Head downstairs to the Upper Room



Story by Liz Ptaszynski, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of the Upper Room 

It seems like everywhere we look there is some uniquely crafted show being spewn together. And while I (along with GRipsters all over the city) love the retro aesthetics of the Pyramid Scheme and the grunge atmosphere of The Intersection, sometimes I have a hankering to discover something new. And that is exactly what I found last Saturday at the Upper Room.

Though it may be called the Upper Room, do not be deceived. This snazzy venue actually takes place in the downstairs of a church with walls splattered with painted polka dots and a surprisingly big stage that is littered with stickers of local bands that have played there.

With little knowledge on most of the bands that were on the bill I was excited by the opportunity to discover some new music that Grand Rapids has to offer.

The first band to hit the stage was an acoustic two-piece from Lansing called Sewn. With emotional songwriting and passionate strums on the guitar, the band did exactly what an opener is supposed to do. Though not incredibly impressive and often fading into the background when playing unfamiliar covers, Sewn successfully provided a serene atmosphere as people arrived and began mingling with others.

 For me, it felt like the show didn’t really start until the second band got on stage. Hailing from Kalamazoo, The Class Acts took the audience by storm. By the time they finished their first song, “Jackie,” a song with an awesome, if not strange, mixture of electro-pop and grunge rock, the whole crowd could help but to be captivated.

While the first band created a sense of mellow, The Class Acts added a layer of excitement that seemed to pump up the audience. The group sounded tight while putting on an impressive carefree show. Once the band was finished, most of the crowd was drenched in sweat from dancing not only to originals but also some classic Arctic Monkey covers where the band was able to show off some complex techniques with their instruments and vocals.

Perhaps the greatest set of the night came from the third band. Home grown, here in Grand Rapids, Cheap Emotion is a punk rock band that can get the most stoic of people to feel things through their songs. Despite their name, they put on an indefatigable performance rich with passion. While the guitar mingled with an open and full drum solo that seemed to make everyone jump up in rhythm, frontman Devon Cline screamed out personal lyrics that seemed to directly derive from his heart. The best part came when they sang “Four Years Older,” which introduced the punkest trombone I had ever heard. The crowd sang along  as Cline emotionally screeched the chorus on repeat until the song reached a tragic conclusion, that I think we all wished had never came. While tight, the band put on such a raw show that left everyone completely mesmerized. It was the only act of the night that was capable of killing every conversation in the room and basically forced you to gravitate to them.

Though I didn’t want them to leave the stage, I couldn’t help but be excited for the headliner, The Lake Effect. I was looking forward to listening as they play through their album as it was being released.

However, I was sadly underwhelmed by not just their performance but by their sound as well. Awkward at best, the band seemed sloppy at times and often fell out of tune. Perhaps the only highlight of this set was drummer Mackenzie Mattis, who was able to keep the beat at the most difficult of times and even pulled out a whistle at one point adding a quirky and fun layer to an otherwise dull (and sometimes hard to watch) performance.

The show at the Upper Room was one that caught me completely off guard. I came excited to hear one band but fell in musical love with another. I look forward to more shows there, and I encourage all to not only check out the venue but also check out any local music in Grand Rapids. This city is enriched with talent that we should all experience.

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