When live music was still at the entertainment forefront (pre-COVID) October 2019 boasted memorable highlights of the local and national variety, from sold-out tour stops to big announcements. A look back.
Because much of the past 12 months has been silent due to a pandemic, it all seems like it was just yesterday.
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West Michigan's music scene
The second week of October 2019 boasted some newsworthy entries for West Michigan’s music scene: The Black Keys’ first appearance in Grand Rapids in five years, an announcement that the beloved Lamp Light Music Festival was pulling the plug after eight years, and compelling performances by Kip Moore (in an unusual venue), Michigander, The Crane Wives and Blue October.
Plus, a respected Grand Rapids singer-songwriter released a new studio album after a battle with cancer.
Today, Local Spins Rewind looks back at a robust and memorable week from October 2019.
THE BLACK KEYS DON’T MISS A BEAT WITH BLISTERING BLUES-ROCK
With all the attention – pro and con – that The Black Keys have attracted with their first tour and their first album in five years, “Let’s Rock,” it was intriguing to hear Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney launch their Oct. 8, 2019 show at Van Andel Arena with an 11-year-old classic: “I Got Mine,” from 2008’s “Attack & Release.”
Perhaps it was a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” because fans roared their approval from the get-go, embracing the longtime favorite that got the 90-minute show started and signaled that this was going to be a career-spanning night.
Indeed, the boys – backed by two guitarists and a bassist – wasted little time diving into the new stuff, rolling out “Eagle Birds” and “Tell Me Lies” from “Let’s Rock” immediately after, with a round, video-screen backdrop projecting appropriately psychedelic images to accompany the bluesy feast.
What followed was a perfectly curated set that included new hits (“Lo/Hi,” “Go,” which kicked off the encore), old singles (“Howlin’ For You,” “Lonely Boy”) and deep-in-the-past classics (“Thickfreakness,” “10 A.M. Automatic,” “Your Touch”).
Before all that, following a brief opening set of rock-fired soul by Brooklyn singer Jessy Wilson, there was Modest Mouse – that edgy, artsy Portland alt-rock band led by singer-guitarist-banjoist Isaac Brock.
With a muddied-but-attention-getting sonic attack, Brock’s ensemble delivered an uneven but occasionally dazzling (“Bukowski,” “Night on the Sun”) one-hour set that unfortunately was marred by equipment problems that had Brock – and the band – stopping midway through until the glitch could be resolved. (Oddly, sound issues cropped up in the band’s last West Michigan appearance at Wings Stadium.)
Local Spins writer Ricky Olmos, who also attended Wednesday’s concert, remarked that Modest Mouse’s set had a “very ominous tone” – from the lights to the music – and one might surmise that the band’s approach is probably too esoteric for an arena and better suited to a smaller venue. Nevertheless, fans responded favorably and rose to their feet for the band’s one bona fide hit, 2004’s “Float On,” which also exuded a peculiar, chant-like vibe.
There was nothing peculiar about The Black Keys’ set (unless you consider the backing guitarist emulating organ/keyboard parts on a couple of songs). Read the rest of the review and check out the set list here: https://localspins.com/the-black-keys-pound-out-arena-styled-garage-rock-gems-in-return-to-grand-rapids-local-spins/
PHOTO GALLERY: The Black Keys, Modest Mouse, Jessy Wilson at Van Andel Arena
Photos by Anthony Norkus
GRAND RAPIDS LAMP LIGHT MUSIC FEST PULLS THE PLUG FOR 2019
Eight years after it all began – and one year after shifting from house concerts to Wealthy Theatre and other public venues – Grand Rapids’ Lamp Light Music Festival decided to pull the plug.
The quaint, early November festival that began with cozy shows in various Eastown Homes called it quits in 2019 due to “a number of factors,” including safety, accessibility, financial sustainability and community support.
“It was basically a catch-22 where we were too big to be in houses and too small to be in venues,” said John Hanson, one of the principal organizers of Lamp Light.
“Also, the public venues took away from the luster, magic and uniqueness of the patrons’ experience. It was a risk (moving to Wealthy Theatre and other venues) we needed to take and it didn’t pan out for us.”
At its peak, prior to 2018, Lamp Light attracted throngs of fans who would stroll from house concert to house concert in the Eastown neighborhood for jam-packed shows in living rooms and basements by regional stars such as May Erlewine, The Soil & The Sun, Breathe Owl Breathe, Mark Lavengood, Stef Chura, Tom Hymn and many more.
In 2018, in an effort “to become accessible and inclusive as we grow and evolve as an organization,” the festival moved its performances to Wealthy Theatre, The Sparrows Coffee Tea & Newstand and other public spaces, where Hanson said organizers could “welcome many more demographics including people with disabilities.”
Whether Lamp Light ever returns remains to be seen. Read more here: https://localspins.com/grand-rapids-lamp-light-music-festival-pulls-plug-on-2019-event-local-spins/
Check out Local Spins coverage of previous Lamp Light festivals online here.
KIP MOORE GOES TO CHURCH, PLUS BLUE OCTOBER, MICHIGANDER, THE CRANE WIVES
Platinum-selling country singer Kip Moore told the Chicago Tribune earlier in 2019 that the shows on his “Room to Spare Acoustic Tour” were “all about the music.”
“I go out on stage every night and I’m so relaxed,” he told Tribune writer Dan Hyman. “I’m playing these songs the way they originated and there’s such a peace in that for me.”
Since then, Moore has released a new single, “She’s Mine,” and on Oct. 10, 2019 brought his North American tour to an unusual and picturesque Grand Rapids venue: Fountain Street Church.
The near-capacity crowd on Thursday night “was enthusiastic all the way to the back,” said Local Spins photographer Eric Stoike. “He played some really old stuff from the first album and the crowd sang it all right back to him.”
Check out the photo gallery here, and click on the link to browse images from other West Michigan concerts that same October week, including Blue October at The Intersection, Michigander at The Pyramid Scheme and The Crane Wives at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo: https://localspins.com/kip-moore-blue-october-michigander-weekend-photo-recap-local-spins/
PHOTO GALLERY: Kip Moore, Kylie Morgan at Fountain Street Church (Thursday)
Photos by Eric Stoike
OVERCOMING THROAT CANCER, GR’S JOHN SANGER RELEASES ‘FAMILY ALBUM’
Grand Rapids singer-songwriter John Sanger took what began as devastating, gloomy news and turned it into an uplifting work of art. Sanger was diagnosed with throat cancer in March 2019, after experiencing “a little scratchiness” at the end of his live shows.
“It was an absolute super-shocker,” the singer said after learning the results of a biopsy.
The subsequent chemo and radiation treatments forced the busy performer to the sidelines for months, sapped his energy and saw him lose about 60 pounds.
But it also gave him an “amazing sense of perspective,” especially because he was right in the middle of working on a new album about his family (he’s the youngest of seven siblings) and “the roller-coaster of life’s trials and tribulations.”
As he puts it, it was “life imitating fiction and a real perspective. … I was unable to do anything except write during chemo and radiation, and a couple months after. So, five months off from performing, just focusing on writing new songs and finishing the record and a lot of reflecting.”
In one of his first public performances in more than six months, Sanger appeared on the Oct. 11, 2019 edition of Local Spins on WYCE, singing the new songs “Yoda & Luke” and “Sun & Moon” on the air. Watch the video of his performance of “Sun & Moon” here, with the full radio show interview and podcast below.
VIDEO: John Sanger, “Sun & Moon” (Local Spins on WYCE)
The Oct. 11, 2019 edition of Local Spins on WYCE – also featured the on-air debut of new songs by Michigander, Emma Bieniewicz and Josie Kenyon, as well as tracks by Gabrial James (the musician’s pick by Sanger), Pretoria, Guitar UP, Kari Lynch Band, The Ryne Experience and Stovepipe Stover. Listen to the podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE (10/11/2019)
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