ON THE MUSICAL RADAR
DJ Slim Tim has seen West Michigan’s electronic dance music scene light up in recent years.
“There are some really big things changing around the city and around the state. More and more people are becoming open to the music,” said Slim Tim, aka Tim Boelman, who grew up outside of London, England, and moved to the U.S. about 13 years ago to play soccer at Cornerstone University.
EDM is a hot commodity, with twenty-something audiences selling out venues coast to coast and hitting the dance floor at Monte’s, Tavern on the Square, Billy’s and Grand Woods Lounge, to name a few. EDM’s burgeoning popularity also can be attributed to the growing “festival scene and the fact that mainstream music started to embrace it a lot more,” said DJ SuperDre, aka Andrea Wallace.
“Festivals have pushed many different types of music in the indie scene to a different level. It offers a lot of exposure at once.”
That includes events such as City Lights Music Festival, taking place every July in downtown Grand Rapids. SuperDre, who’s splitting her time between Los Angeles and West Michigan these days, has hosted BassBin electronic music nights at Billy’s for more than three-and-a-half years.
“If anyone had suggested to me five or six years ago that such a night would be successful in Grand Rapids, I probably would have laughed. However, it’s been an extremely successful night ... Between that and some of the other local events and the festivals, I think Grand Rapids is set up pretty well for some great things in the future.”
And then there’s the city’s proximity to the world-renowned EDM scene in Detroit.
“It definitely helps that we're as close to Detroit as we are.” Popular Grand Rapids DJ Jason Veeder acknowledges that EDM acceptance “has grown exponentially” in West Michigan with increased EDM radio airplay and festivals such as City Lights and Electric Forest. But he contends the number of Grand Rapids venues actually offering opportunities for performances “has gone way, way down” in recent years.
“No matter how much we embrace EDM music, it’s going to be halted if there’s nowhere to play it.”
In recent years, New Year’s Eve bashes at clubs across West Michigan have become a competition for the most highly prized names in regional music. And some venues have upped the ante yet again to toast the arrival of 2014. The past two New Year’s Eves, folk-rock’s The Crane Wives have fired up Founders Brewing Co., which boasts one of the liveliest and loudest parties around town (with Brooklyn’s The Pimps of Joytime on tap this year). The Crane Wives will head down the street to The Intersection to open for Greensky Bluegrass.
“New Year's Eve is a cool evening to play because it comes pre-charged with emotion and eagerness to party,” says bassist Ben Zito. “Greensky is bringing all of their awesome, supercharged fans."
At Grand Rapids’ Wealthy Theatre, Michigan’s star-studded Starlight Six – Seth Bernard, May Erlewine, Dominic John, Rachael Davis, Joshua Davis, Michael Shimmin and special guest, Mike Lynch – has made its annual rock-and-soul New Year’s Eve concert a beloved tradition. And expect some bonus action: The “Exile on Wealthy Street” show will feature “a long set of hand-picked Rolling Stones” songs. Meanwhile, Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo goes one night better: It boasts New Year’s Eve on steroids by making things a two-day affair. Grand Rapids’ Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, West Michigan’s hard-touring jam band, will set up shop at Bell’s two nights in a row, Dec. 30 and 31. And that’s worth popping another bottle of bubbly.
LOCAL CD RELEASES
Breathe Owl Breathe
Passage of Pegasus
Mystical. There may be no better word to describe the 10-track voyage that is Passage of Pegasus. It’s certainly a term that’s long characterized the approach of Michigan’s atmospheric Breathe Owl Breathe. A decade into this musical project born in East Jordan, the pioneering trio – Micah Middaugh, Trevor Hobbs and Andréa Moreno-Beals – continues to evade categorization as it delves into ever more complex, lush, harmony-rich and image-laden dreamscapes that owe as much to frontier-pushing artists such as Lou Reed and John Cale as they do to contemporaries like indie-folk’s Bon Iver. Produced by The Fruit Batsʼ Eric D. Johnson, the follow-up to 2010’s Magic Central stands as an intricate work of art worthy of intense, repeated scrutiny (with help of album covers that are individually numbered pieces of Middaugh’s visual art, pressed with handset type and copper-block images).
Music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at LocalSpins.com, spotlighting artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM.