Free community concerts boast a special vibe as regional acts connect with fans, families. Revisit Tuesday’s James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers show in words & photos, plus see more series schedules.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOS, NEW CONCERT LISTINGS, LINKS TO SHOWS IN OTHER CITIES
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It’s an atmosphere that’s not quite like a music festival, not quite like a formal concert and not anything like the amped-up hassles of a high-profile ticketed event.
But make no mistake: The charm of live music in communities big and small across West Michigan has become a major summertime draw – a tradition and an experience captivating thousands of fans and picnicking families nightly across the region, especially after a pandemic that kept many of them quarantined in 2020.
It’s free and pressure-free.
Regional bands and attendees seem to revel in the relaxed interaction between fans, performers and nature itself.
Such was the case Tuesday night as Rockford’s United Bank Rogue River Blues Series kicked off for 2021 amid splendorous sunshine with James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers rolling through harmonica-laced classics on stage with several hundred concertgoers basking in the blues.
They happily hauled their lawn chairs and quad chairs to Garden Park along the Rogue River to cheer Reeser and crew despite ongoing construction that left fans behind a barrier some 30 feet from a brand new, sprawling stage. That area in front of the stage will soon sport a brick “dance floor” once the project is completed later this summer.
It didn’t deter music lovers or affect turnout on a perfectly pleasant June evening. Series organizer and founder Steve Jazwiec – donned in his usual “Blues Brothers” attire – was visibly pleased to be hosting his first show in 21 months after the 2020 series was scrapped due to COVID-19.
“It’s a great turnout under the circumstances,” he said, surveying the all-ages crowd. “The blues are back in Rockford, even though we’re under construction.”
A RETURN TO CAREFREE DAYS AND ENJOYING LIVE MUSIC WITH FRIENDS
For many, it represented a return to carefree days of yore.
“It’s great to see people out and about,” said Sue Grove of Rockford, adding she was elated to experience live music with her friends again.
“It’s awesome,” gushed Janelle Chandler of Coopersville, who attended Rogue River Blues Series shows in 2019 and was more than pleased to be back. “Pretty excited, an eight out of 10.”
Launching Tuesday’s show with tracks from the band’s 2019 album, “Live Now, Pay Later,” Reeser and band kept the music rolling all night and clearly didn’t want to see the evening end, even playing a couple of songs after the 9 p.m. closing time.
Some fans were delighted to stick around because nearly all of these free community concerts are beyond family-friendly, with children dancing and scampering across lawns while their parents groove to the tunes du jour.
They create the perfect opportunity to expose youngsters to the joys of live music, giving local and regional acts a chance to share their talents with fans outside of the usual bar and nightclub scene.
And more than anything, as Reeser sang near the end of the night, it’s a terrific way to “keep them good times rolling” all summer long.
The Rogue River Blues Series continues June 22 with Kathleen & The Bridge Street Band and June 29 with Catfish & The Man. Scroll down for a photo gallery and video from Tuesday’s show.
Here are listings for several more community concert series across the region, the latest additions to a roster of more than 90 series announced for the summer of 2021.
View the full list of series published previously at Local Spins in our comprehensive “Free Outdoor Community Concerts 2021 Guide.”
EAST LANSING: SUMMER CONCERT SERIES
When: 7 p.m. Fridays
Where: Ann Street Plaza (corner of Albert & M.A.C. Avenues), East Lansing
July 9 – Ryan Shadbolt & The Weathermen
July 16 – Jordan Hamilton
July 23 – Taylor Taylor
July 30 – Monte Pride
Aug. 13 – Matt Gabriel
Aug. 20 – Z Collective
Aug.27 – Cross Eyed Strangers
HOWARD CITY: MUSIC IN THE PARK
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: Ensley Park, Shaw Street at Sherman Street, Howard City
July 6 – Sea Cruisers
July 13 – Don Middlebrook and the Pearl Divers
July 20 – Mark Swanson Trio
July 27 – That Beatles Thing
Aug. 3 – Showdown & Natl. Night Out (6 p.m)
Aug. 10 – Free Flight
NEW BUFFALO: MUSIC IN THE PARK
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: New Buffalo Township Memorial Park, 17425 Red Arrow Hwy., New Buffalo
June 16 – Red Deluxe
June 23 – For Pete’s Sake
June 30 – Jackson Band
July 7 – Crawford’s Daughter
July 14 – Generation Gap
July 21 – Chicken and Dolphin
July 28 – Vintage Postcard
Aug. 4 – Andrew Fisher Quartet
Aug. 11 – Whateverly Brother
Sept. 8 – Open Mic Night
WYOMING: CONCERTS IN THE PARK
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays
Where: Lamar Park, 2561 Porter St Sw., Wyoming
July 13 – The Soul Syndicate
July 27 – Project 90
Aug. 3 – Mustard Band
More summer concert listings online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: James Reeser & The Backseat Drivers (Rogue River Blues Series)
Photos by Anna Sink
VIDEO: Rogue River Blues Series (6/15/21)
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC