Photo: Worn Spirit performs
When local musicians are looking to gig around town, their best bet is usually any of Lansing’s established venues such as Mac’s Bar or The Loft. The vast majority of these venues’ concerts are put on by local booking agency Fusion Shows which was founded in 2008 by ELHS grad Irving Ronk (who has since left the agency) and Howell’s Nate Durough.
While Fusion Shows can be a great connection to these venues for local artists, there are few opportunities for musicians in downtown East Lansing. MSU staples Harper’s (formerly Dooley’s) and Rick’s American Cafe once offered live music every night. However, trends have changed and local college bars are almost exclusively interested in booking DJs for their nightly entertainment.
Bucking this trend, a home for live performances has been created at Replay Entertainment Exchange, a place to turn in your old video games, DVDs, unwanted vinyl, and more in exchange for cash or store credit. Replay has been hosting regular shows in-store at their Brookfield Plaza location since March. Last Wednesday night’s show featured Bike Tuff from Kalamazoo, Bong Mountain from Grand Rapids, and Lansing locals Worn Spirit and Little American Champ.
According to some of the Wednesday’s concertgoers, Replay has hosted live shows in previous years, but never at this location. The music could be heard from the strip mall’s parking lot that night, which requires some patience from the store’s next-door neighbor Wings Over East Lansing.
But no one seemed to mind too much.
Alec Barstow, a Replay employee who runs the shows, says “I'm really just trying to expose the Lansing/East Lansing music scene to something new and different as a whole, while throwing in some well-known, ‘hometown heroes’ to draw the regular, participative crowd.”
The audience did prove “participative” as many of them crowded around the microphone to sing along to Bong Mountain’s last song, “Symbiosis Midwest.” Between bands, people stepped outside to smoke cigarettes, converse, and give the last band room in the small store to tear down their gear and load out.
I managed to catch Worn Spirit just as they finished loading their van. The guitarist had just placed an order at Wings Over East Lansing while the rest of the band idled outside the store to get some fresh air and wind down in the company of friends after an energetic performance.
Although Worn Spirit regularly performs at more conventional shows in the area, bassist Ben Jenson comments about Replay that “it’s cool that there aren’t any politics involved.” According to Jenson, Replay successfully cultivates a low-key and inclusive environment that is accessible to the local music community. “If you’re playing with a band you’re stoked on seeing, you’re gonna be stoked to be here all night, and I think that’s the most important part. It sucks when you’re just sitting around at a bar for five hours, dreading everything. But on a night like tonight, we’re all friends here.”
Worn Spirit released their debut eponymous EP last summer on Business Casual, a record label started by Ian Graham of Lansing rock band Cheap Girls.
The next chance to catch a show at Replay is next Saturday, May 28th when Lume, Capital Offense, Gold Route, Spit Spewing Snakes, Bruise, Short Leash, and Bitter Truth will play. Doors open at 6pm with music starting at 7pm. This is a free event and all ages are welcome.