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DJ Soul Sister: Soul Power’s founder storms a downtown dance floor

When the sun sets on Grand Rapids Saturday and the ArtPrize venues have closed for the night, it is time to think about where you are going to sweat away the last hours of the day dancing to the best groove the city has to offer.

For those looking to experience fine dance music curation, then Grand Rapids Soul Club (GRSC) has to be your go-to spot given their track record. Over the last year alone, they have welcomed some of the biggest names in the dance music industry of all things soul. 

Keeping that tradition of solid programming, GRSC welcomes DJ Soul Sister to The Pyramid Scheme. She is one of the longest-running live DJ artists (mixing and blending 100 percent vinyl) in her hometown of New Orleans. 

But on Saturday, she is ours for the night, delivering her signature live, improvisational, funk, and rare groove music sets for the Grand Rapids audience who venture downtown.

Soul Sister’s parties and live DJ sets are now regarded and respected alongside those of her jazz, blues, rock, R&B ,and funk musician colleagues, many of them fans.

When she is not playing, teaching, writing, or sharing the music she loves or has discovered from the bins she scours for hidden gems in vinyl, she is a devoted full-time administrator in higher education, and is a part-time graduate student working towards an M.A. in musicology.

To dive in deep before her appearance here, please visit her site

Purchase tickets in advance here to guarantee entry at what is certain to be a wildly popular destination this Saturday.

PBS' Rick Steves: He’s not a token player for cannabis legalization

When most folks hear the name Rick Steves, they often think of adventure. But I doubt most folks — before he began his multi-city tour this year — thought he’d be advocating for the legalization of cannabis. 

And yet, that is what he will be addressing here when Steves, the popular PBS travel writer and host of “Rick Steves’ Europe,” arrives in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Shocking to some is that the author has actually been a member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, since 2003.

Rick Steves at this public forum will lead a community discussion in Grand Rapids shining a light about the benefits of legalizing and regulating marijuana. And in the tradition of Steves’ career, he’ll be sharing stories from the road on this topic.  

With all the ballot measures before us this fall, this community gathering is just one way of many in our region for our citizens to become better educated on these matters before heading to the polls. 

For details on attending this one night only community event, please visit the organizer's Facebook event page

The WestSide StreetFair and ArtWalk: Debut of a new festival in a neighborhood setting

The Summer of 2018 might have come and gone, but it does not have to end. And with the latest run of unseasonably warm weather, we can continue to enjoy our city this fall. 

Entering the street festival circuit this September 22 is the Westside neighborhood’s fresh new WestSide StreetFair and ArtWalk.

Billed as two joined activities on Facebook, this new festival seeks to elevate the fun factor of this neighborhood while seeking to place a value on the diversity of their community.

To meet these goals, the entertainment for the day reflects that mission with acts like Lady Ace Boogie, Jesse Ray, Cønrad Shøck + the Nøise, The JetBeats, Gabriel Estrada III, Walt Gutowski & The Bridge Street Band, and others.

And after soaking up the sounds and suds, hit the expansive ArtWalk, which starts near Stockbridge and will feature 20 works of art exhibited throughout the Westside. (No worries if you cannot do both since the ArtWalk pieces are also tied to ArtPrize so you have a few weeks to view them.) 

Whether you like music, food, or art, there is some really great stuff happening at the debut of the WestSide StreetFair and ArtWalk. 

Love, Gilda: Three local chances to witness this comic genius on the big screen

Thurs., Sept. 20 (ArtPrize Hub), Sun., Sept. 30 (Celebration! - Woodland), and Mon., Oct. 1 (Knickerbocker - Holland)
Holland  
It is weird to live long enough to bury your heroes, and a hero to many comics who left us too early was the legendary Saturday Night Live original cast member Gilda Radner, who died from ovarian cancer in 1989.

For more than a decade, Gilda amused us with the sensitive and hilarious characters she created on the big and little screens from television to motion pictures. And lucky for us who fondly recall Gilda’s unique brand of humor, we will have three unique chances over the next two weeks to see her on the big screen again.

“Love, Gilda” has all that one would expect from a film about the comic, from clips from her performances to home movies, and even her time fighting cancer. But the real heart of this story is the inclusion of her actual voice from a series of recently discovered cassette tapes and a handwritten journal that modern comic stars like Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph read from within the film. And very quickly, it becomes clear that this picture is about a woman breaking out in a man’s world. 

You will have three opportunities to enjoy the new documentary “Love, Gilda” as it arrives locally, starting with a one-night-only (two screenings) Thursday, September 20 viewing at the ArtPrize Hub theatre as a part of their ArtPrize on the Screen series. (See the complete list here of all the films being screened this year including Joel Potrykus’ “Relaxer” with breakout actor Joshua Burge.)

And while the ArtPrize screenings are free, the other two showings of the documentary will be screened as fundraisers for Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids on Sunday, September 30 at Celebration! Cinema’s Woodland theatre and then on Monday, Oct. 1 at the Knickerbocker Theatre in Holland. Tickets for these screenings can be purchased here.   

Gilda Radner always made me laugh as a kid and I am lucky to have lived long enough to see her life re-introduced in such a moving and timely piece of cinema. If you want a good tear-jerker of a trailer to tease you to attend, then watch the “Love, Gilda” trailer here.

The Doors Opened: A tribute to one of the greatest bands of the classic rock era

Sometimes when listening to some of the latest acts, I find echoes of that distinct guitar sound that was a hallmark of the early days of rock music. These guitar-heavy sounds rooted in the raw energy of rock and roll from this era are popping back into vogue from solos to samples.

Locally, you will have a chance to experience a former rock and roll act of the late '60s/early '70s — The Doors — when tribute band The Doors Opened sets up on the Tip Top Stage in our city’s westside neighborhood. 

This tiny venue is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to experience such a tribute act, for it echoes what it must have been like to hear many of these classic tunes before they became hits for the arena stage shows the band would play at the end. (The Doors music would go on to become the first American band to accumulate eight consecutive gold and platinum LPs.) 

And while we cannot get the band back together, The Doors Opened is a great way to experience the joy of such an amazing rock and roll act from the classic era in a venue that really is fitting for such a tribute.

 

Hoptoberfest at HopCat Knapp's Corner: To Germany and back, one pour at a time

It would not be the fall season without an Octoberfest or two on your calendar, so why not plan on visiting the newest HopCat to open locally at the Knapp’s Corner location as they celebrate Hoptoberfest on Sunday?

For those who are up for this beer adventure, they will experience an array of special tap takeovers of carefully curated brews from the United States and Germany. 

At press time, HopCat Knapp’s Corner will be offering these special beers on tap:
  • HofBrauHaus {Munich, Germany} – Oktoberfestbier – 6.3% - Festbier
  • Cedar Springs Brewing Co. {Cedar Springs, MI} – Kusterer Salzburger Märzen – 6.7% - Märzen
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. {Chino, CA} – Oktoberfest – 6% - Märzen
  • Erdinger Weissbrau {Erding, Germany} - Oktoberfest – 5.7% - Hefeweizen
  • 12oz Bottle Spencer Brewery {Spencer, MA} Trappist Festive Lager – 7.5% - Trappist Märzen
In addition, this brand new and beautifully-styled restaurant will offer a limited amount of Oktoberfest steins, so arrive early if freebies are your bag. 

And no worries if your companion isn’t into German-style brews; HopCat’s Knapp’s Corner has 80 taps so there is certainly something for everyone’s taste. 

A Boy, A Girl, A Dream: And the West Michigan red carpet premiere!

Grand Rapids film history continues to evolve as folks begin to leverage their talents honed here as well as abroad to make an impact in the art of filmmaking.

Case in point is the West Michigan premiere on Thursday night of the Sundance 2018 competition breakout film, "A Boy, A Girl, A Dream,” which was executive produced by former Grand Rapidian Jash'd Belcher.

"A Boy, A Girl, A Dream” is the story of Cass (Omari Hardwick), a Los Angeles club promoter who meets a Midwestern woman named Frida (Meagan Good) in the City of Angels on the night of the 2016 presidential election. This film weaves a hopeful story about the power of our dreams and those around us who help us clear our vision. You can catch the trailer here.

On Thursday night, audiences will have a chance to see the film — which screened in competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival — at Celebration Cinema South (1506 Eastport Dr. SE). The film opens to general audiences on Friday, September 14. 

After Thursday night’s local premiere to benefit Zion’s Dream and a panel discussion, attendees will migrate to Downtown Grand Rapids where at 9:30 p.m., a community celebration of the film will commence and likely continue into the morning hours.

If you cannot attend the Thursday event but want to see the film with a local, excited audience, then consider the special Sunday, Sept. 16, 4 p.m. fundraiser screening. You will need to purchase tickets here in advance to attend the Sunday event.

For advance tickets for Thursday’s special screening, please visit Zion’s Dream website. 

From Mercury with Love: Ultimate Queen show arrives in Grand Rapids via Flint's planetarium

While the new Queen film “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t arrive in local theaters until November, fans of the music of this iconic British rock band are in luck as the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) welcomes a new production set to their music.

“The Queen Light Show: From Mercury with Love”, a rock and roll light show presented at the GRPM’s Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, will open on Saturday night and run through November 21.

Arriving in Grand Rapids by way of the Longway Planetarium of Flint, this projected production brings to life a visually rich experience via the music of Queen. 

Attendees will enjoy 10 of Queen’s greatest hits packaged in “The Queen Light Show: From Mercury with Love,” including favorites like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “You’re My Best Friend.”

The Queen show will only be playing at 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Planetarium tickets are $4 each with each purchased general admission to the Museum or $5 each for a planetarium-only ticket. And of course, it is free to GRPM members. To ensure your seat for what is certain to be a very popular show, please purchase tickets in advance by visiting this link

Bands at Blandford: Hollywood Makeout closes out this popular outdoor music series

On Friday, you have one last chance to catch the local-focused outdoor concert series, Bands at Blandford.

Held at the Blandford Nature Center’s farm, this annual outdoor music series has featured numerous local music acts. But the 2018 series ends on September 14, so your time to experience live music in such a unique setting is coming to a close this weekend. 

For the last concert of the series, Bands at Blandford welcomes the WYCE 88.1 FM Jammie Awards XIX Special Jury Prize winners, Hollywood Makeout. 

The band formed in 2012 with Tim Broderick (drums), Cedric Canero (guitar), Tim Warren (guitar), and Erin Lenau (guitar and vocals). They present a sound fully embracing the power of energetic guitars and banging drums, ushering in an instrumental sound and strong vocals that contour up reflections of surf music with a twist of ‘80s LA New Wave vocals. 

Make a night of the occasion by packing a picnic dinner, a blanket, and (of course) your friends. The Center will be selling beer and pop on site, too.

Those worried that this may sell out should order their tickets in advance here or by purchasing tickets at the start of the event.

To hear the music of Hollywood Makeout, visit their Bandcamp site.

ArtPrize 10: A decade of creating community conversations around art

Rolling back into town for the tenth year is the wildly popular Grand Rapids event: ArtPrize.

What started off in many ways as the anti-art festival has developed into a full-blown urban arts event that spans not just the annual public- and curator-driven voting process; it also provides space for pop-up events that in the past have included music, special movies, and even a bevy of private parties all honoring the party atmosphere that downtown becomes for 19 days each year.

And 2018 appears to be just as expansive as in the past with many venues kicking off a full week in advance with preview parties and artist receptions. 

And while Rapid Growth does not cover the artists who are entering the event to ensure that an even playing field is produced for the many who journey to take their shot at the big prize money, the best part of ArtPrize is truly the experience of it all.

And then after year 10 comes to an end on October 7, ArtPrize will return as a biennial event starting in 2020 with the off years being devoted to a new platform called Project X.  Project 1 will launch in Fall 2019.

Free Pinball Night: Stuck in town this weekend? Get your balls rolling at The Scheme.

Just because you might be low on funds this last holiday weekend of summer, does not mean you have to stay home.

In fact, with the college semester in full swing already (signaling to many that summer of 2018 is truly over) you might discover that downtown this year might be a little busier than it has been the last few weeks as folks have tried to squeeze one or two more adventures out of this warm season.

One such draw downtown this Sunday is the monthly event “Free Pinball Night” at the Pyramid Scheme.

This downtown bar with an indie concert venue out back is not just home to one of the baddest juke boxes and a mouthwatering selection of Short’s Brewing Company’s best beers, it also houses some of the world’s greatest pinball machines. 

And on Sunday, Sept. 2 from 4 p.m. until 2 a.m., these pinball machines of distinction are entirely free to play all night long. 

So don’t stay home this weekend, hit the Scheme for some serious ball action at one of the coolest bars in the city. 

GR Swing Dance: Only a few more chances left to dance under the open sky

If you have not attended one of the many GR Swing Dance events that have been popping up at downtown Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle since May 1 of this year, then you have missed one of the cultural gems of our entire city.

More than once, I have been entertaining folks downtown, only to turn a corner on a Tuesday and discover it was GR Swing Dance night as hundreds upon hundreds pack the entire circle, all dancing to the music coming from the stage. It is truly an amazing scene to witness — so many diverse ages and people having so much dancing fun under the open sky!

Tuesday, September 4 is just one of five dance events left this year taking place at Rosa Parks Circle, and with the threat of weather patterns shifting with each passing week this fall, why wait to experience this much fun in the city?

Get out and down at Rosa Parks Circle for GR Swing Dance while the summer warmth is still with us. 

Night Sky Trivia: Lighting of the night ... and your intellect

One of the perks of being at the late stage of summer is that sunset appears earlier with each passing day, making for earlier stargazing activities.

And on Thursday, Sept. 6, the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPL), along with the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association, invites the public come out for a special education-focussed evening that promises to light up the imagination and intellect as they ask we turn our focus to their Night Sky Trivia event.

This one night only event starts in the GRPL’s Chaffee Planetarium, which seeks to showcase how to identify the summer constellations, and will also offer an extended version of the Under Scorching Skies live show.

Immediately after the planetarium show, attendees will venture outside for a hands-on telescopic observation event with the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association (GRAAA). 

This group will showcase what is viewable from the city under the summer night's sky. You will learn how to work with a star chart and meet astronomy experts who will help answer any questions and also guide the experience. 

GRAAA projects that with clear conditions, guests will be able to see Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, as well as some of the very brightest stars such as those that make up the Summer Triangle.

The outdoor observation portion is weather-dependent and so should it rain, plan on participating in the alternate indoor activities, which include a trivia tournament in the museum’s newly renovated Meijer Theater.

Tickets are $8 for Museum members, and $12 for non-members. GRPM doors open at 7 p.m., with the planetarium show beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Ralston & Friends: Meijer Gardens summer season winds down with locals center stage

If you live long enough, you find tiny traditions that fill your life with excitement but also some sense of meaning …. and often art has a hand in these moments.

One such moment in our city is the annual music series, Ralston & Friends, held each summer at the world class Frederik Meijer Gardens and hosted by local music legend Ralston Bowles.

Each summer, Bowles welcomes to the outdoor, open air stage special musical guests who are never revealed until they walk out on the stage. And over the years he has had a series of musicians join him that, should one take the time to dig into these musicians resumes, will be quite impressed with the talent that graces this summer series.

But all things must come to an end so after a summer of local shows organized under the “Tuesday Evening Music Club” Ralston & Friends is the last one the 2018 season.  

In the past they have welcomed guest artists like Larry McCray and Thornetta Davis, as well as The Accidentals and Marshall Crenshaw. So you can see the level of talent Bowles is able to bring with him to this festive, local musician-focused event.

Bowles promises a few really great artists surprises and will debut a few new songs as well at this final “Tuesday Evening Music Club” series. 

These special Tuesday night concerts are free for members and are included with each paid admission to Meijer Gardens for the general public. Guests may bring picnic food during the shows or enjoy the Taste of the Gardens Café and amphitheater concessions. Chairs of all heights are welcomed at this particular event.

Pink Sky: Dawn of the new via album release concert

This week’s issue of G-Sync Event is focused on the joys of our local music scene. And what is more exciting than the chance to see a band debut a new album of brand new material on a local stage that is also known for hosting some of the best indie acts this world has ever produced?

On Saturday night, Grand Rapidians will have a chance to catch live the new electronic band, Pink Sky, who only started about a year ago. The band will hit the Pyramid Scheme stage on the occasion of their double LP being released on this same evening. 

With so many musical styles happening here from rock to hip hop, one area that is often overlooked by some is the richly layered sounds of our electronic music scene.

Pink Sky’s new album, created by husband and wife duo of Ryan and Angelica Hay, arrives much the same way as other artists who have gone through some experience and then used art as a vehicle to process it.

Except in this case, Ryan Hay, who was nearly killed in a car accident, found that through art the husband and wife were able to make sense of this harrowing experience.

And while the story of the band has been captured in depth via Revue’s “Synthesizers & Silver Linings” by Eric Mitts, music this layered and personal is always best experienced live.  

Opening for Pink Sky are acts Wing Vilma, Bronze Wolf, and Darkly. This is a solid ticket so if you are looking to guarantee a spot at this electronic powerhouse of a lineup, be sure to get your tickets in advance here
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