Musical Feast – Pond Jam Festivalgoers Experience First Taste of Mercury Salad Sandwich’s Savory Acoustic Funk over Labor Day Weekend

Mercury Salad Sandwich’s Kyle Kipp, Dan “Ozzie” Andrews, Kurt Bonnell and Brooke Ratliff

 

Rapid City, Mich. – Pond Jam festivalgoers will feast on Mercury Salad Sandwich this Labor Day weekend.

They’ll heavily ingest the tasty “acoustic funk” tunes of the burgeoning folk rock and Americana quartet from Ypsilanti, Mich., during their 4:30 p.m. Sunday set on the Pond Jam Second Stage.

It’s also the first time northern Michiganders will sink their teeth into Mercury Salad Sandwich’s delectable music, said Brooke Ratliff, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and percussionist.

“Some of our fave local bands, like Dragon Wagon and Fangs and Twang, are regulars at Pond Jam. There’s a notorious video from Pond Jam of Fangs and Twang playing their jamming song, ‘Big Foot,’ while people in Yeti costumes dance,” she said. “It just seemed like a great time, so we sent them some music, and they let us in.”

A private event, the fifth annual Pond Jam will boast more than 60 bands on four stages today through Sunday at a family’s Rapid City wilderness getaway located about 20 miles east of Traverse City, Mich.

Pond Jam festivalgoers will see an eclectic set from Ratliff and her three Mercury Salad Sandwich bandmates, Kurt Bonnell (acoustic and electric guitar), Dan “Ozzie” Andrews (acoustic and electric bass) and Kyle Kipp (drums and guitar).

“We are playing our folk rock and acoustic funk tunes and debuting one mellow original called ‘The Road,’” Ratliff said. “We are Mazzy Star fans, and the song is our tribute to them.”

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Riding High — The Lows Perform Saturday at Inaugural Motor City Muscle Festival

 

The Lows will play Motor City Muscle on Saturday.
The Lows will be riding high this weekend with a coveted slot at the inaugural Motor City Muscle festival.

The Detroit-based hard rock band will join more than 120 artists, including Ace Frehley, The Dead Kennedys, Belinda Carlisle and Sponge, during the free festival, which includes seven stages of music and a muscle car showcase today through Sunday in downtown Detroit.

The Lows will take the stage in Detroit’s Hart Plaza at 3:15 p.m. Saturday for their hour-long, 15-song set. Fans can expect original Lows’ tunes and covers from Detroit music legends, including Alice Cooper and The Stooges, as well as ‘90s grunge classics.

For Angelo Coppola and his Lows bandmates, the festival is an incredible chance to help revive the rock music scene in the Motor City.

“Basically, I think there’s not enough of the straight-up rock sound going on anymore,” said Coppola, frontman for The Lows. “There are some great bands like Greta Van Fleet and some others from Detroit doing it. I think the world needs more of it, and I think tons of people personally want something to change with mainstream music. We’re just trying to hopefully be part of it carrying the torch and bringing it back around.”

The Lows EP
Coppola learned his band would join the all-star rock music festival lineup after he submitted “Road Trippin’,” a track from The Lows’ 2017 self-titled debut EP for a 12-song Motor City Muscle compilation album.

“The criteria for that was the song had to be about cars, and it had to mention Detroit in the song,” he said. “I went back into the studio where I recorded the EP, and I just changed one line of the first verse with producer Chuck (Alkazian) to include a reference to Detroit in there, then I submitted it, and they picked it for the album.”

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Travelers’ Rest Day 2 – The Decemberists Give Exquisite Full Performance of ‘The Crane Wife’

Jenny Conlee performs “The Crane Wife” with The Decemberists at Travelers’ Rest.

There’s something transformative about hearing a band perform an entire album live.

It’s a slightly different interpretation than what’s heard on a turntable, in the car or through a phone.

Some songs become livelier, longer and more emotive while others take on a new identity for fans.

That’s what hit me Sunday night at Travelers’ Rest.

I started photographing The Decemberists when the opening chords of “The Crane Wife 3” rang out from the stage in front of me.

While I tried to concentrate on my shots, I heard the crowd roar with contagious excitement and turned around the see a long line of fans jumping up and down at the barricade at Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Mont. In that moment, I connected with their energy and enthusiasm.

That energy and enthusiasm stemmed from the Portland, Ore., indie rock band’s special performance of their 2006 concept album, “The Crane Wife.”

A special musical treat for those of us who love The Decemberists and cherish the opportunity to hear an entire album front to back LIVE.

In “The Crane Wife,” the album’s storyline focuses on an old Japanese folktale of a poor man who finds an injured crane on his doorstep and nurses it back to health. Once the crane is released, a woman appears on the man’s doorstep, and he instantly falls for her. They quickly marry.

The woman offers to weave beautiful clothes out of silk to help earn money for the couple. At first, the man agrees to never watch his wife make clothes, but forces her weave more as their income grows and becomes oblivious to her declining health.

With a growing income, the man’s greed increases, and one fateful day, he catches a glimpse of her weaving and discovers his wife is an actual crane plucking feathers from her own body and weaving them into the loom. She sees him, flies away and never returns.

“This is only the second time we’ve done one of these full albums through other than ‘Hazards of Love,’ or ‘The Tain,’” said Colin Meloy, frontman for The Decemberists. “I never know whether just to not talk through it just to give you the full album experience or just to ruin the whole experience would be chattering in between, so I’m obviously doing both and neither.”

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The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie Deliver Memorable Travelers’ Rest Day 1

Colin Meloy plays with The Decemberists during the first night of Travelers’ Rest.

Travelers’ Rest may be the best festival for any indie music rock fan – period.

First off, it’s an artist-curated event with The Decemberists at the helm. Who knows how to select a festival lineup better than the artists themselves? No one, I say.

Next, it’s the perfect overall length and amount of music. With two days and start and end times of 3:30 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. each day, respectively, you get to see nine acts and not have to stay up all night. At times, the three- and four-day festivals are fun, but a bit long in the tooth on hot summer days.

As a bonus, you also get to see ALL the acts if you want. No overlapping artists and schedule conflicts. A music festival goer’s dream!

Thirdly, the festival location and size. Missoula, Mont., is idyllic with its big blue sky and majestic mountains in the distance, yet remote enough to not draw overwhelming crowds compared to festivals in large cities, such as Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Detroit. The Big Sky Brewing Company Amphitheater has the right-size feel for an outdoor venue that holds up to 5,000 people.

Finally, who wouldn’t want to spend two musically, fun-filled days with The Decemberists and their friends? For me, it’s a bounty of exquisite musicianship and artistry.

Continue reading “The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie Deliver Memorable Travelers’ Rest Day 1”

Travelers’ Rest — The Decemberists Host 2-Day Music Festival in Missoula, Mont.

Colin Meloy performs with The Decemberists during the “Your Girl/Your Ghost” tour at Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium in May. My friend Rachel provides cowbell support.

Nine years ago, I put in a copy of “The Hazards of Love” by The Decemberists in my Volkswagen Beetle’s five-disc CD changer and raised an eyebrow.

It wasn’t quite what I expected.

After listening to the entire album, I looked over at Brian and shook my head.

He replied to me, “This isn’t our style.”

At that time, we weren’t focused on rock operas and concept albums. We were the curmudgeons of pop, classic rock and power metal.

The Decemberists’ 2009 rock opera album pushed us out of our comfort zones musically, courtesy of my brother Steve. He included the album in a care package of music to hear before attending Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

The album’s storyline centers on a woman named Margaret who falls in love with a forest dweller named William. Throughout the album, William’s mother and a villain named the Rake bring conflict to the story.

Back then, “Hazards” was one of the first concept albums I had ever heard. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I sure do today.

I greatly appreciate the album and The Decemberists because they’re part of a special group of artists and music that inspired my initial love of concertgoing, vinyl and CD collecting, musical festival-ing (I know, it’s not a real word) and blogging.

Continue reading “Travelers’ Rest — The Decemberists Host 2-Day Music Festival in Missoula, Mont.”

Homecoming — The National Hosts Inaugural 2-day Music Festival in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Indie rock giants The National returned to their stomping grounds to host the inaugural two-day Homecoming music festival this weekend at Smale Park with Feist, Big Thief, Father John Misty as well as other emerging rock and alternative artists.

Along with Wilco, Bon Iver and The Decemberists, The National is part of a growing wave of indie rock artists who are curating their own music festivals for fans. It’s a way to provide music lovers with a more intimate experience in comparison to the larger likes of Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

Homecoming truly felt like The National had returned to their roots with two special performances each night. Saturday’s set featured selections from “Sleep Well Beast,” “Trouble Will Find Me,” “High Violet” and “Alligator.” Sunday’s set featured 2007’s “Boxer” in its entirety and the debut of the band’s newest song, “Light Years.”

Bryce and Aaron Dessner also treated fans to a special performance at the Cincinnati Masonic Center Friday night to demonstrate their guitar prowess as part of Red Bird Hollow and celebrate the release of German electronic duo Mouse on Mars’ latest album, “Dimensional People.”

Lisa Hannigan, Spank Rock, Sam Amidon and Kristin Anna joined the Dessner twins and Mouse on Mars to kick off the first night of the festival.

Fans also enjoyed riveting performances by Lord Huron, Julien Baker, Future Islands, Moses Sumney, Alvvays and other talented artists.

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First Detroit LIVE at The Heidelberg Spotlights Growing Motor City Music, Art Scene

Rahbi Hammond, aka Rah the Son, pumps up the crowd at Detroit LIVE.

A blend of Motor City sunshine, art and music formed a new creative and collaborative vibe during the inaugural Detroit LIVE at the Heidelberg.

That vibe pulsated throughout Heidelberg Street as more than 2,000 attendees enjoyed family, friends, festivities, food and fun at the free Aug. 26 block party near the city’s iconic art installation.

“This Detroit LIVE event at the Heidelberg is a collaboration,” said Jenenne Whitfield, CEO for The Heidelberg Project. “It’s a celebration of all the cultures in the city of Detroit and of all the grassroots initiatives. I want a party in the middle of the street. I want to show Detroit how it’s really done.”

Donna Kassab, POWER Entertainment owner and Detroit LIVE creator, joined Whitfield to reflect on the event’s strong creative community.

“Everyone’s here to celebrate each other as well as music and art,” she said. “Let’s have some fun.”

Nine artists continued to spread that vibe musically as they showcased Detroit’s best hip-hop, techno, R&B, classical and indie rock before curious and engaged attendees.

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