Tuesday, 30 June 2015 10:13

West Michigan venue guide

Written by  Dwayne Hoover
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A thriving music scene not only requires an amazing mix of talented musicians, it also needs a collection of solid venues to provide the stage and atmosphere. And while what follows is by no means a comprehensive list of West Michigan’s assorted music spots, it’s definitely a mix of the ones you should have on your radar – if you don’t already.

Bell’s Eccentric Café

Bell’s hosts an array of both local and national act. Catch an album release show from a local favorite in The Back Room or enjoy the stage in the outdoor Beer Garden, opened again this year by Greensky Bluegrass during a three-day musical celebration. Bell’s will host a number of acts throughout the summer including George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic July 11 – that show is sold out. Tickets are still available for the July 30 Marshall Crenshaw show – check out his 1982 pop classic, “Cynical Girl.”


The Intersection

Cited as one of the best mid-sized music venues in the entire country, The Intersection consistently brings West Michigan a solid mix of local, regional and big-name national talent. Sporting an extensive show schedule at both their main stage and the smaller 400 capacity lounge dubbed The Stache. The Intersection plays host to the top metal, punk, electronic, rock and country artists that roll through. Great sound, staff, bands and atmosphere truly make this one of the area’s premier venues. A few of the upcoming shows are Tonic (July 7), Against Me! (July 8) and Death From Above 1979 (July 23).


Orbit Room

While the show schedule for the Orbit Room isn’t necessarily steady, it always boasts some of the more popular shows that swing through Grand Rapids. This past year has seen the likes of Marilyn Manson, Breaking Benjamin, The Wailers, Flogging Molly, Black Label Society, Chevelle and more.  With multiple bars and a capacity of over 1,500, it’s one of the largest venues in the area and a great place to take in a performance from your favorite, big-name act. Upcoming show: Halestorm on July 2.


Van Andel Arena

What can we say about the Van Andel Arena?  It’s the largest, most impressive, colossal venue around and, accordingly, draws the most popular acts by far. Heck, July alone will bring Shania Twain, Bryan Adams and OneRepublic to the stage, followed shortly thereafter by Aerosmith in early August. This is the place to go to lose yourself in that larger-than-life concert experience.


Kalamazoo State Theatre

A truly multipurpose venue, the historic Kalamazoo State Theatre has been host to everything from ballet and burlesque to comedy and concerts since its genesis in 1927. The musical talent that graces the historic stage is all over the place, having seen the likes of Social Distortion and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, to the second half of 2015 bringing Jonny Lang, Buddy Guy and Melissa Etheridge.


The Pyramid Scheme

After strolling past the front bar and pinball arcade, make your way to the back of The Pyramid Scheme and into their separate music venue area for one of the coolest smaller dedicated concert spaces in West Michigan. It houses some big sounds and sometimes some pretty big names, with past performances that include Andrew W.K., Reverend Horton Heat, Melvins, Living Colour and Future Islands. The real benefit of catching a show here, however, is hearing some of the best local staples and regional up-and-comers the area has to offer. This month it hosts The Ataris (July 3), Koffin Kats (July 16) and Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah (July 28), to only name a few.


Old Dog Tavern

There’s a lot of history packed into the Star Paper Co. building that Old Dog Tavern calls home, so it’s only fitting that much of the music that finds its way there has strong roots in folk and blues. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find an occasional punk or indie rock show on the inside stage – below the old Kraftbrau sign. In fact, as the summer heats up, so too will the lineup on its outdoor stage. The venue is also host to non-musical special events, like the Brickyard Bike Show on August 29 – attendees are invited to buy, sell, trade and look.


One Trick Pony

The patrons of One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom are often blessed with the melodic sounds from some fantastic musicians, in particular during the Thursday night “Acoustic Stew” shows. Organissimo, The Accidentals, Serita’s Black Rose, Faux Grass and Drew Nelson are just a few of the many talented artists to pass through its doors. Add to that the neat building and friendly staff – this is definitely a must-visit for an intimate musical performance. A couple of the upcoming shows are: Mulebone (July 9) The Weatherheads (July 23).


The Union Cabaret & Grill
If you’re in the mood for some jazz, or milder indie rock or jam band action, head on down to The Union Cabaret & Grill on the Kalamazoo Mall.  What you won’t find is a screaming metal band with circle pit or head-thumping EDM with strobe lights. It’s a relaxed, somewhat classier sit-down atmosphere with great food and, of course, seasoned bands and musicians. A couple upcoming shows: Shelagh Brown Band (July 11), Blue Lake International Big Band (July 23).


The Score

Billed as “West Michigan’s only Beach-Beer-Band-Bar,” The Score, 5301 Northland Drive – on E. Beltline north of Plainfield, offers a more tropical environment than any other local music spot. Complete with real palm trees, attendees can groove to the tunes with the sand beneath their feet seven nights a week. Each show starts at 6 p.m. If you need some food, there are wings, burgers, pizza and more. And if you need to burn off those calories sign up for The Score’s Beach Volley-Ball League. After that long Top Gun-style volley-ball game, cool off with a brew. This watering hole has 128 beers on tap – 120 dedicated to craft beer. Note: The Score boasts the “lowest priced growlers – guaranteed!” For all of the brains, each Monday at 7 p.m. is team Trivia Night.


Seven Steps Up

Located in a renovated Masonic Temple in the heart of Spring Lake’s Art District, Seven Steps Up is a 160 capacity venue that hosts some standing room only public concert events, as well as their Pin Drop Concert Series. Given the size of the space and the acoustics, you’ll largely (but not strictly) find quieter, acoustic performances here.  But you’ll also find that the artists they draw, like the singer/songwriters in this summer’s Pin Drop lineup, are among some of the best in the country. This month the venue hosts Anna Nalick (July 8), Brendan James (July 10) and Griffin House (July 11)


Shakespeare’s Lower Level

Formerly The Globe Theatre, you’ll experience an eclectic mix of bands at Shakespeare’s Lower Level, from local folk rock favorites to touring noise punk bands and everything in between.  For a small venue it’s a great concert space, has a good sound system with attentive people working it, and is very much in tune to the local and regional music scene, as is very evident in their show schedule. This month’s roster includes Third Coast (July 11), Flops Ego (July 12) and The Ultimate Concept Band (July 17), to only name a few.


Founders Brewing Co.

It should come as no surprise that a brewery that gets its beer so damn right gets its music right, too.  Founders’ tap room events bring in acts from not only West Michigan but from around the country, whether it’s bluegrass or ska punk.  And much like its beer, which is finding its way across the country, Founders welcomes musicians from all over yet has a loyalty to the place it calls home.  That’s why their show slate sees regular representation from local bands. This month the venue hosts The Legal Immigrants and Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish (July 4), The Claudettes (July 16) and The Macpodz (July 30) – and more.

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