From Spanish-infused rock to soul to folk to hip hop, the inaugural music festival reveled in good weather and an upbeat vibe. The recap and photo galleries at Local Spins.
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Event banners proclaimed, “Creating Change Through Music.”
Andrew Schrock of Southwest Michigan’s funky band The Mainstays called it “a wonderful concept.”
Festival organizer Jennifer Hudson-Prenkert said on Monday that the week-long Sounds of the Zoo would be back again in 2023, after the inaugural event was “almost like creating a movement,” buoyed by a “sense of community” infusing the concerts, showcases and workshops.
Kalamazoo’s first-ever Sounds of the Zoo wrapped up over the weekend with three straight days of performances by 16 Michigan-bred acts amid sunny, pleasant weather at Bronson Park.
Four nights of workshops and music showcases preceded the weekend shows, with an eclectic mix of solo artists and bands playing Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Café, Old Dog Tavern, The Xperience and Hilton Garden Inn.
Performers came from Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and of course, Kalamazoo, making it a Michigan-centric celebration of music ranging from rock to hip hop to Americana to soul to folk to funk.
Musicians and attendees alike described it as an uplifting, upbeat event.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the outcome and attendance for the festival. I couldn’t be happier. I feel we knocked it out of the park in all areas,” Hudson-Prenkert said on Monday. “I put my heart and soul into every aspect that there was in developing, creating and executing the process of putting together a first-year festival.
“I definitely could not have made a dream of mine come true without the help from so many amazing, passionate people. I have an incredibly supportive family, friends and community that all jumped on board with my vision right from the beginning. I am truly humbled and beyond grateful.”
She credited her husband, Joe, and co-producer Chelsea Whitaker for helping manage all of the festival’s moving parts, along with Kalamazoo’s Dragon Brothers Productions.
Although turnout varied night to night, Hudson-Prenkert said she was “overwhelmed with all the support” she received from musicians and bands, who networked and made connections throughout a week that included an evening of engaging singer-songwriter sets as well as dance-fueled R&B and hip hop performances.
“Honestly, there wasn’t one favorite moment. The whole week was my favorite,” she insisted.
“Watching the community embrace all the live diverse music and be energized by each other was my highlight. I have a passion for Kalamazoo and for Michigan as a whole and plan on finding new ways to showcase and support the abundance of talent we have all around us with Sounds of the Zoo for years to come.”
Hudson-Prenkert aims to grow Sounds of the Zoo in 2023, while continuing to offer events “at various venues to celebrate life with the community.”
The festival continues to accept donations, with all proceeds going to pay the bands, production and marketing. Donate online at via Venmo or PayPal online at soundsofthezoo.com.
Here’s a recap of the festival’s final weekend and find more Local Spins coverage of the week’s shows here.
The night kicked off at Bronson Park with drummer Keith Hall and his band performing jazz stylings from his latest record “Made in Kalamazoo,” followed by the eclectic blues rock of FlyLiteGemini. Passersby seemed happily surprised by the collection of music, vendors and food trucks, stopping in for a few minutes to enjoy the music. Zion Lion drew attendees to the dance floor with their reggae jams, with Cabildo’s cumbia-rock fusion closing out the night.
By far, the biggest day of the festival started with the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock playing Bronson Park at noon, along with a variety of buskers along the Kalamazoo Mall. The Kettle Bells, The Frogs and Toads, Nora Duffy, Saint Boyd and others performed throughout the afternoon at four busking stations at Kalamazoo State Theatre, Burnham & Flower Plaza, Rocket Fizz and Brick & Brine.
Meanwhile, the Bronson Park stage featured vintage country’s The Bootstrap Boys, singer-songwriter Carrie McFerrin, Battle Creek’s Blvcksheep and more, with Kalamazoo’s Grace Theisen kicking off her single release show for “Master of Fire” in early evening while reminding everyone that their vote matters.
The classical hip-hop of Kalamazoo’s Jordan Hamilton made for a wonderful start to Sounds of the Zoo’s final day. Attendees continued to roll in as Grand Rapids singer Sarena Rae hosted “The Music That Raised Us,” celebrating the music of Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and others.
Grand Rapids’ Earth Radio brought the jazz-fusion funk, enticing folks to the dance floor, followed by fellow Grand Rapids-area band Nathan Walton & the Remedy, which delivered soul-rock attitude. Finally, soulful Detroit act Laura Rain & the Caesars wrapped it all up with a fan-pleasing set. – By Chelsea Whitaker
PHOTO GALLERY: Sounds of the Zoo – Sunday
Photos by Derek Ketchum
Photos by Chelsea Whitaker