Laura Henderson’s theater company tends to take the stage in spaces better known for beers, bar food and bands.
Be Ever Wonderful — it’s more than just the title to the first full-length album by Grand Rapids rapper Waldo. It’s also a mission statement of the “right place, right time” moment the young MC is now experiencing with his explosive local label/collective AGO, aka the Astronaut Gang.
“Be Ever Wonderful came from a (1977) Earth, Wind & Fire song that my father played for me,” Waldo, aka Kamron Robinson, said. “But what comes to mind when I hear it is just positive vibes … and really just wanting to push a bigger, more powerful message out there.”
In the decade since he moved to Grand Rapids, multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer Matt Ten Clay has undeniably helped shape the sound of the city.
With his studio, Amber Lit Audio (240 Front St. SW), Ten Clay has recorded nearly 100 different artists. His work with close friends and likeminded bands, such as Heaters, Coffin Problem and Lazy Genius, has helped grow the city’s expansive psychedelic rock scene. Last year, he also won WYCE’s Jammie Award for Best Engineering/Production, thanks to work on albums by area artists as diverse as Hannah Rose Graves, Haunted Leather, Hollywood Makeout and others.
Since graduating from Western Michigan University in 2012, Nashon Holloway has performed her unique combination of rock, soul and jazz with her backing band, The Soul Messengers, all over the area, even since moving to Chicago. This month she returns to Kalamazoo for an album release show at Bell's Eccentric Cafe.
After 28 years of life in Grand Rapids, hip-hop artist Ajax Stacks, aka Avery Jackson, has developed a fierce pride for the city and its culture.
That loyalty was the impetus for Stack Rapids, a free 20-song mixtape featuring 30 of the city’s busiest lyricists — from the up-and-comers to established GR names, like AB and Fable the Poet. The freshly released compilation features executive producer Stacks on every track, alongside a diverse cast of distinctive area talents.
“You’re a product of your environment, and this is my environment,” he said. “Especially with Chicago and Detroit being so close, it’s easy to lose track of who we are, rather than trying to find our own sound. Grand Rapids is an upcoming underdog and I want to represent that.”
From new bands on the brink of stardom to mainstays long overdue for the local spotlight, West Michigan is packed with fantastic musicians who deserve more eyes and ears. We’ve rounded up just a few of them here, spanning the wide range of sounds and styles you’ll find all over the region. Take a listen!
Emma Ward, aka Emma Loo, doesn’t make weird music just for the sake of being weird. She makes it weird because she is too and she likes it that way. This month the singer-songwriter releases her first solo album, Ancient, at the Tip Top Deluxe. The set list is years in the making for a performer who finally found the tools to make the songs in her head a reality.
“Foxlore is the coming-of-age story of The Crane Wives,” vocalist/guitarist Kate Pillsbury told Revue as way of introduction to the Grand Rapids band’s new LP. “We wrote the songs at a time when we were still bumbling through our lives a bit. So much has happened to us between the writing of these songs and the consequent recordings.”
Beginning as a two-album concept as far back as 2014, Foxlore is the sister record to The Crane Wives’ last album, 2015’s Coyote Stories.
Since that time, life has continued unabated for the young indie band.
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