Spring Lake listening room’s first ‘Standing Room Only’ show revs up crowd with fiery bluegrass while The Pyramid Scheme hosts JOE’s CD-release party to draw attention to the DAAC. (Photos, review)
By Bleu VanDyke
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Clapping, stomping and hollering.
This was not your typical concert at Seven Steps Up.
Known primarily as a listening room for nearly four years, Seven Steps Up crossed into uncharted territory on Saturday night when owners Gary and Michelle Hanks staged their first “SRO (Standing Room Only)” show at the Spring Lake
And with Traverse City bluegrass phenoms Billy Strings & Don Julin in the house – with Fauxgrass and Dobro-meister Mark Lavengood opening the show – they pulled it off with aplomb.
The show was sold out weeks in advance, and the room was absolutely buzzing with excitement. Normally, the venue’s “Pin Drop Concerts” are seated events in which guests listen quietly to the evening’s mostly acoustic performers, saving their applause until the conclusion of each song. Seating for Pin Drop Concerts is limited to about 120 people.
For an SRO event, however, an additional 40 or so people are allowed in the room and silence during songs is definitely not part of the package.
While there were some initial issues with feedback, things got dialed in about halfway through Fauxgrass’ set and the rest of the night ran much more smoothly. The crowd seemed to have no problem with sound issues, regardless.
Fauxgrass’ set featured some Springsteen (on bluegrass crack) covers (“I’m on Fire” and “Hungry Heart”), in addition to the band’s tight originals. And when Mark Lavengood played, he displayed those trademark facial expressions: mouth agape, leg kicking. Truly fun to watch.
The evening’s energy really ramped up as Billy Strings & Don Julin took the stage, having added the equally talented upright bassist Kevin Gills to the fold. These guys are well-known for their virtuosity on their respective instruments, and they did not disappoint.
In fact, had the show NOT been a standing-room-only event, it surely would have rapidly evolved into one. Simply put, when this group tears it up, it’s nearly impossible not to clap, stomp and move to the beat, not to mention sparking regular mid-song hollerin’ out after especially sweet picking.
Billy Strings, aka William Apostol, wrapped up the evening with an audience sing-along of “You Are My Sunshine,” followed by a rapid medley of tunes – from his own to Cream and Deep Purple. Without a doubt, the debut of Seven Steps Up’s SRO was a tremendous success.
And according to Michelle Hanks, it may only get better, as the venue plans to install a new sound system designed for this type of concert and possibly add some heavy draperies as well. The next SRO show: EDM’s SoundIsRed on Jan. 31. Details and tickets online at pindropconcerts.com.
— Bleu Van Dyke is a Grand Haven music producer, sound engineer, bassist for Room Full of Elephants, former trombonist for Mustard Plug and producer of the weekly Walk the Beat radio show on 103.5 WAWL.
BRING BACK THE DAAC SUCCESS COULD SPARK MORE BENEFITS
By John Sinkevics
Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Joe Rodriguez could hardly imagine a more perfect evening: An enthused crowd celebrating release of his band JOE’s debut CD — along with sets by Brother Adams, Dead Eye Zack and Emma Loo & Sam — and supporting a worthy cause: raising money to help the Division Avenue Arts Collective find a new home.
Saturday night’s Bring Back the DAAC benefit drew more than 270 people, creating “a great night” for the local artistic community, Rodriguez said.
“(It) showed the DAAC has many people that care about it,” he said. “I was blown away from the performances. Every band gave it their all. Each set was full of energy and emotion. The bands fed off the crowd.”
Better yet, the event raised more than $2,000 for the DAAC, which was forced from its longtime S. Division Avenue home by its landlord in 2013.
“It blows my mind that we were able to hit a number like that,” he said. “I’m so grateful for everyone that helped the bands, the artists, the performers, the whole staff of The Pyramid Scheme.”
Of course, it was also a “special night personally” for Rodriguez as he showcased songs from JOE’s self-titled debut “for so many people I love.”
And expect him to organize more benefits for the DAAC in the future. “I wanna raise the bar and top the great night we accomplished,” he said. “My end goal is to have the DAAC back and I’m not gonna stop fighting for that to happen.”
Read more about Rodriguez in this Local Spins feature story.
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC