Lamp Light Music Festival
Grand Rapids' Eastown Neighborhood
$25 donation for each day, $50 donation for weekend access
For the third year running, the first weekend in November hosts Eastown’s Lamp Light Music Festival.
The three-day gala of artistic delights brings together some of the area’s most ardent and talented creators, serving as a celebration of both really great music and a community’s potential to carve its own cultural niche.
While the basic structure of the festival remains the same as years past — sequential (and slightly overlapping) house shows spread out across different Eastown locations — this year’s event boasts more bands and more places to see them.
And for a festival operating largely on the what-can-I-contribute approach from both artist and organizer, the continued expansion suggests Lamp Light’s a hit.
“Our mission is to be an inspiring community event,” said John Hanson, who has served as one of the event’s chief organizers since its creation in 2012.
“We’ve always had to get creative with it, because we’re like a no-budget festival,” Hanson said. “It’s always been something that’s kind of based on our social capital.”
While the first Lamp Light in 2012 packed around 25 bands into four houses, this year has roughly 45 artists scheduled to play at six locations. Some of the venues are newcomers (the Witch House, Brick House, Book House and Hush House), while some have hosted bands in years past (Bird House, Neighborhood House). All venues are within a 10-minute walk of each other, Hanson said.
Among those scheduled to play are Grand Rapids groups Ghost Heart, which also will be releasing their second LP, Effigy, later in the month, Vox Vidorra, Bermudas, Dante Cope, Alexis, newcomers Crooked Arrows, Self and more.
As far as out-of-towners, Maraj (Kalamazoo), Divino Nino (Chicago), Paul Baribeau (Louisville), Hoops (Indianapolis), Izzy Johnson (Ann Arbor), Caleb Groh (Nashville), J.E. Sunde (of the Daredevil Christopher Wright) and J Fernandez (Chicago) will also be making the trip for this year’s fest.
“We like to bring in bands that maybe haven’t played in Grand Rapids before, but are really exciting to us,” said Dan Climie, Lamp Light organizer and talent buyer.
Since Hanson and company first started kicking the idea of Lamp Light around, the aim has not only been for the festival, but to stand as a creative banner for the Eastown-centric arts community.
This year, that concept makes a big step toward fruition — the organization’s record label component will be stepping into the light this year. Backyard Songbook, a songwriting collective and recording project composed of Hanson, Alex McGrath of the Soil and the Sun, Jacob Bullard of Antrim Dells and songwriter Josh Mogck, will be releasing (and selling) an LP at the festival that the group recorded at the Bird House.
As in years past, the weekend will feature different workshops and other goodies from local sponsors, including Mitten Brewing Company, Bloom Ferments and Field and Fire Bakery, as well as Eaters Guild Farm and Birch Point Farm.
“It really is about creating that listening space for music,” Hanson said. “The intention really is just to listen to the music and be a part of the community.”
Lamp Light officially kicks off Friday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. For more information on tickets, set times and volunteer opportunities, check out lamplightmusicfestival.com.
LOCAL MUSIC NEWS
We will probably never get tired of seeing Kalamazoo natives Greensky Bluegrass perform. Catch the band Nov. 28 at the Kalamazoo State Theatre. The group released its newest album, If Sorrows Swim, in September, so this could be a good chance to see them play some new material.
If you dig vinyl, check out Harmony Brewing Company in Eastown to hear hand-picked DJs playing actual records on Thursday nights, offering a great spot to cozy up against the increasingly cold weather and listen to music that doesn’t blow chunks. The beer rules, too.
Michigan’s beloved Frontier Ruckus plays at the Pyramid Scheme on Nov. 6 for the release party of its latest full-length, Sitcom Afterlife, with Grand Rapids staples Sacred Strays and Valentiger providing support.
RJ Nordlund, of Grand Rapids’ alt-country rockers The Carboys, plays at Pigeon Hill Brewing Company in Muskegon on Nov. 8 with a merry band of local guest musicians. All signs point to a righteous evening of Michigan music and beer.
Check out Satellite Records in Kalamazoo on the second and last Wednesdays of the month (Nov. 12 and 26) for Saxsquatch’s Psychedelic Freakout (an open jam). Backline gear is provided; anyone is encouraged to come down and shred or just hang out.