When it comes to seeing live music, a little dose of shut-the-hell-up-and-pay-attention is a good thing. This is not a concept lost on West Michigan, which has seen its share of listening rooms find success over the recent months and years.
As the cliché goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That seems to be the mantra for Frederik Meijer Gardens’ 2013 Outdoor Summer Concert Series lineup, which has multiple acts coming back to the amphitheater.
The lineup, which was released today and is the venue’s biggest to-date with 30 acts, features returning artists – many that have sold out the venue.
For years, Broadway Grand Rapids has given us New York-quality shows right in Grand Rapids. The company's 2012-2013 season – announced today – shows the commitment to quality and buzz-worthy shows.
This morning, Frederik Meijer Gardens announced the first four acts of its summer concert series. On July 5, chart-topping country duo Montgomery Gentry brings its version of Southern rock to Grand Rapids. A couple days later, in what could be the most eccentric show of the season, David Byrne and St. Vincent perform on July 7.
Pop-punk heavyweight New Found Glory is announcing a 10 Year "Sticks and Stones" Anniversary Tour, celebrating the band's first major-label album that was certified gold in September 2002. "Sticks and Stones" features hits such as "My Friends Over You" and "Head on Collision."
For weeks, "Thrift Shop" was the No. 1 song in America. It was recently knocked back to No. 2 due to the "Harlem Shake" craze; but that doesn't mean Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have cooled. No way.
In the '80s, hair bands reigned, radio had influence over the consumer, record stores were flourishing, a mixtape was a tape and the entertainment scene in West Michigan thrived. On any given night, there were dozens of venues that hosted live music. The problem? There were only a few ways to find out what was going on in town. Cigar-smoking satirist and entrepreneur Doug Fast noticed a niche that needed to be filled and in October 1988, he unveiled Music Revue's first issue.
"We had to make sure [people] knew what was happening," Fast said. "We wanted to have everything that was going on anywhere and write about it in a cutting-edge way. It was a real edgy publication."
With a dirty rock mag vibe, Music Revue quickly gained recognition and support, especially from the bars, record and guitar stores in town. The publication's first advertiser was Rainbow Music and at the time, Fast said there were approximately 70 record and guitar stores in the area, compared to the handful we have now.
The first issue read like a newspaper, instead of the tabloid style it is today. The front page had several stories and the whole magazine was black and white, something Victoria Upton helped change when she was put in place as art director soon after the first issue. The first thing she pushed for was adding in color to Music Revue.
"The potential to do everything was already there, I think I had a different vision than the guys were used to," said Upton, who spent 10 years at Music Revue and now owns Women's Lifestyle.
Fast owned Music Revue for 18 years and spawned syndications across the country by partnering with radio stations. The content was witty and gritty, especially in the magazine's standout column, "Whining and Dining," which was written by freelance writer, Marc Dettman.
"'Whining and Dining' was essential. When you picked up the magazine, that's what you looked for. It was honest and direct," Upton said. "Restaurants hated it."
Columns like "Whining and Dining" highlighted the kind of irreverence Music Revue had. People remember the publication for not only its snark and wit, but for its dedication to the local and touring music scene.
"If there was a family tree of the music and entertainment community in this town, the roots of it would be Music Revue," Upton said, citing magazines like Women's Lifestyle and Recoil, whose founders had Music Revue ties.
The roots spread quickly, too. At the height of Fast's publishing empire, he cites approximately 63 papers that came and went. Some were the syndications and others were originals, such as the country music publication American Country. Eventually, those magazines were whittled down due to the impending recession.
"Then the recession was starting in 2000 and started to really get going in 2001," Fast said. "Then 9/11 happened and the following year, the advertising business became very, very difficult. ... People were just scared to death of advertising."
In 2005, Fast sold the publication — after 18 years — to local radio sales guy Bruce Law, citing he was tired after nearly two decades in publishing.
The change of ownership also meant a change of tone for the magazine. When Music Revue switched hands, Law changed the name to Revue and cleaned up the more risqué content with the help of his team.
"We had a bunch of topless bars in the magazine and I thought it was stupid. I had enough women in my life already," said Matt Lang, who worked in sales from 2002 until 2011 and worked with all three publishers. "My whole life was spent in West Michigan and I knew how to reach people. It was a nice community that needed a nice product."
Another change was the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll mentality of the Fast years.
"The environment was pretty boring, the interesting random people didn't stop by," said Two Eagles Marcus, former designer from '92-'94 and '03-'07, about the ownership change. ""[Law] was definitely more structured and sales driven."
In March 2008, REVUE Holding Co. bought the publication from Law. In May that year, the magazine went through a redesign with former Music Revue art director Kim Kibby and her partner, Phil Artz.
"There seemed to be a lot of excitement about re-inventing the magazine, and it was meaningful to do that work since it was part of my history," said Kibby, who at the time worked in marketing and design at St. Mary's Health Care.
The excitement was short-lived, as the company burned through investor cash and dug itself a deep hole of debt. Local entrepreneur Brian Edwards was brought onboard as editor and publisher in January 2009.
"We were deep in debt, but we felt we had a pretty good platform to build on. During that first year, surviving was the hardest part," Edwards said.
What Edwards saw was an opportunity to evolve the publication and build on its reputation, which at the time, had floundered since the Music Revue days.
"Revue had gotten very milquetoast," he said. "We worked hard to put voice and tone in the magazine."
Longtime writers noticed as well.
"I appreciate that Brian put together a team that understood journalism, liked popular culture, were smart and were engaged in the city," said Steven de Polo, a freelance writer since 2007.
Changes were incorporated that included special sections, more interviews and a bigger focus on local talent. He also brought back Kibby to step into her former art director role fulltime.
"I missed indie publishing and the non-corporate world," she said. "I'm really able to put my fingerprint on the magazine and do weird things, and it's not often a designer gets to do that. It doesn't hurt that Revue's purpose is to promote local talent and businesses. It's a good match for me."
The combination created a broader readership and more diverse entertainment coverage in the West Michigan area. Rather than look at what local publications were doing, Edwards and the Revue team looked to big-city journalism and publications like Time Out and Chicago magazine for inspiration and ideas.
"Our aim was just to be high quality and different in this marketplace," he said.
Today, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary, Revue keeps the 'what's going on' mantra that it was founded on, but has evolved to fit the entertainment needs of the West Michigan community.
Edwards says Revue's evolution will continue in 2013 with new features focused on long-form journalism and perhaps one or two of the spirited columns that ran in the Music Revue days.
"I think Doug Fast would be proud," he said.
Sometime in the '80s. Doug Fast asked me to work for his publishing company. I was involved in design at the time and I thought, 'I could make this into a cool-looking magazine.'
I had been working for the Grand Rapids Press as a music writer for some time. I believe I had done a few things for Revue, and then I was contacted by Doug Fast about coming on board.
It was May 1990 and I was fascinated by Music Revue. I played guitar and realized I wasn't going to become a musician for a career and I thought it would be cool to interview musicians. I called up Music Revue and talked to [editor] Bruce Madden and told him I could get an interview with Gene Simmons of KISS.
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