Services will be 5 p.m. Friday at The Orbit Room for Don Dorshimer, who helped build West Michigan’s rock concert scene, leaving behind a legacy as one of the Grand Rapids area’s most passionate, well-known show promoters.
I’ve never met anyone more enthusiastic about the business of rock concert promotion than Don Dorshimer.
So as news spread Saturday that the longtime owner of The Orbit Room had died, those who knew him best reacted passionately and with great sadness in remembering the godfather of West Michigan’s rock concert promotion scene.
“Don had an ear and an understanding for what people wanted,” said Ted Smith, his partner at The Orbit Room. “He always wanted to make sure that tickets were priced fairly for people and that the deal worked for both the artists and The Orbit Room. Don had a heart of gold. He always asked how my kids and my wife and how friends were doing. He really cared about people.”
Longtime associate Ron Clause, now a promoter for Live Nation, credited Dorshimer in a Facebook post for his guidance in the music business: “Today is a very sad day. Motorcycle therapy helps the sting, but memories of two decades with the man who was the first to believe in me in the music biz is now gone way too early. See you on the other side, Sir Don!”
He was just 56.
Many will remember Dorshimer, a Florida native, in his affiliation with Belkin Productions which booked headliners for monster festival-type shows at Val-Du-Lakes for many years, not to mention a bevy of other Michigan venues.
THE ORBIT ROOM: ‘HE REALLY LOVED THIS PLACE’
But The Orbit Room was his baby and he ran the 1,700-capacity concert venue for 25 years, first as Club Eastbrook, eventually partnering with manager Ted Smith. The nightclub underwent more than $100,000 in renovations a couple of years ago.
“He really loved this place and was very proud of it,” said Smith, who was uncertain of the cause of Dorshimer’s death. “Don was making lots of plans and he wanted to help me with things.”
Appropriately, then, services for Dorshimer — who died of apparent heart failure — will be at 5 p.m. Friday at The Orbit Room.
“Don was a survivor,” added Denny Baxter, of Blue Cap Promotions which collaborated briefly with The Orbit Room as an investor a few years ago. “He would say … ‘Through all the ups and downs, I’m still standing.’ There were very few like him. He had a keen sense of what this community liked.”
Smith says The Orbit Room will continue to operate as usual, at least for the time being.
The last time I spoke with Dorshimer not long ago, the avid biker had returned from yet another long motorcycle voyage and was gabbing fondly about the trip. He was also in his familiar concert promoter mode, pumped up about yet another idea to promote The Orbit Room’s slate of fall shows, rattling on amiably in that raspy, distinctive Dorshimer drawl.
Few could match his ardor for the business and his long track record in bringing big names and big rock shows to West Michigan.
For a promoter like Dorshimer, the sold-out throng for Sunday night’s Five Finger Death Punch show at The Orbit Room might have been the best tribute yet.
I can see him smiling about it right now.
Email John Sinkevics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1).
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