The Outer Vibe

Top 4 Grand Rapids Bands You Need to Know

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy

Grand Rapids is quickly becoming known for frothy beverages, delectable craft beers and ‘homegrown’ hops. Even being named ‘Beer City USA,’ and America’s Best Beer Town by USA Today, taking a walk through this West Michigan town, you’ll find a brewery (Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids Brewing Co, etc) or bar in every direction.

But, trendy bars and unique breweries aren’t the only carefully-crafted smooth sensations to be found in Grand Rapids.

For nearly every dimly lit watering hole or trendy pinball bar, there’s an extremely talented ‘big city’ band living the dream in their hometown.

While the big music towns like Los Angeles and Nashville have their own rise-to-fame glory stories from young and upcoming bands, Grand Rapids has its own share of award-winning musical talent. It’s about time you get to know the top five biggest, brightest bands Beer City USA has been brewing up.

Listen now and be one of the cool kids who knew them right before they hit it big. Thank the #awesomemitten for that, will ya?

#1. The Outer Vibe

Top Five Grand Rapids Bands - The Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy of the Outer Vibe

Facebook: The Outer Vibe
Twitter: @theoutervibe

Enter self-described psychedelic surf disco group, The Outer Vibe. Donning their own “merch-tees” lettered with ‘what the hell is the outer vibe,’ this West Michigan band is just the right amount of lighthearted fun.

Aside from the giggles, this band is made up of seasoned musicians. Some of its members hold music degrees and have been teaching their passion for years.

They’re a sound that resembles the beach towns and those lazy, sun-soaked days by the shore.

It’s as if Freddie Mercury had a love child with The Beach Boys. The Mamas and Papas’ California Dreamin’ feel mixed with a little ‘80s Scorpion/Skid Row kinda ballad singing.

Check out their song, “Shining Like a Diamond,” below.

“My treasure is my work, from the sweat and the dirt; from the holes of my soul, there’s a story to be told.”

It’s serious feel-good music that makes you feel like you’re on a vacation. Keep their records spinning and you’ll never have to go home.

Inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge sunsets, The Outer Vibe inserts perfectly-timed trumpet solos to the tune of a tambourine, guitars, and a good old-fashioned clap. It’s almost hard to believe they’re not Californians, but alas, Michiganders through and through.

The fashion, the music, the vibes, they’ve got it all. This sunshine-y band is destined for greatness, they’ve waited long enough. It’s time you stop waiting and get to know this surf-disco band’s popular hit, “Waits For Me.”

#2. American WiFi

Top Five Grand Rapids Bands - The Awesome Mitten
Photo courtesy of American WiFi

Facebook: American WiFi
Instagram: Americanwifi

Here’s another band for those days when you just want to get lost in an incredibly catchy tune. For such an occasion, the youthful energy of American WiFi is just what the doctor ordered.

‘Love Song’ ought to rival all the popular heart-on-sleeves boy bands in the land. Plus, anytime you add a little “na na na” to a song (Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ by Journey, All the Small Things by Blink 182, Hey Jude by The Beatles) it’s gotta be a hit am I right?

This is one band who you’ll want to know. Having won ArtPrize’s Best Pop/Electronic Song in 2014  for their hit, “Spin My Record,” they’re quickly on their way to the top.

If you find yourself bobbing your head and humming along we won’t judge you. This stuff’s catchy.

“Spin my record when you miss my voice, and smile ’cause I’m thinking of you.”

American WiFi’s pop ballads about growing up and falling in love are influenced by the crystal clear vocals of Maroon 5 and guitar riffs reminiscent of Kings of Leon. We’re happier than ever these guys are falling in love right here in the mitten state. The feeling is mutual.

#3. Kari Lynch

Top Five Grand Rapids Bands - The Awesome Mitten
Kari Lynch (Photo by Roaring Frog Photography)

Facebook: Kari Lynch Music


Hankerin’ for a little Southern charm? Just ‘cause Grand Rapids is considered western Michigan, doesn’t mean we can’t serve up a glass of southern hospital-i-tea. See what I did there?

Kari Lynch fans have described her as Carrie Underwood meets Miranda Lambert. These are two powerful blond bombshells and Lynch is no exception. This northern Michigan singer, born in Clare, mixes country with a pop rock blend.

This blue eyed beauty grew up with the classics such as Patsy Cline, Garth Brooks, and Elvis Presley and has opened for some big country names including Alabama.

Her song, “Nowhere Now”eludes to the fact that she’s going nowhere, but that’s far from the case. She’s on her way to the top of the country charts if her mitten fans have anything to say about it.

“I haven’t felt this way since 17, when all that mattered was a crazy dream. Gotta bring that feeling back. Let myself be free.”

There might be a little whiskey left in the glass with this one. The bombshell shows she can be a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll with this raspy rock tune “Cyanide.”

#4. Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish

Top Five Grand Rapids Bands - The Awesome Mitten
Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish (Photo from Facebook)

Facebook: Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

If you’re used to sleepin’ all day and rockin’ all night, then this next band might become your new go-to. Described as “black tie garage rock”, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish are a rock duo made up of equal parts dapper facial hair, crooning vocals, and a splitting harmonica.

Having won awards for their “Roots Revival” release, Jesse Ray & the Carolina Catfish are a new band paying homage to the ‘old school’, rock ’n’ roll scene with a bluesy punk style. Cheers to that.

In an eightWest interview, Jesse Ray & the Carolina Catfish frontman Jesse Ray is compared to rock ‘n’ roll legend, The King himself, Elvis Presley.

They even have a song dedicated to their hometown of Grand Rapids, titled “Beer City USA.”

“Got a dollar in my pocket, gonna keep searchin’ for that fortune and fame.”

Their music is definitely raucuous, a little bit all over the place. So for the days you need upbeat, frantic, punchy tunes for your workout or just to feel like that more of a badass, turn that dial to Jesse Ray & the Carolina Catfish.

Well, there you have it-the top four Grand Rapids bands. So tell me, what sweet sounds do you have on tap from Beer City USA?