Eastown hosts Lamplight Music Festival for second year

file photo
file photo

Live music, friends and food, all inside the homes of Eastown. This is the premise of the Lamplight Music Festival.

The Lamplight Music Festival is three days of house shows, food and workshops in Eastown on the weekend of Nov. 1. This year marks the festival’s second year of existence. John Hanson, an Eastown resident, is one of the founders and organizers of the festival.

The festival was founded as a continuation of what already happens in Eastown, Hanson said. He said his experience as a musician and his exposure to different types of shows influenced why he chose to help found the festival.

“I value house shows the most because there is a genuine quality that is worth more than money,” Hanson said, “There is a genuine connection between artists and the audience.”

A house show is a performance by a band inside a person’s house. The show is either held in the front room or basement, depending on how the house is set up.

Justin Majetich, a recently graduated Calvin student and a house show host and performer at this year’s festival, shared Hanson’s sentiments about house shows.

“House venues, which are so evocative of the localized Eastown culture, blur the lines between a hangout and a festival, very homey,” Majetich said.

This year the organizers asked five residents to open up their homes to the festival. The five houses were given names for the festival. The houses were called the Bird House, Hen House (both located on Benjamin Street), Neighborhood House, Waffle House and House of Pancake (these three houses were located on Sigsbee Street). The houses’ residents had to do some preparation work for the festival.

Hosting a house show for the festival is not a hard task, Majetich said. The only requirements are to clean up the house a little bit and open the doors, Majetich said, and the organizers did the rest of the work.

On Saturday, all the afternoon and early evening shows were held in the Bird House and the Neighborhood House, which are front room venues. All the late evening shows were held in either the Waffle House or the House of Pancake, which are basement venues.

Eric Domke, a festival attendee, enjoyed the informal environment of the festival.

“It’s a different way to experience music,” Domke said, “It allows you to talk to people, audience and performers more comfortably.”

Mandolin Orange, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, performed at the Bird House before an audience of more than 20 people who crammed into the space. The band performed acoustically.

Andrew Marlin, one of the two members of Mandolin Orange, said he enjoys these types of venues.

“We’ve done house shows before,” said Marlin. “It is cool that people here are interested in different styles of music and that people are willing to listen.”

The festival showcases many different styles of music, including Spanish rock, folk, folk rock, rap, free-style poetry, dark rock and many other styles. Showcasing the different styles of music is part of the goals of the organizers, Hanson said. He also mentioned the festival was organized by a small group of people.

“As simple as it is, myself and few other people carry the showcase,” Hanson said, “and if we aren’t excited then we don’t expect other people to be excited.”

The festival cost $15 for a one-day pass and $35 for a weekend pass. None of the money returns to the organizers, Hanson said. All the money goes to the bands, food, people who provide services, and for materials, like the website, he said.

Hanson said he doesn’t believe the festival could happen without the Eastown community.

“It couldn’t happen without this great community, the people, the artists, the food culture and walkability of Eastown,” Hanson said, “It couldn’t be possible without DITGR [Do It Together Grand Rapids], a new embodiment carrying the torch of the house show scene in the city.”

Hanson said he believes anyone can change their community.

“I would like to tell people to do the same thing,” Hanson said. “Make stuff, make it up, make this place what you want it to be.”

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