Common Ground comes to a close

With six days of music at Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing, attendees could pick and choose which days fit their music taste, whether it was Tuesday’s alternative rock day or Friday’s hip-hop and rap-themed evening.

While many crowded around the Auto Value Main Stage for a glimpse of the more well-known acts, such as Tuesday’s headliner Brand New and Sunday’s Earth, Wind and Fire, most festival days also gave local Lansing and East Lansing acts a chance in the spotlight.

Jessalyn Tamez / The State News

United By Music

No matter which mix came from each different day, even the artists agreed that the festival inspired a sense of unity between them.

“The festival atmosphere is more festive in general,” Dwayne Anglin, also known as Danglin’, said. Anglin is the lead vocalist of the reggae group The Wailers, who were the first group to take the main stage during Wednesday’s Common Ground Festival.

“A lot of different bands come together to have, and give the audience, a good time.”

Different artists took the festival as an opportunity to show support for their fellow performers — members of The Violent Femmes could be seen standing in the audience as The Wailers performed, and other acts were able to migrate to different stages once their sets were completed.

Lansing resident Jake Offill said he arrived on Wednesday just as The Violent Femmes began their set. His friends, who had watched The Violent Femmes perform at other, more populated music festivals, said they preferred their Lansing performance to the other festivals.

“Common Ground is especially special because it’s Lansing, it’s mid-Michigan,” he said. “People in Michigan are almost secluded (from) the rest of the world.”

Local Talent

Common Ground Music Festival gave smaller, local acts a chance to perform in the same festival setting as more well-known names in the music industry.

James Gardin, a Lansing resident and hip-hop artist, performed as James Gardin & The Full Respect the same night rappers Big Sean and Juicy J took the stage. Gardin also performed at last year’s Common Ground Music Festival as part of hip-hop collective the BLAT! Pack.

“This is my first time doing my own set,” Gardin said. “I want people to get introduced to my music and fall in love with it, of course.”

Other Lansing and East Lansing bands had a chance to shine during the six-day festival. Lansing-based band Squirrel Shaped Fish took the Sparrow Stage on Wednesday, performing songs off their Extended Play CD. Toward the end of the night on Saturday, the Lansing rock ‘n’ roll band The People’s Temple performed, and Common Ground alumni Gunnar & The Grizzly Boys performed during Thursday’s country night.

MSU alumnus Gunnar Nyblad, the lead singer of the band, said performing at Common Ground Music Festival feels like the band has come full circle since their previous performance two years before.

“Two years ago we were here playing Common Ground in Lansing, and it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a big step for us to be on that stage where we were. To be here again there was just as much a response, with people knowing our music a little more.”

A Musical History

Common Ground Music Festival has been held every summer since the year 2000, when the festival brought acts such as Third Eye Blind, Martina McBride and The Beach Boys to the Lansing stage.

The non-profit organization, called Center Park Productions, was created by the Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority and the Meridian Entertainment Group. The festival has since donated more than $400,000 to community organizations such as Lansing Catholic Central High School, the Parkwood and Westside YMCAs and the Sparrow Foundation.

According to the website, more than 1 million guests have attended the festival since its first year.

Lansing resident Colette Mott said she has attended different Common Ground festivals in the past. This year she showed up with a group of her friends on Wednesday to watch The Wailers, 311 and The Violent Femmes.

“We’ve been reggae fans since our college days,” Mott said. “We were just talking about the shows we used to watch at Rick’s bar.”

Offill, who returned to the festival on Saturday with the intent to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. perform, said he enjoyed that the band is Michigan-based.

“Common Ground is especially awesome because it brings the family closer together,” Offill said. “Family meaning the mid-Michigan area.”

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