Annual Lamp Light Music Festival held in Grand Rapids

GVL / Courtesy - Anthony Norkus Photography

GVL / Courtesy - Anthony Norkus Photography

Tasman Mattox

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Music reverberated through the living room of the Sage House, a Grand Rapids location for house concerts, for the annual Lamp Light Music Festival. Packed with people, the space buzzed with an intimate, friendly energy. 

The sixth annual festival was held this weekend from Friday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 5. Held in the Eastown area of Grand Rapids, the house concert festival offered artists a unique space to perform. The annual event invites a multitude of performers to share their art with the Grand Rapids community. 

“For us, the inspiration comes out of the listening experience; you can be close and brush shoulders with the artists,” said Zachary Tomaszewski, a Lamp Light Music Festival organizer and co-creator. “We really like the intimate experience of art. To be able to hold a space that feels safe to further the intimacy of art is really important.”

Tomaszewski helped create the event with friend John Hanson. They have enjoyed house shows together on a regular basis. 

“We thought, ‘What if we did our own festival, but it was all house concerts?'” Tomaszewski said. “Over the course of a few weeks, we got excited about the idea, talked about it, and it morphed into something that was totally possible.”

One of this year’s performers got involved with Lamp Light through meeting Hanson at a different festival. 

“We worked together at Pickathon Music Festival in Oregon,” said Patricia Wheeler, a storyteller with The Moth Radio Hour. “He asked me to participate. I want to thank John and all the organizers for such a unique festival in Grand Rapids.”

Wheeler orchestrated a story hour, the first of its kind at Lamp Light. She and three other Midwesterners shared personal experiences with the audience. 

“We all have stories to tell,” she said. “The connection to the human is what makes us more rich.”

Tomaszewski said he hopes to continue breaking new ground as the festival grows.

“Every year, we sit down and ask, ‘How do we represent a diverse range of voices and backgrounds?’” he said. “We have a couple more jazz ensembles and avant-garde electronic stuff, some singer-songwriters, indie, psychedelic, garage, hip-hop and so on. We also try and incorporate workshops or panel discussions, too, to build social capital.”

The festival took place in three different houses on the southeast side of Grand Rapids all within walking distance of each other. A fourth house held a market with local goods and the work of the performers. 

Tomaszewski said house concerts are often more cost-effective, adding to the appeal. 

“We’re trying to keep the prices affordable but trying to pay bands more each year,” Tomaszewski said. “We want to be more thoughtful about how we’re doing things each. How do we be considerate to our neighbors, considerate to the local music community? How do we make these spaces comfortable and safe?”

Making sure these questions were answered allowed for a vibrant weekend where artistic expression could take center stage. 

“It’s warm, it’s personal, it’s sweater weather; we really want to keep that intimate experience that makes you feel connected to the music,” Tomaszewski said.