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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ovation Awards 2022

 Scott Hammontree and Michelle Hanks:

March 2020:  the hammer comes down.  Suddenly it’s unsafe and insane to go about your life the way you have been, in the proximity of strangers, and no one is more affected than music venues, with the tightly packed camaraderie of a sold out crowd.  Scott Hammontree, 20 year veteran operating partner at the Intersection, and Michelle Hanks, who, with her husband Gary, nine years ago converted a Masonic Temple into Seven Steps Up, a premier listening room experience, both knew they were in trouble unless they got creative and circled the wagons.  Scott, who has since become president of the Michigan Independent Venue and Promoter Association, worked tirelessly to unite venues in the same predicament to present their woes with a united voice, and thus helped secure funding through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and through a campaign called Save Michigan Stages.  Michelle was an active partner in those efforts, and also successfully landed a grant from the Live Music Society to keep the doors open at Seven Steps Up, an intensely beloved Spring Lake institution.  In 2022, both venues are once again thriving, if not quite back to business as before, and it is due in no small part to the tenacity and vision of Scott Hammontree and Michelle Hanks.  When there is no voice to speak for you, you raise your own voice to the sky.

Yolonda Lavender:

When the global pandemic threatened to end music as we know it, Yolonda Lavender was already in a position to do something about it…several positions, in fact.  She serves as the Stryker Johnston Foundation’s Grant Program & Partnerships Director, and as such can make a direct impact on applicant organizations, including musical ones.  As the founder of Soul Artistry LLC, she specializes in experience curating, artistry development, nonprofit and self care consulting. Her areas of focus are the underserved Black, indigenous, and people of color serving nonprofits.For 7 years, her small business has created opportunities for artists to showcase their work and earn an income; these artists might not otherwise have a platform to exhibit their artistic abilities. Yolonda is out in the community of Kalamazoo, advocating artistic development and self care.  She is also an accomplished artist in her own right, having released a Christmas album last year.  Yolonda is an advocate and activist who takes pride in using her artistry to spread the messages of peace and love and to promote social justice all in an effort to evoke change.

Dogtown Studio:'

Dogtown Studio, the brainchild of Robby Fischer and Tito Mendoza, was off and running.  In the first few months of 2020, these skilled videographers were everywhere, working with seemingly every local act to provide high quality calling card videos, for a fee of anywhere from free on up to what could be afforded.  There was even a huge showcase with 14 bands at Third Coast Studios;  things were looking as good as can be.  But then, well, you know what happened.  And Dogtown was already in place to keep the music coming.  Artists were able to record videos, or stream live, from Dogtown’s unique and special space on the Grand Rapids riverfront, keeping their sound and image accessible to fans, even opening some new doors by working with the established and unique Dogtown brand and style.  How many of those intimate sessions, strewn with white Christmas lights, did you watch at home on the couch, hoping for a time you could go out again?  Dogtown kept the music coming, and kept the dream alive. We’re lucky these boys from Flushing came here to do their thing.

Stay In Your House Shows:

When the curtain fell hard on live music in March 2020, the need for performance to enrich our lives didn't go away. So people found creative ways to fill it, and among the first off the starting block was Emilee Petersmark, co-leader of the Crane Wives, and her partner, Korey Schnell. Most live shows went dark after March 12,2020; that was literally the date the Facebook page went up for this new venture, designed as a safe way to get your favorite west Michigan artists into your eyes and ears. The first show, with understandable glitches and learning curves, went live eight days later. And for the next 14 Fridays, $8,300 in tips was raised to help keep food on the table for vulnerable artists. Stay In Your House Shows was based on the notion that everyone had a right to safety, artists and audience alike. Said Emilee at the time: "I hope people take away that where there’s a will there’s a way. We are very much not throwing in the towel. We want to fight to survive, and to continue to bring music to the people. So I would hope that people feel inspired to find more workarounds in their own lives." Eventually venues figured out safety protocols, or moved music outdoors, so the labor intensive streaming shows stopped....but if ever sadly needed, they could easily come back. Thank you to Emilee and Korey for seeing a need, and filling a need.

Ralston Bowles:

Ralston Bowles has been a tireless supporter of other artists across his long career, often wandering the crowds during their shows selling their CDs from under his coat.  He has a reputation for always putting up and coming young Michigan artists before himself.  When tragedy struck his family, enough songs were secured for a fundraising double album within two days.  And the support goes on, with Ralston curating and doggedly promoting the Tuesday Night Music series at Meijer Gardens, where the local acts dominate the big league stage.  This award is to celebrate Ralston’s unstoppable passion for truth telling music, both his own and that of others, and of his efforts to make sure it gets heard far and wide.

Listening Room "Green Room Award": 

Since its doors were opened in October 2019…and then closed in March 2020…and then opened again in August 2021, the Listening Room in Studio Park has developed a reputation as the finest place to play, and really be heard, in Grand Rapids.  And that experience holds true for the artists as much as for the audiences.  This Green Room Award is presented in recognition of the exemplary treatment all artists receive from the impassioned staff, whether local, national, or international.  Led by Quinn Mathews and Cassie Betten, the crack team in the Listening Room makes sure all your needs are met (within reason, no one is sorting your M&Ms). From the ninja waiters to the skilled sound technicians to the friendly bartenders, everyone is committed to the smooth delivery of a good time.  They will even lift the really heavy piano onto the stage for you.  No one leaves the Listening Room without feeling what a remarkable place it is, and that goes for the artists who play there as well.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

All You Love Is Need

I met you when my worth was at an all time low
Nothing going right
You took me on, brushed me off, propped me up
You were a guiding light
But now that I can some steps out of the nest
And follow where you lead
You shut me down, you can't be found, you're outta here
Cuz all you love is need

Years in that apartment with a broken oven
Cardboard covered glass
You took me on like a philanthropic project 
You really kicked my ass
But once the baby bird could open his own wings
No open mouth to feed
You moved along, you shut me out, you hit the road
Cuz all you love is need

When you said I could do anything
Did you mean with you?
When you said I could go anywhere 
Were you coming too?

I used to flinch from every kindness like a beaten dog
I went my own way
You taught me how to stand up on my own two feet
But you didn't stay
Now things are looking up, I see a light up ahead
I found my running speed
I would have shared my best life with you
But all you love is need

When you said I could do anything
Did you mean with you?
When you said I could go anywhere 
Were you coming to?

Set to music by Abe Savas, video hopefully forthcoming


I went down to the diner with nothing else to do
The muck of the refinery all over my shoes
The waitress was new, someone I had not met
Her face looked like a smoked cigarette
I wanted to eat a heart attack on a plate
Let the cholesterol chase my blues away

This is a town of Chinese made American flags
This is a town half buried in plastic bags
This is a town so down the Family Dollar died
This is a one horse town with no source of pride

The waitress said that'll be twelve dollars please 
For a slab of sad pork with mac and cheese
I peeled off my last twenty, put it in her hand
And ventured off into the promised land
You can drive and drive for miles ahead 
It don't matter cuz the dinosaurs are already dead

This is a town where churches outnumber bars 
This is a town without no foreign cars
This is a town where eyes watch you walk on by
This is a town where dreams all go to die

I cashed my last paycheck at the corner store
I dropped a lottery ticket on the filthy floor
I gassed up the Impala, cranked the radio loud
Hit the gas, bit the dust as I raised a cloud
Gonna drive till the sunshine burns a hole in my face
Gonna drive far away from this forsaken place

This is a town that won't let you change your fate
This is a town where you stay till it's far too late
This is a town built on a corporate lie
This is a town where all dreams go to die

Set to music by Mike List, hopefully video forthcoming


Sunday, November 07, 2021


 Your breath is shallow 

Your left foot aches

Your skin is sallow

Your right hand shakes

Got no idea

How it went so wrong

You did no maintenance

Now you don't have long

Till the random pains

That fill your day

Consume your soul

And make you pay

For every misstep

For every cough

For every spasm

You can't shake off

You go to bed

But you never sleep 

The things you said 

The things you keep

Spin through your mind

Like grinning ghosts

And all the fears

You fear the most

Form firing squads

Aimed at your head

With one more cough

You might drop dead

Friday, June 11, 2021

Blurbs for EWHG 2019 Dogtown videos

 Abigail Lapell sounds like Canada:  all encompassing yet intimate, vast amounts of sound and emotion funneled through a plaintive, lonesome voice.  She's been exploring bigger, widescreen moments on her most recent album, 2019's Getaway, but for this recorded performance, she's alone on a piano that has been through some things.  This performance of "Leningrad" is so intimate you can hear the piano pedals thunk as Lapell pours her heart and soul into her hands and feet.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Audra Kubat has been bringing her keen and intelligent intensity, carved into songs like water wearing away canyon walls, to audiences for 20 years.  Educator, composer, activist:  but for this performance, she just sits right down on the dusty attic floor to play her guitar and sing you a song.  "Old Radio" summons the sensation of tuning in forbidden frequencies when you should be sleeping, or working, or doing something other than dreaming.  But you must dream.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Beaver Xing is an impish duo from the wilds of Comstock Park, and you have seen them, and they have seen you.  Enthusiasm is the word:  Stacy Noonan and Jonathan Beaver attend every festival (in healthy times), haunt every show, darken every door, and they delight in popping up ready to play any time, night or day.  "Murder of Crows" is a murder ballad doing a big exaggerated wink.  This performance was filmed at the bonfire in the heart of Harvest, right behind the barn, at the center of everything, which is where you will usually find Beaver Xing.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Laurel Premo is a serious musicologist, on a serious mission:  to preserve the American folk traditions she grew up with in the western Upper Peninsula, but also to advance them, to take them through the lens of Scandinavia, or polyrhythms, or a really big electric guitar amp.  But sometimes it's ok to just have a little fun, too. Master of the fiddle, the clawhammer banjo, and the electric guitar, here in this performance of "Yew Piney Mountain" Laurel powers through a knotty tune in the Harvest barn, accompanied by her Red Tail Ring partner Michael Beauchamp-Cohen on acoustic guitar.  There is joy in getting it right. Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

(video not currently available)
Max Lockwood still believes in rock and roll.  With a plaintive voice reminiscent of Tom Petty, and a generous open spirit of sound, "Light Arrives" comes to us from the Little House near the Hill Stage, with a timeless chime of intertwining guitars.  Accompanied by Justin Dore, Max's partner of over a decade in Big Dudee Roo, with a choice weeping solo, and Eric O'Daly, skilled multi-instrumentalist from the Appleseed Collective, on a bright sunshiny day at the Gathering where troubles seem few...when you look into the light. Sing it out.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.
Michael Waite has been doing this a long time.  He's a natural outgrowth of the wild Upper Peninsula:  craggy, genuine, warm as a Franklin stove, cool as a wind off Lake Superior.  He writes about the intangible:  natural wonder, familial love, concerns of the spirit.  And Erica Waite, dancer by training, provides charming toe-tapped percussion on this rendition of "Bird Feeder Blues," filmed in the meadow near the Hill Stage.  Give these two a guitar and a piece of plywood, and you have a heck of a show. Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Folk music is a grand tradition with many branches...and they don't all fit the stereotype of earnestly strummed guitars.  Shani Womack uses beats, samples, and the power of her commanding voice to tell tales of triumph, tragedy, faith, and Flint:  often within the same song.  This late night performance of "Superman" from the little house on the hill captures Shani's fervent belief, her outstanding vocal chops, and her sheer joy at being here and alive and singing.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Sierra Skye Baker is an experience.  Ethereal vocals and delicate guitar float toward you on gossamer wings of melody, emanating from an unusually accomplished and poised young performer.  She sees the beauty in the world and lets you rediscover it with your own eyes and ears. She can deliver a trusty standard, or make up a new song on the spot (seen it happen).  This performance of "Fireflies" from the Harvest Gathering yurt is full of sunshine and happy chattering background noise:  the perfect festival immersion.  Set em free, let em be.   Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.

Van Lente rewards patience.  Van Lente is quiet, and persistent, and full of layers of sound and meaning conveyed with just a hushed voice and guitar.  Van Lente is Muskegon's Gabrielle Schaub, and she has often played in the barn in the wee hours at Earthwork Harvest Gathering, as a comedown feast for weary revellers. This performance of "If You Knew Him" comes from inside Zeek's Magic Bus, an appropriate oasis of color and shade in the middle of a busy knot of humanity.  (They also sell vintage clothes.) Listen carefully:  This placid performance contains violence and anger.  No one is simple.  Presented by Dogtown Studio in association with Earthwork Harvest Gathering.


Sometimes folk music really IS just people gathered in a room with ancient instruments and twining harmonies, and that is more than okay, it's amazing.  Whistler is a traditional trio from Bloomington, Indiana,  with telepathic rapport and a long history of individual credits that come together for a heck of a hootenanny.  Donald Bradley, Kelly Bosworth, and Micah Ling filmed their rehearsal in the house on the hill for Dogtown Studio at Earthwork Harvest Gathering 2019.

Wildlife Freeway is like nothing you've ever seen or heard.  From Joshua Tree, California, Adriana Atema travels in, relying on strangers to help her tote her spinet piano, and then she plays, and sings, and you're not quite sure what you're hearing, but you want to hear more.  This is challenge music:  get past the dissonant elements to hear the harmony of the spheres.  "Always Arriving" was captured in the house on the hill by Dogtown Studio cameras at the 2019 Earthwork Harvest Gathering.


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Local Spins Top 5 for 2020


5.  Destroyer, Have We Met
Dan Bejar and his ever changing crew of accomplices have been putting out literate, thoughtful, dense music for 20 years now.  You can't really call it rock, its multicolored textures add up to a tour through any number of unfashionable genres.  But, since he stopped contributing to the New Pornographers, he's keeping more memorable melodies for himself.  This is an uneasy, unsettling record, full of jump scares and murder, but utterly compelling.
"The Raven":

4. Nathaniel Rateliff, And It's Still Alright
In which the good time charlie gets the blues.  Remarkable, sepia tinged American roots sounds from the usually hollerin' Night Sweats frontman.  This record was a personal project, but its themes, of love and loss and finding a place to stand in this world, are universal. 

3. The Crane Wives, Here I Am
The Grand Rapids indie rock institution hasn't put out an album since 2016, but they HAVE been busy, releasing a string of singles, playing shows, trying to survive in a Spotify world.  Now drawing some international attention thanks to some animation hobby kids on YouTube, this live document of their modern strengths was well timed to capitalize on this newfound love, and has a lot to offer the returning fan as well.  12 of these 20 songs are not on any other album (yet), and show an evolution into a tougher, leaner, but still eloquent and thoughtful band.  These songs are the sound of picking up the pieces of your life and moving on.  Anger is ok, but you have to USE it, not stew in it.

2. Brian Koenigsknecht, Healing Bridges
The Kalamazoo balladeer lost his father recently, and coming to terms with his grief led to the rapid composition and recording of this deeply affecting song cycle.  There are songs of nostalgia, pain, struggle and joy, all parts of remembering our people and finding the strength within ourselves to keep going.  Far from a downer, this album is an affirmation of the ways we mean something to each other. 

1. Earth Radio, Reanimate
Our Grand Rapids polyglots (whom I once described as "what if Mariah Carey joined King Crimson?") have knocked it out of the park on the third album in as many years.  We have the best melodies they've given us thus far, coupled with virtuosic playing, state of the art recording, and a sense of fun that may have been slightly missing from the previous disc.  Rock/jazz/prog/soul fans take note, and give a listen:  this has enough heart and soul in it to defy genre categorization.  Just call it a heavy rotator.

Honorable mentions:  a pair of marvelous local EPs and a single out of Colorado

A. August, Chaos and Comfort
All killer, no filler on these five tracks of state of the art neosoul from Olivia Vargas and her enablers.  Most exciting young band in Grand Rapids, scratching a bit of that Vox Vidorra itch.

B. Patty PerShayla & the Mayhaps, Good With Words 'N Sh*t
One possible future of rock n roll is a former Miss Coopersville. Patty, with fab guitarist Lucas Powell and killer drummer Alec Klinefelter, raise a ruckus across these five tunes, but they never leave the melody behind.  Patty's own bass weakens knees and loosens feet for moving.

C. Foxfeather, "The Rules"
I feel like I might be the only person outside Colorado beating the drum for this song, but I won't stop.  I saw this Boulder quintet in the tiny Sandbox at Kal-Tone in Kalamazoo last year, and they blew my doors off with their witty, knotty songwriting and strong Americana sound.  And this  is a remarkably powerful anti-gaslighting anthem: the Chicks could only WISH for a song this affecting. Available from Bandcamp, I suspect because I kept asking them how to buy it, and look for a full album in the new year.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Election piece for Kay


JOHN JAMES (R)  No.  Just, no.  He's the kind of fellow your racist grandma calls clean and articulate.  He is a Ken doll, up top as well as possibly down low, with no independent thoughts or opinions, at least not since the Military Industrial Complex got through with him.  (He flew helicopters, in case you hadn't heard.)  He is a blank canvas onto which Trumpers can project all their I'm-Not-A-Racist-But rhetoric, while he smiles blankly in their direction from the mailbox campaign flyers.  Why does he even want to be a senator?  Is it just the next step after 2.5 kids and corporate gladhanding?  It's not ok for wypipo (and I am the wytest of pipos) to call out Black people for tokenism.  But John James doesn't stand for anything except bland placeholding in the administration of Satan.

GARY PETERS (D)  Ok, sure.  He has a charisma deficit;  where James' teeth are blinding, Peters' might be a bit yellow.  He may have pit stains where James had his sweat glands removed.  He hasn't accomplished much...but that is down to the stranglehold McConnell has had on the Senate, not a single one term senator can point to ANYTHING they've gotten done.  He's a little too moderate for me.  But he is a real fucking human being. He also served in the military reserve for many years, with distinction, but doesn't crow about it.  I can guarantee he has genitalia.  And he has a heart.  He was a vocal supporter of Occupy Wall Street and the UN Population Fund. And last month, he shared the deeply personal story of his family's choice of an abortion to save his wife Heidi's life. (  It was deeply courageous, and in our deeply messed up state, it will probably cost him his job. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Harvest Gathering bios, 2020

 I did shockingly little new writing this year, but here's a few.  I think that Accidentals was in place last year, but it wasn't in the blog entry.

Ben Traverse is a young man with a very wide hat who commands a wide array of instruments in his mission to bring the finest traditional folk music into the 21st century. After apprenticeships with the finest musicians in Michigan, Ben is ready to step out smiling. After two years with his electronic project, Hlborn, this will be Ben's Harvest debut with his folk sound. Come holler and stomp!

When Brian Koenigsknecht smiles while he's singing, you can see all the joy and sorrow that led up to that moment in his face: whether crooning or hollering, beating on that acoustic guitar like it owes him money, Brian's music wears his heart on its sleeve. It's a big sound in a small space, asking for your time and attention but not demanding it. Stories of then and now, love and loss, Marquette and Kalamazoo, you and me. The original Earthwork Songbird is back to share his melodies, and probably a few more wide smiles. Available: Sad Ballad Souvenirs (2004), Beautiful Distractions (2013), From The Shallows To The Deep (2017), Roswell (2018), and brand new album Healing Bridges, featuring a collaboration with Michael Beauchamp-Cohen of Red Tail Ring, entitled The Windmill.

Darcy Wilkin is a funny person who writes and sings sad songs. She is a serious and dedicated educator who usually rocks rainbow sherbet hair. There's a twinkle in her eye the whole show, to tell you, isn't this cool? She'll treat you the same whether you're an audience of 20 or 2,000. She has been a member of the roots-folk collective the Corn Fed Girls for over two decades, and has finally stepped into the solo spotlight with a stunning slab of Michigan country music, 2019's Bristol. In the age of laughing to keep from crying, or vice versa, Darcy Wilkin was made for these times.

Frank Youngman is an educator, musician, raconteur, and all around good egg who has been mentor and friend to an alarming number of excellent Michigan musicians. Once or twice a year, he assembles a bunch of them into a ragged band of merry melody makers: no egos, no rehearsal, big fun. This year it's just him and Seth in the barn, no rehearsal, no frills, among the peacocks.

Rachael Davis is a big personality with a huge voice. She might punch you in the shoulder within minutes of meeting you. She might fill a room with raucous, contagious laughter, both her own and yours. And she might bring you to your knees with her astonishing voice as it soars, whispers, pleads and demands your attention. Deep Michigan roots, Nashville's gain is our loss, but music travels everywhere. Albums available: Minor League Deities (2000), Live In Bremen, Germany (2004), Antebellum Queens (2008), Bandbox Jubilee (2014), plus releases with Shout Sister Shout! and The Sweet Water Warblers.

Ann Arbor's Sari Brown joined the Earthwork Music label in 2004 at the age of 17 with the release of her first album, 'For What is the Journey,' a collection of 11 unconventional spirituals. 'The Color Suite' followed in 2009. After several years living in Colombia, she is now serving as a pastor in the small towns of Harbor Beach and Port Hope, near the tip of the "thumb" on the coast of Lake Huron: two heartfelt, close-knit communities that inspire her to be a better person and a better artist. She'll dazzle you with sweet songs that will linger in your heart for the rest of the day.

Bill Chesney grew up with Seth Bernard in Lake City, and there must be something in the water up there, because Bill (with his ever-changing pickup band, Stepladders) can conjure a tune, spin it on its side like a Harlem Globetrotter, and whip it at your head so fast you won't know what hit you. This is friendly/slightly snotty rock n roll for people who remember Better Than Ezra fondly. Primarily occupied with running world class print shop Brownlee Press in Grand Rapids, a Stepladders performance is a rare treat. Two albums available: Stepladders (2016) and Another Chance (2020).

Steve Leaf is a restless musical soul with a guitar, a looping station, and a wicked sense of humor. Form Howell to Chicago to Grand Rapids, with the Ex Pats, Brandon Foote, Public Access, or solo, he brings you the goods, whether the goods be ambient soundscapes, tight pop songs, or 15 minute Neil Young covers. An Earthwork Harvest Gathering fixture for over a decade, his scarecrow grin will have to be seen long distance this year, but the future is large. Albums available: We Are Ghosts (2010), Queen's Language (2012), Three Circles & A Speaker (2014), Lightspeed (2015), Come Clean (2016), Go To The Pines (2017), and brand new single Turn Around. Also investigate Public Access and Leaf/Foote.

The Accidentals have exploded out of their native Traverse City, and their Interlochen training, to stride the world with their genre-busting sound and indomitable spirit. Three multi-instrumentalists with the power to do anything, but the pyrotechnic playing is always tempered to serve the song, the melody, the moment. One of the absolute busiest touring acts in America, with over 300 shows played last year, chances are good they have come to your town, or will soon. Savannah Buist and Katie Larson write music of honesty, insight and perception, without relying on love songs or cheap tricks. Michael Dause, the new guy (joined in 2014), is a percussionist of precision and agility, with his own solo career to boot. Guitar, bass, mandolin, viola, cello, violin, banjo, and a whole lotta drums may come into play. This is timeless music by young people, and the horizon is endless. Albums available: Tangled Red And Blue (2012), Bitter Sweet (2013), Parking Lot EP (2016), Odyssey (2017), The Accidentals Live (an album of all new songs) (2019).