Sounds of the Zoo rolls out autumnal musical colors midweek


The freshman festival swelled to three different Kalamazoo locations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — and Local Spins was there to capture the action in words and photos.

Sounds of the Zoo at Old Dog: The festival resonated with world music and a tribute to Dacia bridges. (Photo/Chelsea Whitaker)


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Inside and out, Kalamazoo’s inaugural Sounds of the Zoo festival unfurled autumnal splendor this week in the form of kaleidoscopic musical colors at venues across the southwestern Michigan city.

After kicking off the seven-day event at Bell’s Brewery Eccentric Cafe on Monday, the festival moved to the Hilton Garden Inn on Tuesday, Old Dog Tavern on Wednesday and The Xperience on Thursday (with outdoor performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday still in Bronson Park).

Songwriters Showcase: Tuesday attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn. (Photo/Derek Ketchum)

Local Spins was there to capture the Michigan-centric celebration in words and photos. Check out the recaps here and scroll down for photo galleries by Derek Ketchum and Chelsea Whitaker.

Consider this a great start for an event that organizers and volunteers aim to continue for years to come.

“I’m thrilled with the response and participation from the community that supports Sounds of the Zoo,” said event founder Jennifer Hudson-Prenkert, “and extremely excited for the rest of the festival.”


Carrie McFerrin and Brian Koenigsknecht (Photo/Derek Ketchum)

With Kalamazoo’s Carrie McFerrin hosting an interview-style songwriter showcase in which she asked each performer questions about their music and writing processes one-on-one, the newly renovated Hilton Garden Inn Garden Grille was packed with attendees – not to mention the occasional hotel guest stopping in to listen. McFerrin opened the night with her own song and transitioned between acts by performing herself.

The evening wowed audiences with sets from 16-year-old rising star Kanin Elizabeth (who recorded her latest record in Los Angeles), Dylan Tolbert’s R&B vibes – putting a twist on the traditional singer-songwriter sound – and performances by Kait Rose, Nicholas James Thomasma and Darcy Wilkin, with a closing duet featuring McFerrin and Brian Koenigsknecht. – By Chelsea Whitaker


Samuel Nalangira (Photo/Chelsea Whitaker)

The evening at Old Dog Tavern began with a small gathering of musicians and recording professionals discussing best practices and record preparation, a conversation led by Ian Gorman of La Luna Recording and Sound of Kalamazoo. He was joined by industry professionals Angelo Kim, Asha Kitchen, Mike Roche and Paul Schaedig.

Immediately after, the Nathan Moore case paid tribute to Dacia Bridges, the powerhouse of southwestern Michigan (which died unexpectedly in 2019). Moore brought in a few guests to help pay tribute to the singer and guitarist: Sounds of the Zoo founder Jennifer Hudson-Prenkert, singer-songwriter Grace Theisen, Annabelle Fuerst and others. World music virtuoso Samuel Nalangira closed the evening with a Ugandan dance party.

Attendees may have been outside at Old Dog Tavern during the cool fall temperatures, but that didn’t stop them from getting out and soaking up the music. Fans filled the backyard space, outfitted with extra layers and blankets to keep warm. – By Chelsea Whitaker

The Xperience: The Thursday Night Stage. (Photo/Derek Ketchum)


The Kalamazoo Xperience was truly an experience on Thursday. The good sized venue with great drinks and plenty of room to dance hosted Black Rose from Grand Rapids soul actor Serita, who unleashed a fun set for the fans. DJ Mel V closed out the night, busting many of the small crowd out of their seats to dance the rest of the night. Thursday’s event opened with a music journalism workshop, presented by Hudson-Prenkert and writer Ryan Boldrey. – By Derek Ketchum

Check out Local Spins’ coverage of Monday’s opening night at Bell’s Brewery here: Funk, hip hop and rock merge for the first-ever Sounds of the Zoo festival

PHOTO GALLERY: Sounds of the Zoo, Days 2 and 3
Hilton Garden Inn and Old Dog Tavern
Pictures of Chelsea Whitaker


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