A spectacular September weekend covered a lot of bases outdoors and in: indie-rock, country, funk, jazz, psych-rock and more. Local Spins was there to capture it all.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Indie-rock’s Bleachers kicked off Calvin University’s concert series in Grand Rapids on Saturday night, part of a busy week that also fired up the Perrin Backyard Bash with regional acts, the Grand Rapids African-American Art & Music Festival at Studio Park, Kalamazoo’s Edison Jazz Fest with a host of talented players, Sullivan Field’s Ballpark Jam, a Morgan Wade tour stop at Elevation inside The Intersection and Ghost-Note impressing fans at Benton Harbor’s The Livery. Check out a review of Bleachers here, scroll down for Local Spins photo galleries of other shows and check out full reviews of Grand Rapids Symphony’s season opener at DeVos Performance Hall and Paula Cole/Sophie B. Hawkins/Lucy Kaplansky at Forest Hills Fine Arts Center online here.
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BLEACHERS AT CALVIN’S VAN NOORD ARENA
As Bleachers performed its song “45” Saturday night, audience members in Grand Rapids sang along passionately.
Unfortunately, they were out of tune — so out of tune, in fact, that Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff noticed from the stage.
“Dreadful,” he said, laughing. The crowd laughed right back.
Bleachers, the stage name for well-known producer and fun. band member Antonoff, delivered a high-energy set for a crowd of well over 1,000 at Calvin University’s Van Noord Arena.
The audience consisted predominantly of young adults, who packed themselves in tightly on the floor. Around them, more reserved concertgoers dotted the bleachers. Many attendees were Calvin students, but some had come from farther away.
“We got up at 5 and drove from Detroit this morning,” said Alys Bruton, who scored a spot in the second row with her companions. “Bleachers has such fun songwriting and such a unique style of music.”
Indie pop singer Isaac Dunbar opened with a 30-minute set, featuring the songs “Gummy,” “makeup drawer” and “kissy kissy.” His stage presence was confident and almost ethereal; at one quiet moment, an audience member screamed, “Slay!”
After a 40-minute pause, the lights went down with little warning, and Bleachers’ song “91” began to play. In the midst of complete darkness, a flashing light revealed Antonoff suddenly on stage, singing on his knees.
After such an emotional start, the concert’s energy built quickly. Bleachers played its biggest hits, including “Let’s Get Married,” “Rollercoaster” and “Don’t Take the Money.” The energy of the songs was complemented by the band’s use of vividly colored lights.
Antonoff was a skilled, lively performer who made good use of the space, constantly moving across the stage and climbing to higher points. His band members — everyone from the saxophonist to the tambourine player — were also in high spirits. The crowd responded in kind, with virtually everyone dancing and waving their arms.
“If you’re brave enough, get on your friend’s shoulders,” Antonoff yelled at one point. “Let’s make this s— feel like Glastonbury!” And the crowd complied.
“My favorite part was being in the front and being able to make eye contact with [Antonoff], because he’s really personable,” said Calvin University student Amy Miller after the show.
But the show had poignant moments, too. During the emotion-laden “Don’t Go Dark,” in which Antonoff sings about the conclusion of a relationship, the crowd spontaneously created a sea of lights by turning on their phone flashlights. “Beautiful,” Antonoff remarked from the stage.
During the concert, Antonoff made sure to showcase his appreciation for his host city. “I love coming to Grand Rapids,” he told the crowd. The city holds “a million memories” for him, especially all-ages music venue Skelletones. “I’m just saying — Grand Rapids is the s—.”
The show concluded with the incredibly danceable hit “Stop Making This Hurt.” The crowd sizzled with energy, especially when the band released several tomato-patterned beach balls into the crowd.
Afterward, fans didn’t hold their breath for an encore: Antonoff had spent a few minutes during the show railing against the practice. “We don’t do encores, because they’re stupid,” Antonoff said, describing them as an “ego stroke” for artists.
So, needless to say, there was no encore. But Antonoff was right: Bleachers didn’t need one anyway.
PHOTO GALLERY: Perrin Brewing Backyard Bash (Saturday)
Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys, The Hacky Turtles
Photos by Eric Stoike
PHOTO GALLERY: BBI at African-American Art & Music Festival, Studio Park (Saturday)
Photos by Elle Lively
PHOTO GALLERY: Ghost-Note, Dauzat St. Marie at The Livery (Saturday)
Photos by Derek Ketchum