Close encounters of the nerd kind: First concert at renovated L.C. Walker Arena is ushering in a new era of music in Muskegon
The bands that have played at the L.C. Walker Arena since the venue’s debut in 1960 are a veritable who’s who of rock, blues and country: Duke Ellington and Johnny Cash. Count Basie and Willie Nelson. The Guess Who. Metallica. Judas Priest. And the list goes on.
Now, the arena is set to host its first concert since the venue’s $1.7 million renovation—and the event featuring Pegboard Nerds, a Danish-Norwegian electronic music group, and local funk/soul favorite Flexadecibel is issuing a message from Muskegon’s large-scale entertainment landscape to the rest of the country: We’re back. And growing.
The April 5 concert, titled “Close Encounters of the N3rd Kind,” is slated to usher in a new era of live music in the city that will remind the region, and country, that Muskegon can be a musical tour de force where thousands of fans pour into a single show, ELQ Entertainment Group President and Founder Erik Quintero said.
“Now that we’re moving the ball forward in the city, now that the development in downtown has taken off, there’s a cultural shift that everyone can feel in downtown Muskegon,” said Quintero, who was born and raised in Muskegon and whose booking, development and promotional entertainment company is partnering with the city to bring Pegboard Nerds here.
“This kind of show has never been done here,” Quintero said, referring to electronic dance music (EDM). “I’m excited about the Pegboard Nerds show because it’s going to give not just myself and Muskegon an incredible party, but the entertainment industry as a whole a scope on what kind of fan base is in Muskegon for an EDM or dance type event. Depending on how the show does, it can open a whole new door for music here.”
Dubbed by Billboard as a “must-see act” that plays “dynamic, shimmering, vibrant, energetic, and bossy as all hell” songs, Pegboard Nerds—which is currently on a cross-country tour—is a high energy band whose concert marks the beginning to an entertainment-packed summer, Quintero said.
“As we do more shows in the city, agencies will see that as well,” he said. “These things continue to build on each other, and, ideally, we get this synergy where everyone’s working together and you wind up with a really exciting summer for live music in Muskegon.”
As for the Danish-Norwegan band’s performance, Quintero said audience members—of which there can be up to 4,500 at concerts in the renovated arena—can expect a “big production value” event.
“If you look at an act like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, there’s a lot of sound, a lot of lights; I feel like electronic or dance music shares that aesthetic,” Quintero said. “This is not just a concert; it’s also a light and sound show.”
Before Pegboard Nerds takes the stage, Muskegon’s Flexadecibel will bring their horn-driven dance, funk, rock, and soul fusion sound to the crowd.
“It’s super important to me to allow somebody from the local scene to be a part of” any of the concerts he’s involved in, Quintero said.
“That’s why it was so important to me to get Flexadecibel in this show,” he continued. “You’re going from a live dance band into electronic music. The night’s going to flow really well.”
A growing music scene in Muskegon
Building upon an already strong local music scene, including concerts at downtown’s Frauenthal Center and Unruly Brewing, diverse programming from The Block and the West Michigan Symphony, a wide range of local music festivals—from the Michigan Irish Music Festival to the Shoreline Jazz Festival—and more, the L.C. Walker Arena, which is also home to Muskegon Lumberjacks games, will further draw fans, musicians and big-name musical acts to the city, Quintero said.
“The remodeled arena, it changes the overall aesthetic,” he said. “Now, it’s going to allow people to move around better in there; it makes it more comfortable from an environment standpoint. You’re going to be able to wander and watch the show. Rad Dads’ is in there; you’re not just going to eat popcorn and toasted almonds anymore. It’s a more impressive multi-use venue.”
This growth, he continued, is a welcome change from years past.
“If I rewind 12 years, trying to do a show in Muskegon was not the easiest thing to do—from my side, anyway,” said Quintero, who, in addition to owning his own entertainment company since 2008, has worked as a tour manager and at the former Club Envy in downtown. “There were a lot of question marks. In the last five years, there’s a completely different mindset from the city. The city has helped 100 percent with the Pegboard show. They’re 100 percent trying to support and grow entertainment in Muskegon and Muskegon as a whole.”
“People are saying we need to do bigger and better; let’s put on a world-class show,” he continued. “We can do that here. I think everyone inside the city, as well as booking agents, managers, promoters, and large national agencies are starting to look to Muskegon as a home for some of these shows.”
As for the city’s musical future, Quintero said it’s not a stretch to image Muskegon, and West Michigan in general, as something akin to Nashville.
“Artists flock to Nashville; it’s difficult to find a band that’s not easy to listen to in downtown Nashville,” Quintero said. “When you become an entertainment hub like Nashville, which I wholeheartedly believe West Michigan can be, you see this explosion of really good bands.”
That “explosion” translates to a wide variety of musical performances, he said.
“We all want to try and diversify the shows here so we can have something for everyone,” Quintero said.
“There’s so many gears in the machine that is entertainment in Muskegon,” he continued. “There’s a great team who have a singular vision working on this—me, the city, people from Taste [of Muskegon], people from Burning Foot. It’s becoming a great community of entertainment development.”
Pegboard Nerds and Flexadecibel will perform on Friday, April 5 at the L.C. Walker Arena in downtown Muskegon. The show is for audience members ages 18 and older. Doors open at 6:45pm; the event will run from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. Standing floor tickets are $25 and bowl seating tickets are $20. For more information, click here, and for tickets go here.
Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.