One of the busiest music weeks of summer 2021 brought big crowds to venues across West Michigan, including the second day of revelry at Belknap Park and Shagbark Farm. The photos & videos at Local Spins.
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Nonpoint lead singer Elias Soriano implored an already-fired-up throng during Saturday’s Upheaval Festival to take it to the next level on a warm and glorious afternoon.
“Can we go harder, Grand Rapids?” he shouted.
They could, and they did, with several thousand animated metal fans flooding Belknap Park — an even bigger crowd than Friday’s opening festival salvo — exhibiting fist-pumping love for ground-quaking artists ranging from Michigan favorite Heartsick to genre icon Rob Zombie, who closed it all out in late evening.
By the time Christian metal veteran outfit Skillet fired up its set in late afternoon, the stage was set for a night of serious musical mayhem.
Skillet rallied the crowd: As lead singer John Cooper jumped, the crowd followed without hesitation. Much of that energy came from Cooper’s repetitive relief that the chaos of the pandemic was coming to a close, which the audience echoed through chanting choruses and a sea of hard rock horns.
“Everybody here has something that you are sick of,” Cooper said, surrounded by a cheering crowd on three sides. “In 2021, I have a lot of things I am sick of. That’s OK, because we’re going to have a party here tonight at Upheaval.”
On the other end of the spectrum was Staind, a Massachusetts alt-metal band that opted for a tamer performance, but one that wrapped around the audience and lingered throughout the festival grounds. Not only did lead singer Aaron Lewis absolutely belt song after song, but fans also sang along to tracks such as “It’s Been Awhile” with momentous participation.
Meanwhile, atop Belknap Hill, performers on the smaller Lookout Stage unleashed main-stage energy and crowd-involving camaraderie.
Led by effusive lead singer Alfonso Civile, Lansing’s Heartsick delivered all-out, audience-engaging, full-bore wizardry, with Civile holding fans’ hands, crowd-surfing, persuading devotees to jump in unison and even exhorting them to run in circles around the soundboard at one point during the fiery set.
Following L.A. Gothic metal outfit Stitched Up Heart’s set on the same stage, Texas grunge/metal’s Blacktop Mojo regaled a hefty crowd, with bassist Matt Curtis fiendishly romping around the stage, flickering his tongue and whipping hair at fans whose rocking heads shook the guard rails.
While Blacktop Mojo brought the festival to a boiling point, it was Rob Zombie who rightfully blew the lid off.
Between an assortment of ghoulish costume changes, dancing statues or Zombie’s seemingly endless collection of satanic microphone stands, the group commanded the scene with a sinister charm. Even the mere mention of Grand Rapids during guitar solos was enough to draw an eruption of applause.
Above all else, Zombie was an indisputable showman, evoking cheers from the crowd as he poked fun at pot and waltzed between risers as he sang. Everything Zombie and his band threw at the audience, they bit — whether it be John 5’s shredding on glowing guitars or Piggy D. mounting speakers with crucifix or Frankenstein-shaped basses.
Zombie’s domination of the thrust, the eerie setting on the stage and the seemingly bottomless admiration from the crowd left Belknap Park with a sinister, smoky sound that settled the inaugural festival in a perfectly cumulative way.
View a Local Spins recap and highlights from Day 1 here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Upheaval Festival (Day 2)
Photos by Anthony Norkus
RAILROAD EARTH, STEPPIN’ IN IT UP ANTE FOR GREENSKY BLUEGRASS
Just like Grand Rapids’ Upheaval Festival, crowds for the second day of Greensky Bluegrass’ three-evening run at Shagbark Farm near Caledonia grew impressively, with the nationally renowned Railroad Earth opening what turned out to be a very long, very charming evening of music and jamming.
That evening not only included a guest appearance by California folk singer Willy Tea Taylor (who’s recently relocated to Michigan) but a post-midnight jam session by Greensky Bluegrass on a cozy stage not far from the event’s campground.
“I drove all the way from Colorado just to work here,” said Jonathan Bleer, a former West Michigan native now living in Boulder who normally works as event staff for Shagbark Farm’s Cowpie Music Festival (which was canceled for 2021). “I come every year.”
Railroad Earth dazzled Bleer and the crowd of several thousand with seamless transitions from song to song, and the audience was primed by 8:40 p.m. when Greensky Bluegrass finally took the stage to uproarious cheers.
Launching into upbeat, plucky songs as the sun disappeared and fans grooved to the upbeat music, Greensky Bluegrass quickly acknowledged their openers and guests, Railroad Earth.
“Railroad Earth — such a pleasure to see them and hear them. Known them for a long time,” said Dobroist Anders Beck, who gave special thanks to violinist Tim Carbone, who worked on producing two albums for the progressive bluegrass stars.
Then, as the audience erupted in applause, Carbone came out on stage to join Greensky for a song he had produced, aptly titled “Hoxeyville.” (The Greensky Bluegrass shows at Shagbark are a Hoxeyville Presents affair).
He wasn’t the only guest star for the evening, with Taylor and Railroad Earth mandolinist John Skehan also joining in the fun — fun which continued deep into the early morning hours with that campground-area jam session. (View video from that post-midnight performance below.)
On Sunday, the three-day celebration at Shagbark Farm wrapped up with longtime Michigan favorite Steppin’ In It getting the party started before Greensky’s final set of the weekend. Photo galleries from Day 2 and Day 3 below.
View a Local Spins recap and highlights from Day 1 here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Willy Tea Taylor (Day 2)
Photos by Anna Sink
PHOTO GALLERY: Steppin’ In It, Greensky Bluegrass (Day 3)