The weather couldn’t have been better on opening day of Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts and musicians responded with diverse, audience-pleasing sets. (Photos, video)
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The 2017 edition of Festival of the Arts opened Friday under glorious, sunny skies — and that outstanding weather continued throughout the day, providing a perfect backdrop for musical performances on five outdoor stages in downtown Grand Rapids.
Due to downtown construction, veteran Festival-goers will immediately notice a shift in the three-day event’s footprint, with the new Kendall Stage jutting out all the way to Division Avenue.
And with one fewer outdoor stage overall — and Rosa Parks Circle now devoted to children’s activities via “Kids’ World” — there aren’t as many acts performing this weekend.
Still, there’s plenty to experience, and it all started Friday with bluesy rock band Carpenter’s Cross christening that Kendall Stage, Gemini Bros. regaling kids and their families on Circle Stage, Olivia Vargas & Friends unfurling R&B and hip hop on City Stage, the Mary Rademacher Quintet on Calder Stage and more.
Here are just a few “Seen and Heard” highlights from Festival’s opening. Check out Local Spins’ Festival picks for Saturday and Sunday online here.
XIT 18 at City Stage: In the afternoon shadows of buildings on Monroe Center, rock band XIT 18 played a tribute to late singer Chris Cornell of Audioslave, Soundgarden, and Temple of the Dog. “It just goes to show,” said the vocalist, gesturing to his hear, “that all the money, all the fame, it doesn’t fill what’s in here.” They played Audioslave’s “Like Stone” in tribute.
Cassidy Bisher at Kendall Stage: After taking the Kendall Stage, art-rocker Cassidy Bisher immediately signaled to the sound guy to turn everything up. The band responded by delivering walls of sound to a small crowd that grew as their tunes echoed through the streets downtown. “We’re going to be getting a great tan,” said the drummer. “Yeah, we’re going to be ready for ‘Baywatch,’ ” quipped Bisher.
Beer City Saxes at Calder Stage: The Beer City Saxes — featuring five saxophones, a piano, upright bass, and piano — ended their set with a swinging and high-energy piece, showing off their own individual prowess of the sax with a farewell round of solos.
Lipstick Jodi at Kendall Stage: Grand Rapids’ Lipstick Jodi premiered new songs from the band’s new album that will be released this September, including fast-and-driving tunes such as “Too Much.” Singer-guitarist Karli Morehouse kept the performance lively amid playful banter with her bandmates, and also announced that their new music video will be released this weekend for the song, “That’s So Great.”
The Grand Little Big Band at Kendall Stage: With tight rhythms and swelling melodies, this jazz group of 20 or so musicians spans generations, inviting musicians old and young into their group to play compositions like “In the Mood” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.” The seating area was jam-packed for this set, with many spectators dancing on the sidewalks.
See the full schedule for Saturday and Sunday at festivalgr.org.
PHOTO GALLERY: Friday at Festival 2017
Photos by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Friday at Festival 2017
Video by John Sinkevics, Schyler Perkins and Anna Sink
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC