The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will livestream a show Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios as part of Arts, Beats & Eats’ “The Beats Go On” virtual and drive-in live music series. Photo courtesy of Valerie Barrymore

Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk will bring sparkling, soulful grooves and delectable, dancy R&B to an Arts, Beats & Eats livestream performance Saturday at Ypsilanti’s Grove Studios.

“This will be the first Foundation of Funk virtual show, and we’ll be doing a few covers and originals. With the virus, we haven’t been able to incorporate any of our new material yet, but hopefully we’ll be able to add some new things soon. The guys are so talented; we just want to have a funky, good time,” Barrymore said.

Thankfully, Barrymore and her bandmates will return to a metro Detroit stage, an online one albeit, after going on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re one of 400 local acts performing virtual shows and drive-in concerts Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 as part of a new Arts, Beats & Eats socially-distanced festival called “The Beats Go On.”

“The Beats Go On” aims to raise $500,000 for artists placed out of work due to the pandemic, which has shuttered live music venues nationwide since March. Viewers will be able to donate individually to different artists and contribute to “The Beats Go On” Musicians Fund, a broader public fundraising campaign to provide donated funds to artists who receive over 50 percent of their income from music.

Despite the ongoing challenges with live music, many artists, including Barrymore, continue to write, record and release new material. In April, Barrymore released her latest single, “I’m Here for You,” a groovy, romantic ode to long-term relationships and lifelong love.

Glistening retro synths, pulsating electronic drums, vibrant acoustic guitars and funky bass surround Barrymore as she soulfully sings, “You came home and you talked to me/Tellin’ me how bad things might be/Askin’ if I’d still love you if things messed up financially/Money’s not what attracted me, no, no/Money cannot control me/You took my heart, and it’s yours, boy/So everything else is noise, boy.”

“‘I’m Here for You’ is a song about my love for my husband (Steve Somers), and regardless, I’ll be there for him. The music for the track was written by a friend of mine, Tobias Smith, and I wrote the lyrics. We actually did 10 or more songs for an album called L.O.V.E., but today they say to release singles and not albums. We recorded a while ago, and it took me a little to start letting them go,” Barrymore said.

Barrymore also collaborated with Smith last year on “Do It for The Kids,” an upbeat, bouncy social justice anthem about putting children first. Shimmering electric guitars, rhythmic percussion, whirring synths and humming bass propel Barrymore as she optimistically sings, “One plus one and now you are three/You are a family, what a blessing/Commit to love and commitment/Let no one in and destroy it/Grow and love/Do it for the kids/You got to do it/Do it for the children.”

“Children are so precious and should be treated as such. You see horrible things happen to the beautiful children, and it just hurts. Children should be loved and protected,” she said.

Continue reading “The Funky Beats Go On – Valerie Barrymore & Foundation of Funk Host Livestream Show Saturday”

Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last year, Torrey Mercer unknowingly penned a fitting anthem for 2020.

The Los Angeles pop singer-songwriter co-wrote a peppy, ironic new track, “This is Fine,” about perpetually living in disarray with pop-rock singer-songwriter and producer Una Jensen.

“We wrote this in December of 2019, which is wild to think about, considering the times we are in now. It was meant to be a song about feeling like a ‘hot mess,’ little did we know. The song is meant to be a pick-me-up in some hard times, which I hope it can be for others during the times we find ourselves in,” said Mercer, who released the track in May.

Mercer beautifully exposes that frustrating, turbulent world throughout “This is Fine,” which fuses gleaming acoustic strums, bouncy synths, thumping bass and striking electronic drums in a poppy, cheeky ode to bad days. She nonchalantly sings, “My bank account just froze/Bedroom full of dirty clothes/Of course I stubbed my toe/What day is my cycle/There it goes.”

“It was inspired by a meme we are both familiar with on the Internet originally created by KC Green. The original artist gave us permission, and we recreated his art for the album art of the song, which was fun. The song has lots of quirky details in it, which started with both of us listing things that we were feeling at the time,” Mercer said.

“We wrote this song in its entirety in about two and a half hours, all in one sitting. And we spent a few weeks nailing down final vocals, production and mixing. It was actually a total fluke we wrote this song before the current moment we are facing in the world, and when everything started happening, I realized it might be the perfect moment for this song. I’m glad we got to release it.”

Boys/Girls

This is Fine” isn’t the only shiny, effervescent new material Mercer has dropped this year. In February, she released Boys/Girls, a vibrant, inspirational six-track EP filled with bisexual anthems, misogynistic tales, patriarchal challenges, changing relationships, inner revelations and personal empowerment.

“This EP was meant to be a liberation for me as a woman and as a bisexual. In the music industry, there’s a lot of pressure to perform a version of yourself that is more likeable to others. This project was about taking the duct tape off my own mouth and embracing what makes me different and outspoken,” she said.

Continue reading “Happy Accidents – Torrey Mercer Celebrates Living in Disarray on Latest ‘This is Fine’ Single”

The Interpreter – Bettye LaVette Shares Career Favorites, Dylan Cuts at 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival

Bettye LaVette will perform Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival. Photo by Mark Seliger

Bettye LaVette brings a magical soulfulness to her 60-year career, including Bob Dylan’s legendary songbook.

The iconic soul songstress and Michigan native beautifully interprets an era of treasures ranging from ‘60s R&B to British rock to deep Dylan cuts. Her latest release, “Things Have Changed (2018),” unearths Dylan’s extensive catalog from 1979 to 1989 as well as other cherished favorites.

“Well, there isn’t a ‘like’ to it, it’s just the way I hear the songs, and that’s the way I sing it. But as I said, I’m really not that much of a music enthusiast, so there are not a great many songs that sat around that I wanted to sing for a long time,” said LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and grew up in Detroit as Betty Jo Haskins.

“It’s the songs that appeal to me most, that’s why the Bob Dylan album worked so well for me because the lyrics have to be absolutely solid and be there. I’m almost 75 years old, and I can’t look my audience in the face, and people who are sitting close, I look at them even more intently, so I can’t have a whole bunch of gibberish coming out. It has to say something because I’m holding a conversation with them.”

LaVette will hold an engaging conversation with Ann Arbor audiences Saturday at the 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival, which also will include Nathaniel Rateliff, Mandolin Orange and Cold Tone Harvest. In her first-ever Folk Festival appearance, LaVette will share her career highlights and interpretations with a nearly sold-out crowd of 3,500 at Hill Auditorium.

“Most of those (Dylan) songs, I think there were 10 or 12 tunes on that album, I only knew four of them before I sung them. It’s interesting having almost a clean slate because I didn’t grow up listening. Many of these things didn’t make it to black radio, but ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ did and ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ I certainly know who he is,” she said.

Continue reading “The Interpreter – Bettye LaVette Shares Career Favorites, Dylan Cuts at 43rd Ann Arbor Folk Festival”

‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart

Neil Peart performs with Rush at a 2010 Rogers Bayfest in Sarnia, Ontario.

Editor’s Note – Brian Stratton reflects on his lifelong love of Rush and Neil Peart’s untimely passing.

By Brian Stratton

From the point of ignition
To the final drive
The point of the journey
Is not to arrive
Anything can happen

– Prime Mover

I never got to meet Neil Peart, though I did see him many times. Nonetheless, I feel like I know him through his lyrics, and consider him a companion of sorts. It was his lyrics that first appealed to me when my brother played some Rush music for me. The science fiction and fantasy themes were ripe for my young imagination. Over time, I grew to appreciate other themes in his lyrics, about human nature, loss, triumph and all the events that make a life worth living.

As most people know, Peart enjoyed journeying on his motorcycle between tour dates, or on his own time. It gave him time to explore, think and write about life. In fact, I feel that the overriding theme of all his lyrics, whether fantastic or realistic, is about one’s journey through life. Indeed, “anything can happen” in life and often does.

On that note, here are some moments where Peart’s lyrics, Rush’s music and my life all intersected.

Rush’s Alex Lifeson at Rogers Bayfest in 2010

Drawn like moths, we drift into the city

– Subdivisions

I’ve always been drawn to Detroit. For me, it was the big city where my dad worked at Channel 4 and anytime I got to go there when I was growing up was exciting. Probably none more so than the time in 1990 when my family attended Channel 4’s holiday party and then went to Trappers Alley in Greek Town to do some shopping. While wandering around the many levels of the mall, I found a Harmony House store, and in it Rush’s “Caress of Steel” CD. At the time, I was reading Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring,” so it was no surprise that I was attracted to the cover art with the necromancer on it.

When it was time to go home, we found that our car had been stolen. More tragically for my teenage self, my copy of “Fellowship of the Ring” was in the car at the time. At least I had “Caress of Steel,” with its songs about wizards and mythical fountains, to console me. However, all ended well, and our car was found a few weeks later, complete with my book! Not one to hold a grudge, I still love Detroit and look forward to going there to this day.

When we are young
Wandering the face of the earth

– Dreamline

Sometimes it’s the small stops on a larger journey that make the trip complete. At the end of summer in 1991, we were on a family trip to Colorado to visit my brother during his first year at the Air Force Academy. It was my first time out west, and I finally got to see mountains! It was awe-inspiring and profoundly moving for me.

Now, the trip happened to coincide with the release of “Roll the Bones.” This was the first new album that the band had put out since I became a fan, so getting it was a big deal for me. My parents said we could stop and get the CD on the way home from the airport. I remember landing back in Michigan and how vividly green everything was in comparison to the reds and browns of Colorado. A quick stop to Harmony House (again!) in Novi was the perfecting ending to a great vacation.

Continue reading “‘Prime Mover’ – My Journeys with Rush’s Neil Peart”

Dream Ticket – Tetra Music Project Hosts FutureDream 3 Dec. 21 at Detroit’s Tangent Gallery

Tetra Music Project will host FutureDream 3 and feature emerging EDM, hip-hop and rock artists on two stages.

Kim Tetra Wiesner will bring the sparkle and soundtrack of spring to Detroit three months early.

The Ypsilanti electronic, chillwave and world bass vocalist-guitarist, aka Tetra Music Project, will host an indoor visual art and live music garden party Dec. 21 at Tangent Gallery. It will be an exhilarating visual and auditory experience to awaken the mind, body and spirit during the winter solstice.

Known as FutureDream 3, the atmospheric festival will feature emerging EDM, hip-hop and rock artists on two stages, including Tetra Music Project, Pandora Love, Gyp$y, Y-Not, Dancemyth, Dos Lopez, Approachable Minorities, Mynah, Neural Patterns and Jena Irene Asciutto.

It also will showcase visionary floral sculptor Anthony Flowers Ward as well as a special performance from Botanical Burlesque and a magical imagination playspace by Astral Matter Experience. Additional FutureDream 3 support will come from Unique Groove Entertainment, Silky Grooves and 3D Planted.

“Instead of trying to set up a bunch of shows throughout the year, I really just focus on the one big, extravagant performance, and I like to have it be this really art-centered display of people who I personally find are very talented and dedicated to what they do,” Wiesner said.

“I like to give everybody a decent amount of time to perform and make it worth their while. I curate the event in a way that I can get behind, and I have people who have a good attitude and a good vibe about them.”

Outside of art and music, FutureDream 3 will donate festival proceeds to the St. Clair Butterfly Foundation, an Auburn Hills nonprofit that uses creative arts, mindfulness and mentorship programs to help youth overcome trauma.

“If I’m putting an event together, usually it has some sort of cause involved, and we may or may not make a whole lot of money to donate or contribute, but we focus on it, make a little bit and say, ‘Well hey, we did our best,’” Wiesner said.

Continue reading “Dream Ticket – Tetra Music Project Hosts FutureDream 3 Dec. 21 at Detroit’s Tangent Gallery”

Crisp Tastes and Tunes – Ypsilanti’s 2nd Annual West Cross Cider Festival Drafts Michigan Cider Makers, Local Eateries and Emerging Music Acts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Crisp tastes and tunes will fill the vibrant fall air Saturday at Ypsilanti’s West Cross Cider Festival.

The second annual hard cider festival will feature 10 Michigan-crafted hard ciders, a host of delectable West Cross food offerings and five emerging Ypsi-based music artists to celebrate an autumn afternoon in the city.

Hard cider and mead fans will experience a bushel of sweet, tasty brews from Farmhaus, Northville Cider, Sierra Rose, Blake’s, Virtue, Pux, Fourth Coast, St. Ambrose and Cherry Creek as well as local favorites Bløm Meadworks, Unity Vibration and 734 Brewing Company.

“This is their time to fall in love with more than one favorite and connect with the representatives of each brand,” said Julie Palmer, West Cross Cider Festival event organizer. “With names like Ballyhoo, Traffic Jam, Skinny Dip and Absynthe Botanical, it will become immediately clear that cider is as diverse as the maker behind it.”

Palmer and the West Cross Cider Festival team partnered with the Michigan Cider Association and beverage distributors to bring new and returning cider producers to the growing event, which is located at the intersection of College Place and West Cross.

“Because Michigan is at the top of our nation’s apple-producing states, we’ve got so much to offer,” Palmer said. “One only needs to scratch the surface to find many Michigan ciders in most stores.”

Festival attendees will be able to purchase cider tasting wristbands for $25 in advance online. The first 500 purchases also will include souvenir tasting mugs for hardcore cider aficionados to personally enjoy the festival’s brews with food from Wurst Bar, Tower Inn, Veg-O-Rama and other local eateries.

Continue reading “Crisp Tastes and Tunes – Ypsilanti’s 2nd Annual West Cross Cider Festival Drafts Michigan Cider Makers, Local Eateries and Emerging Music Acts”

Saturday’s WhateverFest 9 Boasts 40 Emerging Detroit Acts at Tangent Gallery

A Detroit grassroots music and arts festival will showcase some 40 emerging artists Saturday at Tangent Gallery.

Known as WhateverFest 9, the homegrown festival will feature the Motor City’s Torus Eyes, Jemmi Hazeman, Violet Sol, Panda House and others as well as artists from Columbus, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Originally scheduled to take place June 1 at Dequindre Cut Freight Yard as an outdoor festival with overnight camping, WhateverFest 9 organizers postponed the event due to inclement weather.

Instead, they’ve moved the event to Tangent Gallery, which will host WhateverFest for the third time. The festival also was able to retain most of the original lineup, including out-of-town acts, said Sophocles Sapounas, WhateverFest co-founder and co-organizer.

“There’s not that much of a difference other than the cool factor of the Tangent Gallery itself. You can go out, you can go in. It’s got a big ballroom and a gallery space, so the experience is more centered around Tangent,” he said. “Tangent is an institution. If more people can learn about it, then more people can have a good time there. That’s the experience we want to give people.”

WhateverFest offers a platform to Detroit artists of all practices who might not have one or who are having a hard time getting onto the music circuit. It also emphasizes collaboration and camaraderie in some of the city’s hippest and most unconventional live music spaces.

“We’re incredibly grateful to be able to put on all these artists,” Sapounas said. “It gets tough going through submissions because there’s so much talent in and around this city. Our goal is to show you your favorite Detroit artist you’ve never heard of.”

In its ninth year, the one-day WhateverFest will feature three stages and include live art, a photo booth and an after-party DJ set starting at 12:30 a.m. To get a preview, check out the WhateverFest 9 playlist on Bandcamp.

A mainstay since 2011, WhateverFest started as a Detroit apartment-based event hosted by Sapounas and several friends that morphed into a multi-day festival at Tires, Tangent Gallery and Scripps Park.

This year, the festival’s organizers, including Brent Szczygielski, Jake Cramer, Jakob Harris, Anthony Zito, Nick Sapounas, Kelsey Hubbel, Steve D’Agostino and Sapounas, decided to scale back WhateverFest to a one-day event.

“We had a WhateverFest at Scripps Park that was a three-day one, that was awesome, but it was also super taxing,” Sapounas said. “After that, we decided to keep it smaller, rethink ourselves and figure things out because it was a lot of money, and it was a lot of people working.”

To support this year’s event, WhateverFest is charging a $10 admission fee at the door. The fee will allow the festival’s planning team to bring the event back for its 10th installment next year.

“For years, we’ve been getting by DIY, but we want to elevate the experience for both artists and those attending. This could end up being ‘that’ music festival in Detroit, but one where the importance is on local and not national headliners,” Sapounas said. “It’s an opportunity to bring everyone together from all scenes for an amazing day of music, good vibes and whatever the day brings.”

Festival details:

WhateverFest 9

Saturday, noon to 3 a.m.

Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee Ave. in Detroit

Admission | $10

The Doozers, Craig Brown Band to Open Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Sunday

The Doozers will share their indie rock Sunday at Mo Pop.
The Craig Brown Band will bring some twang Sunday to Mo Pop.

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

Two Michigan bands will heat things up tomorrow at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival.

The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will perform Sunday afternoon opening slots and join 26 emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park.

Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which returns for its seventh year. Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with performances from Michigan-based artists to expose people to some of the area’s rising local acts.

The Stratton Setlist recently talked with The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band about playing Mo Pop and sharing their eclectic music with a growing audience.

Continue reading “The Doozers, Craig Brown Band to Open Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Sunday”

Top Flight – The Messenger Birds to Navigate Saturday Opening Set at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival

The Messenger Birds’ Parker Bengry (left) and Chris Williams will kick off Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival Saturday with an opening set.

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

The Messenger Birds love the name “Kevin.”

The Detroit alt rock duo heavily reference “Kevin” in their Facebook and Instagram posts, ranging from “Kevin is a place on earth” (imagine hearing it to the tune of Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’) to “Kevin hard at work making a record” to “Lights, Camera, Kevin.”

But who the heck is Kevin, anyway? “Kevin is all of us, Kevin is everywhere,” said Parker Bengry, the band’s vocalist and guitarist.

Chris Williams, drummer and vocalist for The Messenger Birds, esoterically added, “We refer to each other as Kevin, we see ourselves as Kevin, and everybody who listens to our music is Kevin.”

While The Stratton Setlist hasn’t cracked the case about “Kevin” yet, we do know “Kevin” will be invading the Mo Pop Festival Saturday to see his favorite band, The Messenger Birds, play a coveted 1:30 p.m. opening slot on the River Stage.

The Messenger Birds will join 27 other emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival this weekend at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the boutique and niche festival, which returns for its seventh year.

Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with opening performances from Michigan-based artists to expose attendees to some of the area’s rising local acts. The Messenger Birds and Siena Liggins will perform Saturday while The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will take the stage on Sunday.

It’s been nearly three years in the making for The Messenger Birds to perform at Mo Pop. Back in 2016, festival organizers asked the band to join the lineup after another act dropped out.

Continue reading “Top Flight – The Messenger Birds to Navigate Saturday Opening Set at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival”

In the Groove – Siena Liggins to Share Danceable Pop at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Saturday

Siena Liggins will perform Saturday afternoon at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival. Photo courtesy of Assemble Sound

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a special series profiling Michigan artists featured at this weekend’s Mo Pop Festival in Detroit.

For Siena Liggins, a well-crafted pop song starts with a relatable subject and includes a catchy hook that’s intertwined with a simple melody.

“I just have always been obsessed with really simple melodies that get stuck in your head, and you end up accidentally singing it,” she said. “It’s the stuff that people usually love to hate.”

Coincidentally, Detroiters will show Liggins the love this weekend instead when she performs at the Mo Pop Festival. The Motor City pop-R&B-dance singer-songwriter will perform a much anticipated 2:15 p.m. Saturday set on the River Stage.

Liggins will join 27 other emerging artists, including Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Lizzo and Ella Mai, during the two-day indie rock, pop and hip-hop festival at Detroit’s West Riverfront Park. Nearly 20,000 people are expected to attend the boutique and niche festival, which returns for its seventh year.

Each year, Mo Pop kicks off both festival days with opening performances from Michigan-based artists to expose attendees to some of the area’s rising local acts. Liggins and The Messenger Birds will perform Saturday while The Doozers and the Craig Brown Band will take the stage on Sunday.

During her set, Liggins will perform her latest single, “Laws of Attraction,” a 3.5-minute high-energy pop track with a tick-tock vibe about a reactionary relationship.

It’s the perfect summer track for a throwdown on the dance floor, or in this case, a park. As an added bonus, Flint electronic-pop-R&B singer-songwriter Tunde Olaniran penned the track’s memorable post-chorus.

Continue reading “In the Groove – Siena Liggins to Share Danceable Pop at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Saturday”