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Big Rapids is considered a decent-sized city by reputation, but on Friday, March 24, it was looking rather country.
That’s because Battle Creek country star Frankie Ballard headlined this year’s Music Takes Action (MTA) event at Wink Arena, supported by Nashville, Tennessee, country act A Thousand Horses and Muskegon-based Spike the Media. More than 1,400 students and fans in flannel and blue jeans packed the arena, putting to rest any idea that a country headliner couldn’t do the annual benefit concert proper justice.
“This is Big Rapids,” said Ferris surveying engineering junior Jake Los. “You go to a country concert, you’ll get the best country concert.”
Spike the Media stood out from the other performers as the only rock group at a country show, but won the crowd with few obstacles, playing an eclectic mix of originals, as well as covers from such artists as Green Day and Pearl Jam. Their set’s conclusion was met by a reverberating chant of “U-S-A!” from the enthused crowd.
“They were badass,” Los said. “They’re a college band. They sound badass. They’re a good cover band.”
Ferris criminal justice sophomore Sydney Kassuba was especially excited to see A Thousand Horses, and claims Back to Me is her favorite song by them.
“I had a moment with the singer,” Kassuba said. “I sang to him and he saw me.”
Frankie Ballard topped the evening off, his smoky voice bellowing such hits as Wild & Crazy and Cigarette. Fans danced both slow and fast to the music of this Michigan native accompanied by his Nashville-based Wildcat Band.
“I love his voice and his music and how it relates to every day,” said Ferris dental hygiene junior Brenna Piper. “It was way better than last year.”
The pinnacle of the evening was Ballard’s rendition of fan favorite Sunshine & Whiskey, despite the evening’s performance noticeably lacking both.
“It’s too hot in here,” Piper said. “It’s great, it just needs to be outside.”
A popular comment from fans in attendance is the preference of MTA as an outdoor April event over this year’s incarnation at Wink.
“They could’ve sold hot chocolate,” said Ferris health information management junior Brittany Forton. “They would’ve made bank.”
Another observation that polarized some attendees was the arguable missing diversity from previous events, some citing country as a typically “white” music genre, though others disagreeing.
“I think at Ferris, country is pretty accepted,” said Holland resident Kyle Valk. “It seemed like there was some diversity.”
Despite Entertainment Unlimited (EU) “selling” all of its 2,250 tickets, only 1,455 tickets were redeemed by the end of the night.
This year’s benefitted charity was the Animal Rescue Coalition of Mecosta County, who claims to have saved 600 cats and 1,600 dogs since its 2011 inception.
“It was so crazy,” said Ferris heavy equipment junior Tanner Gray. “It was lit.”