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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.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Live Music Log, June 2018



6 1 18  SAXSQUATCH & BRIDGE BAND  Final Gravity Brewing, Kalamazoo  This night was discombobulated.  I flitted from venue to venue, catching bits and bobs of things:  Kzoo’s Art Hop events are so awesomely varied that I was not able to choose, and thus missed out on almost all.  It was so hot that it all seemed like a fever dream with a good soundtrack by the end.  I started downtown on the mall, where Megan Dooley played her old timey tunes in the one unshaded spot on an elevated stage, in front of a huge bank of mirrored windows.  The situation seemed designed to kill performers.  She looked and sounded great in her fruity dress while playing, but the moment she was done symptoms of heat stroke seemed nigh.  Then I staggered over to the Institute of Arts, where Darcy Wilkin was strumming her baleful ballads in a shaded concrete beer garden to a gaggle of affably disinterested quaffers.  I had a pickle soda (kinda cheating, more sweet than salty).  I could barely hear her, but in this context, with the killer heat, it was OK.  Then over to Webster’s in the Marriott for Borr/McFerrin/Weir/Noise, countryish acts that often seem lost in the hilariously posh venue.  Love that slide guitar, Mike.  Popped over to Chau Haus for Anna P.S., a friend of Carrie’s from Indiana with a delicate sound and a sunny smile.  There were five people there, not counting staff, I felt bad for that and clapped harder.  Finally Final Gravity, where I stayed longest so they get the entry credit, for Jarad Selner’s jazz fusion ensemble.  Gratifying to hear such a warm public response to music that is not the easiest of listening.  Outer space was visited, but they brought us down safe and sound.

6 2 18  LUKE WINSLOW-KING      Mitten Bar, Ludington  I was supposed to go see this gentleman in March, for a hometown show in Cadillac, but there was a killer ice storm that made the trip inadvisable.  This was a more than acceptable substitute:  an almost absurdly intimate venue for a man with a considerable national following.  Blues, blues rock, R&B:  nothing you haven’t heard a thousand times, but delivered with skill, panache, and a disturbingly handsome face.  Completely solo, not listed on his tour poster:  guessing the band had a night off so he picked up a gig. Mesmerizing guitar skills, loved his slide playing. Hilarious to see a semi-big star play six feet away while people go back and forth for pizza next door.  My friend Roo came with;  she requested this song.  Good call.  I bought his newest record.  It is.  Nice.  This show was nicer.

6 7 18  The JetBeats  #3/LIGHTING MATCHES  Rocky’s, Grand Rapids  I got going too late to catch all but two songs by the opener, Mark Harrell, an excellent acoustic picker with a somber Coldplayish sound and a Colin Cooper hat.  A preprogrammed lightshow was going berserk during his set:  this is not Kiss, people.  The JetBeats somehow crammed onto the tiny stage and Blew Our Faces Off with maximum R&B.  New song, Dancing On The Sun, was aimed at the “president” and was suitably vicious.  Three dancing women in crazy print dresses added greatly to the Cavern Club atmosphere.  Surprise set closer:  Badfinger’s No Matter What.  Then it was back to the acoustic sensitivities with Lighting Matches, a forceful acoustic male/female couple.   There are many mixed duos around here, some are couples and some aren’t, but I definitely saw nuzzling.  Lyric that jumped out at me:  “Just hang up and drive away, don’t look in the rear view:  you ain’t going that way.”  He had a strong baritone, she added Liz Phairish plainspoken tones, together rainy day harmonies.  Another highlight was Underneath Your Veil.  They play around a lot, be sure to check em out.

6 8 18 The Crane Wives #47  Riverfront Park, Allegan
            Nashon Holloway Band #2  New Holland Brewing, Holland  First time I could take my dog to a Wives show in two years, and that was the South Haven rain-out.  There is a new Emilee song, Hollow Moon, that I keep missing the start of:  it is excellent.  With so many excellent new songs, in fact, some old favorites are rotating out of service for a while, like a sleek bullet train with new cars on new tracks.  This was the first show played on brand new sound equipment on a newish stage downtown Allegan, the first show of a summerlong series called Rollin’ On the River:  hands down the best outdoor sound I have heard from them.  Perfect instrumental and vocal mix.  Damn they sound good.  You should go to a show some time.  I had enough time to bring the pup home and catch the late show at New Holland with the stupendous Ms. Holloway and her hot four piece band.  New drummer:  the old guy was good, but this guy was from another planet, hoo boy.  A rare band with no backing vocals, Nashon handles all mouth sounds and handles them well, even with a sore throat:  as I found out after requesting a difficult-to-sing song, then feeling like a jerk after learning of it.  Neo soul with an indie rock edge, worth a big chunk of your time and attention.

6 9 18  PUMPSTOCK 2018:  THE MATCHSELLERS/THE ROUGH AND TUMBLE/The Crane Wives #48  Bailey Park, East Lansing
             PISTOL GANG/AXEL QUINLAN/Fiona Dickinson #4  Milhouse, Kalamazoo  Time for self-consciously standing/sitting in a random park for a random Wives gig!  Though it turned out much more interesting than expected.  This mini-festival was a fundraiser for a local concert series called the Pumphouse, held in a neighborhood park with no electricity, so the hum of generators marred the tunes at pretty much all times.  It was drizzling a bit, perfect weather for me but not so much for normals, so attendance was sparse:  the hot dog guy never even opened, he just hitched up and split.  There were two tiny stages,  so close together you could basically just turn your chair, but I’m afraid nothing on the small second stage caught my ear.  But on the first, two great new discoveries.  The Matchsellers are frickin’ hilarious.  Old timey twang played by youngsters,male/female duo from Kansas City and Indiana, with a comedy twist.  Songs about bluegrass astronauts (Bluegrastronauts, naturally) and chirpy apocalyptic numbers.  What if there was a revival of Hee Haw on Adult Swim?  Best joke:  in the future there will be three jobs:  employee at thrift store selling slightly radioactive merchandise;  ozone sucker-man, with giant hose;  and, of course, call centers.  The Rough and Tumble were another male/female duo, a couple who lived in their travel trailer, touring all the lands to grace us with their tunes:  more somber than the Matchsellers, but then just about everything is.  Accordion and mini marimba were featured, along with excellent harmonies.  Excellent transition between the Matchsellers and the Wives, who stared down the drizzle to play a full set that looked toward the future once again, possibly the first time I’d ever NOT heard Sleeping Giants in 48 shows.  Buddy Dan, who is FROM Lansing, was there, and we both made the drive to Kalamazoo for a house show in the student ghetto, meeting up there with Ken to become the Gray Haired Back Row.  Rock and roll isn’t dead, it’s mutating and going back underground.  Between sets, we galumphed up the stairs to catch our breath in the backyard from the hot fetid packed basement atmosphere. “Pistol Gang” was one dude, Connor McPherson, his guitar, and his temperamental drum machine.  Some great turns of phrase, but not a sound I could deal with for more than 45 minutes. Axel Quinlan, a former resident of our host house, had quieter acoustic guitar tunes; if I had had any elbow room to take notes, I might be able to elaborate beyond “it was nice, some classical influences apparent.”  Then Fiona Dickinson was a Whole Other Thing.  Guitars to eleven,four piece band,  solid walls of punishing sound weaving a tapestry on a delicate framework:  shoegaze is back, baby!  Next was Last Gasp Collective, an organic hip hop band of great renown, but I just couldn’t take the heat any more, I had to bail.  I hated to be that guy who bailed on the hip hop act after three lily white ones, but being the guy with heat stroke would be worse.  Plus I knew I would catch them the next weekend (and I did).

6 12 18  May Erlewine #10  EcoPrint, Grand Rapids  Bill Chesney, the man the plan behind EcoPrint, is trying to buy out his retiring partner and remain in business in GR. (If you have printing and/or graphic design needs, please check out ecoprintgr.com.  It’s really high quality stuff.)  So he ran an IndieGogo campaign to raise funds, and also put together a few shows at the shop itself.  It’s an excellent space for sound, holds about 40 people, so I was unnervingly close to Ms. Erlewine for this event.  She and Max Lockwood played some nice tunes, she said some inspiring words, and I retreated to the back with a coughing fit.  It was all over in 75 minutes, which my black Dutch heart protested against, but the cause was good, the company was right, and the gentle folk sound was balm to the turbulent soul for that hour and a quarter.

6 15-17 18  BUTTERMILK JAMBOREE:  MADCAT MIDNIGHT BLUES JOURNEY/MICAH McLAUGHLIN/Kaitlin Rose #5/Megan Dooley #16/COVERT OPERATIONS/HAWKS & OWLS/The Founding  #3/Dacia Bridges Project #2/The Accidentals #6/Jive After Five #2/Big Dudee Roo #6/Luke Winslow-King #2/LAST GASP COLLECTIVE/MUSTARD PLUG/Jack And The Bear #3/SCHROCK BROTHERS/RACHAEL DAVIS/May Erlewine #11  I learned my lesson at Hoxeyville last year:  save your battery, take paper notes.  So I took careful notes all over my program…and then lost the program.  Probably got washed in my shorts pocket.  ARGH.  So this long-ass entry will be devoid of all the in-the-moment wit you have come to expect from me, if you’re soft in the head.  Here goes.  (Of course there were many many acts I did not get to see, this is what I did get to.)  This is a frankly wonderful little festival, right here in our backyards, on a verdant piece of forest and glen called Circle Pines Center near Delton.  Dooley let me camp in her compound, and she and her friends graciously helped me survive camping.  (Though they could not prevent caterpillars in the mouth or an all night car alarm.)  After successful tent pitchage, I wanted to see and hear every damn possible thing, so I headed for the first act of the whole shebang, a children’s band called the Porters.  They were skilled, energetic, and very much just for the younguns.  Peter “Madcat” Ruth was first up on the big stage, an old school harmonica blower with a seasoned blues band, a cast of session cat characters that would recur often through the weekend.  Micah McLaughlin used to be in a band called the Muteflutes, and I really wish I had seen them, because all his promising songs sounded small and unfinished with a duo compared to the full band sound I heard in my head.  Several tunes were about/dedicated to his wife sitting right there in front, a sweet moment.  Kaitlin Rose played her intensely confessional  tunes in the harsh light of day in a blinding white dress, a rash of contradictions, but oh did it sound good.  Voice of Reason is a special song.  I think a nap happened, then back to the beer tent for Dooley.  I have seen her play many times now, but this was prime: full energy, guest stars, more originals than usual including the beloved Sunnyside, and a pineapple full of whiskey.  Part Of Your World lit that hillside on fire.  Across the road at the Sugarbush stage, Covert Operations closed out Friday night with proggy jammyness, RIYL Phish, Porcupine Tree, Public Access if you squint.  And then it started to rain as I entered the tent for the night.  Everything was damp, caterpillars everywhere including my mouth, so fricking hot:  very little sleep was had.  So Saturday was largely a drowsy blur, starting at Dooley’s early morning open mic, with Matt Milcarek and his trusty accordion, Jacob Craeger and his frankenbanjo, and an absurdly talented 13 year old girl named Aspen Jacobsen.  She was also part of the next act, a family string band called Hawks & Owls, featuring Bruce Ling, that accompanied the contra dance in the sugar bush pavilion. The rain had damaged the main stage, so things were shifted:  the younguns of the Irish band the Founding were in the beer tent, younging it up with their disgusting talent.  The leader dude accidentally used the singer’s real name (she uses a nom de stage), and she froze like a shined deer for a moment. Dacia Bridges was displaced to the small tent in front of the house, but with no corresponding diminishment of sound or purpose:  the roof was duly torn off the sucker.  SRO as “Bounce” got the ground shaking and me momentarily fully awake.  Dance soul on acoustic guitar and violin:  it shouldn’t work, but oh geezus does it. Again thanks to the stage snafu, the Accidentals, massive Michigan stars, were in the beer tent, but like Dacia they owned it, with full frankly exhausting energy, a couple new tunes, and a fierce rendition of Parking Lot.  Michael Dause is made of rubber. Jive After Five, my surprise fave from last year’s Hoxeyville, lit up the pavilion with that sweet old time swing, the coots grinning and cranking that brass till you either danced or fell down.  I fell down.  Big Dudee Roo was a ball of rock and roll sweat, blasting the cobwebs off the folk festival with guitars at eleven and Daine Hammerle’s hammerin.  Again incongruously dressed in all white, the better to see them get heat stroke in real time. Luke Winslow King was. Fine.  On the fixed big stage, with a big blues band and big blues riffs.  I was glad I got to see the intimate Ludington show first. Last Gasp Collective brought hip hop energy, soul beats, and pop vocals to a rustic stage in the middle of a forest, the electric cello piercing the night like a pissed off nightingale.  Donna the Buffalo was the big deal headliner, but I was too exhausted:  I napped at the pavilion while Mustard Plug set up.  And then they started playing.  And then I danced.  Reader, I do not dance, like, ever, but this is a band I saw many times 15 to 20 years ago in the first wave of west Michigan excellence, and the sheer skankin’ nostalgia reanimated my corpse in ways both herky and jerky. I drifted over for Jack and the Bear, somehow still on my feet:  I know Brandon and Adam pretty well by now, but I was struck anew by the amiable menace, the coiled strike of dissonant fun, that is a full on Jack and the Bear show. Evan and Christina on board, the crowd was delighted and confused, especially when Captain Gumwad made his entrance.  I maxed out on fun, crawled back to my tent, and collapsed.  I would have slept hard, if not for the car alarm that went off continually from 1 am to 9 am.  Whoever you are, sir or ma’am,  damn you to imaginary hell.  Sunday was broken in with the Schrock Brothers (and father), affable dudes with a sound pitched somewhere between Vince Gill and Chris Isaak and some wicked turns of lyric that can catch you by surprise amid the affability.  Rachael Davis made a rare solo appearance, alongside her husband Dominic, and her stories and side jokes almost eclipse her world class performances.  Old timey sound with a barbed tail and a sharp tongue.  The divine Ms. Erlewine graced the main stage with her gossamer folk, and the urgency of “A Letter To The President” made me cry a little.  “That’s my home you’re burning, my daughter’s future…”  I hope she has one.  The day was not done, but I was.  I shotgunned a couple lukewarm Mountain Dews out of the cooler and crawled home, head full of all the music in the world.

6 22 18 The Crane Wives #49  Depot Park, Clarkston  This show was probably not the best of ideas:  a three hour drive east, with the dog, for a band I’ve seen 48 times, outdoors, in potential drizzle.  But, I wanted the EcoPrint show next week to be #50.  This was a purely musical fix, I wasn’t even gonna say hello, but I figured it would be actually creepy if I didn’t and they spotted me.  Beautiful park in a nifty village filled with Detroit traffic congestion;  Sheila and I had a good long walk around before the show.  Large crowd that thinned as it got colder. Playing in a gazebo, which funneled the sound oddly forward, restricting to either side, but I got to hear the songs and that is all I need.  Bonus time spent with Morgan Haner, who came along to run sound.  And everyone loves Sheila. 

6 23 18  GRAND RIVER WATER FESTIVAL:  YOLONDA LAVENDER/MOLLY/Seth Bernard #6/Dede and the Dream  #2  Riverside Park, Grand Rapids  An all day shindig supporting water-related causes in Michigan, with a beer tent, children’s activities, food trucks, and booths with info and merchandise.  I caught four acts in the middle.  Yolonda Lavender is a Kzoo soul singing institution; backing her was a GR band called Bedrock, featuring a super hot young kid on guitar who pulled some Prince shapes outta that thing, to the bemusement of the keyboardist who might have been his dad.  Some lovely originals, some fierce covers.  Next up:  Molly Bouwsma-Schultz, former dynamo of Vox Vidorra, seeing her solo for the first time, only husband Scott on guitar behind her.  Charisma intact, energy slightly muted, spirit still shining through, especially on the new single called, uh, “Shine.”  Only a couple VV tunes, several new ones, killer Sam Cooke cover.  Seth Bernard, looking slightly frail while still recovering from a bad car wreck but highly determined, took the stage with cellist Jordan Hamilton (who also plays with Last Gasp).  Eloquence about the state of Michigan’s water and the importance of the cause intermingled with somber readings of his recent songs, Neil Youngish odes to the planet, to loving each other, to keeping on. Dede and the Dream (husband Josh:  just TRY calling him Dream and see what happens) rocked their violin/marimba combo, getting the kids dancing and, at one point, singing with them onstage.  Amusing tune preemptively thanking folks for letting them sleep on their couch on a future tour.  I can’t remember why I left so early:  either very tired, or intended to go to another show that fell through.

6 26 18 The Crane Wives #50  EcoPrint, Grand Rapids  A momentous occasion:  the fiftieth Wives show, to which I got my mom to come.  My musical tastes were shaped from a very early age by my mother, with lots of Beatles, bubblegum, and a little bit of prog.  It was dismaying when she didn’t seem to care much for my obsession a few years ago….but with time I wore her down, and she genuinely enjoyed herself at this (too short) show at the print shop.  At one point Dan was drumming out a pattern and, seized by madness, I started singing Paul Simon’s “50 Ways” right there in the middle of the show.  Someone should have stabbed me.  Caleb Trask sounded like heaven in that space. Bill gave me a set of adorable little buttons with silhouette figures of the band.  I gave the band a 45, cut by Steve in Kalamazoo, with Daydreamer and Volta, because these songs only exist digitally and physical objects are important.  They were nice to Mom, so maybe she thinks I have friends now.

6 28 18 The Crane Wives #51  Relax At Rosa Series, Rosa Parks Circle, Grand Rapids  Lunch hour tuneage in the concrete oval downtown.  I had a burger with some folks beneath a shady umbrella and soaked in the bonus songs before trudging off to work.  The Garden was fierce AF.

6 30 18 Hannah Rose & the GravesTones #2/Dacia Bridges Project #3  Old Dog Tavern, Kalamazoo  Outdoor show sponsored by Local Spins, first in a Kalamazoo outreach series.  I felt reached.  Hannah Rose is a respectable rock n soul belter with a great band and some sly tunes, especially Hot Damn.  Dacia Bridges overcame late-drummer drama to fill the little wooden dance floor placed on the grass:  when she tells you to bounce, you damn well better.  She was a big star in Germany, I do wonder how she feels about starting over with these small town shows, but she sure looks like she’s having fun “beginning to wonder.”  The Legal Immigrants closed the show, so I fled into the night.

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