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How The Jammies will change you

Reflecting on the best night in Grand Rapids music.
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Eric Kehoe

the Soil and the Sun

the Soil and the Sun /courtesy of WYCE

The act of setting up my band's merchandise provided me an anchor for a night at The Jammies. This is where I put my coat and, I joked, where I would meet my friends if I got lost. But I knew that passively leaning on the merchandise table wasn‘t acceptable.

So after I was yelled at by an Intersection employee for filling up my water bottle without his permission, I ventured out and up.

In the sea of faces, aged 1-100, personalities familiar to the Grand Rapids music scene emerged. The WYCE leaders--Nicole LaRae, Kevin Murphy, Pete Bruinsma and Matt Jarrells--seemed to be everywhere at once.

Bruinsma was simultaneously leading folks to the stage to accept their awards while managing the free CD table at the opposite end of the building. I saw him do it.

One could assume: “Well, they run the thing. They promote the thing. It’s their job to be everywhere.” But their tireless effort is simply a response to loving Grand Rapids and the desire to grow the music community within.

To the musicians' credit, they make it easy for WYCE to foster a robust music community. One look at Friday’s schedule: “This is free? And you are telling me that, geographically, this is a local lineup? But how? This talent!” I was utterly discombobulated.

Bouncing back and forth between the stages, I tried to listen to each band. Soul followed by horns followed by Celtic followed by a woman standing on an upright, temporarily sideways, bass followed by sweet lyrical prowess. A Bell’s beer thrown in for good measure.

And then my band had to play. We were continuously smiling throughout the set, amp troubles be damned. What did we expect? The night was a music marathon, like walloping the crowd over the head with a rolled up copy of that  “The History of Music” poster. Man-made equipment couldn’t withstand this sort of transcendent experience. We finished the set, but we all wanted more.

Soon after, we joined the crowd that awaited The Big Jammie announcement, and most of us knew it would be going to the closers, the Soil & the Sun. Absent were their face paint and feathers, replaced by neckties and slacks: an olive branch, an air of reverence and nervous excitement.

Folks of all ages watched in wonder as this irreplaceable evening culminated with Woodstock for the digital age, the climax of all that is Grand Rapidian and music.

After the night ended, dazed, I walked back to my merch. My coat was still there, but my CDs were gone: eagerly given and willfully accepted. So goes music.

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