasherz can play it. The crowd packed the dance floor and never let up as the band kept the grooves flowing all night long. Party balloons added to the fun as the dancers moved to Prince, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, and more. The Crasherz turned Sounds and Sights into a dance party like no other.

Local band BOVINE played Friday night. Chuck Marshall / Life In Michigan.

The two fantastic nights of Sounds and Sights Festival as well as the Sounds and Sights on Thursday nights, were possible thanks to a host of generous sponsors. You can see the full list here, but a special thank you to Presenting Sponsor Rick Taylor Real Estate, Diamond Sponsors: Art Moehn, Chelsea State Bank, Chelsea Hospital, Eder Diver Insurance Agency, and Jiffy Mixes. Beverage Sponsor: Destination Ann Arbor and the Main Stage Sponsor for the festival: Smokehouse 52 BBQ.

The Chelsea Sounds and Sights Festival 2023 was a vibrant celebration that brought together the best of summer's sounds and sights in the heart of the town. Over two days, the festival featured an array of classic cars, captivating art, and an abundance of music.

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