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City Lights Music Festival aims to entertain with light, sound show

Neighborhood

City Lights Music Festival

When: Friday, July 19 - Saturday, July 20

Where: Calder Plaza, 300 Ottawa Avenue NW

Tickets: General Admission $30-35; VIP $45-65

Buy tickets online or purchase two-day passes in-person at Peppino's Downtown Sports Lounge, Montes, Purple East and GR Smoke Depot.

For artist, vendor or schedule information visit City Lights' website or Facebook page.

THE FEED

The City Lights Music Festival will incorporate lights, music and art in a two-day event in the heart of Downtown Grand Rapids on July 19 and 20.

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What began as a one-day show with local artists has now evolved into the City Lights Music Festival, a two-day event featuring local, national and international artists. The electronic dance music (EDM) festival will be held at Calder Plaza on July 19 and 20. 

“We’re trying to really bring electronic music to Grand Rapids without charging the high prices that other festivals are to give people an alternative to that. So we’re trying to get that niche and bring it to more people, especially the city of Grand Rapids,” says Tim Sinen, Public Relations Director. “Everybody we talk to is just blown away by it and we’re hoping to exceed those expectations."

City Lights will feature 37 acts, including local artists such as Port Huron native DJ Illee and Grand Rapids native SuperDre, as well as international artists such as Dinka. Three stages will be set up, including a Deep Below stage that will be placed under Calder Plaza. The festival will be Lee "DJ Illee" Hoffman's first time performing in Grand Rapids.

"Michigan, I wouldn't look at as a place to hold a festival like that. But I think Grand Rapids is the perfect city for it because of the different kind of people you have there," says Hoffman. "It's really eclectic."

Hoffman will perform Saturday night at 7 p.m. on the second stage. His set will include electro-house mixed with Top 40 hits and classic rock. 

Artwork by students at Kendall College of Art and Design will be featured at the event. Various vendors will be located around La Grande Vitesse, including Green MittenSpoonlickers and Woking Taco.

“It’s about Grand Rapids... the Calder is the symbol of the city,” says Sinen. “We like the city experience versus like Electric Forest [which] is in Rothbury, which you probably wouldn’t have even heard of if that concert wasn’t out there. We want to get people to go out and support the city too. We’re looking at the big picture.”

Sinen emphasizes the importance of the event’s overall experience.

“We’re trying to really integrate a lot of lights and the city into it. [The mainstage set] has to do with a lot of incorporating the cityscape into it, then the lights and the LED screens. The visuals are a big part of our show,” says Sinen.

Hoffman, who has been a DJ for 14 years, is familiar with the significance of providing a good experience at music festivals.

"It's just a whole different atmosphere than when you’re out at a nightclub performing. I don't even know how to explain it," says Hoffman. "It's a real positive feeling, a really positive vibe that you get.”

Electronic music has had a recent surge in pop music.

“It’s the fastest growing music genre right now,” says Sinen. “If you listen to 104.5, half the stuff has what can be considered electronic music in it, with the repetitive beats and everything. It’s really becoming more mainstream where even the pop stuff can get an electronic feel to it.”

Performing artists and DJs will feature various EDM styles ranging from progressive to dubstep to deephouse.

“The art of DJing is building up the crowd. We look at that to start everyone out slow and as the night progresses really get into the more intense stuff,” says Sinen.

City Lights began in 2009 as Grand Rapids Electronic Music Night, a free one-day event at Rosa Parks Circle. The festival made the switch to a two-day festival and began charging admission last year. 

“We upped the ante with the quality which is why we have to charge now,” says Sinen. “The original Electronic Music Night just got huge and it got too big for Rosa Parks. We are what we are now and we’re hoping it really blows up.” 

Tickets can be purchased online or in-person. Two-day passes can be purchased at businesses throughout Grand Rapids, including Peppino’s Downtown Sports Lounge and Purple East. General admission tickets are available for ages 16 and up. Alcohol may be purchased by patrons over the age of 21 with a VIP ticket, but alcohol is prohibited in the general admission area. Re-entry will be allowed with a valid wristband from the event.

A former stranger to electronic music himself prior to working with City Lights, Sinen suggests anyone who is unfamiliar with electronic music or has never attended an electronic music festival to give it a try.

“It’s all about everybody just being there and having a good time and dancing,” says Sinen. “You can go out there and look stupid dancing and everyone is just going [along] with you. It’s worth trying for everybody, at least once.”


Ana Olvera

I'm an avid fan of books, cat naps and coffee. I never leave my house without a notepad and a pen. I firmly believe everyone has a story worth sharing, and I hope to help tell those stories.

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