With 2018 behind us, it’s time for a fresh start. West Michigan is full of musicians to watch, whether they’re just beginning their careers or planning to take it to another level in 2019. Here’s our guide for acts to keep an eye — and ear — on in the coming year.
No one in Desmond Jones is named Desmond Jones. The genre-blending Grand Rapids band just thought it would be cool to have an obscure Beatles reference for a name, and took its rather unusual moniker straight from the song Ob-la-di Ob-la-da!. However, upon Googling the name, the band discovered a real Desmond Jones — a professional mime who teaches in London.
Rising up on West Michigan’s radiant musical horizon, Grand Rapids quintet All Is Well hopes to shine a light for those in search of inspiration, solace or hope with the release of its first full-length album, Someday I Swear.
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!
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