The Rapidian

Venues like St. Cecilia and One Trick Pony keep music scene alive, well in Grand Rapids

Don’t pass on opportunities to enjoy our city and the music, like hearing guitarist Leo Kottke and local singer Kathy Lamar.
Leo Kottke at St. Ceclia Music Society Thursday evening

Leo Kottke at St. Ceclia Music Society Thursday evening /R Lemmon

Kathy Lamar at One Trick Pony Thursday evening

Kathy Lamar at One Trick Pony Thursday evening /R Lemmon

Leo Kottke walked onto the bare stage at Royce Auditorium inside St. Cecilia Music Society Wednesday evening, sat down in the one chair on stage in front of the only mic stand on stage and just started playing his guitar. No big set designs, just a man and his guitars, and for Kottke that was all he needed.

For more than an hour and a half, Kottke mesmerized the sold-out audience with his 6-string and 12-string guitar playing, by the periodic vocals he added to a few of his songs, mixed in with stories of his personal life adding in his own brand of dry humor, sometimes rambling, but always entertaining.

Kottke’s guitar playing was effortless and the sound was amazing aided by the great acoustics in the Royce Auditorium which complemented his playing style. Kottke also injected a mixture of folk, blues, and jazz into his music that added to the extremely entertaining evening of music. A concert well worth the value of admission, if you ever get a chance to see him, don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Moving from the standing ovation for Leo Kottke to the local music scene, just 200 steps away, Kathy Lamar, was performing at One Trick Pony as part of their ongoing Thursday evening live music performances by local musicians. Greeted with a hug and handshake by Dan and Lisa Verhil, proprietors of One Trick Pony, food and drinks were flowing, and Kathy Lamar, backed up by Kevin Jones on percussion, Paul Lesinski on keys, and Robert Pace on bass, entertained a packed, near standing room only audience. 

Kathy Lamar, who grew up in Grand Rapids, and left for a career in Las Vegas, is now back in Grand Rapids after 30 years, entertaining local audiences with her soulful, blues, jazz, and R&B styled music. Her voice is reminiscent of some of the great blues singers of the past including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and many others, but her sound is hers alone, just plain entertaining and enjoyable, reminiscent also of what you would hear in the old, now closed, jazz clubs in Chicago decades ago.

Lamar’s strong vocals entertained the audience through each set but the musical support from Kevin Jones, Paul Lesinski, and Robert Pace provided a strong platform from which her songs seemed to resonate with the audience. Kathy Lamar is someone who should be on your short list to see in Grand Rapids.

The music scene is alive and well in Grand Rapids and the venues like St. Cecilia and One Trick Pony are helping to bring to us an amazing selection of talent for our enjoyment, don’t pass on these opportunities to enjoy our city and the music.

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