Wednesday, 03 January 2018 11:11

30 Years in Revue: Where we came from, who we are now and how we got here

Written by  Josh Veal
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30 Years in Revue: Where we came from, who we are now and how we got here Cake by The Cakabakery, photo by Katy Batdorff

Revue has grown quite a bit in 30 years, but to understand how, we have to go back to the beginning.

In 1988, Doug Fast created Music Revue to fill a hole in journalism. The publication was born in an entirely different time and place compared to the West Michigan we know today — craft beer hardly existed, the local restaurant scene was a shadow of what it is today, and the founder of ArtPrize was only six years old. 

However, the local music scene was absolutely thriving. Dozens of venues hosted live music around the region, from tiny bars to huge arenas and everything in between. Yet, only a couple publications were even attempting to cover the scene, and they weren’t doing well. That’s where Fast came in.

Even in its infancy, Music Revue was edgy, irreverent and on the cutting edge. Its goal was to inform readers of what was going on in town, acting as a one-stop source for happenings every day of every month. It quickly evolved from a black-and-white newspaper format to the magazine style it is today.

Under 18 years of Fast, the tone was energetic, full of character and far from inoffensive, featuring some jokes and stories that would never be published today. The Whining & Dining column in particular had a knack for being explicit and pissing off local restaurants.

Music Revue interviewed hundreds of famous musicians coming through town (or at least Michigan), including Gene Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Green Day, Aerosmith, Sarah McLachlan and many more. Over the years, it became a sort of local, miniature Rolling Stone. 

Fast-forward to 2005: Fast grew tired of publishing and sold the company to local radio salesman Bruce Law, who immediately shifted course in a radical way. The magazine’s name changed to Revue and the tone became more clean, proper and structured. It went from Fast and loose to Law-abiding citizen. For example, many topless bar ads got the boot and Law focused on driving sales with more family-friendly establishments. Revue did well, but the environment became “pretty boring” compared to Fast’s “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” mentality, according to former employees.

Then, in March 2008, the company was bought by a group of investors under the name REVUE Holding Co. and Brian Edwards became editor and publisher. Our current creative director, Kim Kibby, was brought on for a full redesign of the magazine, building the framework for what Revue is today. Special sections were introduced, interviews were ramped up and a focus was put on local talent. 

A deliberate effort was made to bring some of the tone and humor from Music Revue back into the magazine with the help of Managing Editor Lindsay Patton-Carson, Revue’s first Minion (a.k.a. intern). Op-eds were introduced, including Stad Di Ponzi’s Mean & Sober, a scathing critique of just about everything in West Michigan, from ArtPrize to restaurants, religion and government. We also had Emails to Blighty, a column written by a British expat back to his homeland.

Revue Holding Co. has brought multiple other publications into the fold as well. In 2009, we launched Revue Mid-Michigan, based out of Lansing, which lasted until 2012. Then, in 2013, Revue purchased Recoil, a local music and satire magazine launched in 2001 by Cliff and Kimber Frantz, former editors of Music Revue. That publication was put to bed in 2014. In 2011, the company acquired MiBiz, a bi-weekly business newspaper which shares an office with Revue to this day. 

All that to say, we’ve changed quite a bit. Just one year ago, we launched Revue Arts in an effort to cover the local arts scene with solid journalism and critical reviews. Since then, we’ve covered more than 90 arts organizations and reviewed more than 80 theater, dance and music performances, and we’re not about to slow down. Two years ago, we also launched Best of the West, our reader-driven poll of the greatest restaurants, bars, artists, beers and whatever else you can think of in West Michigan.

Former managing editor Paul Jendrasiak said of Grand Rapids: “A lot of the fruit you see coming to bear now is from seeds that were planted back in the late ’80s, early ’90s.” That’s true for Revue as well.

At 30, we’re in our prime. Expect to see more of the food, beer, music, event and arts coverage you’ve come to know and love, but we’re also always trying to change and evolve. Is there a podcast on our horizon? Who knows. Will we pivot to video? Probably not, but do check out our Last Call cocktail tutorials on Facebook. Are we bringing back Minions? Yes, so feel free to point any bright, talented, reliable college students our way. Am I using rhetorical questions even though it goes against our style guide? Maybe.

Whether you’ve been picking up Revue for 30 years, five years or one day, thanks for reading and making this all possible.

 

Related stories:

Musical Memoirs: How West Michigan’s music scene has changed over 30 years

A Managing Editor’s Top Revue Moments

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