The three-day event in downtown Kalamazoo boasted standout performances from national stars, a Michigan blues-rock phenom and local faves. Get the recap and photo gallery at Local Spins.
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Joan Osborne has the mega-hits “One of Us” and “St. Teresa.”
Spin Doctors have “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”
But make no mistake, both acclaimed New York artists – who closed out Kalamazoo Ribfest 2019 at Arcadia Creek Festival Place amid gorgeous weather on Saturday – have the road-tested stage savvy and plenty of other entertaining songs in their arsenals to captivate audiences.
Indeed, Osborne used the opportunity in front of 3,000-plus fans to perform several new originals from an upcoming new album, buoyed by Spin Doctors drummer Aaron Comess who sat in for several tunes, including “Whole Wide World” and “Trouble and Strife” (with a killer rock ‘n’ roll vibe and featuring blistering solos by keyboardist Keith Cotton and guitarist Jim Boggia).
The power of the new material was such that the crowd roared its approval, something that’s rarely a given with legacy artists testing out fresh songs. Of course, she also performed classics from her breakout 1995 album, “Relish,” including “Spider Web,” a poignant “St. Teresa,” and to wrap up the set, “One of Us.”
The Spin Doctors followed with a set that amped up the energy, the volume and the party atmosphere considerably, with guitarist Eric Schenkman churning out tasty, bluesy alt-rock riffs and lead singer Chris Barron uncorking goofy, rock-star posturing moves that were simultaneously amusing and entertaining.
Las Vegas pop/rock outfit likemelikeyou had gotten it started earlier — and impressively – with a set of originals and covers propelled by lead singer Greyson Bos, a Grand Rapids native, Grand Rapids Christian High School alum and former member of the West Michigan band American WiFi.
(Bos told Local Spins later that he’s settled comfortably in Las Vegas and that likemelikeyou is preparing to release a new recording in the near future.)
Saturday’s closing Ribfest volley came after two straight nights of crowd-pleasing music in downtown Kalamazoo.
THURSDAY-FRIDAY’S MIX OF LOCAL FAVES, NATIONAL STARS
Opening the festival on Thursday — for the second year in a row — was Kalamazoo’s own Megan Dooley, with a frisky set of classic originals and even some cartoon-inspired songs. Continuing the “Megan Tradition” was another beloved Kalamazoo favorite, Megan Rae, whose big Michigan heart and country voice warmed fans up as the sun went down. Rae and her four piece band dished out hit classics in between catchy originals and fun stage banter as the crowd swelled in anticipation for yet another hometown hero: Jake Kershaw of Marshall.
Kershaw, who some might remember as the 14-year-old blues prodigy invited by Jonny Lang to play with him on stage at State Theatre several years ago, has since been touring steadily and recording heavily. And while still young at age 18, his performances convey an old soul with a unique understanding of the roots rock and blues that comes screaming out of his fingers and voice.
Friday saw a slight increase in temperature and crowd size at Ribfest, and as the night progressed, the city really started to let loose for the weekend. Opening the night was WRKR The Rocker’s “Play in Contest” winner Saddest Factory, followed by area cover band Project 90, which delivered a slew of ’90s favorites.
Detroit’s female-fronted Kaleido followed, propelled by the extremely animated and talented Christina Chriss (who evoked shades of Gwen Stefani meets Kitty with her powerfully controlled melodic singing and metal screaming). With compelling original material focused on issues such as mental health, social acceptance and political dissent, this is a band to watch.
Amid a gorgeous purple sunset backdrop, Friday’s headliners and ’90s favorites Everclear arrived on stage to a throng of excited and adoring fans as attendance reached capacity. Looking a bit beat from the road (and what must have been a constant touring schedule covering the last two decades), yet gracious and ready to please, the four-piece rock outfit gave audience members hit after glorious sing-along hit: “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You A New Life,” “Santa Monica.” For ’90s alt-rock/grunge fans, it was a pretty cathartic experience all around.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kalamazoo Ribfest 2019
Photos by Derek Ketchum