Ray of Light – The Sea Tease’s Michaela DeBenedictis Radiates Strength on New ‘Resilient’ Album

“Resilient” radiates strength and growth for The Sea Tease’s Michaela DeBenedictis. Photo by Mindy Parker

Michaela DeBenedictis glistens in vivid southern California sun.

The Los Angeles blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist radiates strength, positivity and growth on her debut sun-drenched album, Resilient, with The Sea Tease.

“All the songs are super personal, and I was diagnosed with PTSD five years ago. This album was, ‘Here’s everything that I had to process and all the people I had to process it with.’ ‘Resilient,’ the title track, really came out of that,” said DeBenedictis, frontwoman for The Sea Tease.

“My mother-in-law actually said to me when I was a couple of years into my recovery, ‘Baby girl, you’re resilient. No matter what happens to you, when you get knocked down, you just pick yourself right back up.’ That just really stuck with me, and I ended up writing ‘Resilient’ off of that.”

Released May 1, Resilient includes poignant lyrics beautifully draped in DeBenedictis’ soulful vocals and illustrious bluesy guitar solos alongside vibrant piano, rhythmic bass, soft percussion and tender acoustic guitar. Together, the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation unearth a “desert magic” vulnerability that emits courage and authenticity throughout The Sea Tease’s seven tracks.

Part of that vulnerability shines on “Gold,” a majestic track beaming with echoey sitars, bluesy electric guitars, light cymbal taps, bouncy percussion and bright acoustic guitar.

In a sense, DeBenedictis has become a “Gold Dust Woman” of the southern California desert weathered and worn as she sings, “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea/And that’s where you should be/You can only drain so much life out of my bones/Before they fossilize and turn to gold.”

“It’s been so long now, and I’ve noticed a part of the healing journey is allowing yourself to be vulnerable. I used to think that hiding yourself, being tough and not letting anybody in, I thought that was strength. But I realized strength is when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and share your story with other people,” she said.

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Master Collector – Dirk Kroll Gathers Everyday Life Experiences for Profound Sonic Tales

Dirk Kroll gathers an array of life experiences and shapes them into earnest sonic tales. Photo courtesy of Dirk Kroll

Dirk Kroll has an impressive collection.

The Pontiac blues rock singer-songwriter doesn’t collect coins, cards or clippings. Instead, he gathers an array of life experiences, stories and moments and shapes them into earnest sonic tales about everyday opportunities and challenges.

“I’m truly interested in life and people. If I were an alien, or from some other time period and I landed here, I’d soak it up more than it just passing me by,” Kroll said. “That’s what I do, and it’s in everybody, the stories I hear, the people I talk to, and their slant on the way they think, the flavor of the moment and everything.”

Kroll’s wife and bandmate, Marci Feldman, laughed and agreed. “The thing about Dirk is he’s a talker. We’ll go into Trader Joe’s, and he knows the names of anybody who works anywhere. Being a painter and restorer, people consider him harmless, so they disclose stories to him.”

Kroll constantly grows his collection through conversations and interactions with family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and characters. Those exchanges lay the foundation for past, present and future songs shared through vivid recordings and live performances with current Dirk Kroll Band members Rodney Walker (guitar), Joe Gaglio (drums), Gardell Floyd (bass), Jim Amann (keys), Robert Reeves (horns) and Feldman (vocals).

“I collect stories, moments and ideas. Lyrically, it’s an opposite reflex because when I really go hard after something, it doesn’t seem to work out right. The stuff that comes to me, that’s a mystery to me, too,” said Kroll, who moved from southern California to metro Detroit at a young age and honed an eclectic sound influenced by Motown and the British Invasion.

‘This Broken Play’

“This Broken Play” album artwork by Diane Irby

Kroll beautifully unravels an assortment of vivid stories across a multitude of genres on his latest album, “This Broken Play,” which dropped in late 2018. The album includes 10 striking tracks revolving around personal struggles, relationships, lifelong journeys and societal responses intertwined with hints of blues, rock, funk, ska, jazz and folk. Listeners will immediately think it’s the best of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, The Rolling Stones and Wilco rolled into one.

The album’s exquisite title track features a solemn cello mixed with banging piano chords to reflect the sadness and frustration of a passionate relationship that’s abruptly ended – “All of our lives, and all that remains/All of our moments, and all that’s the same/You cast your part in this broken play/Is it always love, forever, the price we must pay.”

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Sing the Blues – Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue Opens for Anthony Gomes Friday at The Token Lounge

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An emerging Motor City quartet will cry the blues Friday night in Westland.

The Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue will share gritty blues rock tunes while opening for Canadian blues legend Anthony Gomes at The Token Lounge.

“This will be my third time opening for him. It’s going to be a 30-minute set with a montage of my favorite covers and representations of the blues ranging from Chuck Berry to Son House to Robert Johnson,” said Mikolajczyk, the band’s vocalist, guitarist and harmonicist. “That’s the way I like to do it. I’m taking what they have, and I’m adding a Detroit rock and roll-flavored twist to it.”

Mikolajczyk will add Motor City fuel to Friday night’s blues fire with longtime bandmates Garrett Ramsden (drums) and Eric Noffz (sax, flute). The show also will feature the debut of the band’s new bassist Cameron Shawcross, formerly of the Detroit indie pop rock group Day Sleeper.

“It’s got a lot more feeling into it. It’s not all piano-driven type stuff,” Mikolajczyk said. “It’s real in-your-face, gritty vocals to get the point and emotion across.”

Another show highlight will include two special guitars from Detroit’s Woodward Guitar Co. Mikolajczyk will use a Fender Telecaster-inspired guitar made from reclaimed wood from Detroit homes called The Telegraph. It’s the very first guitar (e.g., serial number 001) that was produced by Woodward Guitar Co.

Mikolajczyk also will play new custom-built, semi-hollow red guitar also made from reclaimed wood called Big Brother, the first of its kind and similar in style to a Gibson Les Paul Studio.

“Between both of those two guitars, I’m very excited for it, and it’s always a great time opening for Anthony,” said Mikolajczyk, who formed the Blues Revue in 2015. “He’s a major influence to me as a blues artist because he’s a little bit harder than the standard blues artist.”

Mikolajczyk developed his immense passion for music while growing up in Canton and watching his dad play drums. By age 12, he picked up his first axe, a Guitar Hero game controller, and played Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” cover of the 1964 Kinks classic. Like Gomes, he quickly decided to trade in his hockey stick for a guitar.

“One day came around, and I was like, ‘It seems like a better idea to play guitar instead of getting chucked into the boards all day – you know, getting concussions,’” Mikolajczyk said. “At one point, it seemed more realistic to be a rock and roll star instead of an NHL star. Like how many people play hockey? How many people my age were playing guitar? I was the only person my age playing guitar pretty much.”

At age 15, he sold merch and volunteered as a roadie for the Detroit metal band Kro-Magnon and later became the band’s bassist. Mikolajczyk quickly became a well-respected musical mainstay in Detroit after forming HazardHead, a band influenced by Guns N’ Roses and ‘80s hard rock, in 2011.

Today, he plays in more than a dozen projects, including Black Feather, Sever It All, Seven Story Fall, Swizzille Trip and The Johnny Fangers Band, as well as the Whiskey A Go Go (‘80s hard rock), Bloodstone (Judas Priest), Little Liars (Joan Jett) and Pretty Tied Up (Guns N’ Roses) tribute bands.

Mikolajczyk also performs as a solo artist and books, manages and promotes local and national pop, rock and blues acts through MetalAfro Management & Promotions. He books acts regularly at the Diesel Concert Lounge in New Baltimore.

Despite balancing a myriad of music projects, Mikolajczyk looks forward to sharing the stage with the Blues Revue and Gomes again Friday night.

“Anthony has showed me that it’s easy to be yourself, and there’s no need to produce anything that’s inauthentic,” he said. “He has guided me on several different aspects the same way that B.B. King has guided him. Anthony’s truly a great friend and inspiration.”

Show details:

Anthony Gomes with The 519 Band and Kyle Mikolajczyk Blues Revue

Friday | Doors 7 p.m. | Show 7:30 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road in Westland

Tickets: $15-$25, ages 21 and up

Medicinal Music – Nikki and The Human Element Cure Everyday Struggles on Debut Album ‘Elemental’

Nikki Neretin of Nikki and The Human Element

For Nikki Neretin, music is the best medicine for coping with daily life.

The New York City indie rock singer-songwriter and frontwoman for Nikki and The Human Element eloquently depicts relatable themes about everyday life on her catchy debut album, “Elemental,” which dropped in June.

“For me, it’s really writing about the daily stuff I see. I’m not writing about love and love lost because I’m not falling in love every day. I’ve got two kids, and I think people just want to hear about life and things they can relate to,” said Neretin, who’s also a physician with the Institute for Child and Family Health in New York City.

“I don’t think they want to hear about the tumultuous relationship that went awry. I’m just writing about the people that I meet, the experiences that I have and the experiences that they have.”

Through “Elemental,” Neretin has become a modern-day troubadour for women, especially mothers raising a family, dealing with aging and working to improve local communities. In a sense, it’s a deep look into the thoughts, feelings and struggles of a fiftysomething wife and mother who balances personal and professional ambitions.

“I’m looking to speak to women in that way, and there’s group that still goes out, sees music and loves rock and roll are my age if not older,” said Neretin, 54, who grew up in The Bronx and cited her opera singer-actor father as her biggest musical influence. “I’m a new rock and roller coming out at this age as opposed to somebody who started in their 20s and worked their way up. This shows that I can still do this.”

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Tom Birchler, Bobby G Launch ‘Friday Night Live’ Fall Season at Farmington Civic Theater

Tom Birchler will headline Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater this Friday.

This Friday, Tom Birchler will take center stage at the Farmington Civic Theater.

The metro Detroit singer-songwriter will headline his first show for “Friday Night Live,” a fall and winter concert series he’s curated, produced and emceed for nearly three years.

“I get to play some of my own stuff and go through my catalog to see what might connect with the audience. I’ll also do some covers, so you might hear The Beatles, Carole King or an Eagles tune,” Birchler said. “The trick is to weave the covers and originals in such a way that the show has a flow and make it entertaining from front to back.”

Birchler will perform an acoustic set with his brother David Birchler and include special guest Bobby G, a Livonia blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.

“I have some stuff in the set that has to do with family, I’m going to do a song called ‘That’s My Mom,’” he said. “I’ve also got some songs about love, and I’m going to do a tribute to my fallen ‘brother’ Tommy Anderson.”

A Farmington music mainstay, Birchler launched the “Friday Night Live” concert series in January 2017 after discovering the theater’s potential as a live music venue. He approached theater general manager Scott Freeman about hosting the concert series in the upstairs 130-seat theater, which now doubles as one of southeast Michigan’s premier listening rooms.

Together, Birchler and Freeman, who met each other while working at Farmington’s Rhythms in Riley Park summer concert series in 2014, wanted to offer a live music experience on Friday nights and expand the theater’s offering beyond movies in downtown Farmington.

For the “Friday Night Live” series, they opted for three shows in the fall and four in the winter. To prepare for each show, Birchler books performances and handles sound while Freeman oversees promotion and venue needs.

“I knew it was a good room, and the size was right,” said Birchler, who also books and produces several Michigan-based shows through Go2Guy Productions and performs regularly for seniors. “I thought this would be an awesome venue for live music. I’m really lucky to be able to do stuff in that venue. Going forward, I hope that it’s something we can do more often.”

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