Party like it's 1969
GVSU alumnus stages tribute show to support local nonprofit
It’s about to be Woodstock all over again. On May 16, the Pyramid Scheme is hosting six bands featuring local artists from familiar names such as Valentiger, Blue Molly and Flashing Blue Lights. The show, organized by Grand Valley State University alumnus Eric Kehoe, will benefit Well House, a Grand Rapids nonprofit organization.
“There have a been a couple of different tribute shows in Grand Rapids that I’ve seen—a tribute to the Beatles, to Weezer, last year there was a tribute to 1993,” Kehoe said. “My friends and I talked about getting one together ourselves. 1969 was an incredible year for music.”
Kehoe graduated from GVSU in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, and he has since been an active musician on the local music scene. He got the idea for the show after talking with Molly Bouwsma, a local musician who is on the board for Well House. Through Bouwsma, Kehoe got in touch with Tami VandenBerg. As VandenBerg is both executive director of Well House and owns the Pyramid Scheme with her brother, it seemed like the perfect fit.
“The show was organized by community members,” VandenBerg said. “They decided to do a benefit and asked about doing it at the Pyramid Scheme. I said, ‘That’d be marvelous.’”
Kehoe then emailed every musician he knew in Grand Rapids to see who would be interested in playing. As a musician who has been on the scene for a few years, playing with local names such as Duffy and Valentiger, this was an easy task.
“I got the ball rolling, a lot of people were excited,” Kehoe said. “I looked for five other people willing to lead a band.”
Once band leaders were set, Kehoe left the responsibility of putting together their own band up to them. The bands then got to choose which songs and artists they wanted to cover.
“It was a first come, first serve basis,” Kehoe said of song selection. “Fortunately, there were enough songs to choose from.”
The selection of music to be played is varied. The set list ranges from rock n’ roll to Motown and R&B. Artists such as James Brown, the Beatles, Dusty Springfield and Creedence Clearwater Revival will be covered.
“It’s a one-night event only,” VandenBerg said. “(May 16) is the only opportunity to see this line-up.”
It’s also an opportunity to support local humanitarian efforts.
The Well House provides housing for the homeless of Grand Rapids. The organization currently owns three houses and is about to purchase a fourth. The houses are community houses, with both shared space and individual rooms that people can rent for $250. Typically, people with disabilities and veterans rent rooms.
“They can stay as long as they need to,” VandenBerg said.
The Tribute show is important for Well House, which has recently been struggling to stay afloat.
“First and foremost, the show gets the word out about what (Well House) is doing,” VandenBerg said. “Raising money is always needed for nonprofit.”
Local businesses have already reached out to support the show. Marie Catribs, Barfly Ventures and Shorts Brewery are all sponsoring the event, with Shorts bringing a special brew just for the show.
“Judging by the response, it would be cool to do it again,” Kehoe said. “The music community in the city is close knit, which bodes well for the future. We have a good community down here.”
VandenBerg agreed. “There is something that everyone can offer to make the community better,” she said. “These guys are using music. We are really grateful that these folks are donating their time and skills.”