A concert under the stars may sound like a difficult experience to pull off during the winter season in Michigan. That’s why the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium at the Grand Rapids Public Museum has opened its doors, giving audiences the ability to appreciate the beauty of music and the wonder of the cosmos no matter what the weather is like outside.
The planetarium’s Concerts Under the Stars series, which began in January, is set to feature Jes Kramer on Thursday, March 1. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
WYCE 88.1 FM Radio named Kramer Outstanding Female Performer of the Year at the 2012 Jammie Awards.
Kramer is a singer-songwriter who often relies on a keyboard and loop pedal to create her sound. In addition to the music, the visual components involved with being in the planetarium have made the creation of this performance enjoyable for her.
“This show is the perfect combination of things I value in a live performance space; it’s all-ages, intimate and immersive,” Kramer said. “Being able to help curate projections and other visual aesthetics means that I get to invite listeners even deeper into this world I’m trying to create.”
Performing live shows hasn’t always been an easy feat for Kramer, who started making music in high school with some cheap recording software and a basic studio setup in her mom’s basement.
“Eventually, a producer I was working with in Detroit encouraged me to book some live shows, which set up a challenge of learning how to perform everything live when I was playing all the parts,” Kramer said. “Eventually I found my groove and got hooked on the interaction with an audience instead of the private creative process of recording.”
Despite finding her groove, being a one-woman band—and a performer in general—still comes with its challenges.
“I think it can be hard to be taken seriously as a woman and as a solo artist. I sometimes feel stuck in ‘opening act’ land, which usually doesn’t bother me much until I think about it,” Kramer said. “A lot of this new music I’m working on focuses on trusting myself as the person shaping my music, and trusting myself in a million other ways.”
Kramer’s biggest goal for 2018 is finishing new music. She’s been in the studio working on her third full-length record, which doesn’t have a release date yet.
In addition to her own one-woman band, Kramer is also a member of the band Kolka Karmadon and a member of the band Loplore. She sees these involvements as outlets for finding inspiration when she’s feeling stuck in a creative rut.
“Most of the collaborative projects that I get involved with exist for little bursts of time and then we let them rest,” Kramer said. “It’s often a way to get new inspiration when I’m dealing with writer’s block.”
Kramer writes songs that are mostly autobiographical now. It’s difficult for her to pick one that she’s most proud of.
“Pride comes in waves. I recently finished a song I had been trying to write for years and felt so proud of that, but every time I play a show I reconnect to a different song, so those feelings are always changing,” Kramer said. “I would say that the one song I love playing the most is ‘Something.’”
When it comes to preparing for a live show, Kramer typically works through the songs from her setlist and the transitions between them. She also makes sure that all the cables from her equipment are untangled and tries to put herself in a good head space.
Then there’s one last preparation—“I grab a nice glass of whiskey.”
Kramer always hopes she will be able to form a connection with her audiences during live shows but knows that it’s not a guarantee.
“Like so many other performers, I am hoping for a connection. But if the connection isn’t there, I really hope they find some kind of comfort,” Kramer said. “I play music because it helps reassure me that things are going to be okay, even if they feel really messy sometimes, and I want that message to come through as people listen.”
Kramer is optimistic for her Concerts Under the Stars performance. She’s been working with Meghan Moe Beitiks, an artist who produces work that interrogates relationships with the non-human, to put together a visually stunning show.
“I’m really excited about what we’ve come up with!” Kramer said.
Tickets can be purchased at GRPM.
*Photo courtesy of Jes Kramer
Jes Kramer at Founders Brewing Co