Even in the ever-changing world of music, one old adage remains shockingly true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Now in our second year of Best of the West here at Revue, we have time on our side. And using it as a soft reference, we can already tell that the tastes and preferences of many of our area’s most avid music lovers run deep.
Six of the winners this year repeated their titles from last year, including yet another dominant performance from the clearly beloved Grand Rapids Symphony, as well as continuing support for local music institutions 88.1 WYCE and Vertigo Music.
In the Best Original Band category, rising Grand Rapids soul standout Vox Vidorra simply swapped places with longtime indie-folk favorite The Crane Wives as the two most popular bands in the area, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has caught any of their many sets at festivals, breweries or even libraries over the last two years. Cracking in at No. 3 on that list, rockabilly duo Jesse Ray & the Carolina Catfish made a strong debut this year, as did DJ Adeshola Makinde, cover band Trixy Trang and Best Solo Artist Brian Vander Ark, lead singer of The Verve Pipe.
The most interesting category this year proved to be best music festival, where last year’s winner, Electric Forest, dropped to third place despite expanding to two full weekends this summer. Instead, venerable institution Festival of the Arts came out on top, despite not placing in the top three last year, and seeming like a granddaddy in comparison to the youthful, technicolor exuberance of Electric Forest. Boosted no doubt by its colossal 10th anniversary lineup, Founders Fest also found its way onto the list for the first time.
Last but certainly not least, GR indie-rock club The Pyramid Scheme held off a huge splash made by the brand-new 20 Monroe Live to defend its title as the Best Music Venue in West Michigan, despite drawing in concert crowds a fraction of the size — thus proving that even now, in the fast-paced and fickle digital age, music fans remain diehards to what they love to the very end.
Check out the rest to see if any of your favorites made it onto our list this year!
VINYL RECORD STORE: Third Coast Vinyl
From a modest storefront in Muskegon, Third Coast Vinyl has curated a dynamite selection of new and used vinyl. The operation may not have the largest stacks of wax, but they know how to stock the bins with the right albums for all collectors. There’s a plethora to choose from, whether you’re into rock, metal, alternative, hip hop, indie or everything in between. And just in case you need secondary verification about the extent of its selection, Third Coast is prolific at posting the in-house collection and latest arrivals on Instagram. 1115 3rd St., Muskegon —by Joe Boomgaard
SOLO ARTIST: Waldo (Grand Rapids)
Representing Grand Rapids’ ever-growing, ever-wonderful hip-hop scene on the national stage harder than anyone right now, rising rapper Waldo has earned a lot of attention over the last year. A member of the supremely deep AGO Music crew based right here in GR, Waldo has had the summer of his career, collaborating with internationally-acclaimed hit-makers like KAYTRANADA, and slaying the stage before Detroit superstar Big Sean at Lansing’s Common Ground Music Festival just last month. soundcloud.com/waldoago —by Eric Mitts
MUSIC FESTIVAL: Audiotree Music Festival (Kalamazoo)
Those looking for the unexpected should look no further than this growing festival now spanning two days (Sept. 22-23) at Kalamazoo’s Arcadia Creek Festival Site. Previously featuring bands as wildly different as Blues Traveler, Andrew W.K., Big Gigantic and The Joy Formidable, Audiotree has branched out even further now in its fifth year with the always-unpredictable psychedelic outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard set to headline this time around, supported by some of the best up-and-coming rock and rap acts around. audiotreemusicfestival.com —by Eric Mitts
ORIGINAL BAND: Hollywood Makeout (Grand Rapids)
Hollywood Makeout hosted one of the most amazing shows of the year when the band released its second LP – Speedo Spider – on a freaking riverboat back in May. Issued by phenomenal local label Dizzybird Records, the fresh wave of surf-inspired indie-rock is the perfect summer soundtrack for fans who don’t go for the usual summer jams, and an absolute blast for those who eagerly awaited a follow-up to the band’s bodacious 2014 debut Bikini Bat. hollywoodmakeout.bandcamp.com —by Eric Mitts
VINYL RECORD STORE: Satellite Records
Located in Kalamazoo’s student-centered Vine Street neighborhood, Satellite Records serves as a beacon for many fresh-faced listeners discovering the velvety sound of vinyl for the first time, or diehard collectors eager to get their hands on the latest releases and rare reissues. The shop just celebrated its three-year anniversary, and in that short time has hosted dozens of in-store performances by both touring and local bands, while offering a great selection of new and used LPs, cassettes and more. 808 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo —by Eric Mitts