The Ypsilanti jam fusion quartet will host their first two-set show at Ann Arbor’s legendary rock club with EDM artists-DJs Scüter and Sleezy Hamilton against an enchanting backdrop of live visuals and electronic vibrations.
“It will be the first of its kind in terms of a local show equipped with three interactive screens for live visuals controlled in real-time by visual artist Mark Samano and Scüter,” said Jordan Smith, Ma Baker’s guitarist and keyboardist. “Our goal as a group has always been to get to the level where our shows feature two sets. Our intent is to create a conversation between the band and the audience.”
Ma Baker also will feature different genres during each set – the first will spotlight funk while the second will capture a psychedelic-experimental feel. It’s the ideal setting to reimagine an EDM scene in Tree Town while sharing a mix of originals, new tunes and covers intertwined with improvisation.
“We chose to pair ourselves with two DJs to differentiate this show from the typical three groove-jam band bill the way we normally play at The Pig. All of us in the band love electronic music and rock and roll equally, and we wanted a night to really surround ourselves with more electronic vibrations and interactive visuals more akin to the ‘Movement’ or Detroit techno scene,” Smith said.
In 2012, Smith discovered a shared love of EDM and rock with a collective of community college students in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Together, they rented a storage unit two miles from school to jam, improvise and store gear while having deep philosophical discussions late into the night.
Those initial sessions led to forming Bearfoot with 10 rotating members who would perform based on availability with zero premeditated music. By Devil’s Night 2015, only four of the 10 members showed up and a new creative chemistry emerged. Six months later, the band’s original lineup played their first show on Earth Day at Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery.
As a quartet, Bearfoot became Ma Baker (after the 1977 Boney M. disco track) and now includes Guy Williams (guitar), Jared Weimer (drums), Dylan Risinger (bass) and Smith in their latest formation.
“Guy brings calmness to the group. He is grounded and keeps us on our original track and reminds us that music is for love and for fun and that’s how it should be. Jared is a drumming anomaly. I think he played drums just a handful of times before jamming with us for the first time and has such a natural pocket,” Smith said.
“Dylan is the newcomer to the group. He has been with us for six months and is already a full-fledged member of our family. He is the glue that keeps the whole band together. I do a lot of the songwriting, arranging and music business side of things as well as keeping us on track.”
With powerhouse grooves and improvisations, Ma Baker has become a musical mainstay in Michigan’s vibrant jam-fusion scene alongside Chirp, Stormy Chromer, Liquid Thickness, Act Casual, Pajamas, Desmond Jones and a host of others.
Like their counterparts, Ma Baker has created a growing archive of recorded live performances for fans to enjoy online. In September, the band recorded a groovy hour-long set featuring two originals and two covers at Northville Winery and Brewing Co. The epic original, “Mustard,” showcases Ma Baker’s funky disco roots while “Weight Lifted” showcases a laid-back, breezy 70s-inspired side. Their Northville Winery and Brewing Co. set brightens up a dreary February day with the shimmering sounds of summer.
“We record all of our shows ourselves with a small handheld recorder and then mix them after the fact. The Northville Winery in particular just happens to have such amazing sound and monitoring onstage that the recording came out really clear, and we decided to put it up on archive.org,” Smith said. “Our goal is to eventually release all of our shows onto a streaming platform so fans can follow our setlists and jams from wherever they are.”
Ma Baker also recorded a jazzy three-track EP at Willis Sound in 2018 to beautifully demonstrate their multi-genre approach. “Swim,” “Sink” and “Soar” wrap listeners in comforting timeless jazz interspersed with light touches of rock and funk. They’ll return to the studio later this year to record 13 new tracks for either a full-length album or multiple EPs.
“We are going to split it up into three recording sessions at three different studios throughout the year,” Smith said. “This part is undecided, but by the end of the year, we will have another live performance recording and a studio gem available for fans to purchase or stream online.”
In the meantime, Ma Baker will relish sharing The Blind Pig stage with Scüter and Sleezy Hamilton during a far-out, jam-infused Saturday night.
“Scüter and Ma Baker have a strong creative bond, and on top of that, we are just in love with the man. He is also the bass player in my other group, Liquid Thickness, whom we co-host the Groove On Up Music Festival with,” Smith said. “We chose Sleezy Hamilton solely based on his music and him being regarded as an all-around excellent DJ from sources we know and trust.”
Saturday | Doors 8 p.m.
The Blind Pig, 208 S. First St. in Ann Arbor