It’s a Hooe-down with Country Music Stalwart Blackhawk

A Preview of a Great Show with comments from Dig Niddy & Chad Borgen

It’s been a long haul, but big name popular music is finally returning to the Upper Peninsula this weekend. Don’t think I’m saying that there hasn’t been some extremely talented (and properly lauded) musicians who’ve come through so far this year, such as Department of State Musical Ambassador Bob Milne, but with the cancellation of most early summer major festivals there hasn’t been a bigger selling name gracing our presence until this weekend in Copper Harbor when country music stalwarts Blackhawk grace a new stage.

Now there’s no doubt there has been a lot of chaos that lead to this show, but that’s for another article. For now we’ll just say former Calumet Theatre major sponsor Fanny Hooe Resort & Campground in Copper Harbor has pulled their support from the theatre and teamed up with the all new Lake Effect Bar & Grill and former CT Executive Director Marlin Lee Jr. to put on the inaugural Fanny Hooe-down, an all day musical event featuring a wide-array of roots oriented music kicking off at 3pm with the Keweenaw’s own Dig Niddy followed by Chad Borgen & the Collective, Tom Katalin & Highway 41 leading to multi-platinum, award winning Blackhawk.

I got a chance to speak quickly with Matt Bradley (Guitar/Vox) from Dig Niddy.  Now some folks may be wondering how a more progressive/jammy Reggae act is going to fit in on this bill, but Matt’s not worried at all: 

“We couldn’t be more stoked to open for Blackhawk.  I’m the little-more-country guy in the band, as I learned guitar from a bluegrass player, and that has always stuck with me, and honestly, I say it all the time Reggae is also country music, it’s just from a different country. However, we’re a very diverse group of guys and we have a pretty deep catalog that covers the styles. You have to in order to gig in the U.P.”

Dig Niddy’s 2019 opus “What Have We Learned”

When I asked him how they’d be handling their setlist, with such a diverse catalog, he said that they’re planning to keep it more towards the “American country tradition” with the 5 originals their planning having a “very country feel” with the other 2 still leaning towards Americana/Rock vibes.  After jamming their 2019 opus “What Have We Learned,” this writer can honestly say that he’s most looking forward to the Dig Niddy set of any on Sunday. 

Of course, that doesn’t take away from the other cat I was able to catch up with, fellow brother of the massive beard, Chad Borgen of Chad Borgen & the Collective.

Bear: Hey man, glad we could catch up quick.  It’s been a crazy couple of years.  You and the Collective were definitely making your mark pre-pandemic, so how’d you spend the time off?  How has it been getting back into gigging>  I see you’re not slacking, heck this Saturday alone you’re starting the day off for the Grand Marais Music Festival and finishing the night for the Calumet Music Festival.

Chad Borgen: It has been a crazy time for sure.  We (The Collective) had been steadily picking up steam since our start in 2018 and were booked throughout 2020. Then the pandemic hit and everything just stopped.  It was a little difficult to deal with at first. That, and realizing part of your income is no longer there can make for some harder days .

We tried following the trend and did a few Facebook live shows until we were completely in lockdown with the stay at home order.  Then I started doing a couple of weekly performances called “Wildman Wednesday” and “The Collective Friday”.  It kept me in contact with our fan base as well as making some new fans, and kept the blues away from the situation we were all in.  I believe we did around 17 weeks or so of performances.  It definitely made us rethink the possibilities of how to reach out to our audiences.  

B: We saw a couple singles outta you, what’s going on there?  Are they sorta one-offs or do you have more in the tank? Maybe an original album?

CB: I have a lot more in the tank.  The downside of performing and touring is not being able to finish up projects as fast as I would like to.  I have a new single coming later this month titled “Under The Moonlight (out in the country)“. I have been working with an Italian artist to help with the video to accompany the single. We are then wrapping sessions on two albums. We’re shooting for November to have them completed. The title of the projects as of right now are “Grandpa’s Garden” and “The Weird Beautiful World of Chad Borgen”.  

Chad Borgen showin’ some axe prowess.

B: That is pretty amazing to hear. I love to see the evolution of the scene that the regular local gigging bar bands are finally able to get their original material out there if they want. So, the Collective really tends to live up to their name and can play a wide variety of music. Heck, I was up at the Orpheum a couple years ago for the old school rockabilly set. 

Let’s talk about your setlist a bit.  Do you change it up often?  By venue, mood, crowd? For instance this weekend are you going to have a different set for the Marquette County Fair crowd compared to the Calumet Music Fest crowd?  How ’bout your feelings on balancing originals and covers, especially since you said you have two albums on the way.

CB: We have a large pool of music that we pull from.  Everything from country, rock, rockabilly, folk, with a bit of psychedelic mixed in. We normally do not follow a set list unless we have a time limit on stage.  Feeling out the crowd we get our best reactions.. Balancing originals to covers can be tricky, but we always play original music every night

B: I gotta admit, that’s a pretty impressive way to play it. I know a lot of the bands in the region basically have their “practiced sets,” and they don’t really deviate, but they know how to bring it. Your way definitely shows both confidence AND talent.

So how excited are you to open for Blackhawk? Are you a fan of the band, or 90’s country in general?

CB: I am very excited to be one of the opening groups for Blackhawk. Great songwriters, performers and one of the country bands I enjoyed following during the 90’s.  Having this opportunity to open and perform for a larger audience than we might normally, will hopefully draw others to our headlining shows as well as grow our fan base. 


Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a little more about… 

Though they’re the epitome of the 90’s country –style they’re still kicking new stuff around, however, it’s been since 2014 since they’ve put out new material. Their setlists are mostly comprised of their classics, but they do like to mix it up a bit.  They did reunite with the remaining members of the original backing band in 2020, but I’ve been unable to see if that’s whose touring now.  Founding member Van Stephenson passed in 2011 due to skin cancer.

One of Blackhawk’s classic cuts on last year’s “Just About Right: Live From Atlanta”

There wasn’t a long promo run on this show, but we’re really hoping folks jump aboard this killer event. There really is going to be something for most, and who knows, we’ll never have the size of venue as Red Rocks, but playin’ near the shores of Superior on Fanny Hooe in Copper Harbor could one day be just as prolific.

Tickets are available at $35 until TOMORROW (8/14), and as this goes to press there are still a few $75 VIP passes remaining.  Head on over here https://bit.ly/mmshooe-down to get your tickets. There will be food and drink available so the only carry-ins allowed are blankets, lawn chairs and your smiling faces!

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