Blues on the Mall – Grand Rapids, Michigan

Looking for an amazing cultural experience that is free, musical, and fun for the whole family? Grand Rapids has it all! Each year, for 23 years running, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan puts on a free live concert lineup throughout the summer months for residents and visitors to enjoy. Even though blues music hails from the deep south, those up north can also appreciate and enjoy live music in the summer time. Ten free concerts are lined up for Wednesday evenings each summer, and most of them take place at the Rosa Parks Circle, located at Monroe Center and Monroe Avenue near the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

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For years, the Blues on the Mall concerts have incorporated some of the greatest current blues musicians from local areas as well as from other places around the United States. For this annual event, some of the past musical blues and jazz acts have included names such as Samantha Fish, Curtis Salgado, Walter Trout, Big James & the Chicago Playboys, Popa Chubby, Vasti Jackson, and Larry McCray.  The most recent concert schedules of the year have featured the likes of Big James, Ana Popovic, Kelly Richey, and Selwyn Birchwood, all performing on the famed Purple East Stage.

One of the 2014 concerts in the Blues on the Mall, Grand Rapids series has incorporated a unique and special tribute to Walter Trout who has been a well-loved blues musician over the many years of his musical career. In the past, Walter Trout has been involved in the music scene since the late 1960s and has been with several bands in that time including John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex. In 2013, Trout’s most recently recorded album, Luther’s Blues, gained notoriety as it was nominated for a Blues Music Award.  Because Mr. Trout has been seriously ill with liver disease, his protégé, Danny Bryant, has been part of a benefit tour which is proud to be scheduled to stop in at the August 6th concert in Grand Rapids for 2014 for a special, heartfelt tribute to this blues musician who has spent his life providing entertainment and enjoyment for others.

Residents of Grand Rapids, as well as visitors who are planning to attend the blues festival, often try to make it a fun and delicious tradition to stop by at one of the many nearby bars or restaurants for a meal and a drink, or enjoy time to rest on the grassy park areas. Local business owner Bob Johnson (appliancerepairgr.com) has been attending Blues on the Mall for many years, and is “continuously amazed at the new and quality bars and restaurants that keep popping up all over downtown Grand Rapids.”

Food trucks and other vendors are located around the area of Rosa Parks Circle, and dancing is always encouraged and welcomed in the location as the stars come out at night. In fact, a World Record was recently set on the same site in 2012, as over 750 people were reported to be swing dancing at the same time. So the Blues on the Mall events are sure to be promising some incredible dancing fun as well musical entertainment and enjoyment.

Even though there is said to be limited seating possibly available at the Rosa Parks Circle, it is often best to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chairs and maybe even include a cooler full of beverages just for fun. Tailgate partying and enjoying the festivities with friends is all part of the charm of the Blues on the Mall experience in Grand Rapids. After parties often go on in the local Grand Rapids area which include a free Blues Open Stage at The Intersection, fun at The B.O.B., and events before and after at River City Slims.

T-shirts for the BOM event are sold at each of the ten summer shows for those who want to own a wearable memory and show their support for the musical event. Blues on the Mall is typically sponsored by WLAV Classic Rock radio station as well as Budweiser, and the events are safe for the kids and fun for the entire family.

 Image: Flick’r