Belknap’s first-ever drive-in show Friday impressed fans and bands alike with socially distanced fun and music that reverberated through the streets north of downtown Grand Rapids. Review, photos, video.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY, VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Scattered throughout the parking lot at Grand Rapids’ Belknap Park at dusk, an audience of cars filled the yellow-lined asphalt, their owners sprawled on camp chairs or lounging in the back of truck beds.
Many toted coolers and other snacks from home. Some even ordered delivery to the venue’s front gate. The sea of vehicles surrounded an illuminated stage and joyous sounds spilled out for the park’s first-ever drive-in show, after a summer mostly silenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local indie-jam band Desmond Jones lit up the stage with a blazing opening set. The group rifled through riveting originals with the full band adorned in eccentric outfits. The collective was full of energy and obviously buzzing to be back on stage.
Rya McCann from Lansing stumbled upon the sold-out show while in town for her birthday and was able to scoop up a last-minute spot for the show.
“It was awesome, I loved it. It’s like a drive-in theater concert,” McCann said.
“I felt really comfortable. We were all distanced and having a good time. It feels really special to be at a concert right now.”
But on Friday night, a distinct festival atmosphere returned to Belknap, this time in the parking lot for the first of two drive-in concerts this weekend (hosted by MiEntertainment Group, which has co-presented Breakaway).
CELEBRATORY, SOULFUL, DANCE-INSPIRING CHARM FROM THE RAINBOW SEEKERS
After the sun fell behind the trees, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers took the stage, equally outfitted with colorful attire. Hertler sported his signature rainbow-feather cape. Saxophonist Aaron Stinson wore silky flowing garments and held a sunflower staff.
The Lansing-based band opened with a track from its folk-leaning first album, “On Being.” Hertler held down a steady strumming acoustic while the band danced around him in a dazzling array of sonic textures.
In addition to being a first for pandemic-era shows in the area, the performance marked one of the first with newly added saxophonist Caleb Elzinga, who will take over touring responsibilities while Stinson joins for hometown shows. The pair was perhaps the most entertaining to watch on stage while trading the kind of velvety saxophone riffs and harmonies that could make even the buzzing parking lot lights feel dimmed to the perfect ambiance.
Stinson also pitched in with a plethora of dreamy flute and auxiliary percussion, including bongos, tambourine, or the precisely executed maracas, all played with no shortage of grace.
One of the evening’s highlights included “Feel,” a funky jam from the album “Terra Incognita.” The track features a dynamic journey through smooth verses, flourishing choruses and a complex instrumental breakdown that saw Elzinga rip a soul-melting sax solo that started with a single sustained note. It was also one of Hertler’s best vocal performances, with plenty of soulful falsetto.
“Evening Coffee,” a groovy number from the 2019 album, “Paper Castle,” boasted a mesmerizing harmonized hook between saxophones and keyboards and rhythmic pulse that seeps into the psyche. “Underwater” from the same album again highlighted the band’s dynamic range and layer-building, while showcasing Hertler’s heartfelt storytelling.
Then there was the single “No Money (Jetski),” a blissful and light-hearted ode to carefree living that had many dancing in the glowing parking lot.
After finishing the main set and exiting the stage, a flood of headlights and horns made for an easily convincing encore. The group returned to their stations and rocked a vibrant, funky version of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
The song proved a perfect fit to close out the evening as couples slow-danced while others sat atop their vehicles, lighters raised to a moon-splashed night sky.
PHOTO GALLERY: Desmond Jones, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers at The Belknap
Photos by Anna Sink
Copyright 2020, Spins on Music LLC