Gary and Michelle Hanks’ Pin Drop Concerts series has showcased more than 200 artists in the unique listening room since 2011, with plenty more to come. They say it’s been an addictive adventure.
When Gary and Michelle Hanks opened Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake, they originally had no intention of using the venue as a listening space for live music.
But after five years of presenting their Pin Drop Concerts series, the duo continues to be smitten with the music and eager to keep it all going.
“We only have two concepts for our Pin Drop Concert Series: to provide an amazing experience for the artist and to provide an amazing experience for our guests,” said co-owner Gary Hanks.
If you do both of those things, Michelle added, amazing and magical things happen.
“There has never been a show where that doesn’t happen,” she said. “People leave in tears, they are so moved. We are addicted.”
When Seven Steps Up first considered hosting concerts in addition to renting the facility for events, Gary and Michelle researched their most beloved artists, assembling a “dream list” of guest artists to host at their venue.
They drafted an introductory email, elaborating on the Pin Drop Concerts series and their vision for a quiet, intimate, respectful listening room, dedicated to their passion for live music.
A SPECIAL VENUE ‘FOR A LOT OF RISING STARS’
“We emailed everyone on the list through their agencies. No response,” Michelle said. “Then, 10 days later, we got an email from an artist, saying, ‘I’m intrigued – tell me more.’ We wound up booking that artist, and it was a very successful show. After that, we sent out that email again … and now, we don’t have a problem getting fantastic talent.”
Gary and Michelle believe in booking more rising star performers, as well as Grammy-winning legends.
“Some of my favorite shows have been smaller acts,” said Michelle. “There needs to be a venue for a lot of rising stars, while some venues will only book big acts that will guarantee a lot of revenue.”
The Pin Drop Concerts series will celebrate its fifth anniversary Friday, after logging more than 200 shows in the acoustically impressive venue which has a capacity of 122 for seated shows and 160 for its Standing Room Only concerts. (Check out a video below of Billy Strings & Don Julin performing at Seven Steps Up in December.)
“We learned a lot in those first couple of years,” said Gary. “We received quite a bit of validation for the vision we had of a listening room venue. We got a little bit of negativity, which I think is understandable for a new concept in our area. But we’re still here, and we haven’t wavered in our commitment to provide a unique and amazing experience for artists and fans.”
Indeed, the Pin Drop Concerts series has cultivated a fair share of regulars and returning guests.
“If they come once, we’re confident they’ll be back,” he said. “In fact, we have six fans flying in from Dallas to attend our upcoming anniversary show. We just keep growing our base. Our second best form of advertising is word-of-mouth from guests. The number one best form of advertising? Word-of-mouth from guests, and then they bring another person with them to their next show.”
Seven Steps Up certainly is never short of talent and performers to book for an evening of music, Gary said. And while some names sell out every time they come back to town, other times the problem can be putting people in the seats for the evening.
“Booking is tough,” he said. “There are so many variables to consider. Low turnout is always a concern. The first couple of years, we drove ourselves crazy with that. All we can do is just move on to the next event.”
CELEBRATING FIVE YEARS OF CONCERTS WITH RIVERS & RUST
But no matter how stressful the logistics of the venue can become, from booking to maintenance, the couple is in love with the venue, and proud to have contributed to West Michigan’s music scene.
“Yes, this is a stressful job,” Gary said. “But you know, when the show starts, the sound is good, and everything is going well … you can relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the show yourself. It’s all worth it.”
For its five-year anniversary on Friday, Seven Steps Up will feature Rivers & Rust.
The duo is a roots rock/Americana collaboration between singer-songwriter Sheila Marshall and Kyle Cook, the lead guitarist and singer-songwriter for Grammy-nominated group Matchbox Twenty. The duo will be backed by the full Rivers & Rust band.
The venue plans to also feature drawings for gift certificates at the show, special drink pricing, and of course, anniversary cake. Tickets can be purchased online at PinDropConcerts.com or by calling (616) 930-4755.
Other upcoming shows at Seven Steps Up include: Rose Cousins (March 11), Brian Dunne (March 12), HONEYHONEY (March 13), Ruth & Max Bloomquist (March 18), Ken Yates and Jesse Terry (March 19), Kawehi (April 8), Griffin House (April 10), Kris Allen (April 15, Standing Room Only show), Callaghan (April 16) and John Waite & The Axeman (May 4).
More details online here.
VIDEO: Billy Strings & Don Julin at Seven Steps Up (December 2015)
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC