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.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Live Music Log, September 2017

9 2 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #4  Harvey's, Kalamazoo  I was about an hour late, for reasons I already can't remember, but it was a low key show, just a dude playing for mostly his own friends on the pleasantly ramshackle upstairs deck. I remember Ken Campbell, Jeremy Rilko, and I think John Mickley?  Chuck for a while?  Istanbul Sky is a man-weepy masterpiece.  Last of the Venues is the best song I know about that feeling after a good show, not wanting the night to end. And I love hearing How To Rest, even in a much lower register than nature intended.

9 2 17  Lazy Genius #2/HOLLYWOOD MAKEOUT  Mulligan's Pub, Grand Rapids  After all the folky rock and rocky folk I've been partaking of, I felt the need for something snottier, so I ascended fifty miles and descended fifteen years for a late rawk show at Ye Olde Shithole.  This kind of insouciant noise rock will never completely die, not while guitars and amps are relatively cheap, it just won't make it past the local pubs especially often any more.  Bands usually play in reverse order from billing, so when Lazy Genius started I thought they were CARL, even though I saw them play last winter at Long Road with Chance Jones.  At that previous show, I was impressed by their dynamic sound and thoughtful lyrics;  here, on an ancient shitty PA (probably still from the original Intersection, once housed here) mixed by a sound guy wearing boxing gloves, all was sludge. I saw him listen to the dire din coming from the monitors and actually nod his head in satisfaction. Sludgy vocals, sludgy guitars, occasional desultory tambourine clangs from a girl who resembled Mindy Kaling.  Will see again, but never here.  Hollywood Makeout fared a little better, since they played slightly quieter or at least with more space between notes, giving the dodgy PA more time to catch up.  Machine-gun precise drummer, theatrically showy bassist, singer/guitarist who is gorgeous in that Tina Weymouth just-doin-my-job way.  Again, need to see in better venue.  I didn't see it happen, but on the night I was there, the bouncer (allegedly) pushed a disruptive customer out the door BY HER BREASTS.  It caused a social media shitstorm, of whose effectiveness I do not know.  But even if this assault, by bar staff, didn't happen or happen differently, it is all too easy to believe it did.  Years and years of unearned anger and privilege, of curdled tattoo misogyny, have soaked into the walls, to be time-released into the patrons as the paint peels.  Mulligan's is bad.  Do not go there, do not spend your money there.

9 8 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #13  New Holland Brewing, Holland  It seems vaguely treasonous to say this, but I might have the most fun at an Olivia show out of all the acts I go see.  These slightly brain damaged young people seem genuinely enthused to have me around.  They joke with me, with each other, with the audience, during the show.  They give me cider.  They eat my pinwheels.  I hung out with her parents, for gods sake.  Dwayne and the Rock Johnsons!  Brandon goes off the rails and sings Disney tunes, Olivia looks on exasperated and secretly tickled, Bleu is my ally in lobbying for old songs, Adam sits back and benevolently observes the circus. Good to see Steve, lovely to meet Janet.  (Olivia's actual parents, not Anna Paquin and Gilda Radner as appearances might suggest.)  As these two videos suggest, Brandon's influence is sending Olivia down a darker, stranger path, but her sound is still uniquely her own.

9 9 17 Megan Dooley #12  Crane's Pie Pantry, Fennville  Dooley can only be Dooley.  She has no artifice, no guile, no bullshit manufacturing capability.  This early afternoon show by the Pie Hole found her hungover and grumpy, and she let us the audience know it.  She kinda yelled at me, then gave me her fries.  And she sounded wonderful; her brain might not like it early, but her vocal cords sure do.  Part Of Your World rang out among the apples like a crystal clear bell.  Whistled La Vie En Rose pierced every heart.  And the reefer song, again, to the small children.  She is the greatest.  Later that day, she took the first steps toward recording her new album.  And then the next day, her cat messed up her hand really badly.  Watch this space.
9 9 17 Papa Vegas #4/Crane Wives #33/MISS ATOMIC  Perrin Brewing, Comstock Park (Fifth Anniversary Party)  The past and the present collide in a remote part of GR.  Perrin is a brewery with a pub added after some success came their way;  the location is not the best, way the heck out off the main drag beyond Comstock Park.  A stage and a series of beer tents and booths were set up in the backyard, and parking was way the hell down the street.  Coming from Fennville, I thought I saw Kate walking down the road, thought, naaah.  Parked in a hay field planted on undeveloped industrial land, and promptly ran into Dan and Kate, who WERE on foot.  Even the artists had to park in the boonies?  This was a Lonely Show, knew no one here, buncha drunken louts, dudes broing down, attractive women with really homely men, so much beerness.  Miss Atomic wanted to be the Killers sooooo bad.  There were some melodies there, but the Brandon Flowersisms (including a white blazer in the blazing heat) kept me from digging too deeply for them.  Early 90s soft rock is coming back it seems. The Wives were good, they're never not good, but I was feeling so out of place that I can't say I enjoyed it much.  Emilee was freaked out audibly by the buzzing, diving quadracopter. Some dude behind me:  "Hey, that chick looks like Michelle Branch." There was a weird echo on Dan's drums that I kinda liked, like a Jamaican dub sort of effect.  I took Kate and Dan to Fricano's, which they had never had, and tried not to squee like a fangirl through dinner.  Pizza meant I missed most of Jake Kershaw, a 17 year old kid with lightning fast guitar skills.  He was playing mostly warmed over cock rock, but he was playing it so freaking well that he definitely has a bright future.  I did see him close with Hendrix's Voodoo Child, which was genuinely astonishing.  Most of the crowd left after young Kershaw got done:  it was getting cold, and Papa Vegas apparently isn't a draw any more, which saddens me.  They sounded great, but they looked tired (except for Joel's daughter, new to the band on keyboards, adorably hopping up and down to her dad's songs) and they played just less than an hour.  No Resolve, no Never, but two really good new ones, indicating they're keeping to their schedule of one new album every nine years.

9 15-16 17  EARTHWORK HARVEST GATHERING Earthwork Farm, Lake City  GREGORY STOVETOP/E MINOR/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #2/NICHOLAS JAMES & THE BANDWAGON/Seth Bernard #3/JIVE AT FIVE/Go Rounds #3/RED SEA PEDESTRIANS/Steve Leaf & The Ex Pats #2/Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish #2/The Northern Fires #2/SARI BROWN/ANNE ERLEWINE/BILLY DAVIS/MICHAEL BEAUCHAMP-COHEN/GIFTS OR CREATURES/Stepladders #2/VESPRE/FRED ZEPPELIN/Crane Wives #34/DANIEL KAHN/Dan Rickabus #2/Public Access #3  Another festival....but a very different one.  For all its Michigan leanings, Hoxeyville is very much a traditional hippie festival;  Harvest feels utterly unique.  Very short 45 minute sets by everyone, from the unknown to the highly famous.  A robust and extensive volunteer culture that could have you washing dishes alongside the musicians you came to see.  Over a hundred acts over three days, carefully curated by Seth Bernard, Bill Chesney and a select few others.  I could not stay for Sunday, sadly, but I sure as hell made the most of my weekend.  (And learned my lesson:  a hotel room in Lake City meant I traded some connectedness for a good night's sleep.)  Spotted Dan Lauterbur as I walked in, a good sign that I was gonna know people.  The biggest difference by far between now and a year ago is just the sheer number of acquaintances I have, people who seem to like to see me.  They can't ALL be brain damaged, can they?  I kicked off my festival in the century-old Bernard barn (smaller than ours, but much better kept) with Gregory Stovetop. Long beard, wild eyes, Tom Petty T shirt. Much talked up by Dan and Seth Bernard of late, this set was solo, with a flying V and a drum machine.  A small dervish child in front of the stage stole the show.  It was very Murrican, and it was okay.  He played a full band set later in the evening to widespread acclaim, but I chose a different adventure.  Next to the Hill Stage (where I and a big big big log were to get well acquainted over the next two days) for a woman named Elizabeth Landry, who goes by E Minor.  Paradox:  sunny blues.  Bassist playing a contraption built from an oil drum.  Slow torch song Dust Out of Sand was a highlight.  She had a commanding presence and a great voice.  Will Investigate Further.  Next up, same stage, was Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, with their tight harmonies, sweet songs, and almost no crowd.  Most of the people there to see them were friends from Kalamazoo (and me). Mike Fuerst dared to wear a cowboy hat.  The Change were a dire JV Blues Traveler, so of course they drew three times the crowd for their hippie dirges.  Blargh.  I went and had a gigantic grass-fed hamburger.  Came back for Nicholas James and the Bandwagon, led by my Hoxeyville savior, Nick Thomasma.  Answers the question:  what if Tommy Chong was really good on the guitar?  This is not a criticism:  this is grinning Americana, shaggy dog anthems in the spirit of Todd Snider and Arlo Guthrie. Tours the nation in an orange VW bus. Ended the last song, whose chorus had been "She'll be mine," with "She'll be her own person but she'll love me just the same."  Second best joke of the festival. Passed up a second helping of Stovetop for the old-coot swing of Jive at Five, made up of most of the festival's elder all stars, impressive as hell, rocking that jump blues and dizzy swing for all the cool cats.  Frank Youngman, Mark Schrock, Madcat Ruth, and company, some of the best pure fun sound I heard all weekend.  Next up, my first trip to the biggest stage, Cedar, for the Go Rounds.  I know there's melody under the noise somewhere, and I hope they don't give up shoveling till they find the pony. They risk floating off into dance prog oblivion like Of Montreal.  But Texas Desert Rose, Shock and Awe, and (the still very welcome) Jump Into The Fire prove there are nuggets of gold for the patient.  Up the hill for the Red Sea Pedestrians.  A twin band of sorts to the Corn Fed Girls, another collective of Kalamazoo super-musicians, klezmer origins but not tied down to one sound (unless you consider awesome a sound). Rachel Gorman is a clarinet superstar.  Need To See Again.  Way way out to the Market Stage, the most remote, for the only time, for the last two acts of Friday night.  Steve Leaf and the Ex Pats, to me, have achieved the tension-and-release, dynamic pwawawang sound that the Go Rounds are chasing.  They've taken all their videos down off YouTube, which is perplexing, but seek out their records for sophisticated rock and roll.  Much more raucous live, and funny as hell, with extended bits about radio morning shows, credit where credit is due, and the best audience troll I have ever seen:  the same two lines of Neil Young's Harvest Moon, over and over and over, for ten minutes.  The audience went from amused, to perplexed, to slightly annoyed, to fist pumping joy.  Steve Is A Monster.  Last up, Jesse Ray and his highly inauthentic, enjoyably frenzied take on rockabilly.  This is music as aerobic exercise, and a great way to close off a night.
I started out Saturday refreshed, thanks to the glory of not sleeping on the dirt, and headed back to the festival grounds for a long, long day of soaking in all the sounds.  I missed Nik Carman, an 11 year old guitar whiz.  I was going to catch a few songs by the Northern Fires, then sneak off to the Corn Fed Girls....but the open mic ran late, then there were sound issues, and Laurie had seen me, I didn't dare leave for fear of giving offense.  Pesky new friendships!  But I was glad I stayed, because they have never sounded better.  Laurie and Noah can have pitch issues at Old Dog, but here in the sunshine the harmonies rang out loud and true, on a great batch of new songs, for a really strong set. Over to the big Cedar stage for Sari Brown, whose life story was much more intriguing than her songs.  She came out, a small woman in a small dress, you're thinking, oh here comes the twee.  But she was older than she looked, and an ordained minister!  Married to someone with little English.  Her newer songs were Jesusy, nice but not my bag, her older ones were knottier and naughtier. Gotta try different things sometimes.  Same stage for Anne Erlewine, sister of May, apparently started her career first.  Looks a lot like Lily Tomlin.  Somewhat saltier than the sister, sleepy acoustic accompaniment aboundeth. When Vox Vidorra broke up, Theo kept their slot here....but then Theo didn't show, the only cancellation of the 118 acts here, so I stayed at Cedar, again, severe crick in back from leaning on electrical box (I forgot a chair) for Billy Davis.  A very elderly guitar legend, member of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, contemporary of Hendrix, thrust into a starring role late in life, playing in a guitar duo with a fiftyish white dude. Seriously awesome playing, seriously retrograde songs.  I swear to God one song sounded like an unrequited yearning  aimed at a daughter of a friend.  Off to the barn, and the best-placed old truck bench in the world, for the next three sets:  Michael Beauchamp-Cohen, on holiday from Red Tail Ring, is absurdly good looking and ludicrously talented, with a voice like spun honey, and it is not fair.  So good that I saw Darcy (or is that Dirgey now?) stay for someone's whole show for the first time ever. A highlight was Ohio Turnpike, and a John Prine tune with Max Lockwood sitting in.  Next:  Gifts Or Creatures, a Lansing married duo with Max and Dan backing them up, performing their entire new album, a song cycle about Michigan history that I need to own, combining as it does so many of my geek loves.  Soft sound, but steel at the core. Reminds me of Hem. Grand Rapids Brakeman was a highly propulsive highlight.  Stepladders next, Bill Chesney and his crew of ringers playing pop-rock straight up, Emilee as vocal foil on several tunes.  One song, I think it's called Starting 5 For 5, is about sports, and it's hilarious:  makes you wonder why so few dudes write love songs to their teams.  Left to get lunch, won ice cream for five in the raffle right as I walked up.  Back to Cedar for Vespre, a woman from Detroit singing what she called "soulgaze."  Just her and either a keyboard/sequencer (okay) or a guitar (much better).  Bewitching presence, only a 25 minute set. (Only has one single out yet.)  Walked up to Hill Stage, caught the end of alt-country TC-turned-Nashvillian Dylan Lancaster, for an unexpected country song about Beaver Island.  And then:  Fred Zeppelin.  The 12 year old son of Corn Fed Girl Jon Campos on precocious guitar pyrotechnics, along with Phil Barry, Mike Fuerst, Matt Gross of Knee Deep Shag, and other ringers, doing Led Zep covers at high volume.  Completely ridiculous, and face meltingly awesome.  Matt Borr and I were screeching along with glee.  Back to Cedar for the Crane Wives, who officially played for the biggest crowd at the entire festival.  They're headliners yo.  Extremely energetic set, feeding off the crowd's happy vibes and returning them fivefold, grinning madly through the tales of woe and sadness.  For the very first time, I heard nothing from the first two albums:  looking to the future now.  (Or just a short slot.)  I had Matt with me, so I didn't crowd the stage, but I wanted to.  So old, so fat, so 23 in my mind.  Back to the barn for the rest of the evening:  caught the tail end of John Sinclair, the old beat poet/impresario who founded the White Panther party, managed the MC5, and hung out with John Lennon a bit.  There was a recitation of the history of Delta blues, with chugging, skronking accompaniment by a large crew of Earthwork all stars, plus Billy Davis, that was mesmerizing in its erudite ramshackle glory.  Daniel Kahn was a name that meant nothing to me, I was just riding the bench till Public Access, but he was the biggest pleasant surprise of the festival.  A Michiganian who now lives mostly in Berlin, playing with a trio called the Disorientalists, he presented an audiovisual tour de force cabaret performance about the life of Azerbaijani Assad Bey, who lived as a Muslim in 1930s Germany.  History lesson, cautionary tale, jaunty knees up, all in one. In a century old barn in northern Michigan.  Life can be very strange.  And now, the ten person crew assembled for the Dan Rickabus Experience:  a debut airing of most of his Void/Journal album with a full, rich sound.  Different from the layers and layers on the record, but much bigger and more ambitious than his ukulele renditions.  Emilee on keyboards!  Kate on percussion!  Max and Ben trading off bass!  Alex Atkin and Steve Leaf on geetar!  And the maestro drumming and singing and exploding with infectious joy.  Really glad I got to see that.  Then, the teenage guitar geek's instrumental fever dream, Public Access.  Boiler suits, sunglasses, big melodic riffs pounded into submission by seven guitars.  Ben and Dan anchoring it all.  Encore Smells Like Teen Spirit had the crowd going absoreetly apeshit, myself included, jesus was I hoarse after that.  It was 3 am.  I had seen a lot of people I know, some a lot less than I would have liked, but I had actual companionship for a larger portion of my time than perhaps ever before in my life.  I drove the two hours home in the wee hours, all the many tunes I'd heard still ringing in my ears to keep me awake.  Thank you, friends, and thank you, music, for making life in this terrible time worth hanging around for.

9 22 17 Brian Koenigsknecht #5/Thunderbolt & Lightfoot #3/MIPSO  Bell's, Kalamazoo (Oktoberfest)  An extremely unseasonable heat wave gripped Michigan:  four or five days in a row in the 90s, in late September.  The tent put up in Bell's backyard for this event just trapped the heat from the audience's bodies like a boiling pot.  Blargh.  Brian was playing with a fullish band, including strings, and it sounded marvelous, especially Istanbul Sky and Nova.  His soft-gravel voice got attention, even with all the beer a-flowing.  Phil and Sarah had a smaller sound than Brian, two voices and a guitar, and they lost the super-beery attention, but those who listened were rewarded with impeccable harmonies on their charming songs.  Mipso was a band that exists.  I was too hot by then to care much.  From North Carolina, all exceedingly, even offputtingly good looking, excellent vocals, Mumfordy, too slick by half, someone else's favorite band, have a safe trip back to wherever that is.  I am going home to lie in front of the fan with the dog.


Saturday, September 02, 2017

Live Music Log, August 2017

8 4 17 Olivia Mainville & The Aquatic Troupe #12/IAN LINK The Knickerbocker, Grand Rapids  I had attempted once before to come to a show here, New Holland Brewing's new GR outpost.  That was for Delilah DeWylde;  there was no seating anywhere near the stage, so I left.  This place is offputting and brutalist where New Holland is warm and homey, very strange room.  But, this time I got to sit with the band and the band fam. Knowing people in places I go out to is a new and welcome sensation for me. Brandon Schreiber is a good fellow, a goofy dude, and an excellent songwriter, and he seems to have taken a shine to me.  I finally had a conversation with Bleu Quick, and he is likewise a good young fellow with another band (Footage) going on the side.  David Barrenger was also there, and fun to hang around with; a couple weeks later, after a Facebook thread about fascists went weird and he got death threats, he seems to think I'm against him, and I am so not.  David, if you read this, please know I am not your enemy and never was, and Emilee didn't call out the troll army either.  I would never call the dogs out, I have no dogs to call.  Add in Carlton and date, Adam and Libby, and Olivia's dad Steve, and we had a big old party of young and old, ready to play/enjoy some gypsyish rock and roll.  New songs Danger Death Ray, the Trudge(?) and another one I didn't catch the name of indicate growth, diversification of sound, and hell of fun to be had.  The new recordings are going to be amazing.  Couple of Brandon vocals to befuddle the crowd, a Libby one to soothe them.  In back of the stage, big garage-door windows opened right onto Bridge Street;  at one point Brandon leapt out there, still playing guitar, and interacted with the passersby mid-song.  These five musicians, and the three bands they form, are going places.  Opener was Ian Link, a super nice guy with tunes I need to hear better someday soon:  in that cavernous room they evaporated into thin air.

8 12 17 Darcy Wilkin #5 Crane’s Pie Pantry, Fennville  Super low-key acoustic set, in the early afternoon, played right in front of the window in the wall through which pie was sold:  the Pie Hole, if you will.  Young son Emmet seated beside her, more than slightly bored; father in attendance;  a third of the audience friends of hers from her Fennville teaching days.  A Darcy show is always friendly and autumnal;  even in the hot summer, her sad songs make you want to wear flannel and drink cider.  The definition of pleasant.

8 12 17 Crane Wives #30/THE WAR AND TREATY/ALLIE GARLAND Arcadia Ales, Kalamazoo  Arcadia, a fairly new brewery on the eastern edge of downtown Kzoo, had been running a monthly series of all-day shows all summer, and this was the one I had to go to (gee wonder why).  Brand new stage in a stunning riverside setting.  Carrie McFerrin was selling her Quirkandise under a canopy right on the water, and I spent a lot of my time hanging out there and helping/bugging her, along with Kevin Hamman.  I have adult friends that I made without the help of my wife, I still cannot wrap my mind around that.  The music started with an excellent DJ spinning soul tunes, then came Allie Garland.  I never came up from the riverside, so I don't know how the presentation was, but what I heard was inventive guitar loops utilized on the most hackneyed list of covers I have ever heard.  Eagles!  Stairway!  Lose Yourself AND Stan!  No thanks.  I had been looking forward to The War And Treaty, and they were in fact excellent:  an indie blues/soul married duo from Albion, with a five piece band along for the tour.  Gravity, commitment, grit, and fun were all ingredients in the sonic stew.  I want to hear them again in a longer set.  I sat fatly in the grass next to the impossibly handsome Matthew Borr, and we both dug it hard.  I skipped Last Gasp Collective (a GR indie R&B/rap combo) to try to catch some of the Go Rounds at Old Dog, and that was a mistake:  an hour after posted start time, they still weren't playing, then things sputtered to life with some of their more out-there sounds.  The Go Rounds are best when the weirdness serves the melody, not the other way around.  I led Brian K and Brad Frank back over the river with me for the Crane Wives, then kept looking at them to see if they dug it as much as me, like a 12 year old showing his poetry to his mom.  This was the day of the Charlottesville protest vs. speeding car incident, and Emilee was visibly shaken during the set;  they sounded good, but on Wives Autopilot, not entirely present in the moment.  The mighty yawp of Sleeping Giants was good and cathartic on this night. A picture was taken with me, Dan L, Michele and the band, in which I look like Salman Rushdie.  I failed to get Kate to buy Carrie's jewelry.  I like having friends, even if it's two inches deep still.

8 18-20/17 HOXEYVILLE MUSIC FESTIVAL, Hoxeyville Festival Grounds, Wellston: The Accidentals #3/Seth Bernard #2/Go Rounds #2/WHISTLE STOP REVUE/APPLESEED COLLECTIVE/Darcy Wilkin #6/Big Dudee Roo #3/Public Access #2/May Erlewine & The Motivations #6/FRANK YOUNGMAN ALL STARS/JON STICKLEY TRIO/Crane Wives #31/STEPLADDERS  In which I fail at camping but succeed in soaking up some super swell sounds. Work kept me from getting up as early as I'd like, but I had no line to wait in, just drove right into the grounds around 10 am.  I thought camping back in the woods would be cooler than an open field spot (BIG MISTAKE #1), so I drove way to the back and picked a spot off the path to set up my ludicrously huge borrowed tent.  As soon as I pulled it out and tried to puzzle it together, the rain began.  It never poured, but it was enough to keep me from having a prayer of putting this gigantic thing up alone, and no way in hell was I going to ask help from random campers around me. The near-complete lack of internet signal hindered my faint cries for help to Darcy Wilkin and Rich Wojtas. Finally I got up the nerve to flag down a passing official golf cart, and two affable dudes (one of whom turned out to be Nicholas Thomasma) helped me get it up in no time. (THAT IS WHAT SHE SAID)  I made it to the Accidentals' festival-opening set with only moments to spare.  I haven't seen them since that very first Crane Wives show two NYEs ago, and here on their home turf, on the DAY their major label debut was being released, their sound was huge and triumphant.  I don't think I will ever love this band, but after listening to the new disc I like them quite a bit.  More meat on the bone.  240 shows a year have made these three young young people (plus road guitarist Jake Allen) a lean mean music machine, with damned impressive chops on an array of instruments.  In The Morning was a highlight, as was Crows Feet, by far my favorite of the new ones.  Groovy, sinewy, violiny.  A busy, funky workup of Taxman.  The End was a very Olivia gypsy sound (slightly suspiciously so, since they played together a lot a few years ago).  Desperate need for a nap meant I missed both Larry Keel and Eric Engblade, and so I spent the rest of my Friday at the smaller Mitten Stage, under a big tent near the entrance. (Wow do I not give a rat's ass about Greensky Bluegrass, for instance.)  Seth Bernard played wrenchingly personal new songs on acoustic guitar, sandwiched by wild electric-guitar soundscapes, for an intriguingly schizophrenic solo set.  Like if Neil Young played Le Noise and Unplugged at the same time.  Speaking of Mr. Young, there was a lovely cover of After The Gold Rush, and a chimingly beautiful All Things Must Pass.  Be Love was another highlight.  The Go Rounds were much more disciplined than at Old Dog, the weirdness better tethered to the strong melodies and Gram Parsons' otherworldly soaring tenor voice.  I was pretty pissed about the super strong stench of marijuana, but I know full well it goes with the hippie territory.  (I was offered weed by five different people, ranging from total stranger to famous musician.  Trying to corrupt me at my ripe old age?)  This band has invented its own genre:  dance prog.  No worries about sound bleed from the main stage for THIS set:  I wonder if Sam Bush on the main stage had to contend with the small nuclear explosion coming from the side tent.  Capping off Friday night, for the few stragglers not over at Greensky, was the Whistle Stop Revue, the best band of the fest I had never heard of before.  Deadish Americana, right down to several Dead covers, but concise, tastefully played (apparently rare for them to play electric like this), the kind of nod-rock that has no future on the radio but will always have a place on the hippie festival circuit.  Will definitely investigate them further.  They have a whole album about trains, which tells you a lot of what you need to know. Kevin Hamman played me a couple of songs from the back end of his car.  They were nice.  We staggered the muddy lanes, searching in vain for jam sessions.  Then I hit the tent, where everything was clammily damp, and failed to sleep much.  Too hot....

...then too cold in the morning.  Saturday began with a dead phone, because the solar charger I had bought was completely useless as a charger (it did gain me about 20% as a stored-charge battery).  I then proceeded to run the car battery dead to gain about another 7% (BIG MISTAKE #2).  I hate being that guy, but with no internet, I ran the perilous risk of being alone with my own thoughts, and only a monster or a narcissist could face that fate with anything approaching equanimity.  Michele Clark was there as a vendor, which meant she had a plug, so I got a tiny bit more charge at her kind assistance, but not enough to do a whole lot with.  Few pictures, no surreptitious videos, just a few "help I'm muddy" posts to Facebook. Great big breakfast burrito and I was ready, more or less, for the musics.  First up in the late morning:  the Appleseed Collective, who sound just like that name would lead you to guess:  snazzy organic old timey blues.  Excellent without being especially memorable, like a JV Punch Brothers. The rest of my day, again, was spent at the smaller Mitten Stage, my interest being mainly in the smaller Michigan acts.  First up over there:  none other than Ms. Darcy Wilkin, in a green dress, Pepsi hair, and boots with lifts that made her loom benevolently over the sparse attendees.  She played a few songs with her dad, a new treat for me:  he is a super fun old coot who pulled out a Civil War era banjo for a few tunes.  She called me out from the stage, repeating a couple of my jokes, causing severe blushage.  I fled the electronica band for lunch and a nap, then came Big Dudee Roo.  I wish this band of Wayland natives had used the name Wayland, it being obviously viable for a bunch or radio friendly hacks GRD plays all the time, but under whatever name, this most conventional rock band of the festival Kicked Some Ass.  The tent went whoomph as the crowd got into them good and hard.  Nate Wagner's songs are real highlights for me, Hunker Down and Shit's Bubblin' Over both being raggedly glorious.  Max ain't no slouch either, Justin Dore is a forceful and tasteful guitarist, and Daine the newish drummer brings a power not always there on record.  But if you want was Public Access, the boiler-suited supergroup of young men grinning while riffing in unison, working out their King Crimson fantasies before going back to their day-job bands.  Of the seven guitarists, Steve Leaf and Alex Atkin had the tones I could most easily pick out, impressive since Atkin is currently in no other band. Dan Rickabus's wife and father in law joined in on violins, adding an extra level of complexity to the massive massive riffage on display. Everyone involved grinned like fools.  Last act of the night, for which seemingly every non-Greeensky fan on the grounds packed into the tent for, was May Erlewine and her soul revue band, the Motivations.  For sheer joy and pleasure in the sound of music and the spirit of fellowship, this was the absolute peak of the festival.  May can take a slightly cringeworthy concept, the whitest woman imaginable singing R&B, and filter it through her irrepressible and irresistible charm till it comes out clean and shiny and ready to dance like a fool to.  There is no adult more adorable in this world than May Erlewine awkwardly dancing and bopping along to her crackerjack band in their matching black suits.  Sweet Days marked the first time I'd heard her adapt one of her own folk songs to the soul sound, and it worked a treat.  Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?  Surprising amount of male grumbling from stageside during her "give women the power for a while" speech; combined with the Kid Rock for Senate shirt I spotted earlier, I wondered if the hippies were losing ground to the squares round these parts.  Anyhoo.  May's set is the closest I ever come to dancing, which is to say, I look like an overfed baboon trying to dislodge a fly from his facial fur.  When May is singing, I Do Not Care.  I chickened out of attempting to hang out with the Crane Wives and their people, and stumbled back to the tent in the dark.  Everything was damper.The phone was dead.

Back there in the woods, we had a weird trailer bathroom thingy.  Marginally better than a port a john, it had two rooms:  one with urinals, and one with (coed) stalls.  Twice women fled when I was in a stall.  Water for washing came from a big squirter like the ketchup dispenser at McDonald's.  Thus began Sunday, the only day I spent most of my time at the main stage.  Most of it BACKstage, in fact, thanks to Darcy.  I packed up the tent, with kind help from Rich Wojtas, borrowed a jump box for the dead car, and moved it to day parking, because there was no way in hell I was spending another night on the hard damp ground.  Cutting back over behind the stage with Rich, we were just in time to witness a dead tree fall hard on some poor bastard's truck.  We, among others, came running to make sure no one was hurt (all OK), but yeah, that sure put my wee camping misfortunes into perspective.  So, the music:  first up was the Frank Youngman All Stars.  Mr. Youngman is a music teacher, I've heard, who taught a lot of the Michigan luminaries a lot of their tricks.  Seth and May, on the stage at the same time!  Shimmin and Lynch!  Lots of extraordinary players playing goofy tunes for a good start to the day.  Next up: the Jon Stickley trio, energetic vocal-free music, like if the Moxie Strings got really pissed off.  Calisthenic drummer, powerhouse violinist, Mr. Stickley on acoustic the least interesting part of his own band.  Dynamic enough to hold an hour's interest with no vocals, not very easy to do.  And then, worlds collided:  Darcy introduced the Crane Wives.  I got to watch from the side of the stage as they did their thing for the masses.  No surprises in this 75 minute slot, but super fun to see them feed off the energy of a crowd that huge. Seth Bernard sat next to me for the set, and we exchanged goofy grins a couple times.  This band is my life.  Over to the small stage for the only time today for Stepladders, the ad hoc band featuring Bill Chesney and whoever he can round up on a given day.  And he is good at the rounding up:  Ben, Dan, Seth, Steve Leaf, all assisting on his surprisingly sensitive songs (dude is a good dude, but looks so dudebroey).  To my chagrin, Darcy was more into Stepladders than the Crane Wives....  He actually dismissed his overpowered all stars to play his newer songs alone on acoustic, a badass move and a half.  Gave away a stack of spare CDs ("either free or a thousand dollars," quoth the Leaf).  I felt too worn out by camping failure to stay for Airborne or Aquatic, so I said a round of goodbyes and hit the road home.  Thank you to all who helped me get through this mess, or at least offered a friendly face.  I know people now, and some of them seem OK with knowing me.

8 24 17 Big Dudee Roo #4 Relax At Rosa Series, Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids  I had time before work, so I went and had me a fifteen dollar food truck burger and some big old heartland rock and roll.  School was back in for a lot of kids, plus there was drizzle, so the turnout was waaaay lower than for the Crane Wives earlier this summer.  And Nate Wagner couldn't get away from his construction day job, so this was a trio today.  But lo, it was good, and the big rock sound did bounce off the downtown buildings.  Long Road was a highlight, from Max's solo album.  They are the only band I follow now who could be dropped seamlessly into the scene fifteen years ago....but if they were, they'd be on top.

8 26 17 CORN FED GIRLS/DREW NELSON & HIGHWAY 2 Crane’s Pie Pantry, Fennville  Surprisingly, my first full fledged Corn Fed Girls show.  Staged down the hill from the restaurant, in a low spot before the orchards march up the hill, an absolutely stunning setting for an early afternoon show...that was sparsely attended.  This was Crane's Ciderfest, a shindig meant to celebrate the release of their line of hard ciders, also featuring tasty chicken dinners.  There were just not very many people there.  And the bands played in a tent that blocked out most of the glorious weather, and the sound was rough (I think Sarah Halsey Fuerst was seconds from cutting a bitch).  So fun to hear Darcy in context, with six ludicrously talented people joining forces every once in a while to make a bigger noise.  I didn't take notes, so not sure of song names, but they were superb.  Opening was a true blast from the past, Drew Nelson.  Fifteen years ago he was a bro-ey kid with a guitar and some nice tunes, now he's a man who's been run over several times and is still somehow growin' out of the ground.  I requested one of those ancient songs, and he looked at me like I had a gun and he had antlers.  What he plays now is battle-hardened, shitkicking roots rock with its heart on its sleeve, with a pickup band of good old boys all his senior. A quip from the stage: "You're gonna hear a bunch of songs you don't know, cuz my career hasn't gone all that great."  He had an excellent album a few years back on a bigger indie that did not sell well.  Tilt a Whirl.  Go buy it.  Or visit his woodworking shop.

8 26 17 NASHON HOLLOWAY BAND New Holland Brewing, Holland  The Curse of The New Holland PA strikes again.  Seen the Wives battle it, seen Steve Leaf completely outdone by it, now comes Ms. Nashon Holloway, late of Kalamazoo and now of Chicago, to do battle with the wayward beast.  Finally sputtered to life at 10:45 pm. The timing of this show was perfect: with the sad demise of Vox Vidorra, I needed a sound to fill that indie-soul hole in my heart, and this will go a long way toward that.  Maybe not quite the same wild creative, collaborative spark, but these are polished, accomplished musicians with polished, memorable songs, and a singer who can go from croon to grunt to scream within moments on the same song. Too soulful for rock, too straightforward for jazz, too raucous for soul: uncategorizable music is the best music. Tastefully jazzy where required, unexpectedly ferocious at times (a Come Together cover), thoughtful as hell ('S Good, Throwing Stones Up To Heaven), and just sweet (Don't Walk By), this is a sound I need more of.  She kindly gave me a CD for the $6 in cash I had left on me, and it hasn't left the car since.  I am glad she overcame her clear frustrations with New Holland's shitty PA to deliver us few listeners some great, great sounds.

8 27 17 Crane Wives #32/DAN RICKABUS Gratiot and Derby House Concert Series, Grand Rapids  I don't even know what to say here.  These people are just my favorite non-relatives.  They are so friendly to me, the giant awkward gomer in the custom T shirt who shows up to all their damn shows.  I took off work for this one, a full band acoustic house show being rare as hens' teeth.  This show was put on by Rob Reider, a professional mime who runs classes on stage presence that the Wives, Max Lockwood, and May Erlewine have all taken, in the basement of his home. (I retroactively recognized him from Hoxeyville.)  Dan opened the show with some Void/Journal tunes on ukulele:  no Blindfold, sadly, but sooo much better than Rockford, here you could hear what he was saying.  The Wind Will Rise was a highlight, oddly reminiscent of Don't Fear The Reaper.  I got there super early like the giant dweeb I am, first one seated, peeked at the set list on the floor:  no rare treats, oh well, it will sound great.  And it did:  first acoustic outings for the three new singles, Empty Page especially coming off well.  Loudest Curses ever.  Good to see Zito slappa da bass.  But then.  At the point where the set list said October, Kate said, "this is for our buddy Chad," and launched into Margaret, the unreleased Emilee gem I had only heard once, at that duo show in Holland last fall.  THEY FAKED THE SET LIST just to pull one over on ME.  I EXIST.  My flabber is still gasted.