The Kalamazoo area is rich with music. Symphony performances, student recitals and band concerts are publicized events in large, well-known venues where audiences give sole attention to the performers.
But music lovers have other opportunities to hear performers that fly a bit lower on the radar. There are a surprising number of small music venues in the greater Kalamazoo area where you can find music played by individuals or small combos in cozy places. These venues offer a friendly vibe, with musicians who haul their own equipment, will play your favorite songs and obscure tunes and, when taking a break, might come to your table and chat.
And while this list is not exhaustive, it does provide a good sample of places and performers to see.
Where to go:
The settings described here are neighborhood pubs, taverns and cafes. The atmosphere is friendly and the melodies — low-volume or amply amplified — accent your meal, drink and conversation. We’ve intentionally not mentioned establishments that are less intimate, not locally owned, more restaurant than tavern, or hotel lounges.
Because most of these venues don’t offer music every night, schedules change and websites might be out of date, it is recommended that you call before you go.
The Dock at Bayview. This bar and grill located near Gull Lake generally features country and rock cover bands playing on Friday and Saturday nights. 12504 East D Ave., Richland, 731-4911, thedockatbayview.com.
Final Gravity Brewing Company. This brewpub on the north end of the Kalamazoo Mall offers an eclectic entertainment music roster on Friday, a DJ on Saturday, and comedy on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. 246 N. Burdick St., 350-5136, finalgravitybrew.com.
Green Door Distillery. Here you’ll find a hippish atmosphere, craft cocktails and an eclectic blend of music, including jazz and country, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. 429 E. North St., 348-0717, greendoordistilling.com.
Louie’s Trophy House. This cozy neighborhood bar with lots of regulars is the place to find live rock on Friday, karaoke on Saturday, and open-mic nights on Wednesday. 629 Walbridge St., 385-9359, louieskzoo.com.
The Lucky Wolf at the Historic Paw Paw Playhouse. A historic converted church with a theater stage, this venue offers a variety of entertainment, from comedy to open blues jams on Wednesday, live music on Sunday afternoons, and special events as scheduled. 404 E. Michigan Ave., Paw Paw, 913-4153, pawpawplayhouse.com.
McGonigle’s Irish Pub. This friendly bar with an extensive menu offers country or classic rock on Friday. 3512 E. Main St., 345-5400, kalamazoo.mcgoniglespub.com.
O’Duffy’s Pub. This neighborhood pub in the heart of the Vine neighborhood hosts artists playing blues, bluegrass and easy-listening music on Wednesday and Thursday nights. 804 W. Vine St. 381-9771, oduffyspub.com.
Old Dog Tavern. This local favorite is popular for its live, eclectic music offerings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the occasional shows on Wednesday and Thursday. 402 E. Kalamazoo Ave.
Village Hide-A-Way. This cozy watering hole in Vicksburg usually offers one-person acoustic acts but not on a regular schedule. Check the website for info. 111 E. Prairie St., Vicksburg, 649-3134, vicksburghideaway.com.
Who to see
These are just a few of the musicians who make the rounds of the local pub music scene. You might find them at Final Gravity Brewing one week, O’Duffy’s or Old Dog the next. If you find a performer you want to follow, chances are you will eventually experience many of the pubs and taverns mentioned above.
As with the pubs, there are more musicians out there; tap into a few and they will lead you to more.
Mark Bass. He describes himself as “playing pop music that descended from the big band era.” Bass plays drums, keyboard and bass guitar. He can also be seen performing with the Final Five band and as principal percussionist for the Kalamazoo Concert Band.
James Burkett. Americana music featuring guitar, harmonica, mandolin and vocals. Performs a tight vocal duet harmony with vocalist Karen McKenzie Vosburg in High Blue Sky.
Jeff Dallavalle. Versatile keyboardist playing jazz, blues, classic rock, country and classical music. Catch him with Mark Bass and Cheryl Shelton Dennis in The Jazz & Blues Heads and with Bass and Greg Crawford in the Kalamazoo Avenue Band.
Cheryl Shelton Dennis. Multi-instrumentalist playing alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute and piano. She’s trained in jazz but plays swing and classic rock as well and is known for her improvisation. “I never know what will come out of my horns,” she says. See her with Jeff Dallavalle and Mark Bass in The Jazz & Blues Heads.
Nathan Douglas. Guitar and vocalist performing classic country and rock.
Tom Duffield. Keyboardist playing blues, boogie and ballads, often gracing the stages at O’Duffy’s and Old Dog.
Don Field. Field says he plays “songs you don’t hear every day, backflip tracks” in such genres as dance music, Top 40, Motown, jazz and Sinatra/Ratpack oldies.
Jack A. Gregory. Plays guitar and sings classic rock, blues and lounge music. Often performs with Don Field, Tom Duffield, Jeff Dallavalle and Mark Bass.
Carrie McFerrin. In addition to playing many local pubs as a soloist, this country-western singer/songwriter/storyteller hosts an open-mic night at Louie’s Trophy House on Wednesdays.
The Moody Coyotes. An acoustic guitar trio featuring Mike Siegel, John DeRouin and Dave Johnson that does covers of everyone from Woody Guthrie to Freddie Mercury.
Steve Pesch. Plays his own flavor of rock ’n’ roll classics.
Dan Simon. Plays the dobro, a stringed instrument with “a unique sound,” he says. “People get quiet when I play.”