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, 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 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.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Venue Counts

VENUE COUNTS since mid-2014
In Michigan unless noted 4/29/18
Towns 36
Venues:  private 65 public 20 outdoor 20  Map link

    Covered Bridge Park 1

Ann Arbor
    Blind Pig 1

    Short's 1

Benton Harbor
    Mendel Center 1

    Eagles Lodge 1

    Charlevoix Cinema III 1

Chicago, IL
    Schuba's 1
    Vic Theater 2

Comstock Park
    Perrin Brewing 1

    Circle Pines Center 1

    Crane's Pie Pantry 3
    Salt Of The Earth 1

    Otus Supply 1

Grand Haven   
    Grand Armory 4
    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 1
    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 5
    Quinn and Tuite's 2
    Rocky's 1
    Rosa Parks Circle 2
    Tip Top Deluxe 3
    20 Monroe Live 3
    Wealthy Theatre 4

    Thornapple Plaza 1

    Hilliards Corner Lounge 1

    Coppercraft Distillery 2
    Fireside Brewing 1
    New Holland Brewery 9
    Park Theatre 2

    Corson Auditorium 1

    Arcadia Ales 1
    Bell's 16
    Chau Haus 1
    Craft Draft 2 Go 1
    Final Gravity Brewing 3
    First Congregational Church 2
    Harvey's 3
    HopCat 2
    House shows 2
    Kalamazoo Piano Co. 1
    Kalamazoo Valley Museum 4
    Kal-Tone Instrument Co. 1
    Louie's Trophy House 5
    Old Dog Tavern 15
    Potter's Lounge 1
    Rootead 1
    Rupert's Brew House 1
    Tibbs Brewing 1
    Webster's 6

Lake City
    Earthwork Farm 1

    MSU Community Music School 1

Lathrup Village
    Municipal Park 1

    Old Art Building 1

    Mitten Bar 1

    Ore Dock Brewing 2

    Memorial Park 1

    Frauenthal Center 3
    Pigeon Hill Brewing 2

Nelsonville, OH
    Hocking College 1

    Feed The World Cafe 1

    Bookends Resale Shop 1

    Ransom District Library 1

    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

    Hoxeyville Festival Grounds 1

    Tripelroot 3

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spotlights For April 2018

4 2 18  Lipstick Jodi  That's So Great (She Likes Boys) 

4 3 18  Lazy Genius  Feels So Fine 

4 4 18 Earth Radio  Over Again

4 5 18 Desmond Jones  Gold 'Til The Grave

4 6 18 May Erlewine Wherever You Are

4 7 18 Big Dudee Roo Islands Of Light

4 8 18 The Accidentals  Earthbound

4 9 18 The Go Rounds  Code 

4 10 18 Jessica In The Rainbow  History Lesson 

4 11 18 Last Gasp Collective

4 12 18 The Outer Vibe  Fionna

4 13 18 The Hacky Turtles Cocoa Butter Kisses

4 14 18 Silverstiles  Sometimes

4 15 18  Lady Ace Boogie  Hands Up  

4 17 18 Grand Rapids Soul Club promo video

4 19 18 Red Sea Pedestrians  Take Back The Sun

4 20 18 The Crane Wives Volta

4 21 18 Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish   Don't Call, Don't Write 

4 23 18  Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats  The Great Deluge 

4 25 18  The Appleseed Collective  Bad Habit 

4 27 18 Parlor Voice Coronations Of Queens

4 30 18  Donny Brown  14 Days


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Live Music Log, March 2018

It occurs to me that any new readers might not know anything at all about me.  So, here's a lil recap. After a bad divorce, I crawled home from Arizona and lived in a cave for about a year.  Then it occurred to me that I could go see live music again, and I did, and then I did again, and again.  I reactivated my ancient emo blog to keep track of who I see.  I have managed to make some good friends, in and out of the bands, along the way.

3 2 18 Corn Fed Girls #3  Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo

       Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #18 Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo  This CFG show was the official kickoff for the Fretboard Festival, mostly held the next day, a smorgasbord of different musical performances, workshops, and stringed instrument petting zoos.  This show was in the large vestibule outside the planetarium. Darcy was droll.  John Campos was gnomishly hilarious.  Mike Fuerst was earnestly virtuosic.  Phil and Sarah were thunderbolty.  Everyone was effortlessly skillful.  This is the biggest band of ringers in town.  This is the '42 Yankees, the '84 Tigers of Kalamazoo folk music.  And then, because Kalamazoo is magic, this early show gave me time to walk literally feet to Final Gravity for everyone’s favorite smiley goth chick, Olivia Mainville. The Troupe this time was missing Bleu, so no trombone, but Libby DeCamp was here for some banjo and harmony, along with the Wonka-ishly entertaining Schreiber brothers.  Since I first saw her, she’s become so much more professional, but…maybe a little less hungry?  I am very much looking forward to new recordings on the horizon.  She’s just getting started.  Remember her name.

3 3 18 KALAMAZOO FRETBOARD FESTIVAL: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #5/Mark Lavengood Band #2/May Erlewine #9
Kaitlin Rose #4/Brian Koenigsknecht #10/Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats #3 Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo The festival started at noon, on two sites at the downtown campus of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, but I couldn’t get there till 3, so I only caught three acts out of about a dozen that played throughout the day. Phil Barry and Sarah Fuerst, operating as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot ( a wholly owned subsidiary of CFG Inc.), have the kind of effortlessly blending harmonies that either come from being siblings or working together a long, long time. This is the second kind. With just guitar and occasional ukulele, a spell was spun in an overly sunny college classroom. Mark Lavengood is good time knees up slap yer fanny bluegrass, with some rock n roll energy and a set of epic beards. In Transit, recorded before his exit from the Flatbellys, is a favorite of mine. I caught just two songs from Channing and Quinn, but I really need to get to a whole show: utterly charming and unique, complete with tap dancing. May Erlewine was the main event, always a celebratory occasion and a community happening. I’ve made the unlikely comparison to Dolly Parton: both women make you feel like you matter, like you’re part of their world. These songs of healing and compassion, of dark thoughts and distant solutions, are mother’s milk to a troubled mind. I may have shouted along to Never One Thing too loudly, judging by some looks I got. I Do Not Care.

3 4 18 EMILEE PETERSMARK/Brian Koenigsknecht #11/Nicholas James Thomasma #3 Creston Brewery, Grand Rapids This one I had to take off work for. Entry…five? Nick Thomasma’s excellent Songtellers Series, where artists play in the round and talk about their process. Nick continues to impress the hell out of me with his introspective side, I really need to get that Long Story Short album. Brian was on the cusp of releasing his fifth full length, Roswell, and many songs from it were featured, with collaborations from the other two on stage. And Emilee…after 41 Wives shows, a couple years of friendship, this was the first time I had ever seen her do more than one song solo. And it was spine tingling. Every single thing she played is completely unavailable, either really old or really new. My ears were not big enough to absorb all the life giving new music. I filmed the whole thing for absent friends on Facebook Live, but I ruined it, bad, with my own talking and singing, gawd I cannot bear to hear it but I must, because of that treasure trove of unique performances. That was an out of body experience. Someone tune that thing up while I’m gone, would ya?

3 9 18 Matthew Borr #8/Carrie McFerrin #16 Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo A New Year’s resolution of mine was to try to see new and different acts as much as possible this year. I am failing at that because I have friends now, and they often make good music. I was going to pop in here, have some laffs, and pop out to see some other thing, I can’t remember what any more, but the cider was good, the tunes were great, and the company was sparkling, pun intended, so I never left. Some really nifty new songs in the mix: Dreamed A River, Kathleen, and Pick A Flower. (“Thank you for deflowering my song,” sez Carrie to the audience.)

3 10 18 "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids Such a great idea for a tour: The Ill Advised Self Indulgent Vanity Tour! Pulling out none of the stops! No parodies, all originals! I was excited for this, but in the end, bets were hedged. Emo Philips opened with a set of breathtakingly misanthropic comedy: I didn’t remember him being quite this vicious. Excellent. Then Al: seated, accordion in lap, no costumes, no video screens, just music. Same band for thirty years, all crackerjack players. Jackson Park Express. One More Minute. Dare To Be Stupid played Grateful Dead style. Biggest Ball of Twine….so long and boring, I’m afraid. Thrilling cover of the Kinks’ All Day and All Of The Night. Medley of parodies, making the night’s concept wobbly. Encore: The Saga Begins….long and boring. And 75 minutes in, it was all over. Al is in possibly the finest shape and voice of his life, his relevancy is clear, his artistry is without question…but the brevity of the show, and the absence of his masterpiece Albuquerque, left me with some buyer’s remorse. With my hours being cut at work, I need to stick more to local acts charging $5 to $10 for a while.

3 14 18 The Crane Wives #42 (Kate and Emilee--acoustic) Grand Armory, Grand Haven Another Must Take Off Work Or Else show. Only the second duo gig I’ve been to, and the first was where I officially met them. The Grand Armory curse had me and friends sitting off to the side, causing neck craning issues, and a number of patrons Did Not Care, but enough did to call it a success. I definitely saw other people singing along. Newer songs in an acoustic setting sounded wonderful. A rare performance of New Discovery was a highlight as well. The folk roots of the Crane Wives are much more evident here than in contemporary performances, which skew more indie rock. (The CW Spotify station is full of folk music, except when they themselves are on.) An awkward group photo was taken.

3 16 18 MARK STUART/Darcy Wilkin #10 Kal-Tone Instrument Co., Kalamazoo Not really a house show, but not really a ticketed venue either…an industrial show? This is a workspace where artisans build guitars, called the Sand Room (from when it was a foundry), about the same size as my room at home. We got about thirty people in there, and I finally got to hear Darcy play to SILENCE. No fighting to be heard with quiet voice and strum over drunken maroons. It was glorious. The Steven Wright of music: so morose yet so hilarious. Pavilion Estates is a new character study song. Mark Stuart is a longtime member of Steve Earle’s backing band (and his brother in law) who also writes and sings some fine songs, often with his wife. He looks like a face meld between the two cousins on Perfect Strangers, swear to God. His songs are good, often insightful, but they are a delivery system for his dexterous, fluid guitar playing. He is the best guitarist I have been in a room with since I last saw Guided By Voices in 2002, and Mark was literally eight feet away. I lost my notes with a change of phones, so I don’t have titles, but the overall impression was extreme journeyman competence and pleasure in a job well done. A mob of us went to dinner after the show, and he came along. Great guy.

3 17 18 They Might Be Giants #2 Vic Theatre, Chicago I was introduced to this band, a geek-male favorite, by the prettiest girl I ever went out with, so there’s defiance of stereotypes right there from the beginning. A self-serious comedy band, a fringe act that rocks harder than anything now on the radio, a duo and a five piece. I hate the Vic Theater: no free water, attendants in the fetid restrooms, chewing tobacco ads everywhere, but if that’s where they play that’s where you go. An incredibly obnoxious dudebro tried his best to kill my fun—he was literally keening like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber for a while--but I edged away and he finally fell down drunk. The new album, I Like Fun, is an astonishing work for a thirty year band, a mordantly funny meditation on mortality in its multifarious forms, and it was liberally represented in the set list. Touring trumpeter Curt Ramm is a force of nature, and got several deserved spotlights, including A Self Called Nowhere to my great delight. He elevated Istanbul (Not Constantinople) to a religious experience for the sweaty, heaving mob. Ana Ng melted faces. When Will You Die and Your Racist Friend melted brains. Birdhouse In Your Soul melted hearts. With so much great music right here, I’m reluctant to roadtrip these days, but this was so worth it, even in Loner Guy mode.

3 18 18 Dan Rickabus #5 Chaffee Planetarium, Grand Rapids Is this drugs? Is this what drugs feel like? Trippy visual effects projected on the big dome while Rickabusiness shows em how it’s done? So very good. I like the record. I like the ukulele performances. But I flat out love the Dan Big Band: all three other Wives, Seth Bernard, Steve Leaf, Alex and Doug Smith, Chesney on the sampler. “I want to die in a burst of enthusiasm” is the key lyric here: for this show, for this project, for Mr. Dan Rickabus. Too often, this kind of head trip music relies heavily on synthesizers; there is a keyboard here (played by Emilee!) but the emphasis is on the interplay between guitars, drums, and bass. Your basic rock ingredients reblended and served up as a Tangerine Dream-whip. I don’t think I stopped grinning. Chesney gave me his frankly indecipherable set list. So happy.

3 23 18 DEDE AND THE DREAM/Seth Bernard #4/MISTY LYN/FRIENDS WITH THE WEATHER First Congregational Church, Kalamazoo Should have been a sign above the door: Cynicism Shall Not Pass. There was accomplished music here, but all of the quiet, folky, EARNEST variety. This show was to raise awareness for Seth’s Clean Water Campaign for Michigan, featuring poetry readings by Sarah Drumm between sets. This beautiful church is acoustically perfect and highly liberal (currently providing sanctuary to a potential deportee). Dede and the Dream is a husband and wife duo, sometimes joined by others but not this time, with a marimba and a violin. Dede Alder is a writer of quirky, wry little odes to small joys and bigger concerns. Seth played some conscious numbers and some fun tunes on his battered acoustic. Misty Lyn reminded me some of Joan Baez with a better sense of humor, and a lot of songs about death. Friends With The Weather is three salt and pepper dudes out of Ann Arbor and Toledo, led by a pastor, who sing (and play, impressively) ditties about the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and also admonitions to keep life manageable, simple, easy and happy as possible: be the song.

3 24 18 The Crane Wives #43 Pigeon Hill Brewing, Muskegon As I’ve said before, possibly unfairly, Pigeon Hill is roost to all the white mofos who wouldn’t have been caught dead downtown Muskegon five years ago. Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish, who opened with their high energy rockabilly, got a bigger reception to be sure (I missed all but two songs), but the Wives were not received tepidly or unkindly: the crowd was there for them, even if the sound guy was not. Show was in a tent in the street attached right to the front of the building, so people could pass in and out through the big garage doors seamlessly. Carlton and I hovered in a corner and inhaled the amazing sounds. Kate’s new one, which I am titling Ghost Of Me until I hear different, is wonderful and we don’t quite deserve it yet. Volta is a primal roar of hope. The woman behind me, who looked like Eva Mendes’ bratty little sister, was vocally unimpressed. She was wrong. But I fear that she and her ilk are going to drive this life giving band, and all the others out there, off the road and into day jobs just to survive. Please, please, go to shows, pay attention, spend money, make sure the venue knows you’re there to see the band. This is a golden era for live music in West Michigan, let’s not let it get smothered in the crib by the kind of dudebros and dudettes who take up the eight-top right in front of the stage and then get annoyed when the music makes their conversations difficult.

3 31 18 MATT GROSS/Brian Koenigsknecht #12/Darcy Wilkin #11 Brian's house, Kalamazoo This might be the only way said golden era survives: by going underground. This house show was absolutely packed to the gills, with people who wanted to hear every note they were gifted with. I may have cracked a few too many jokes during the show, but I felt among friends. Spur of the moment collaborations between these three were frequent and welcome. Darcy is playing more originals than covers now, her confidence is growing thanks to sweet shows like this. Brian has a new record coming out, heart on sleeve troubadouring to do, and here at this home game he shone with his intense baritone. And Matt Gross…could kill by singing the phone book, but fortunately his songs are funny, heartfelt, or both. The longtime lead singer of Knee Deep Shag, a band I saw a lot in a past life, he’s been beavering away at a solo project for the better part of a decade, and we lucky few got to hear what he’s been working on. Watch out for him: completely off the social media grid, but that may change when he has something to share with us all at last. The most pristine high tenor in Kalamazoo (that’s right, Graham Parsons, I SAID IT). “Grief is love without a place to go”: a phrase untethered in my notes, I think it was from a Matt Gross song. I also seem to remember Darcy riffing on service kids, like service dogs for the childless, but I could be wrong. I had a lot of fun and a lot of cheese. Inside joke: sorry Lana!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spotlights for March 2018

3 17 18 Darcy Wilkin Take You With Me

3 18 18 Olivia Mainville and the Aquatic Troupe Danger Death Ray

3 19 18 Michigander Falling

 3 20 18 Hollywood Makeout Speedo Spider

3 21 18 Bet On Rats Attraction to Reaction

3 22 18 Borr + McFerrin Pick A Flower

3 23 18 Friends with the Weather Be The Song

3 24 18 Crane Wives Daydreamer

3 25 18 Chuck Whiting If Everyone Loved Like You

3 26 18 Dacia Bridges Project I Begin To Wonder

3 27 18 Major Murphy Step Out

3 28 18 Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas Hot Damn

3 30 18 The Krelboynes

3 31 18 Delilah DeWylde  the Devil Inside