Like a basket full of multi-colored eggs, the week leading up to Easter mixed things up impressively on West Michigan’s music scene from Kishi Bashi’s wild display to STS9’s psychedelic electronica. Plus: Crystal Garden, Parachute, Marc Cohn, Sweet Water Warblers, Aretha Franklin and The Jayhawks.
STS9 at 20 Monroe Live (Saturday)
With more than 1,700 West Michigan fans to greet them, STS9 (aka, Sound Tribe Sector 9) delivered the kind of show at 20 Monroe Live on Saturday night for which the Georgia-bred denizens of electronic-propelled music are known — a blend of prog-pop, disco, rock, soul and more.
The band is touring behind its sixth studio album, “The Universe Inside,” and the first STS9 record featuring bassist Alana Rocklin. Maine’s Jaw Gems — an electronic “drip hop/ratchet jazz” band — opened the show.
PHOTO GALLERY: STS9, Jaw Gems
Photos by Anthony Norkus
CRYSTAL GARDEN at The Pyramid Scheme (Thursday)
Seattle/Toronto band Crystal Garden — featuring Dave Matthews Band violinist Boyd Tinsley — just released its debut album, “Let the Rocks Cry Out.” The group appeared Thursday at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, part of a 21-date U.S. tour. West Michigan jam band Desmond Jones opened the show.
PHOTO GALLERY: Crystal Garden
Photos by Katy Batdorff
KISHI BASHI at Calvin College Covenent Fine Arts Center (Wednesday)
Opening the evening with no shortage of peculiarity, Tall Tall Trees redefined what a banjo is capable of. Decked out with colorful flashing lights inside the banjo head, the group took the Appalachian instrument to new psychedelic levels. Utilizing loop pedals (not only for the banjo but also for a plethora of noise-making children’s toys), the duo looped nearly any noise imaginable, turning a rainbow of random sounds effects into layers of a song.
With intricate delicacy, Kishi Bashi greeted the capacity crowd at Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center with four stripped-back acoustic songs. With band members circling a condenser microphone, the quartet (violin, upright bass, guitar, percussion) thatched together a tapestry of harmony and melody.
The violin virtuoso displayed his incredibly nuanced playing style and belted (in a crystal clear tenor) joyous, powerful songs. Fan favorites and standout songs included “Bright Whites,” “Beat the Bright Out of It” and “It all Began With a Burst.”
After serenading the auditorium, the band took to their posts for an eclectic, full-band indie-rock show. Kaoru Ishibashi, frontman and songwriter behind the moniker, toggled between a vintage Fender Rhodes keyboard and violin. Using a looping pedal, he layered lush chords with soaring high-register melodies on his violin. Bass, banjo, drums and synth provided additional hues of atmospheric tones while confetti shooters and beaming lights rained onto the crowd during the show’s most climactic moments, namely the final song.
After departing a darkened stage only briefly, the band returned for an unorthodox and intimate encore. Hauling instruments up the stairs and into the mezzanine, the group set up in the middle isle of the theater. Surrounded by a sea of listeners and glowing cell phone flashlights, Ishibashi performed two heartfelt, sentimental songs, filling the room with a kind of undeniable and magical ambience. – Ricky Olmos
PHOTO GALLERY: Kishi Bashi, Tall Tall Trees
Photos by Kendra Kamp