Ignoring a little rain, blues fans and bikers embraced the relocated Blues on the Mall series, while others cheered a much-beloved Atlanta folk-rock duo on the other side of town. (Review, photos, video)
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If you build it, they will come.
And if you move a successful blues series in downtown Grand Rapids to a parking lot in Walker, throngs will continue to show up, even amid overcast skies and sprinkles of rain.
The first 97LAV Summertime Blues concert of the summer at the DeltaPlex Arena drew a hefty audience and an impressive lineup of motorcycles (and cars) for sets by Mississippi blues rocker Jarekus Singleton and his band, putting giant smiles on the faces of organizers from classic rock radio station WLAV-FM (96.9).
“Pretty good, eh?,” beamed Marcus Bradman, Cumulus Media’s director of marketing and promotion, as he surveyed the landscape of food and beer vendors, bikers, families and blues devotees, many of whom sat comfortably in a sea of lawn chairs in front of the stage.
Indeed, after more than two decades as a downtown tradition on Rosa Parks Circle, the move had sparked a fair amount of grumbling from longtime fans of Blues on the Mall as well as some trepidation among organizers, who clearly were pleased with Wednesday’s turnout – which likely would have been bigger without the threat of rain.
The new site offers plenty of free parking – with a semi-circle of parking reserved for hundreds of motorcycles and classic cars – as well as beer sales, something that wasn’t available downtown. Organizers can also move the concerts inside the DeltaPlex if storms roll through.
One fan, appropriately enough, dubbed the revamped Wednesday event, “Delta Blues.”
Singleton’s take on that was more one of modern blues guitar, funky rhythm and hints of soul, entertaining listeners despite misting and sprinkles of rain. Eventually, however, heavier rain came in and washed away a significant portion of the audience though those that remained were not disappointed with what they heard.
Kalamazoo resident Mark Zanotti made the trip for the first Summertime Blues show, expressing appreciation for the fact that these concerts can run later at the Deltaplex than those that were held downtown. “I get out of work at 6 p.m. and have a bit of a drive here, so having an extra 30 or so minutes can mean a lot,” he said.
Next Wednesday’s Summertime Blues show sponsored by Orion Construction features Wayne Baker Brooks and will serve as the official kickoff to the 2015 West Michigan Freedom Cruise. The full summer schedule of blues shows is available at Local Spins here. – By John Sinkevics and Jordan McNaughton
VIDEO: 97LAV SUMMERTIME BLUES WITH JAREKUS SINGLETON
INDIGO GIRLS’ FERVID FOLK-ROCK POWERS THROUGH RAIN
Eight miles from the DeltaPlex, a much different but just as enthused crowd of live music devotees didn’t let a little rain keep them from enjoying the return of The Indigo Girls – with opening act The Good Graces – for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s second show of its summer concert series.
Sporting ponchos, boots and umbrellas, the 1,700 or so in attendance cheered exhilarating sets by both bands, with their enthusiasm reaching an ecstatic level by the end of The Indigo Girls’ set.
With striking harmonies, a full sound and an irrefutably passionate performance, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers led their band through an energetic set even as the rain picked up, attracting quite the dancing crowd in front of the stage.
The folk-rock duo known for its ardent activism played a full set of old and new material, earning a particularly strong response from fans for songs such as “Get Out the Map” and “Shame on You,” with The Good Graces joining The Indigo Girls for the classic, “Closer to Fine” – the crowd screaming back the lyrics with undeniable fervor.
Handpicked by The Indigo Girls as the opening band, the four-piece indie-folk collective The Good Graces had kicked off the night, appropriately enough, with “Under The Weather.” The Atlanta-based group brought heartfelt raw emotion to songs such “Cold in California” from their latest album, “Close To The Sun,” as well as older tunes such as “Summer of ’93.”
The set also served as a celebration of lead singer Kim Ware’s birthday, which she exclaimed was the “best birthday ever.” – By Taylor Mansen
PHOTO GALLERY: 97LAV Summertime Blues @ DeltaPlex, Indigo Girls @ Meijer Gardens
Photos by Tori Thomas, Anna Sink, John Sinkevics
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC