Life as a local Lansing performer

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By Kristen Alberti
Listen Up, Lansing

The Loft is one of Lansing's most popular places for local artists to perform at.

The Loft is one of Lansing’s most popular places for local artists to perform at.

Working three jobs is enough to keep anyone busy, but when you have a dream to chase, who has time for sleep?

As an employee at a life insurance company, a movie theater, and helping coach a high school girls’ soccer team, Tyler Ennis, vocalist in Lansing metal band Ground Tracer, should seem too exhausted to practice with his band. Nevertheless, Ennis said his commitment to his band is worth it because it helps him support both his group and himself.

“As cliche as it sounds, it really is my escape,” said Ennis. “I go through a lot of stress with how busy my life is, but anytime I’m on stage performing, I really truly forget about everything and just have the time of my life.”

Lansing is home to many local performers of all genres ranging from hip-hop to country to progressive metal with everything in-between.

Although these performers are passionately striving to live out their dreams, many struggles come with being an up-and-coming performer, especially in a city not well-known for music like Lansing.

Mac's Bar, just down the road from Michigan State University's campus, is where many local artists take their talent.

Mac’s Bar, just down the road from Michigan State University’s campus, is where many local artists take their talent.

However, two local places, Mac’s Bar located on East Michigan Avenue just a mile down the road from Michigan State University’s campus and The Loft also located on East Michigan Avenue across from the Lansing Center welcome all local performers to open for bigger shows they host.

When it comes to opportunities for local Lansing artists, Mac’s Bar bartender Tara Hawblitzel said performers have a bigger opportunity starting out in such a small town because they can actually have a bigger chance at booking a show and playing more often.

“You could get lucky and play one show in Chicago, that might be your one big thing, but if you don’t really have a strong following you can’t create one with one show,” said Hawblitzel. “The more consistently you play, the word gets out that you have a good sound and you have fun.”

Hawblitzel said that as local performers play in other cities, they bring performers from other places back to Lansing, and the whole local band scene is like a big network of communication.

Even though Ground Tracer doesn’t have a problem finding places to perform at, the band needs to be picky about where they play, Ennis said.

“Being in a band that wants to take it to the next level and being more serious about it, we have to really be careful with playing the same area more than once a month,” said Ennis.

Though forming a band started as just a way to occupy time, Ennis said Ground Tracer is hoping to gain a bigger fan base to take the group farther than any members imagined.

Here is Vandalay with members left to right: Ben Warner, Dustin Stoner, Jake Greenwood Photo provided by Vandalay

Here is Lansing rock band Vandalay with members from left to right: Ben Warner, Dustin Stoner, and Jake Greenwood.
Photo provided by Vandalay

On the other hand, Vandalay drummer, singer, and keyboardist Jake Greenwood has always been deeply involved with music. Greenwood said he started playing piano at age five and the drums at age 10, which led him and his two best friends, Ben Warner and Dustin Stoner, to create their rock band Vandalay in 2012.

“Vandalay is definitely more than a hobby; my life revolves around the teaching, creating, and performance of music,” said Greenwood. “We would definitely love to see this band take us around the world, meeting new people and sharing our love for music.”

Vandalay depends on its members and and some dedicated loyal friends when it comes to being a successful band and keeping up with merchandise, social media strategies, booking, touring, artwork, stage production, finances, and more, said Greenwood.

“Being in Vandalay is like being part of a company, in a good way,” Greenwood said.

Even with their lack of a full crew, Vandalay has managed to create a strong fan base in both Michigan and Chicago, and are slowly creating buzz through the midwest and the east coast.

“Last summer, we went on tour to the east coast and there were people at each show along the tour just to see us,” said Greenwood. “That was an awesome feeling of support!”

Though these local performers are making their way to the big time, there are always hardships they need to overcome, such as the extreme amount of time they need to devote to their bands.

Between writing, rehearsing, touring, meetings, shows, and studio time, it’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll have to miss family events or skip out on hanging out with your friends, said Greenwood.

“For me, the best way to deal with that is to always keep in mind the goals that we are trying to achieve and that the members of Vandalay are in this together, for each other,” Greenwood said.

Through a lot of experience, Vandalay has no problem finding places to perform at and booking shows, but it wasn’t always like that, said Greenwood. As former MSU students, the guys used to perform at a lot of house parties on campus, and worked their way up to venues like Mac’s Bar.

“We are now to the point where we typically book our shows through agencies, both here in Michigan and in Chicago,” said Greenwood.

Vandalay now usually performs at The Loft or outdoor festivals in Lansing, and are happy to be performing with Jane’s Addiction on day two of the Common Ground Music Festival, a six-day music festival being held at the Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing from July 7-12, just a five-minute walk from The Loft.

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