Local Spins asked its reviewers to choose their favorite shows of the first half of the year, and their picks covered a broad range of bands, genres and venues. Check out the list and some videos.
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When it comes to live music, the first half of 2017 has had more than its share of highlights – from the grand opening of the new 20 Monroe Live venue in downtown Grand Rapids to some compelling tour stops.
Local Spins asked its writers to pick their favorite concerts of the year thus far, no matter where they took place, along with some honorable mentions. Of course, many of these shows unfurled in West Michigan, but certainly not all.
Take a gander at their picks and share your own favorite concert moments of 2017 in the comments below.
Flaming Lips, 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids (April 19) — Confetti cannons, giant inflatable animals/robots/eyeballs, a unicorn parade, frontman Wayne Coyne walking on the crowd in his trademark hamster ball, a temporary shutdown due to fog machine over-use. Pretty boring show.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Detroit’s Masonic Temple (Jan. 3)
Trey Anastasio Band, Royal Oak Music Theatre (May 6) – Used to seeing Phish play to crowds north of 20,000, I absolutely treasured having the opportunity to see the band’s guitar-wielding frontman and his high-energy side project with just 1,700 other fans in a venue where every vantage point seems close to the action. I had not seen Trey this much on his game in this small of a venue since Phish was still playing college auditoriums back in the fall of 1994. With Phish favorites like “Sand,” “Ocelot,” “Gotta Jibboo,” “Alaska” and “First Tube” dotting the set list along with TAB tunes such as “Shine,” “Cayman Review” and “Simple Twist Up Dave” — plus a little taste of Motown with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – this is a show I won’t soon forget.
HONORABLE MENTION: Greensky Bluegrass, Bell’s Beer Garden (June 1); Infamous Stringdusters, Vogue Theatre, Indianapolis (March 16); Elephant Revival, Otus Supply Co., Ferndale (April 11); Umphrey’s McGee, 20 Monroe Live (Feb. 2); Fruition, Blue Ox Music Festival, Eau Claire, WI (June 8)
Lizzo, Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids (June 11) — Minneapolis-based singer/rapper Melissa Jefferson, aka Lizzo, delivered an aerobic, soulful, entertaining stage spectacle, complete with leotard-clad backup dancers and goddess of a DJ, Sophia Eris. The 29-year-old’s hip-hop set was a sex-positive, body-positive empowerment of people of all colors, shapes, orientations and creeds. Grand Rapids truly turned out for the dance party, packing the room and soaking up the celebration.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Masonic Temple in Detroit (June 3)
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue , Meijer Gardens Summer Concert Series in Grand Rapids (June 29) — After a family emergency thwarted my plans for opening night of 20 Monroe Live in Febraury, I finally got to see this New Orleans showstopper in person as part of the Meijer Gardens summer series earlier this summer. Even with the initial threat of rain giving way to a full-blown rainstorm, soaking everyone in the crowd, the New-Orleans jazz-rock-inspired party barely even slowed down. At one point, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews even left the covered stage area to climb down the stairs, joining the cheering crowd in the downpour. That was truly a party I will not soon forget.
Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids (April 1) – With the crowd and band all beaming with positive energy, it was more like a colorful party than a concert. The playfully dressed Michigan band busted out catchy pop anthems in absolute style.
HONORABLE MENTION: Vulfpeck, The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor (May 12)
David Bazan, Calvin College’s Festival of Faith & Music in Grand Rapids (April 1) – When David Bazan pulled into town to headline Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Music, he only brought with him a lone acoustic guitar. But it proved to be more than enough. The 41-year-old former frontman of Pedro the Lion belted heart-wrenching tales of love and loss and everything in between while a packed auditorium listened silently. At times, Bazan’s voice was so powerful that he leaned away from the microphone completely, letting his gravely baritone echo over the room. But above all, it was the stark vulnerability and sincerity that made his performance most endearing. A slight shyness and awkward stage banter made the veteran musician seem very human and very relatable.
Spoon, SXSW Showcase at The Main (Eno’s) in Austin (March 14) – I’ve admired this Austin band since 1998’s “A Series of Sneaks,” but never had a chance to see them live, partly because they almost NEVER play Michigan. My opportunity finally came on my final night in Austin for this year’s South by Southwest festival/conference, which also happened to be the first night the group played three straight showcases at their old stomping ground venue (in advance of releasing a new album) but it wasn’t easy: Even with our wristbands, we waited in line for more than an hour to see if there was room for us to get in. We did, and the show was worth every minute of waiting, starting with a surprise midnight set by The New Pornographers. Spoon put on the best flat-out rock show I’ve seen in several years – from their hometown-flavored exuberance to their technical proficiency to the incredible lighting used in this rustic venue. Didn’t get to sleep till 4 a.m. and didn’t care. I’m still smiling about this show. (See video below.)
• The Jayhawks at Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids (April 14) – I’m still shaking my head that fans got to see this iconic band in this intimate setting. Memorable, indeed.
• The Meat Puppets/Mike Watt + The Jom & Terry Show, Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids (May 6) – After getting warmed up at a local punk show (Skitchin’ Fest) at Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill earlier in the day, it was absolutely jaw-dropping to see the legendary Mike Watt and The Meat Puppets tearing it up on the Founders Brewing stage. For me, this was probably the most surprising and unexpectly sublime and groovy show I’ve seen this year.
• Melophobix, SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids (Feb. 22) – It’s almost impossible to describe what a wondrous night of local music this was jammed into the cozy confines of SpeakEZ Lounge. Not only was this funky, soulful band absolutely on fire, but their robust fans made this an amazing mid-week party with sweat, high fives and broad grins all around.
VIDEO: Spoon at SXSW 2017
VIDEO: Mike Watt & The Jom & Terry Show at Founders Brewing
VIDEO: The Jayhawks at Wealthy Theatre
VIDEO: Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers at 20 Monroe Live
VIDEO: Melophobix at SpeakEZ Lounge
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