The concerts leading up to another steamy weekend were hot in many ways, from Chrissie Hynde and crew at 20 Monroe Live to the opening night of the Kalamazoo Blues Fest to Tunde Olaniran revving up the dance party at GRAM on the Green.
THE PRETENDERS AT 20 MONROE LIVE (WEDNESDAY)
With a relatively recent studio recording and an engaging live set, Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders continue to rock venues and impress audiences, though the 66-year-old Hynde and crew are also VERY strict about cellphone use and photos — chastising and scolding fans at 20 Monroe Live about snapping shots for most of their show Wednesday night in Grand Rapids. Luckily, approved Local Spins photographer Anthony Norkus has that all covered for you. Check out the images here.
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PHOTO GALLERY: The Pretenders, The Rails at 20 Monroe Live
Photos by Anthony Norkus
KALAMAZOO BLUES FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT IN KALAMAZOO (THURSDAY)
“The blues is a feeling,” proclaimed a T-shirt displayed by one of the half-dozen artisans set up on the opening night of Kalamazoo’s 25th annual Blues Festival. That feeling reverberated throughout Arcadia Creek Festival Place on Thursday, from the stage and on into the crowd. And after the festival abandoned the downtown venue to head indoors to Wings Stadium a year ago, fans appeared more than happy for its return outdoors.
“I was disappointed when they moved it indoors, that’s not a festival,” remarked Dennis Mulka, a former blues drummer who has been in attendance at a dozen or so Kalamazoo Blues Fests over the past 15 years. “Like every other festival they have in Kalamazoo, it belongs here.”
A few hundred people trickled into the venue in time to see a pair of Kalamazoo bands, Big Trouble and Blue Veins, kick things off before Thursday’s marquee acts Corey Dennison and Ghost Town Blues Band took to the stage. Chicago’s Dennison showed off some serious chops, some soulful vocals and a bit of a showmanship as he hopped off the stage and ripped through a few solos from just on the other side of the rail, interacting with the crowd with his guitar, voice and some enthusiastic banter.
Not to be outdone by way of showmanship, Memphis’ GTBB followed suit with a New Orleans-styled entrance, as their horn section and drummers marched through the crowd and onto the stage while striking up a funky version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The fast-rising blues act’s improvisational set was highlighted by newer originals, “Shine” and “I Get High” as well as an electrifying 20-plus-minute spin on the Allman Brothers’ classic “Whipping’ Post.”
Organizers are expecting much larger audiences tonight and tomorrow, and walk-up tickets ($15 for Friday and $20 for Saturday) remain for both days. Read all about Friday and Saturday’s artists in the Local Spins preview of this year’s festival, with a full schedule. – Ryan Boldrey
PHOTO GALLERY: Kalamazoo Blues Festival Opening Night
Photos by Derek Ketchum