Stolen Wallpaper

Words but a whisper, deafness a shout

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Location: Zeeland, Michigan, United States

Hi. I wish I had a job selling squirrels. They're so furry, and give you toothy grins. Unless they're rabid, in which case they will eat your face off and then find the rest of your family. That's not so good, I guess.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Spotlights For June 2018

6 1 18  Luke Winslow-King  Leghorn Women

6 2 18 Organissimo  Dig A Pony

6 4 18  Nicholas James & The Bandwagon  No Man's Land

6 5 18 Laurel Premo  Woods That I Know

6 6 18 Lexi Adams  Wholeheartedly

6 7 18 Nashon Holloway  'S Good ('Cause You Hate)

6 9 18 Root Doctor  Rear View Sight

6 11 18 Rachael Davis  Never Tell Your Sweetheart Yes

6 12 18 Karisa Wilson  Sad Portrait

6 14 18 Mustard Plug  Everything Girl

6 17 18 Stovepipe Stover  Poughkeepsie, New York, We Love You

6 19 18 Trifocal  My Nieces Telekinesis Sneezes

6 21 18 Tart  Miss Me

6 23 18 Molly  Shine  http://mollymollymolly.bandcamp.com/track/shine

6 24 18  Crane Wives  Here I Am 

6 25 18 Elroy Meltzer  Bad Luck Dust Prints

6 28 18 Why Bonnie  Practice

6 30 18  Modern Adventures  For The First Time




Labels:

Venue Counts

VENUE COUNTS since mid-2014
In Michigan unless noted 6/30/18
Towns 43
Venues:  private 70  public 24  outdoor 24  Map link

Ada
    Covered Bridge Park 1

Allegan
     Riverfront Park 1

Ann Arbor
    Blind Pig 1

Battle Creek
    W.K. Kellogg Foundation 1

Bellaire
    Short's 1

Benton Harbor
    Mendel Center 1

Cadillac
    Eagles Lodge 1
    House show 1

Charlevoix
    Charlevoix Cinema III 1

Chelsea
    Rumpus Room 1

Chicago, IL
    Schuba's 1
    Vic Theater 2

Clarkston
     Depot Park 1

Comstock Park
    Perrin Brewing 1

Delton   
    Circle Pines Center 2

East Lansing
     Bailey Park 1
     MSU Community Music School 1

Fennville
    Crane's Pie Pantry 3
    Salt Of The Earth 1

Ferndale
    Otus Supply 1

Grand Haven   
    Grand Armory 5
    House show 1
    Tri Cities Museum 2

Grand Rapids
    A vacant lot on Logan St. 1
    Ah-Nab-Awen Park 1
    Billy's 1
    The BOB 4
    Chaffee Planetarium 1
    Creston Brewery 6
    EcoPrint 3
    Festival of the Arts 2
    Founders 11
    Grand Rapids Public Library, Main Branch 1
    Harmony Hall 3
    HopCat 1
    House shows 4
    Intersection 5
    Kent District Library, Cascade Branch 2
    Knickerbocker 1
    Local First Street Party 1
    Long Road Distillers 1
    Mulligan's Pub 1
    Pyramid Scheme 7
    Quinn and Tuite's 2
    Riverside Park 1
    Rocky's 2
    Rosa Parks Circle 3
    SpeakEZ Lounge 1
    Tip Top Deluxe 3
    20 Monroe Live 3
    Wealthy Theatre 4

Hastings
    Thornapple Plaza 1

Hilliards
    Hilliards Corner Lounge 1

Holland
    Coppercraft Distillery 2
    Fireside Brewing 1
    New Holland Brewery 10
    Park Theatre 2

Interlochen
    Corson Auditorium 1

Kalamazoo
    Arcadia Ales 1
    Bell's 16
    Chau Haus 1
    Craft Draft 2 Go 1
    Final Gravity Brewing 4
    First Congregational Church 2
    Harvey's 3
    HopCat 3
    House shows 2
    Kalamazoo Piano Co. 1
    Kalamazoo Valley Museum 4
    Kal-Tone Instrument Co. 1
    Louie's Trophy House 5
    Milhouse 1
    Old Dog Tavern 16
    Potter's Lounge 1
    Rootead 1
    Rupert's Brew House 1
    Tibbs Brewing 1
    Webster's 6

Lake City
    Earthwork Farm 1

Lathrup Village
    Municipal Park 1

Leland
    Old Art Building 1

Ludington   
    Mitten Bar 2

Marquette
    Ore Dock Brewing 2

Mattawan
    Memorial Park 1

Muskegon
    Frauenthal Center 3
    Pigeon Hill Brewing 2

Nelsonville, OH
    Hocking College 1

Oshtemo
    Feed The World Cafe 1

Parchment
    Bookends Resale Shop 1

Paw Paw
    Lucky Girl Brewing 1

Plainwell
    Ransom District Library 1

Rockford
    Rockford Brewing 1

Spring Lake
    Seven Steps Up 1

South Haven
    Community Pavilion 1
    Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum 1
    Riverfront Park 1

Three Rivers
    Downtown on the street 1

Traverse City
    House shows 1
    Rare Bird Brewpub 3

Wellston
    Hoxeyville Festival Grounds 1

Zeeland
    Tripelroot 3



Monday, June 04, 2018

Live Music Log, May 2018

Hi.  I'm a guy who goes to shows in west Michigan and then writes about them.  These are my dim recollections.


5 5 18  Lindsay Lou #5/Mark Lavengood #3  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  The various vagaries of music business meant that Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys' new album, Southland, was in the can for 15 months, during which time Everything Changed:  Mark Lavengood left the band to keep his family in GR, a drummer from California was added, and the Flatbellys part of the name went away.  It's out at last and it is excellent, though of course Mark is all over it, many of its songs being familiar to me now from the intervening live shows.  The Voice is a monster, an actual hit song in a better universe;  Shining In The Distance is a wistful anthem for troubled times;  Simple and Sober, sung by Jeremy Rilko, is a gentle rebuke for our frenzied paces.  They make their homes in Nashville, but they are still loved up here in the homeland.  The merch table was run by soooo many Rilkos.  Mark's opening slot included In Transit, which was to be his vocal spotlight on Southland, and several other big-grin tunes.  The level of musicianship would be daunting if it wasn't all in service of straightforward, bluegrassish pop songs.  I was bemused by the multi-pierced goth girl working the floor who looked like the Americana was making her bleed internally.  It takes all kinds:  sometimes I want the snotty rock and roll, and sometimes I want the honeyed sounds of Lindsay Lou.  Spending my last dime on that sugar.

5 6 18  The Crane Wives #45  The Rumpus Room, Chelsea  Last minute trip to the east side, Roo in tow, for my favorite band in a tiny lil room that smelled strongly of pizza and had hilarious hobbit murals on every wall.  Here I Am, or Ghost Town, is shaping into a powerful lament for the people left behind when the world moves on.  Small but appreciative crowd.  Mr. Zito presented me with a T shirt, a 2X from the newest run of the design they stole back from me and did so well with;  I didn't have the heart to tell him I could fit it on one arm.  I am large.


5 11 18  NELLIE McKAY  W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek  Weird show with a delightfully daffy woman.  This was at noon, in the basement of a philanthropic organization attached to a cereal empire:  grand staircase, fancy garden, indoor fountain, giant piano.  Part of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, which showcases many kinds of music in many venues throughout the Kalamazoo area.  She bounded out, decked in a drum majorette uniform and shiny boots, and proceeded to beguile or bewilder the crowd, depending on their ability to get what she was doing.  A modern day Victor Borge, Nellie adds a lot of comedy to her world class piano, her sweet n sour vocals, and occasional ukulele.  (When she stood for the ukulele tunes, she was three feet from me.)  I did not take notes, that might have seemed rude, so I can't remember every bit of the just-over-an-hour performance, but I was utterly charmed.  Her dog was backstage, for god's sake.  On The Work Song, the audience was divided into singalong thirds:  a high note, a low note, and a phrase in Mandarin.  I was in the high note section;  she looked right at me and complimented me on my high note "for a burly dude."  I can die now.  After Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter, she chirped, "Thanks, I wrote that one yesterday!"  No Dog Song, but she did play Ding Dong, one of my favorites from her crazy debut album, Get Away From Me.  Too short a show, but long enough to solidify my devotion.

5 12 18  JEN SYGIT  House show, Cadillac  Sometimes it feels rude to pull out my phone to take notes for this blog, usually in intimate settings like this house show in a deceptively swanky farmhouse near Cadillac, part of the Gopherwood series.  Downside:  I can't remember much of anything, beyond that I really liked Ms. Sygit and her songs.  She's about to release her first album in nine years, making her ten years as a professional musician all the more impressive.  I know I fell asleep at least once in the hot hot room (not as asleep as my friend Rich tho), but I know I want to see her play again.  She has her own Warblersesque band called Stella too.  A highlight I remember was Pay For What You Get, a clever lyric set to a slinky tune.

5 16 18  KATE PILLSBURY/Brian Koenigsknecht #13  SpeakEZ Lounge, Grand Rapids If you read my entry last month, you know what the Crane Wives mean to me, how they were a contributing factor in my getting my life back on some kind of track.  Kate, one of the two main songwriters in that band, was playing her first solo show in nine years, since before the band existed, and I was sure as hell gonna rearrange my whole damn life to make sure I was there.  I don't know how Brian did it, but first he got Emilee to play out with him at Creston in March, and now Kate.  We're the same age, and same basic profession, but he's got performer's charisma;  I have only intermittent spazzy wit.  They traded off songs rather than playing whole sets, Brian's Roswell songs sounding great alongside a few deeper cuts, including my beloved Last Of The Venues.  Kate didn't go quite as hardcore as Emilee did, she played a couple Wives songs and a couple of covers, but it was beyond marvelous.  A bigger crowd would have been nice, but those of us who came were rapt.  Chris Stapleton's Traveler was a highlight, as was Jealous Of The Moon, and a broody relationship song called Taking Turns.  And...for the first time since I met her, she sang How To Rest, the song that blew me apart and glued me back together.  She is my favorite songwriter of the 21st century, and I am very glad she exists.  To conclude, Brian goaded her into a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain...and then HE fluffed the words.  The best of times.


5 19 18  IN THE CLOUDS 2018:  LIPSTICK JODI/LIAM WILCOX/POZZETRONICS/LEAH KRISTENE/JESSICA IN THE RAINBOW/CLOUDLIGHT/VAN LENTE/Libby DeCamp #4/MADDIE JACKSON  House show, Grand Haven  This was an all-day house show event, held by Jessica Fogle and Bryan Ralph of cloudlight:  so much music under one low basement ceiling.  I was awkwardly early as usual, sipping a Lacroix in the corner while others sauntered in, so the day started a half hour behind, with Karli Morehouse of Lipstick Jodi Neil Younging it with just her and her electric guitar.  Even alone, her songs like Katrina ring out like the big emo pop anthems LGBT kids should have had ten years ago.  I hope they become massive.  There was a new one so filled with desperate longing I had to look away, this in a basement six feet from me.  Sets were alternately in the basement and the living room, so we tromped upstairs for a piano set by Liam Wilcox, a former student of Jessica's, an actual angsty teen who started shaky and got more impressive as the nerves burned off.  Pozzetronics:  dafuq did I just see?  A dude with a suitcase full of electronics, not my bag but still impressive in a howdhedodat way.  As he said, "I don't compose;  I EXPLORE."  Makes the Go Rounds freakouts sound like medieval lute.  Again, got better as his confidence rose, this was his first gig ever.  Leah Kristene was a young lady with four strings on a six string guitar and a big dusky voice.  She broke down while singing a very personal song, and we were all there for her in a physically palpable way in that quiet living room.  This was my first time seeing Jessica In The Rainbow playing her own songs after two Tom Waits nights, and it was superb:  cello, keys, tasteful guitar, the sound of slightly tipsy melancholy unicorns.  Cloudlight is also Jessica, with more emphasis on the songs of her partner Bryan, slightly more down to earth than the anything-goes Rainbow, though both have bountiful charms and much the same personnel.  Van Lente is Gabrielle Schaub, singing very quietly and gorgeously about sad subjects and she needs more content out there oh god is she good.  Then my first repeat:  Libby came armed with a whole lot of excellent new songs and the whole Troupe, minus Olivia, backing her up.  Much less banjo, much more bite.  This new album is gonna be killer.  Ask For Water was an angry Flint anthem that will pin your ears back.  At this point, I was so hot (I sat out the blaring basement noise of Chef Goldblum) and sleepy that I took a powder on the last two acts.  My apologies to Pink Sky and Queen Bee Dream, I will have to catch you at a less exhausted time.

5 23 18  The Crane Wives #46 (Kate and Emilee--acoustic) Grand Armory, Grand Haven  Very much like the duo show a couple months ago, but with better seats and more company.  Brandon remarked that they were the loudest acoustic act he'd ever seen...the time spent going all electric has helped make them a powerhouse of sound when they're not even trying to be.  Lovely to hear a few songs out of the vault, like Hole In The Silver Lining and New Discovery, and the new ones stripped down show their staying power.  We all went out to dinner afterwards, during which I tried not to squee like a child with a 2 liter of Mountain Dew.

5 26 18  I BELIEVE IN JULIO/SUZIES/BLANCA LUZ/REGGIES  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  This was a night for the snotty rock and roll.  Creepy Alone Guy rode again, but I needed something more abrasive in my musical diet, and here twas.  The reggies were a female-fronted trio dealing in shoegazey textures and strong melodies, like a more atonal Jen Trynin. Breeders-ish chameleons. Soft inaudible vocals with occasional shouty bits piercing through the sound mix.  A lot of shows lately, I can't make out the words at all;  is it my hearing?  They can't ALL be shitty PA mixes, can they?  For everyone tonight except Julio, I couldn't make out a word.  Blanca Luz featured a woman on bass (looking forward to a day that isn't notable), which was notable chiefly because they also featured Cedric Canero, the amazing bassist for Hollywood Makeout, on second guitar.  Craig Wedrenish vocals, high and reedy, more power melodies.  Singer, who kinda looked like he just found a guitar in the dumpster behind the venue, was impressively dedicated to wearing his thick cap despite the oppressive heat.  This band has heard All Time Low.  Suzies:  five dudes, four singers, kinda preppy aesthetic, Underwater, Devo Lite kinda vibe.  Old fashioned setup, like the Tornadoes or the Chantays, for a propulsive Doctor Who Theme kind of sound.  And then Julio:  Andrew WK, Dave Grohl and Cyco Miko rolled into one, with Daine Hammerle of Big Dudee Roo having a whole lotta fun on the drums, and Dan Fisher of every band in the world on bass.  His parents were there, something I have seen over and over at the Scheme.  This is like a punk Stepladders:  dude has a vision, calls on ringer friends to execute said vision.  Been Around is a damn Grand Rapids anthem.  All of these bands should be checked out on Bandcamp.  Very glad I went.

5 27 18  Olivia Mainville #19 (with Brandon James)  HopCat, Kalamazoo  Outdoors, hot as hell, but Bob English dumped his water on me a couple of times which helped with that.  A fun lil duo show, much like the Zeeland Tripelroot gigs, trading the bass, guitar and vocals around.  Wee bit of drama around an unpaid tab, Dan to the rescue.  I like having friends, it sure beats the years I had of the alternative.  Good to see Steve, Adam and Libby as well.  There were a few songs I didn't know so well, which are likely to be fleshed out on the record they're currently driving to California to make.  Can't wait.

5 28 18  Carrie McFerrin #17  Lucky Girl Brewing, Paw Paw  Even hotter:  this new brewpub is basically a pole barn at a busy crossroad in the middle of nowhere, and the AC was out.  Carrie cut a slyly ridiculous figure in a stars-and-stripes dress:  embracing the absurdity, because laughter beats sobbing any day of the week.  Pick A Flower is a great song that gets better every time I hear it. Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has never been more out of place, and all the more great for it Matt Borr was dragooned in for a mini duo set at the end, and their harmonies were worth every drop of sweat that ran down my overheated back.  There were also adorable children present.  Happy Memorial Day, folks, as the "president" says.

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Live Music Log, April 2018



4 5 18  Seth Bernard #5  EcoPrint, Grand Rapids  This was an invite-only pilot program for a thing Bill Chesney is trying at his print shop:  intimate shows in an industrial setting, very similar to Darcy’s show at Kal-Tone.  There were chairs, and cheese, and a perma-smiling Seth Bernard with his beloved battered acoustic guitar.  It was filmed for potential use later, so I made sure to dodge THAT camera. He told stories and took questions, and when I asked about his Clean Water Initiative campaign, that led into a (highly informative) speech that ate about 15 minutes of the hourlong show.  Feeling guilty about stealing that much music from my fellow attendees, I also requested a song from his very first release, which turned out to be a delightful Dick Siegel number about a restaurant in NYC.  I bought a Steve Leaf record:  for the curious, Bill has an Earthwork factory outlet in a nook off the main shop.

4 7 18  Over The Rhine #2  Bell’s, Kalamazoo  Lived-in sound.  A husband and wife who have been making low, slow, melancholy music with the occasional strand of barbed wire for 25 years now, this was a rare Bell’s show where you could hear the rustle of fabric as the musicians moved.  Fewer familiar tunes than last time, but much more comedy, and a young sideman who was an absolute wizard on the electric guitar, adding nasty filigrees to all Linford and Karen’s stately songs.  Good to hear Linford sing more too:  understandable why he leaves most of it to his unfeasibly talented wife, but his shaggy dog tones are perfect for some songs.  He could have been a Loudon Wainwrightish troubadour if he hadn’t paired up with one of the great female voices of our time.

4 8 18  MAX LOCKWOOD  Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids  A very rare solo outing from the leader of Big Dudee Roo (and, of late, the Insiders), a low key set on a bright Sunday afternoon, sun streaming in the big windows along Quimby St.  Some support from his friends, mainly Eric O’Daly and Joe Van Acker, but this was Max singing his songs, many from his excellent solo disc Outrider, many brand new as well.  Never has someone been so destined to portray Tom Petty, but he has a distinctive songwriting voice, Americana bent through life here in this place:  the Midwest, not the South.  “Where the river runs, you follow down.”

4 13 18  Guided By Voices #2  Blind Pig, Ann Arbor  Actually my fourth time seeing this iconic Ohio band, the first two being back in 2002 and 2003, long before the blog and marriage and any kind of life.  28 year old me had no friends, and weird solitary hobbies, but he did have a hell of a music collection, and the insanely prolific Robert Pollard fills nearly a shelf by himself.  I’m not as insane about everything he craps out as the most hardcore of fans, and I wish more of his lyrics didn’t require a decoder ring, but I love his melodies and his populist can-do spirit.  The new album, Space Gun (his 102nd), is my favorite in 15 years, and they played the whole thing, as well as tracks from across the wide Pollardverse, comprising five or six side bands and solo works, even a song from sideman Doug Gillard’s solo career.  This venue was small, and packed, and hot as hell.  The PA somehow managed to convey every nuance of the muscular band’s musicianship, and render every single lyric illegible.  Sacrilegious as it was, I bailed after the first encore (there were two more) to catch my breath.  A GBV show is three hours, 50+ songs, and a hell of a lot of fun.  It WAS a bit of an unwelcome callback to those days of The Creepy Alone Guy, not knowing another soul in the club or indeed the city.  But then the band plays Glad Girls, and a whole room levitates with joy.

4 14 18  Hollywood Makeout #2/THE EXTRA TEXTURE/Lazy Genius #3  Pyramid Scheme, Grand Rapids  The Scheme has periodic Local Showcase bills, where three or four local bands get a chance to shine:  commendable, since a lot of midsize venues like Bell’s are booking regional or national acts only now.  Here we had three GR acts on the way up, playing to a reasonably enthusiastic crowd.  The Extra Texture I didn’t know, and still don’t:  their songs passed by pleasantly but didn’t leave an impression.  I will investigate further.  Love the George-inspired name.  Hollywood Makeout is superb: a locked and loaded melody howitzer with a bass sound like a six lane highway into your skull, perfectly balanced by Erin Lenau’s serene vocals.  There’s one trick here right now, Blondie playing the Strokes, but it’s a very good trick, and “Space Jam” shows there’s lots of room for branching out down the road.  Lazy Genius is inscrutable, in the best way:  I have yet to see them in a venue where I can make out the damn words, so the songs could mean anything, but they leave an image of dissolute friendliness, louche without being supercilious, and assorted other big words.  This was a release show for their new EP, New Moon.  Check the Bandcamp.  I love Bandcamp.  If music HAS to leave physical media behind, this is the way to go.

4 15 18  THE STASH BAND  House show, Grand Rapids  This is music as a contact sport:  acoustic rugby.  Stash Wyslouch and his band of wunderkind nutballs have been described by the Boston (their base) Herald as “a sonic kaleidoscope of weirdness and wonder.”  This was a last minute call for a show at Mark Lavengood’s house;  the gracious host also chipped in his dobro skills on a few tunes.  System of A Down, Gogol Bordello, Punch Brothers, Spike Jones, Modest Mouse, Sepultura, Andy Borowitz, and the Steep Canyon Rangers thrown in a blender and puree pushed.  Off kilter insanity with intervals of straight genre to prove virtuosity, in a living room with maybe 20 people.  The songs served the sound, and the sound was all your brain could handle.  Two words:  Ice Crisis!  Best bit:  during the last song of the first set, the band members ghosted the room one by one, drifting into the kitchen or down the hall, like Homer oozing into the hedge.  A line that grabbed me:  Start acting like a man, and stop acting like a man.  Mark’s tiny child stole a drumstick at a crucial moment, making for the most adorable dropped cue ever.  If they ever come back here GO SEE THEM.

4 22 18  The Crane Wives #44  Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids And thus the number of shows seen catches up to my age.  So what’s the deal here?  Why would anyone go see a local band that many times in the span of 28 months?  Because I love this sound, and these songs, more than anything else, except my mother and my dog.  And at least my dog didn’t vote for Trump BUT I DIGRESS.  After being unilaterally moved to Arizona, then cheated on and dumped six months later, I crawled home a shell of my former self, and my former self wasn’t all that substantial to begin with.  For almost a decade I was defined as her large weird companion who had all that music.  To go back to who I was before, a hermit cipher, seemed like a bad plan.  I hid in the basement for about a year, working and walking the dog and not much else.  Then I remembered I wasn’t married to an agoraphobic any more, and I could go see live music, like I did back in the late 90s, the days of the Verve Pipe, Domestic Problems, Fat Amy, Milkhouse, Knee Deep Shag, and assorted other names that will mean something to a few people.  I started off slow, mostly showing up awkwardly at shows by Scottie’s friend Colin and his Irish band (which became the Saltbound).  One day I went to the local section in Vertigo Music and literally judged an album by its cover.  The second Crane Wives album, The Fool In Her Wedding Gown, has a striking, stylized painting of a crying woman, all the sudden self-realization in the world somehow conveyed in a few brushstrokes.  I knew fact zero about this band, not one thing, but I had the Decemberists album their name referenced, and that’s a hell of a good start.  Put it in in the car:  oh violins, high keening vocal, nice, banjo a bit intrusive, immersive complex sound serving a simple (not simplistic) song.  Next song:  Steady, Steady.  Describing a young woman married too soon, chafing at her restrictions, “how long is forever?”  Driving down M-45, tears streaming down my face:  my god, is this how she felt?  Skipped the turn to home, kept going.  Strangler Fig:  “I gave you, everything I had, NOW I WANT IT BACK.”  Damn fuckin’ straight I do.  I paid your way through school, and instead of paying mine, you got bored with me.  Hit the lakeshore, kept going.  Show Your Fangs:  a fierce feminist declaration I later discovered was written by the dude drummer, three part unison vocal throughout, showing unity of purpose.  Once And For All:  the nearly incoherent, impotent anger, at her and at myself, given voice.  Who are these young women and how are they in my head?  “Please don’t return me to the darkness.”  The canary in the coalmine is never saved.  And at the end:  How To Rest just wrecked me.  I pulled into the city beach in Grand Haven and just sobbed, for the first time since the final divorce fifteen months earlier.  “The heart is just a muscle with a rhythm all its own;  it doesn’t stop when you decide not to move on.  The heart knows nothing of your love or of your loss.”  In other words, Time To Move On, Schmuckboy.  It took me another three months to go see them live, but once I did, and discovered all the OTHER amazing, textured, nuanced, astonishingly accomplished songs in their catalog, there was no way I was not going to do it every chance I got.  Two lead singers, three songwriters, four dedicated and skilled instrumentalists:  before the complete collapse of the record industry, there’s no way an act like this would have not broken out nationally, and I still hold out hope, even if that means seeing less of them here.  Eventually they noticed me, the burly dude attending all their damn shows, and instead of getting a restraining order they became my friends. And the confidence boost from this led me to Dooley, through whom I met basically everyone ELSE I now know. I have more people in my life than ever before.  So, yeah, add “kind to stray randos” to their list of attributes.  I remember hanging out on the patio outside Creston before this show more than the show itself, but rest assured I still enjoyed the hell out of it.  Kate has a new song, Here I Am, or Ghost Of Me, or something else maybe, about the people left behind when the cities of Michigan are hollowed out by poverty.  This is not subject matter tackled by your everyday twinkly female-led folk band.  They are so much more.  Volta and Daydreamer are twin Emilee and Kate singles that point a way forward:  cautious optimism.  Getting ready to feel.  Just have to move a little bit faster now.  Please give them a listen, at thecranewives.bandcamp.com plus the five new singles on Spotify and YouTube.  You might not go as completely nuts as I clearly have, but if you can’t find something to love, I will refund your money myself.


4 27 18  Matt Gabriel (Trio) #3  New Holland Brewing, Holland  Matt is an accidental friend:  he was tied to the date I wanted for my song-redemption show at Old Dog last October, so he was on the bill with my five musical friends for the big night.  He got to know us through a long and hilarious Messenger thread over the months of my amateurish event planning.  (Darcy chanting:  “one of us.  One of us.”)  He has a friendly, lightly funky sound:  what if Adam Levine possessed human empathy?  His trio this night featured Eric Ellis on drums and Mat Churchill, whom I saw solo himself not long ago, on bass.  Loping genial folkish tunes that go down smooth, even when the table in front of the stage refuses to leave and the show starts 30 minutes late. Love Will Find A Way:  generic title, very catchy tune.  Heart Of Gold:  title associated way too much with another artist, absolutely killer song that sounded great with bigger instrumentation.  Pattern here.  I expect him to write a big fat hit called Just The Way You Are someday.

4 28 18  VALENTIGER/TOM HYMN/Fiona Dickinson #3  Founders, Grand Rapids  Valentiger has been a thing for well over a decade now, but I never managed to see or hear them till now.  I’d call them a low power trio, very much in the vein of Guster, highly competent melody serving the song.  Tom Hymn I can’t thumbnail:  hard to pin down, eclectic, like a less theatrical Jack And The Bear.  His own website compares him (them?) to Bob Dylan and Neutral Milk Hotel, works for me.  Bought the album on Bandcamp during the show.  And Fiona:  this time, with a superior sound system, I could ALMOST (but not quite) make out the lyrics.  Such a charming accent tho.  And the waves upon waves of lovely guitar distortion:  what if the Sundays played really, really loudly?

4 29 18  THE HONEYTONES/Hollywood Makeout #3  Founders, Grand Rapids  Not sure I’ve ever done the same venue two days in a row for completely different shows.  This early Sunday afternoon show, Feedback 2018, was a benefit for Access of West Michigan, a food pantry plus, that John Sinkevics (of Local Spins, and of the Honeytones) has been doing for many years.  I had been led to expect some semi-generic classic rock from the Honeytones, led by a pair of former Press writers, but they impressed me greatly with their song choices:  a few nice originals, a brand new Decemberists tune, and jaw-droppingly, a Patty Griffin tune, Driving, from the obscure album I had just bought used the week before.  Hollywood Makeout, as I said above, is my favorite new GR noise by a country mile, but it sure was strange to hear their scuzzed out super-rawk while daylight streamed in the windows, not to mention an audience filled with Erin Lenau’s fellow kindergarten teachers.  Also I think I saw the second guitarist’s eyes out from under a hoodie for the first time as the weather gets warmer.  Scary Pleather is my religion.  Desmond Jones closed out the benefit show, but I left to go catch….             
             ALEX AUSTIN/LOREN JOHNSON/Nicholas James Thomasma #4  Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids  The word is getting out about this series of in-the-round Songtellers shows that Nick has been curating at Creston.  Since I normally work Sundays, I won’t catch em all, but schedule craziness meant I could this time.  I got Nick’s Long Story Short EP, which is a thoughtful, somber, stately set of songs showing the best side of the grinning man in the orange bus.  Loren Johnson is very young, and very tiny, and has a voice that somehow evokes Tracy Chapman:  deep, rueful, very non-blonde. EP coming soon. Memorable song about hookin’ up in Australia.  Alex Austin was hurt real bad by someone at some point in the not-especially distant past:  he looks a bit like me, and his songs had that kicked-dog quality I wore for so long. Difference is, he has a guitar, and he can play it, so he can exorcise his demons a lot more directly.  He leads a band called Deerfield Run, an Americana act in a scene with many of them, but his Richard Thompsonish ability to paint a picture sets them apart.

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