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G-sync: Tune Up, Drop In to Lamp Light

Lamp Light returns with an impressive roster of artists and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen is all aflutter over this je ne sais quoi of the soul. Bienvenue à la deuxième partie du Grand Rapidians!
People, whether they can articulate it or not, crave authenticity. How we satisfy this yearning is as diverse as we are as a people of our planet. But I know this desire is primal, evident …and wonderful when it occurs. It is the spark of the planet, that je ne sais quoi of the soul.
For the musician this roots-associated desire for authentic connection is not often achieved on the elevated stage with its megawatt, white spotlight. It is commonly found in the home – a place, no matter how you define it, where inspiration often lives.
As Lamp Light returns to Grand Rapids this weekend, a flock of musicians, artisans, fans and homeowners will migrate through a neighborhood known for its musical history in our city. We'll all have a chance to enjoy a series of extraordinary concerts from emerging and established acts in the most tiny, intimate of spaces to host musicians – the living room house party.
Time was, when you heard the word “house party” it was often connected to an invitation to “stop by” with an equal amount of possibilities.
For some, the term "house party" triggers memories of being asked to  “bring your checkbook” when a host had a lot of Tupperware, Avon or Amway to move. For others, as Wikipedia reports about times way before paper money, "house party" meant a genteel gathering at an estate that could last anywhere from several days to many weeks. (In light of this definition, I am glad the Tupperware party is just one evening.)
But the modern house party trend, where people gather and listen to live music performed in the intimate setting of a home, is really based on a long tradition of music that not only reaches centuries back in recorded history but is possibly as old as the cave paintings. (If only their recordings had survived!)
Grand Rapids has had many house parties over the decades and I'm happy to report that the modern musical trend is only increasing more and more, as invites stack up (albeit now mostly digitally) in my inbox. 
Finding the local house party known as Lamp Light, which is celebrating its second year this Friday - Sunday, Nov. 1 – 3, will be a bit easier  -- and the entry fee is truly remarkably low.
In this new version of the popular event, which began in 2012, the organizers have enacted some exciting and festive designs. They've created a fun way to identify the various venues with great names that evoke the whimsical charm of homes like The Bird House, The Hen House, House of Pancakes, Wafflehouse, and The Neighborhood House.
In addition to the two tasty brunch-style days of programming during the three-day festival, there will be plenty of workshops focused on the do it yourself/together (DIY/DIT) angle; a new late-night/midnight chilled-out set including the addition of a few electronic acts; and the debut of a brand new Grand Rapids act, Backyard Songbook, made up of a few of Grand Rapids' familiar faces on the music scene.
The three-day event will also host Division Ave. business Have Company’s Marlee Grace, who will be hosting a mobile pop-up shop in the form of a trailer parked on site for the weekend, with plenty of festival merchandise and other artisanal creations that represent the diversity of talent in our region.
The organizers -- John Hanson, Dan Climie, Zachary Tomaszewski, and Kevin Fein -- and volunteers have also been very adept at learning how to organize around the positive as they have met with homeowners in the neighborhood, passed out free passes to neighbors, and even installed an impressive set of standards that evoke their passion for community-building around a music event. This level of preproduction of a very unique festival is a model for others to consider.
But the very best aspect of Lamp Light is truly the awe-inspiring level of thoughtful curation that goes into creating the balanced line-up of 35 musical artists invited to perform this year.
“We [had] a very deliberate [plan] right from the start that we wanted a festival that focused on our local musicians but also brings in acts from around our state and our region,” says Climie of the acts that hail from as far away as Oklahoma, Philadelphia and North Carolina. “Right from the start we offered up to our acts that, while we do not have a lot of money, if an act would come, we would not only pay their travel expenses to get here but we would feed them as well. We later would share the proceeds with our acts. This is a model we hope to continue this year, adding more money to an acts' pockets.”
This formula works beautifully, according to the organizers, who evoke this communal welcome mat as an effective tool in winning over people on the outside in regards to what is happening here within our community’s music scene. It is a true showcase of the small players doing big things for a city always looking to define itself with everything from bigness to billboards. Sometimes small acts like this do much more.
As an added benefit many of the acts have either rarely played here, or, as in the case of Ghost Heart, they will be playing their entire new release (not yet released elsewhere) in its entirety with an expanded band for Lamp Light. Other acts to consider catching include Gifts of Creation, recently profiled on NPR, and the latest release from Breathe Owl Breathe.
“When we began talks about what Lamp Light 2013 would look like, we knew we had to look at flow of the day,” says Hanson. “We wanted the afternoons to be family friendly, from our music programming to the workshops spread throughout the various homes, but we also wanted a festival that offered diverse programming at night, from rock to hip-hop to our new electronic acts and a mellow set at the end of each night.”
The house party is a great way to expose locals to outside musicians. As a part of this exchange the artists not only get paid through the admission fees, which are at an unbelievably low price of $35 for a weekend pass or $15 a day, but the audience gets an opportunity to partake in an experience that is truly unlike any concert. It is a true roots experience for everyone.
“The music business has changed for artists and Lamp Life offers a great way for bands to connect with or expand their audience,” says Climie, who just ended his tenure producing Grand Rapids Brewing Company’s Sunday night unplugged concert series with a jaw-dropping finale act performance from the Kent County String Band’s powerful and extended set. At each house, band members will be offering their merchandise.
If this group is successful (and early indicators suggest they will be) then we can expect not only bigger things in 2014 but also an expansion of Lamp Light to other cities that have already been inquiring: Lamp Light Philly? Cleveland? Brooklyn? 
It is not that far off from what could happen as this group proves yet again that in our region we can provide not just fertile ground for the young entrepreneurial mind to enact exciting new ventures, but can on rare occasions create a program so beautifully devoted to authenticity that it connects us to each other via art and our community to the world.
It’s time to turn on to Lamp Light.
The Future Needs All of Us.
Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

This week’s events kick off with an action packed Friday night full of choices, just choose one of these four G-Sync Events: Let’s Do This!
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