Labor Day weekend’s last blast of summer gave hip hop fans plenty to applaud in downtown Grand Rapids, with the Studio Park piazza show heating up the city’s month-long “The Bridge” celebration.
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Concertgoers seized the opportunity to experience live music Saturday afternoon outside Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids.
The scene certainly was set for “Summer in the City,” as it was dubbed.
A young woman near the front waved a burning incense stick. Some danced along the green turf. Others sat scattered about in lawn chairs from home. But nearly everyone was locked into a steady head bob as The Last Gasp Collective dished out an electric set.
The Kalamazoo band — following sets by DJ James B, Venus Fly Trap, Whisko and DJ Sanjay — was wildly entertaining.
With a six-piece lineup led by Jay Jackson and featuring cellist Jordan Hamilton, the group’s songs floated between rap and R&B, displaying seamless transitions and shifting rolls. Sonic textures like bright electric guitar and dreamy keyboards pushed the sound to the cusp of gospel territory. Drums and bass were steadily anchored in hip hop, and never out of sync.
The collective rolled through a catalog of soulful originals with boundless energy. Including songs from 2019’s award-winning album “Seen Not Heard,” the short set showcased excellent musicianship and timely themes.
Even with masks and social distancing, the crowd remained engaged, actively singing along to choruses with a call and response.
“I’m very satisfied with the turnout,” said one of the concert organizers, Angela Nelson of 616 Grand Productions, which created the outdoor show as part of the city’s month-long “The Bridge” celebration featuring events taking place across the city.
“I think people miss the energy of being around other people. And you just can’t get this through live-streams or TV. They love these artists and their music and they just want to be able to vibe out to it.”
After a short break, Grand Rapids rapper JRob took the stage with a grooving full band, aka Bedrock The Foundation. Performing with a healthy intensity, JRob crisscrossed the stage while delivering searing verses.
The band (featuring drums, bass, keys, guitar and saxophone) brought the songs to vibrant life. A variety of additional vocalists rotated on and off stage as well, providing a backdrop of lush harmonies.
A highlight of the evening came when fellow rapper and frequent collaborator Lady Ace Boogie (now semi-retired) was welcomed onstage mid-set. The two artists traded lines back and forth with careful precision.
Concertgoers continued to move with the music as the sun lowered below the rooftops, reveling in the rare chance to see music during a summer where live entertainment has become something of a novelty.
PHOTO GALLERY: JRob & Bedrock, Last Gasp Collective at Studio Park
“Summer in the City” Concert
Photos by Anna Sink