Pitchfork Music Festival hit its milestone 10-year anniversary this weekend with three days of non-stop music at Chicago’s Union Park. From July 17-19, approximately 18,500 fans endured the sweltering 100-degree heat and a heavy down pour on Saturday that caused a 40-minute evacuation of the park.
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.
After being lead into the spotlight by stagehands, Brian Wilson sat down at his piano and immediately let his fans at the Fox Theatre know he was happy to be in the Motor City. Good vibrations filled the room. It was a jovial start to what became a night of over 30 songs from Wilson’s long repertoire of intricate pop songs.
On a vast estate of wooded property in Rothbury, Mich., the annual Electric Forest Festival, held June 25-28, once again illuminated the rural stomping grounds and tall pines with grandiose light displays – creating a haven for hippies and ravers partaking in the psychedelic experience. One of the many totems held by the fest goers read: “F***k Real Life” – a punchy way of letting you know the forest is meant to be an alternate, sometimes hazy, dimension.
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.
When Joshua Davis appeared on the season-eight premiere of “The Voice,", the viewing audience that one evening was a 13.97 million viewers — a far cry from his previous string of intimate gigs. “Last time I went to East Lansing I played (SCENE) Metrospace — there were maybe thirty people there,” recalled Davis. “Now I’m playing Wharton Center and over half of the tickets sold already,” he said.
A few years ago, the Martin Prosperity Institute released a study measuring the country’s most active music scenes. As one would expect, cities like Nashville, New York and Los Angeles claimed the top spots. But there was one little blurb that caught the attention West Michigan locals: “Other smaller metros that do better than expected are Kalamazoo, Michigan (the former home of the Gibson guitar factory, founded in 1902, and the site of some major classical music festivals) at 8th overall...”
Battle Creek may not have been the hub of the alt-rock universe in the mid-1980s, but that’s not to say the Cereal City didn’t produce a handful of worthwhile bands, and one of the very best was the Sinatras. Featuring Ron Casebeer on guitar and vocals, Karl Knack on bass and vocals, and Scott Stevens on drums, the Sinatras could be concisely described as a loud pop band, not quite punk but sharp enough to pass in dim light, and possessing plenty of sharp, hooky tunes in a variety of styles.
Even though the members of Gaslight Anthem proudly wear their hearts on their tattooed sleeves via the band’s gritty and honest punk-fueled songs – offstage they’re not the sappiest bunch of dudes. “You’re probably talking to the most sentimental guy in the band,” said drummer Benny Horowitz, while discussing the band’s upcoming 10-year anniversary.
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