With 60+ venues hosting live music in the Lansing Area, and 30+ on a given Friday or Saturday, and given my preference for conversation, smiling faces, beer and chicken wings, in no particular order, I don't get to concerts as often as I would like. Usually the festivals. But every now and then, and I am prescribing this for everyone, you (that means YOU) should attend a concert at one of the several small concert venues in town. There are two with steady shows 3 to 5 nights every single week - The Loft and Mac's Bar, where you only have to give up the chicken wings (bar only) and probably the conversation (loud only). Usually about $10 admission, sometimes a little more, sometimes less.
To this short list must be added The Avenue Cafe, because like The Loft and Mac's Bar, multiple nights per week they host a multi-act lineup of original local and touring bands. Their twist combines the live concert with a full blown pub-eatery format (chicken wings), complete with game room and pool tables (conversation). Colleen and Cattie are geniuses in my book for pulling off this unique format so successfully. And would you believe they host 3 branded eateries in their kitchen for serving the patrons? The Avenue Cafe is a Lansing original. The Loft and Mac's Bar formats are definitely the norm for small concert venues around the country, Think "The Basement" in Nashville behind Grimey's.
Let me tell you about my night at The Loft on Friday, February 24th. Band manager Evan Marks, a fine dude who I have met only over emails and FB, saw my blog and asked if I would mind covering his client, Cycles, from Colorado, who played there that night. So I went, and based on what I saw and heard with these guys, rock and roll not only isn't dead, it's plantin' crops and makin' babies. You can watch their entire performance on their FB page here. I'll call your attention to the 33:00 and 1:09:00 marks if you don't want to watch it all. The recording doesn't do justice to some of the funkiest bass lines I have heard in a while. This was my fourth time at the Loft, but my first that was more than a stop in, and it was jam-packed the other times. This visit, attendance was light, which you'll see if you watch the video, owing I suppose to the bands not yet having followings in Lansing.
Evan, God love him, made sure I had "green room" access. Clearly, he's never been to The Loft. Everyone be nice and invite him, maybe he'll come with Cycles next time they are here. I took advantage of the spirit of the gesture and got some nice pictures with the band. 20 years from now when they are rich rock stars, maybe they'll come see me in the assisted living home. Or maybe I'll still be kicking around, and flash this pic to get green room access at their sold out show in Wimbley Stadium.
In addition to the luxurious green room access (wouldn't ya know it, no M&Ms), I had the coveted guest pass, which, owing to the front door to The Loft being locked at 7:30, I felt comfortable walking around back to the load-in. There I met local opener Turn Up The Bricks, preparing herbally for their set. It took them a song or two to relax (or clear the fog, you decide), after which they played very tight and kicked ass. I was proud of the locals. I unfortunately missed the second local act, Dead Hit, as I left to find some chicken wings. I struck out and went for two $1.00 grilled cheeses at Taps25.
I got back in time to see Cycles beginning to end, and it was so worth 90 minutes of my life! Very mesmerizing, interesting, energizing music, performed with style and warmth, and just enough edge to tease for more. I'd definitely attend again. The crowd, small and mighty, was into it. The headliner - a foursome of cool Berkeley grads called The Jauntee - came on next at 12:15. They are touring with Cycles and gave a great set, even more sophisticated than Cycles. Some Picasso to Cycles' Dali. See them both in Colorado this week.
I had a GREAT time and the music was amazing. The bands played like it was a sold out football stadium, as true professionals always do. Plus, there's a kind of intimacy you get with a smaller crowd in a smaller venue that's kinda neat. My favorite concert ever was a 100 or so people gathered around a small stage watching the Goo Goo Dolls. Sweat droplets hit my face every time Rzeznik flipped his hair back. I want the touring bands to know their performances were immensely enjoyed and appreciated. Thanks for stopping in, come back soon. And I'm really glad you didn't suck because then I'd have to fill this article with comments about beer and women, Which I know even less about than music.