Competition or the more the merrier?
West Michigan fans of live music had more to choose from on the first weekend in June than anytime in memory. And with near-perfect meteorological conditions, there was absolutely no excuse for anyone to skip the festivities, from Grand Rapids to the lakeshore to Kalamazoo.
In downtown Grand Rapids, the three-day Festival of the Arts kept up the pace on six outdoor stages on Saturday, continuing its blue-collar approach and the eclectic offerings that are the trademark of the 45-year-old event.
“What’s best about Festival is the variety of performances, from singing to dancing to hip-hop,” said Festival-goer Fonda Williams of Grand Rapids. “Even getting to see the people of Grand Rapids who aren’t necessarily a part of the actual events, who are just performing all over the city.”
Just a few blocks away, the Local First Street Party fired up in front of Bistro Bella Vita with a half-dozen bands — Nathan Kalish & The Wildfire, Root Doctor, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Rick Chyme (with special guests Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, Edye Evans Hyde, Griff and AOK, Mustard Plug and Alexis) — plus Founders Beer enticing party-goers.
“The greatest part about this year’s Street Party is the combination of two things: Founders beer and Mustard Plug,” raved Andrew Stevenson, a tattoo artist from Hudsonville. Ska fave Mustard Plug didn’t disappoint, unleashing one of its wildest shows yet, with the six-piece crew getting the crowd skanking, stage diving and demanding encore after encore.
Electro-pop’s Alexis put a capper on the evening, performing tracks from the duo’s upcoming release, “Temptation,” and bringing its distinctive sensual sound, synthy keys, and hot and heavy dance moves to the street party.
One observation: There were more people packing Festival on Saturday than there were on Friday, and folks waited until later in the evening this year to jam the Local First Street Party than in 2013.
South of town, it was a country mecca as 50,000 or so folks flocked to the U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin for the B93 Birthday Bash. The nation’s largest free two-day country music festival got the Nashville vibe rolling for the boot-sporting throng with the likes of Dierks Bentley, Colt Ford, Jerrod Niemann, Parmalee, Eric Paslay and Lucy Hale. Take a gander at how the place filled up in photos below by Eric Stoike, who also survived Sunday’s exhausting lineup: Justin Moore, Brett Eldredge, Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Will Hoge, Danielle Bradbery and The Cadillac Three. Oh, and next year’s B93 bash will be held on a different weekend: June 13-14, so mark those 2015 calendars now.
And speaking of calendars and country radio’s B93: Blue Cap Entertainment today announced that country star Craig Morgan would headline the first day of the three-day concert series kicking off at Fifth Third Ballpark on Aug. 26, sponsored by B93. Tickets, starting at $9.37, go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday at the box office, by calling 616-784-4131 or online at fifththirdballpark.com. Blue Cap earlier had announced that the Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry and Plain White T’s would be playing the ballpark on Aug. 27. Morgan’s special guests and the lineup for the third day of the concert series haven’t yet been announced.
In Kalamazoo, fans of Greensky Bluegrass had plenty of opportunities this weekend to cheer on their hometown bluegrass heroes, who played three straight nights at Bell’s Brewery on an outdoor stage, with special guests such as Seth Bernard, who performed on Friday.
Meanwhile, Grand Rapids singer Hannah Rose Graves teamed up with blues guitarist Jim Shaneberger and other special guests at Billy’s Lounge in Eastown on Friday night for an inspiring performance that continued into the wee hours of the morning, and Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Jetty Rae and Traverse City’s The Accidentals made a splash at Spring Lake’s Seven Steps Up, drawing lots of fans who’d never attended a concert in the vibrant listening room.
As usual, Local Spins was there to capture much of the action, with photographers Tony Norkus, Eric Stoike, Anna Sink, Tori Thomas, Eric Fischer and writer David Specht on the scene. Check out the images above and below.
And as a bonus, perhaps one of the most widely publicized performances by a band came from Grand Rapids’ The Outer Vibe, which played at Good Morning America meteorologist Ginger Zee’s weekend wedding at Petoskey’s Inn at Bay Harbor. The Rockford native’s brother, Sean Zee, is the lead singer for the rock/pop band, which was “very excited” to rock out at the reception for the wedding, which earned plenty of local and national media coverage. There’s a portrait of the band with the bride and groom below. For more photos by Chris Clark, visit MLive.com.
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Photo courtesy Anthony Norkus.