May 18 2016 01:07 PM

River Rock Concert showcases local talent

James Gardin
Courtesy Photo

The inaugural City Pulse River Rock Concert, coming to Adado Riverfront Park next month, will serve up a heaping helping of locally-grown music.

The festivities kick off June 10, where the Verve Pipe and Wally Pleasant, staples of the ‘90s Greater Lansing music scene, perform their most popular albums live. Local ‘80s cover band Triple Lindy opens the concert.

But after that nostalgia-heavy lineup, attendees will get a chance to catch a trio of up-and-coming local acts the next night. Singer/songwriter Stefanie Haapala, indie rockers Elliot Street Lunatic and hip-hop artist James Gardin take the stage June 11, along with Kentuckybased pop punk outfit City Mouse.

Gardin discovered his passion for music back in 2003. While he started with a band, he eventually set out on his own.

“I saw excitement in creating a voice and an identity for myself through music,” Gardin said. “I became more comfortable being myself as a solo artist.”

Gardin’s most recent album, “Living Daylights” came out in March of last year. He plans to release some new music this year and is trying to do more touring. His style of music, which mixes soul, gospel and rap, has an uplifting message.

“Most people seem to second guess themselves, putting a cap or limitation on what they do,” Gardin said, “I want everyone to be confident in their own gifts, to be able to just go out and do it.”

Haapala, on the other hand, would rather tell you a story. She takes her cues from the great folk writers of the 1970s.

Stefanie Haapala
Courtesy Photo

“So much of the story gets lost in popular music today,” Haapala said. “For me, it has never been about being popular; it’s always been about the story being told.”

Growing up in Metro Detroit, she discovered music through her parents’ collection of ‘70s folk music.

“My parents were avid music fans,” Haapala said. “I fell in love with the artist’s voices and the stories they told.”

She studied creative writing at Michigan State University, where she started to immerse herself in the local music scene. In March, Haapala put out an EP, “This Won’t Be The Last Time I Tell You.”

“This will be a new beginning.” Haapala said, adding that she recently graduated from MSU and plans to move back to Detroit. She’s hoping to find her way back into the music scene where she once started.

Rounding out this trinity of local talent is Elliot Street Lunatic. The band, which includes members of now-defunct outfit Lights & Caves, has been on something of a hiatus for several years. But the group is reuniting for a handful of shows this summer, including the River Rock Concert and pair of shows in August at the Robin Theatre.

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Jason Marr co-founded the group in 2007 with some friends who were in his music theory class at Lansing Community College.

Elliot Street Lunatic
Courtesy Photos

“I’ve always been playing music,” Marr said, “My parents have told me that whenever I would hear a song growing up, I would be able to play it.”

Marr said that people describe Elliot Street Lunatic’s music as “spacey pop rock” and compare it to bands like Coldplay.

The band recorded and released two albums, but parted ways in January 2013.

While the band is not officially back together, and not all the original members are still around, they occasionally get together to plays shows. Marr continues to play locally and can often be found sharing a stage with Gardin as part of his live band, the Full Respect. While he doesn’t have a full-time band at the moment, he’s not quitting any time soon.

“When music stops being fun, I’ll stop playing. But I don’t see that happening,” Marr said.

City Pulse River Rock Concert

June 10-11

The Verve Pipe “Villains” 20th Anniversary Concert

With Wally Pleasant and Triple Lindy Friday, June 10 $15/$20 reserved VIP seating

Top of the Town Party

With Elliot Street Lunatic, City Mouse, Stefanie Haapala and James Gardin Saturday, June 11 $5/$10 reserved VIP seating/$10 with TOTT Party/$15 for VIP seating and TOTT party

Two-night combo: $18/$28 VIP reserved seating and TOTT Party (Concert tickets $10 more at the door.)

Adado Riverfront Park, Lansing