The Uncommon Threads of Common Ground

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Concert Reviews,   From Issue 773   By: Jamie Griffin

18th July, 2013     0

Every year Lansing hosts the Common Ground music festival.  This festival is by far one of the most relaxed and laid-back festivals I have ever had the honor of attending.  The seven day festival line up offers something for everyone, from Ben Folds FiveCreedence Clearwater Revisited, Shooter Jennings and the Avett Brothers toLudacris, MGMT, and my personal favorite Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.  And If country is more your thing then the Thursday line-up focused on you with Little Big Town and Randy Houser serving as headliners.
I had the pleasure of attending both Monday and Wednesday shows.  Monday's line up featured Ben Folds Five and Barenaked Ladies.  Both of these acts brought quirkiness to the stage that was very warm and welcoming.  As Ben Folds struck the piano keys he sang songs of heartbreak and redemption in the way that only he can.  He even broke a piano string very early in the set and joked that he must have hit a bad chord because that string wasn't in any of the chords in the previous song.  
When singing One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces the crowd joined in the uptempo hit from early in his career.  He did all the songs you would expect.  From Song for the Dumped to his biggest hit Brick to Erase Me and Army, Folds' mesmerized the crowd with his blend of vocal and piano driven music.  
The night's headliners Barenaked Ladies played to their usual strength of tongue in cheek pop culture based songs.  This was the first time I had the chance to see the band and it lived up to every expectation.  All the hits were present, including some impromptu melodies such as Donny Makes Killer Guac.  This particular ditty referencedSaginaw's own Donny Brown of The Verve Pipe.
If it was vintage BNL you wanted then Brian Wilson, Pinch Me, and Be My Yoko Ono featuring Boothby Graffoe were right up your alley.  If you wanted newer releases then you were covered there, too. They also played a few hits off their newest album, Grinning Streak.  If you haven't had a chance to hear the new stuff, each ticket sold to Monday's performance included a free download of the entire album.  The new songs Limits, and Did I say That Out Loud showed a little faster version of Barenaked Ladies.  I enjoyed the new approach and found myself bobbing my head along to the new offerings.  
Of course no BNL show would be complete without their biggest hits One Week and If I Had a Million Dollars.  Not to be outdone by newer acts, the band also covered a few new songs like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' hit Thrift Shop and David Guetta feat Sia'Titanium, If nostalgia is more your thing, a cover of the Violent Femmes' Blister in the Sun wrapped up the night perfectly.  
The Wednesday 'Common Ground' line-up was definitely for the rockers at heart.  Opening acts Monster Truck and Sevendust laid the groundwork for a stellar show from one of rocks premier guitarists, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators.  
As usual the Sevendust machine was firing on all cylinders with Lajon Witherspoon and crew plowing through some of their most well known songs like Praise, Black, andDenial.  The crowd enjoyed every minute if it.  From the first note to the last scream of the closer Face to Face the crowd sang along and created the signature circle pits one comes to expect at a Sevendust show.  
For those who have been wondering about the state of Rock & Roll, let Slash and Myles Kennedy be your ambassadors, because in my book Rock and Roll is alive and well as long as these guys are around.  Every riff Slash plays is reminiscent of the excess that is rock and roll. From the licks in Ghost and Anastasia to one of the most recognizable riffs ever in Sweet Child O Mine, Slash is a defender of the faith.  And if fancy guitar riffs don't impress you, then Myles Kennedy's vocals are certainly something to write home about.  That guy can do it all.  You want Guns & Roses; let him give you Night Train or Paradise City.  If Velvet Revolver was more your thing then Slither was your song.  Perhaps the most impressive song of the night for me was the cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.
If you don't know who Myles Kennedy is let me give you a quick peek into his career.  He was in the movie Rockstar with Mark Wahlberg.  He was the guy at the end that Mark passed the microphone to.  Passing the torch to the next great frontman.  Myles is also the lead vocalist of the band Alter Bridge.  He is a remarkable vocal talent, whom I look forward to seeing much more from.  
In the beginning I alluded to the laid back vibe of Common Ground.  Never have I been to a festival that general admission means you can bring your own lawn chairs.  Many people who had general admission seats had better seats than the reserved seating. With 4 stages and numerous events throughout 7 days, Common Ground is a great festival for some family fun.  
Tickets were available in single day or 7 day passes.  Depending on your level of music fandom there is an affordable option for everyone.  This was one of my favorite parts of Common Ground. Many different people made up the fan base - people from all different areas, walks of life etc.  
There was one thing that the festival made clear - during this one week in Lansing everyone was on Common Ground.   


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