For years, West Michigan concertgoers with eclectic musical tastes and massive festival appetites have had one reasonable option to satisfy their craving: Lollapalooza, the annual three-day hip-hop/alternative rock concert in Chicago.
But in Lansing, the often-overlooked music festival Common Ground, now in its 16th year, provides a similarly vast array of genres. And this fest is cheaper, closer, spread over six days and provides attendees with a little more elbow room.
So why haven’t you heard of Common Ground?
“Usually we don’t (promote in) West Michigan, but this year we’re trying to step up our presence,” said Jenna Meyer, Common Ground’s spokeswoman. “None of these bands are playing in Michigan this summer west of Lansing, so we’re able to promote ourselves with a little bit of a higher profile. This is a big year for us.”
In the past, Common Ground had developed a reputation as a classic rock showcase, with nostalgia acts like Alice Cooper and Lynyrd Skynyrd being the top draws. But nights devoted to hip hop, country and emerging artists have long been a part of its identity. This year’s incarnation is easily its most ambitious ever, with performances by Snoop Dogg, Jane’s Addiction, The Flaming Lips, Meghan Trainor, Empire of the Sun and The Band Perry.
“There’s really no other music festival like this,” Meyer said. “We work very hard to come up with six solid nights of entertainment. We’re really trying to appeal to a wide range of people and every year I feel like we’re doing a better job.”
This year’s big buzz is all about that Meghan Trainor, who opens Common Ground on Tuesday, July 7. The chanteuse exploded on the radio last year with her infectious smash single “All About That Bass,” and has followed up that success with a string of doo-woppy retro earworms like “Lips are Moving” and “Dear Future Husband.”
“We got a huge (positive response) when she was announced,” Meyer said. “We knew she’d be a good addition, but we had no idea how much love there was out there for her. That night is going to be nuts.”
Snoop Dogg’s return performance on Saturday, July 11 is sure to be a blow out. The hip-hop artist last played Common Ground in 2011. Opening the show are trailblazing indie rapper Tech N9ne and pioneering ‘90s West Coast rap god DJ Quick.
Have you ever seen a 10-foot-tall Santa Claus dancing with an inflatable alien? How about a lead singer performing a signature song via a nun puppet at the end of his arm? You never know quite what to expect when Flaming Lips take the stage. The quirky indie rockers play Sunday, July 12. Opening is Australian electronic duo Empire of the Sun, who brings a similar theatricality to their performance. And yes, that’s founding Lollapalooza band Jane’s Addiction taking a break from the Windy City event to headline on Wednesday, July 8. The alternative rock pioneers will be joined by punk-ska outfit Here Come the Mummies, a buzzy band that plays in full mummy garb. The actual members’ identities are hidden, but are said to include some big names.
|Common Ground Music Festival
Adado Riverfront Park
300 N. Grand Ave, Lansing
If you like your FM rock a little louder, Three Days Grace, Finger Eleven and P.O.D. should get your ears ringing. The modern rockers play Friday, July 10. And the day before, Thursday, July 9, The Band Perry will anchor an evening of country, bluegrass and Celtic music.
“As country has become more mainstream, it’s encouraged people who don’t normally listen to that kind of music to check out that show,” Meyer said. “Now you’ll see the same people there as you’ll see at the (alternative rock) and hip hop nights. That’s nice to see.”
Common Ground is held in Adado Riverfront Park in downtown Lansing along the banks of the Grand River, across from Lansing Community College. The event is comprised of three stages as well as a variety of side activities, including a zipline across the river.
“The zipline is a unique way to take in the city from a slightly different perspective,” Meyer said. “There’s nothing like seeing the Capitol dome while you’re shooting through the air. It’s really exhilarating.”
Of course, the same thing that makes Common Ground an ideal festival location is the same thing that made it an ideal seat for the state capital: It’s smack dab in the middle of everything.
“All roads in Michigan lead to Lansing,” Meyer said. “ It’s easy to get to, we’ve got a gorgeous venue and the area is really starting to come alive. There are a lot of restaurants, hotels and other entertainment options close by. You don’t need to leave the state to get a world-class festival — it’s all right here.”
Full Common Ground lineup:
Tuesday, July 7 (Pop/Alternative): Meghan Trainor, MisterWives, Skizzy Mars, the Specktators Collective, Charlie Puth, Life of Dillon, Rajiv Dhall, Flint Eastwood and Less is More
Wednesday, July 8 (Rock/Alternative): Jane’s Addiction, In this Moment, Failure, Here Come the Mummies, Alien Ant Farm, the Most Powerful Weapon, Heartsick, Eyes Set to Kill, Kaleido, Vandalay and ANA
Thursday, July 9 (Country/Bluegrass): The Band Perry, Parmalee, Old Dominion, Brett Kissel, Gaelic Storm, Arstidir, the Anatomy of Frank, Chasin’ Crazy, Steve Rivers, Bear Creek Brothers and Shelby Ann-Marie
Friday, July 10 (Rock/Alternative): Three Days Grace, P.O.D., Finger Eleven, All That Remains, The Color Morale, I Prevail, DevereauX, Critical Bill, Jonestown Clowns and Mr. Denton on Doomsday
Saturday, July 11 (Rap/Hip Hop): Snoop Dogg, Tech N9ne, DJ Quik, B. Sykes, Heems and BLAT! Pack
Sunday, July 12 (Rock/Alternative): The Flaming Lips, Empire of the Sun, Man Man, Motion City Soundtrack, the Spill Canvas, Mike Mains and the Branches, mewithoutYou, machineheart and Sorority Noise