The first weekend of June unleashed a musical torrent from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo, with a rainbow of colors and diverse genres. Get the recaps and browse the photos at Local Spins.
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For one performer, the return of Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts over the weekend was the “perfect event” and “an emotional experience.”
For another, it was “surreal” and “liberating,” creating “a beautiful day in the city.”
And for at least one couple, it was an opportunity to say “Yes” on stage to a marriage proposal (during a performance by Edison Kitt & The Strangers, captured in photos below).
In all, Festival trotted out more than 140 performances on five stages over three days, with Grand Rapids’ PotatoeBabies helping close things out late Sunday on the Lyon Street Stage with a rollicking, hyper-energetic set led by Rev Charles Preston Smith amid cascading streams of toilet paper.
“The first few years performing at Festival, I thought there’s so much more to my music than just melody and a lyric,” said Smith, who first played the event 30 years ago. “I felt that what I wrote was a visual thing and I needed to convey that to the audience. Festival of the Arts is the perfect event for everyone to experience just that.”
Indeed, Smith said a fan in her 70s approached him after the band’s upbeat set on Sunday, her “arms full of treasures’ that the band flung and distributed from the stage. “She said, ‘This was just what I needed in my life right now,'” Smith said. “Since the pandemic and the many other tragedies in our country and around the world, Grand Rapids’ Festival of the Arts is just what we all needed in our lives right now.”
For one hard-rocking Grand Rapids band, You and Them, which played for a big crowd at the Fountain Street Stage on Saturday evening, the lively set “was a surreal experience for us,” said singer Dane Gardner. “Our music has characteristics of genres that are often confined to small clubs or indoor venues, so being given the opportunity to perform in public for our home city was quite liberating.”
He added: “The sound team had us sounding perfect. On top of that, it was a beautiful day in the city to do what all five of us love to do the most, play music.”
Other highlights, courtesy of writer and photographer Holly Holtzclaw:
Valentiger (Saturday on the Fountain Street Stage) – The sun may have disappeared behind the clouds by the time Grand Rapids rock band Valentiger took the stage, but they kept everyone’s spirits high with catchy, guitar-driven songs. With each song, more people at the Fountain Street Stage abandoned their metal chairs to dance along to the band’s easygoing pop-rock songs.
Edison Kitt & the Strangers (Saturday on the diSuvero Stage) – Although the lead vocalist of six-piece folk band Edison Kitt & the Strangers announced that he had lost his voice earlier in the day, he was able to push through the set with the help of his bandmates who took over the lead vocals for a few songs. The performance at the diSuvero Stage had a little bit of everything: gorgeous harmonies, viola solos, an Eagles cover that got many people out of their seats to dance, and even an emotional surprise proposal from a fan in the middle of the set.
You and Them (Saturday on the Fountain Street Stage) – Progressive post-hardcore band You and Them encouraged the audience to stand up and gather near the front of the Fountain St Stage before they began their high-energy set. The band alternated between playing heavier, more aggressive songs that had the crowd up front jumping and songs that showcased the lead singer’s more melodic vocals.
Check out Day 1 coverage of Festival at Local Spins here.
The first full weekend of June also boasted huge events in Kalamazoo, including the biggest crowd ever for a Pride event in that city, with Lady Ace Boogie, Furillostar and more entertaining fans. And Bell’s Brewery’s Beer Garden boasted its first sold-out show of the season with a high-energy show featuring Matt and Kim and How to Live Together, the night after Old Dog Tavern hosted its summer-opening “Backyard” show with Kalamazoo’s Trifocal, Ohio’s Cactus Jack and Colorado’s Sqwerv. Check out all of the photo galleries below.
PHOTO GALLERY: GR Festival of the Arts (Sunday)
PotatoeBabies, Old Mountain Acid Test, Sweet Adelines, Gianna Stansell
Photos by Anthony Norkus
You and Them, Vision Dance Co., The Hattrick Band, Tipsy & The Kickstands
Secret Forte, Leprecons, Gay Men’s Choir, The Boyfriends
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker
Edison Kitt & The Strangers, Valentiger
Photos by Holly Holtzclaw