There’s no doubt that West Michigan is home to an enormously rich and diverse music scene. Yet even with no shortage of traditional venues hosting some of the best in local and touring talent, sometimes it’s the places that may be off the radar, or perhaps boast another claim to fame, that are offering up some of the best shows this side of The Mitten. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of some true West Michigan standouts.
355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
Beer is what Bell’s does best. But it’s also an anchor in The Zoo’s music scene, welcoming a genre-spanning variety of well-known touring bands and hosting a number of locals. The outdoor stage is also one of the best in the area, and will welcome Reel Big Fish and Billy Strings in July.
This month: The Joy Formidable visits The Back Room on June 7.
402 E. Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
It didn’t take long for Old Dog Tavern to establish itself as a staple in Kalamazoo’s steady, thriving music scene. It’s been but seven years since the bar opened its doors, and now you’ll not only find live music most Friday and Saturday nights in the welcoming, rustic bar area, but also a weekly open mic night and summer shows on its outdoor stage, complete with an outdoor bar and plenty of seating.
This month: Check out the outdoor stage opener with Hell in a Bucket and Lazara on June 3, or the always popular Kalamazoo Irish Fest on June 23. (Pictured: Billy Strings)
235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Known across the country for serving up some of the best beer in the land, Founders knows that if there’s something worth doing, it’s worth doing it right — which is why it should come as no surprise that the brewery’s musical lineup is also of the highest quality. The Taproom hosts a steady stream of kickass acts and June means it’s time for Founderst Fest.
This month: Seriously, go to Founders Fest on June 17. Umphrey’s McGee, Blues Traveler and Mustard Plug will be performing, among others.
537 Leonard St. SW, Grand Rapids
It may have never occurred to you to pair quality craft spirits with quality music. Fortunately for you, Long Road Distillers thought it a perfect marriage, and throws in some delectable food for good measure. Settle in and enjoy one of the best cocktails around while letting your ears enjoy their own pleasure.
This month: On June 22, singer songwriter and poet Kaitlyn Zittel graces the stage at LRD.
633 Hooker Rd., Allegan
If the small, intimate space that is Millgrove Brewing Co. hasn’t been on your radar yet, it should be. Sitting in the quiet yet growing little community of Allegan is a place that’s not only serving up quality brew, but also embracing all things music in West Michigan. You’ll find monthly open mics and jam sessions, along with the likes of Megan Dooley and Delilah DeWylde and the Lost Boys make their way to the brewery often.
This month: The Kalamazoo Celtic outfit Blarney Castle hits Millgrove on June 17.
432 E. Paterson St., Kalamazoo
Another fantastic craft brewery that might not be in your sights is Boatyard in Kalamazoo. The brewery was, however, acknowledged in Esquire about a year and a half ago, which is saying something. And while Boatyard continues to churn out amazing beer, even pushing the envelope in many cases, what is oft-overlooked is its live music.
This month: You may have heard the song Robert Rolfe Feddersen wrote, Fly, in the film Varsity Blues. He’ll be at Boatyard on June 23.
The underground house show network
We can’t tell you where these venues are, but find the right person and they can point you to both Grand Rapids and downtown Kalamazoo, where a loosely-knit network of house venues exists, hosting a number of local and touring bands in their living rooms and basements. If you can imagine an intensely intimate performance, elbow-to-elbow with your fellow music lovers, it’s precisely that. Each space has its own rules and vibe. But if there’s one thing that’s consistent among them, it’s this: It’s all about the music.