At the corner of E. César Chávez Ave and North Larch St. stands Replay Entertainment Exchange, where owner Ted Wilson has been hosting socially distant live events for the Lansing community. Techno blares from public address speakers as vendors and DJs set up their stations while Zee Simons and Travis Stillwater, coordinators for the Live at the Replay event, make sure that the artists and activities set up around the open lot are ready for a night of music, movies, and laughter.
“It’s bummer summer 2020 and so we wanted to replay some of the summer and bring it back a little bit,” said Stillwater.
Wilson said the idea to have outdoor events at the Replay parking lot was brought up years ago but wouldn’t have happened without the coronavirus pandemic.
“My good friend Matt and I had talked a few years ago about holding outdoor concerts and events here,” said Wilson. “With COVID we have no idea when this is all going to be over. Matt just hit me up again and said ‘Hey we’ve got this equipment, we’re not using it let’s do something’ and I said OK. I started talking to Travis and Zee, because we had worked together in the past on some other projects, and we just started reaching out to the community.”
After taking a trip to Detroit for a night of drinking and dancing, Wilson was inspired to start hosting his own events here.
“Everyone was living and everyone in Detroit had seemed to figure out how to live again. And if they can do it there we can absolutely do it here in Lansing,” said Wilson.
Wilson and other coordinators for the event also attributed their drive to have an outdoor event at the Replay to the long time spent stuck inside their homes.
“We noticed that everyone is so starved for just being around people that they care about and having just one little outlet,” said Simons. “Everything is terrible right now we all know that everything is terrible right now but this is one thing we wanted to do for the community and the people that have been you know out of work that just have nothing else to do. It’s one place you can forget that for a second and be as safe as possible.”
Live at the Replay has been ongoing for several weeks now, with each night featuring different artists and vendors. Stillwater said that Thursday nights are Mac’s Monday Night Comedy, Fridays and Saturdays there is usually a live band or some other live performer. Each of the three days also feature DJs throughout the night, playing a wide variety of electronic dance music or EDM.
“My favorite part of the night is, Friday and Saturday night, both times the last 45 minutes, hour is DJs,” said Stillwater. “It’s dark out, it’s getting cool, people are having a really nice time and that’s usually when we are at the point of attendance also so it’s great to get out there and dance. Even though it’s just a parking lot, it’s our parking lot so that’s cool.”
Stillwater described a moment he enjoyed during the previous night’s event while watching the crowd dance to the music.
“The other night we were watching some children learn how to dance, with those floating wands, to the DJ,” said Stillwater. “And I was like, literally all of the work for this. At any point, for the entirety of it, is all worth it because that was f—— awesome.”
Jonnie Workman is in charge of booking the live acts for Live at the Replay. He said that the Lansing communities are tight knit and based around the people in them which makes it that much harder to be apart for months on end.
“It’s hard being an artist already and it’s even harder during a pandemic so it’s great to just be out as an artist, putting yourself and your art out there,” said Workman.
One of the many artists that will be at all of the Replay events is Alexandra Leonard. Leonard is a ceramic artist and professional tile setter. In February, Leonard received a grant in February to create a community based ceramic project but had to push the timeline back because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am here making handmade tiles with people who are coming here for a mosaic mural that is going to be put up down in Rotary Park which is in downtown Lansing by the River Trail,” said Leonard.
Anyone who visits the Replay is able to decorate their own clay tile that will be a part of Leonard’s mural once the project is complete. For Leonard, this project is something that she has always known she wanted to do.
“Honestly a project like this is about as close to my heart as any project I’ve ever done. I found a piece of paper recently from probably like seven or eight years ago clearly describing this exact project,” said Leonard. “Art is, to me, one of the most connecting things. And when I say art I mean all creative things. I’ve found art personally to be a really therapeutic kind of meditative practice and so that has helped me personally a lot and then getting other people involved with creative stuff I think is super important because it’s art, art is super essential.”
Live at the Replay also features other local artists and vendors such as Michael Clifford. Clifford offers tarot card readings to customers in addition to being an oracle. An oracle is a person through whom a deity is believed to speak.
Clifford said that compared to more mainstream religions, being an oracle is “Divining the same thing through different sources.”
Clifford also is behind the Facebook group known as “God Is A Pterodactyl.” Having over 13,000 members, the group was originally made as a way for people to stay connected while staying home, live streaming themselves and their activities while sheltered-in-place. As the page grew, it has since “Turned back into regular Facebook,” Clifford said.
James Hays is a Lansing artist who paints on multiple types of media, usually using oils and gauche. According to his Instagram bio he tries to “paint vague feelings.” His work can be seen featured on Instagram @halfgallonofwater.
Whether the main event is music, movies, or comedy, Wilson said he believes that having these kinds of events for the community to come together at is essential.
“You need to be able to come up for air at some point and that’s what going to comedy night is,” said Wilson. “It’s laughing … I see people show up and they’re just dancing in the middle of the sun, beating down on them, and they just want to dance to techno and they just want to go see a show.”
“You see people smile and you just see people remember what it was like before all of this because we have no idea when it’s going to end,” said Wilson. “You see people share those moments and have hope again.”
For anyone who wants to learn more about Leonard’s project, visit the Shiawassee Street Mosaic Project page on Facebook. Those interested in checking out Clifford’s work can visit his Facebook page at Scrying Glass Oracle & Tarot. Any bands or DJs who would like to be a part of the events can reach out to Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wilson, Simons, Stillwater and Workman all expressed gratitude to the Lansing Public Media Center for allowing them to use its equipment for which they said the Live at the Replay events would not have happened without.