A great final ‘adventure’: The Spring Lake listening room hosted its last concert on Saturday, an emotional, sold-out affair staged now that the building has been sold. The recap and photos at Local Spins.
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During an October show at Spring Lake’s Seven Steps Up, venue co-owner Gary Hanks admitted to me that watching the venue wind down its final concerts after an 11-year run was “bittersweet.”
Saturday night’s closing, era-ending musical soiree at the listening room starring East Coast singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg underscored that sentiment in more ways than one.
Not only did it stand as a touching, memorial tribute to Hanks — who passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after our chat — but the sold-out concert represented everything that Seven Steps Up strived to attain since opening in 2011: delivering an acoustically pleasing, listening-room-style performance by a seasoned singer-songwriter for an attentive audience.
It also proved to be an emotional sendoff for Michelle Hanks, who is relocating to Seattle.
“I was doing OK earlier today,” she said just prior to the show, before choking up and making sure she had a box of tissues nearby.
Handing off her usual band introductions for Seven Steps Up’s final shows, Hanks thanked the audience in a prepared statement read to the audience as the concert began: “It’s been an honor and a privilege to bring music to this old building for 11 years.”
The capacity crowd stood in unison and gave Hanks a long and rousing standing ovation before Kellogg took the stage to unfurl his own tribute to Seven Steps Up.
“What a night. What an honor to be invited to be able to do this tonight,” he said.
“We are celebrating a great adventure. This is the last night of Seven Steps Up and we are celebrating the adventure of this venue, the adventure of Gary’s life and Michelle’s continuing adventure. … This is special and I don’t take this lightly.”
AN ENGAGING PERFORMANCE AND A TRIBUTE TO A TRAILBLAZING VENUE
What followed was an entertaining evening delivered by a performer engaging both in words and melody — cleverly eliciting life’s truisms — with an impressive stage presence and amusing audience banter.
Kellogg performed classics from his extensive catalog such as “Thanksgiving” and “Satisfied Man,” as well as songs from a new album, “Keep It Up, Kid,” released earlier this month, including the title track and the poignant, “It Goes Fast.”
But clearly, this night really was all about commemorating a unique venue in a singular location hailed as a trailblazing concert destination, that is, before financial shortfalls from a Grand Haven concert series, along with a traumatic pandemic, forced the Hanks to sell the Seven Steps Up building. The future use of the building by the new owner remains undisclosed.
Even Kellogg’s handmade signs on stage — “Life, Love, Family, Legacy” — seemed to serve as a nod to the Hanks.
Kellogg’s appearance followed Friday’s jam-packed, sold-out concert by fan favorite Michael Pearsall of Washington D.C.’s Honor By August, a frequent performer at Seven Steps Up who had asked to be part of the final weekend of shows. He was joined on Friday by Evan Field.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” Third Coast Recording Co. co-owner Bill Chrysler, a longtime associate and friend of the Hanks, said of Friday’s show.
Saturday’s concert proved to be much of the same, with long lines, lots of hugs and many a tearful adieu to Hanks and one of West Michigan’s beloved musical wayposts.
The handprinted words at the bottom of Seven Steps Up’s “countdown” board of final concerts put it simply: “Goodbye, farewell and amen.”
Read more about Seven Steps Up and view more photos here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Stephen Kellogg at Seven Steps Up: The Final Show
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek