‘The Desmond Jones Show’ – Grand Rapids Quintet Drops New Truman-Inspired ‘Major Burbank’ Video

For Desmond Jones, authenticity reigns tried and true.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals, guitar), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (sax, vocals) and Taylor Watson (bass) embraces their holistic selves on “Major Burbank,” a new glistening, groovy video out today. It’s the first new studio material Desmond Jones has released since their Hello, Helou album last July.

The 10-minute slow, transformative jam pays tribute to Jim Carrey’s legendary performance in the 1998 Academy Award-nominated film, “The Truman Show.” As an authentic ode to Carrey, “Major Burbank” majestically combines sparkling guitars, velvety bass, dancy drums and sensuous sax as Berkowitz smoothly sings, “So come back in to/The old world you knew/And although it’s not true/We’re all here for you.”

“With a flawless Jim Carrey performance and the layered philosophical themes present throughout the movie, ‘The Truman Show,’ makes for an excellent flick. We here at Desmond Jones aim to not only remind the listener of these important themes and encourage them to think further and pull back the curtain, but to also gain financially from the film’s popularity as well,” said Berkowitz, who wrote the track.

“We’re really excited to get this song and video out for everyone to enjoy and boogie to. We also encourage anyone who knows Jim Carrey to pass this song along to him because we think he’d dig it.”

Filmed this past winter at Plymouth Rock Recording Company, the “Major Burbank” video beautifully depicts Desmond Jones wearing fun, glitzy outfits and colorful, glam-inspired makeup on a dark, smoky soundstage while vibrant spotlights glow behind them.

Videographers Nick Small, Ryan “Toby” Hyland and Wayne Small eloquently capture the band’s magical instrumentation and rich improvisation from several innovative camera angles.

“That’s one of our newer songs, and the only recording we have is the video we took at Plymouth Rock. We did probably three full live takes, and I think we took the second one. They filmed each one, and when we chose the take we liked most, they put it to film and mixed and mastered it afterward,” Nowak said.

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Bluegrass Roots – Mark Lavengood Cultivates Homegrown Dobro Sound Locally, Nationally

Mark Lavengood will perform at “The Ebird & Friends Holiday Show” tonight through Saturday at The Ark.

Mark Lavengood will bring warm down-home holiday sounds to Ann Arbor this weekend.

The Grand Rapids bluegrass roots vocalist and multi-instrumentalist will join a star-studded lineup of Michigan artists and musicians for the 12th annual “The Ebird & Friends Holiday Show” tonight, Friday and Saturday at The Ark.

Hosted by Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds, the variety-style show will also feature Alex Holycross (The Native Howl), Graham Parsons (The Go Rounds), Carolyn Striho, Anne Heaton, Brad Phillips, Jen Sygit, Jessica McCumons (Jessica Delle) and members from The Macpodz, The Appleseed Collective and Jive Colossus.

“I’ve done it two other years. I love Erin so much, that production is one of the most pro things I think I’ve been a part of, and it’s just always a good time, and I’m always honored to be invited back,” Lavengood said. “I get to lead some, and I get to back other people who play the instruments. It’s just a great hang, the community comes out in droves, and there really isn’t a show like it anywhere.”

As an established touring artist and musician, Lavengood regularly shares his resonant energy with spirited crowds from Michigan to Colorado. He eloquently combines folk, bluegrass and Americana with bandmates Justin Avdek (bass), Dutcher Snedeker (keys), Justin Wierenga (guitar) and Loren Kranz (drums) on stage and in the studio for a growing catalog of bluegrass roots singles and albums.

With an expansive musical palate, Lavengood adds delectable instrumental flavors of dobro, steel guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, drums and percussion to assemble an appetizing eclectic sound for fans nationwide.

“I’m fleshing out a lot of songs that I been sitting on over the years, and I love playing the music, but at the same time, I like getting the ideas out and then bringing a band into the studio and tracking it that way,” Lavengood said. “There’s a lot of magic you get when you have a bunch of different minds in one space serving a song together.”

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Skies The Limit – Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds Soar with New Band Name, New Music

Erin Zindle is releasing new music under the new band moniker, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds. Photo by Joe Gall

Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds are ready to soar above the clouds.

The Ann Arbor infectious global groove group has taken flight with a new band moniker and migrated toward new music wrapped in breathtaking melodies, vocal harmonies and improvisational elements.

Previously known as The Ragbirds, the quartet of Erin Zindle (vocals, violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo), TJ Zindle (electric/acoustic guitar, vocals), Shannon Wade (bass, vocals) and Loren Kranz (drums, vocals) is now Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds.

“The name change sends a very clear message that this is different from what we’ve done before. This is different enough that we feel like it needs a new name,” said Zindle, who formed the band in 2005. “Also, there’s the sense of me stepping up and really taking ownership of the role that I have played in the band this whole time. My bandmates are just so amazing. I’m so proud of my band right now, and they’re the best guys I could possibly ask to work with.”

Throughout the band’s 14-year history, Erin Zindle & The Ragbirds have maintained a passionate grassroots fan base by continually reinventing themselves with an evolving sound while remaining rooted in the high-energy sphere of world-based folk rock. Today, they’ve shifted their sound to include more melodic components along with uplifting vocals, edgy guitars and groovy rhythms.

“We have less going on in the percussive world, and in the rhythm section, it’s a little less busy. And it’s interesting how that happened at the same time as I was having this natural shift toward developing my voice and stepping forward as a singer and writing songs with stronger melodies as I improve as a songwriter,” Zindle said. “I’m just getting much more honed in my craft so that I can write songs that are more vocal forward and focus on the melodic elements.”

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Prog Royalty – Nad Sylvan Reimagines ‘Selling England by the Pound’ for Genesis Revisited Tour, Releases Enchanting ‘Vampirate’ Album Trilogy

Nad Sylvan will perform Genesis’ 1973 album, “Selling England by the Pound,” with Steve Hackett during the “Genesis Revisited” tour. Photo by Scott Saldinger

Tonight, a Grand Rapids, Mich., audience will travel through time to a majestic era filled with British knights, sailors, lovers and battles.

They will step inside the 20 Monroe Live “time machine” and sonically travel back to October 1973, when Genesis released their definitive prog rock album, “Selling England by the Pound.”

During their sonic travels, the audience will receive Nad Sylvan as their exquisite, effervescent and enchanting musical tour guide. Dressed lavishly in dark ruffled shirts, dark velvety capes and cloaks, slim riding pants, and tall black boots, Sylvan, a “vampirate,” will magically perform “Pound” in its entirety alongside legendary former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Jonas Reingold, saxophonist/flautist Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell.

“I’ve done more than 500 shows with Steve now, and this is my seventh year with him. But I felt that this tour has been perhaps the most successful tour because people love ‘Selling England by the Pound.’ We go out and do the whole album without any words in between songs,” said Sylvan, a U.S.-born Swedish prog rock singer-songwriter and musician.

“We just play it like you play the record, and I take on these characters, and I do it in my own way. I’m not mimicking Gabriel at all, I do sound a bit similar to him sometimes because of my register. Everyone knows I’m a massive Genesis nut. I always have been, that’s why I got the gig.”

Sylvan, Hackett and the band are currently embarking on a 27-date North American “Genesis Revisited” tour through Oct. 20 and performing “Pound” as well as highlights from Hackett’s popular 1979 album, “Spectral Mornings,” and his latest release, “At the Edge of Light.”

The band previously performed a series of “Genesis Revisited” tour dates in 18 countries in seven weeks and will head back to Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand next year. Their next Michigan stop will be March 4 at The Fillmore Detroit.

Sylvan started touring with Hackett and his band in March 2013 in support of Hackett’s 2012 release, “Genesis Revisited II.” Hackett learned about Sylvan after he released a Genesis-inspired album with Bonamici called “Unifaun” in 2008 and a mutual friend suggested they work together.

“That’s why I did the ‘Unifaun’ album, that was just prestige of Genesis just for the hell of it, and that was long before I got to know Steve. I think that’s partly why I have the gig because he knew that guy sounds authentic, he sounds like a Genesis singer,” said Sylvan, who first saw Hackett perform with Genesis during the 1977 “Wind & Wuthering” tour in Stockholm.

“That’s how he felt about my singing, even though I have the ability to sing more soulful and go different ways with my vocals with different vibratos and what have you. But when I sing Genesis, I just sing it the way I believe I’ve heard them, but I put my own stamp on it.”

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Genesis Revisited – Steve Hackett Brings ‘Selling England by the Pound,’ Solo Gems to 20 Monroe Live Thursday

Steve Hackett will perform Genesis and solo classics at 20 Monroe Live Thursday in Grand Rapids.

Steve Hackett will breathe new life into a beloved Genesis album Thursday in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The legendary former Genesis guitarist will perform the band’s 1973 prog rock classic, “Selling England by the Pound,” in its entirety at 20 Monroe Live, a 2,600-seat music venue located in the heart of Furniture City.

“It happens to be my favorite Genesis album. That setting was 1973, and just as we were leaving New York desperately trying to find a gig anywhere else in the States, we heard that John Lennon gave an interview and said Genesis was one of the bands he was listening to, so I assumed he liked that album at the time, and we were all very proud of it,” said Hackett, who performed with Genesis from 1971-1977.

“I get to do it again in its entirety, which wasn’t possible with the technology we had back in the day, plus an extra track included like a deleted scene. Something that Peter Gabriel introduced to the band as an unfinished song. I finished it years later with his blessing, and we shared credits on it.”

That “deleted scene” of a song is “Déjà Vu,” a quiet, emotional track filled with deep synths, exquisite classical guitar strums and a haunting extended electric guitar solo. This time, Hackett will perform it live with singer-songwriter and musician Nad Sylvan, keyboardist Roger King, bassist Jonas Reingold, saxophonist/flautist Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell.

Together, the prog rock sextet is embarking on a 27-date North American “Genesis Revisited” tour through Oct. 20 and playing eight other influential tracks from “Pound” as well as highlights from Hackett’s popular 1979 album, “Spectral Mornings,” and his latest release, “At the Edge of Light.”

The band previously performed a series of “Genesis Revisited” tour dates in 18 countries in seven weeks and will head back to Europe and the U.S. as well as Australia and New Zealand next year. Their next Michigan date will take place March 4 at The Fillmore Detroit.

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Jam-packed – Desmond Jones Mixes Multiples Genres for Latest ‘Hello, Helou’ Album

Desmond Jones’ “Hello, Helou” album features longtime friend and fan Antoine Helou on the cover.

For their latest release, Desmond Jones has fans at “Hello, Helou.”

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet masterfully mixes multiple genres across seven tracks on their second full-length and latest album, “Hello, Helou,” which dropped in July. It includes an eclectic batch of captivating tracks from Desmond Jones’ expansive catalog of more than 40 original songs.

“These songs were already written before we went into the studio, so it wasn’t a collective effort to write all of the music for an album,” said John Nowak, drummer, guitarist and vocalist for Desmond Jones. “Since all of the songs already existed, it was really a matter of choosing which ones we wanted to go on the next album.”

Nowak and bandmates Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, drums, vocals) and John Loria (bass, vocals) spent eight months recording “Hello, Helou’s” tracks with manager Kevin McKay of Innovative Music Solutions in Webberville. The band also recorded a few tracks in the band room at East Grand Rapids High School where Nowak and Berkowitz attended.

In typical Desmond Jones fashion, all the tracks from “Hello, Helou” received initial live improvisational treatment before being reimagined as studio versions. With a fun, upbeat sound, the album features a collection of shorter songs compared to tracks from the band’s 2017 self-titled, full-length debut.

Four of the five band members also penned tracks for the album, which include spatial, culinary, relational, existential and fantastical themes. Listeners encounter a dynamic sonic journey while venturing from one track to another.

“In our live shows, we definitely take the liberty to extend songs as long as we want. Some songs are a better platform for that, but songs like ‘Split Again,’ ‘Sylvia’ or ‘Instructional Dance Song’ are similar to how we play them live,” said Nowak, who formed the band in 2012 while attending Michigan State University. “With streaming and attention spans, we want songs that are easily digestible for people to listen to before they come see us.”

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Space Jam – Four EDM Artists Host ‘Welcome, Visitors’ Show Friday at Ann Arbor’s Club Above

The Welcome, Visitors show will showcase for emerging EDM artists at Ann Arbor’s Club Above.

Four EDM artists will launch an intergalactic music odyssey late Friday night.

Vest and Tyler, Allium, Cheska and Hizen will host “Welcome, Visitors,” a space-themed EDM show at Ann Arbor’s Club Above. The show will feature an out-of-this-world mix of live performances and DJ sets from all four artists.

“All four of us just wanted to get together and make something really magnificent as far as the electronic music scene, and we wanted to bring that more to light, especially with talent that’s been in and around the area,” said Tyler Denig, aka Vest and Tyler, who organized the show.

“The ‘Welcome, Visitors,’ show gives an opportunity to welcome those kinds of people to come out and enjoy electronic music, even in a place like Ann Arbor, where it might not be the first thing you think of in terms of the music scene.”

For the “Welcome, Visitors” show, each artist will assume a different interstellar identity during their set. Dubbed “Digital Satellite Base,” Denig will emerge as a digitized form from late 20th century Earth technology and materialize through a series of beeps and boops with a GameBoy Color in hand.

Meanwhile, Allium, aka Electric Junkyard Moon, will shapeshift into a cyber space priestess and galactic traveler who emits a cyberpunk sound to Earth. Their two companions, Cheska, aka Interstellar Bass Colony, and Hizen, aka Beach Party Planet, will bring raging bass and thumping house music via a beachy vibe to all alien life forms, including an intergalactic bunny.

“Even though we all come from different places, we’re all effectively trying to do the same thing, and we’re all trying to meet the same goal. When I was writing up some of those bios for the event page, I wanted to make sure that people’s individual styles and stories were represented,” Denig said. “Even if we were from just far off and distant planets, we’re all coming to the same place, which is to make music and enjoy it.”

The Stratton Setlist recently traveled to several dimensions to learn more about each artist and their interstellar identity.

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