Lansing’s Common Ground Music Festival has been going through changes over the past few years. Growing pains – a transitional period, one might say.
Once known for hosting an array of hairy classic-rock bands, the 15-year old festival has ushered in more alternative rock and mainstream pop stars over the past couple years. While this year’s event, which ran July 7-12, didn’t host any dad-rock acts like Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar or Lynyrd Skynyrd (all Common Ground alumni), there was no shortage of icons and pop stars on the six-night bill.
But opening night had a shaky start when headliner Meghan “All About That Bass” Trainor cancelled due to vocal issues due to a vocal hemorrhage (too much bass in her voice, perhaps?).
The festival showcased an array of genres: hard rock, rap, country, alt-rock and pop. At the end of its run it drew approximately 48,000 music fans, just shy of 2014’s draw. The opening night did suffer low attendance when Trainor cancelled on short notice, but local hero Joshua Davis slid into the slot and pleased the crowd with his blue-collar swagger and Americana-rock tunes. Davis, who recently ended a long stint on the hit television show “The Voice”, played some of his original folk ditties, including his ultra-hooky “Give My Regards to Miss Moline.” The evening topped out around a lower-than expected 4,000 attendees.
The next night, Wednesday, alt-rock vets Jane’s Addiction bumped up that attendance number past 5,000. The band may have formed in 1985, but their energy was vibrant as ever and they seemed to be having a ball on stage. Vocalist Perry Farrell, 56, was full of lewd but witty fodder. Guitarist Dave Navarro was shirtless (big surprise!) and shredded through classics like “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop.”
From there, Thursday boasted country stars like the Band Perry and then Friday turned up to eleven with Finger Eleven, Three Days Grace and P.O.D. The biggest draw of the festival was Saturday when Snoop Dogg hit the stage (and the blunt) sporting an MSU basketball jersey. The smoke in the crowd of 11,000 was thick as the rap legend pimped his way through a one-hour set stocked with his ‘90s hits, including crowd pleasers like “Gin and Juice” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” Sets from Tech N9ne and WALE also got the crowds moving.
Sunday ended with a bang: The Flaming Lips. These indie-rock freaks haven’t played Lansing since a late ‘80s basement party – this time was a more grandiose occasion. There were jumbo-sized balloons unleashed, colossal bursts of confetti, dancing mushrooms, rainbows and caterpillars – even an enormous custom “F**k Yeah Lansing” balloon. Front man Wayne Coyne, who looked a little bit like Marc Bolan and a little bit circus clown, engaged the audience through the entire set. At 54, Coyne doesn’t seem jaded one bit, especially while rolling across the crowd inside his inflatable balloon. And when his storm of confetti and balloons filled the sky, as the band launched into the ‘90s-tastic opening riff of “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the Flaming Lips officially won Common Ground. Stage antics aside, the Flaming Lips sounded A+ and were having just as much fun as the audience.