Hundreds of bands come through Grand Rapids every year, but some stand out, providing an unforgettable experience. Here are five of those shows for Nicole LaRae, venue and booking manager for The Pyramid Scheme, founder of dizzybird records and volunteer programmer at 88.1 WYCE.
David Bowie Tribute Show
(Feb. 5) at The Pyramid Scheme
On Jan. 10, 2016, we lost an icon: The Thin White Duke, The Picasso of Pop, The Master of Reinvention, Ziggy Stardust … our hero, David Bowie. As the world mourned, celebrations of his life and art began popping up all over the place. After posting on social media, asking who wanted to help put together a celebration here in GR, my friend Benjamin Hunter gave me a call and we put a plan in action to put together a Bowie Tribute show. Five bands (formed specifically for the night) performed Bowie songs throughout the night while Bowie-expert Luke Schmidt hosted a series of trivia rounds. Attendees and performers dressed as their favorite version of Bowie and a costume contest ensued. The event sold out before the doors opened and raised more than $3,000 for Girls Rock Grand Rapids, a week long camp that empowers girls and women through music.
(Feb. 29) at DeVos Performance Hall
Just three days before the show, it was announced that comedian Dave Chappelle would perform in Grand Rapids. After keeping a low profile for several years, Chappelle came back to stand-up comedy. Not every show had gone smoothly, however, as videos and stories began circulating about Chappelle’s shows being sloppy and him being unstable. Thankfully, the Grand Rapids appearance did not disappoint. Chappelle was sharp and was having a lot of fun on stage. Chicago actor/comedian Hannibal Buress opened the show and then booked himself a last-minute gig at The Pyramid Scheme the following night, selling out the room in a matter of hours … in a snowstorm.
(March 23) at Van Andel
Legend and superstar Elton John returned to the arena in March for a sold-out show. The man has been performing for hundreds of years and his sets aren’t getting any shorter: the show was 2.5 hours long and I’m not sure he ever took a breath. Every song was played with incredible precision as most of the band has been with him for decades. At 69 years old, Elton John will probably live and tour for another 69 — don’t miss him if you get the chance to witness the magic.
(July 14) at The Pyramid Scheme
Another sold-out show, this one was the party of the year. The Atlanta-based “garage punk hooligans” are known for their rowdy shows, yet soulful and intelligent songwriting. There wasn’t a body in the room that wasn’t moving (see: thrashing) around and screaming every word to every song. With eight albums under the belt, they haven’t released anything since 2014, so we patiently wait for the next.
Lamplight Music Fest V
(Nov. 4, 5, 6) in Eastown
3 days. 39 acts. 3 living rooms. 1 attic.
This is the most unique music-oriented festival in our city. It requires an intense amount of planning and love. Organizers of the festival explain, “having concerts in living rooms ultimately breaks down the barrier of separation between artist and audience member and promotes opportunities for a meaningful and sustainable exchange.” As a volunteer this year, I felt an immense sense of community and collaboration with everyone participating in this annual event. From the sound engineers to the homeowners to the artists, it just works. I’m already waiting with anticipation for Lamplight VI.