High Times – Stormy Chromer Celebrates ‘420’ Blind Pig Show with Pajamas, Earth Radio

Stormy Chromer performs at The Blind Pig during a New Year’s Eve 2018 show in Ann Arbor. Photo by Evan Greig

Ann Arbor area music fans will inhale good tunes and times Saturday night at The Blind Pig.

Ypsilanti’s Stormy Chromer will host a “420” show with Pajamas and Earth Radio to celebrate a fluid night of live music on the infamous Mary Jane-centric holiday.

“We have a fun lineup, and we haven’t played with Pajamas in Ann Arbor in a couple of years. We’re really happy with how they’ve been progressing as well, and every time we see them, we want to share a bill with them,” said Amin Lanseur, Stormy Chromer’s drummer and vocalist.

“As for Earth Radio, we found them through Purchase Productions, who manage our friends Chirp. They brought Earth Radio to Club Above six months ago, and they really made an impression on some friends of mine.”

It will be the homegrown progressive jam band’s first appearance at The Blind Pig since their New Year’s Eve show. Together, Stormy Chromer will mix elements of rock, jazz, heavy metal, ska and hip hop to perform a danceable set with Pajamas, a Tree Town improvisational rock, funk and fusion trio, and Earth Radio, a Grand Rapids future soul quintet.

“The energy in the room is very loving and fun, and we’re blessed to have the people who come out and see us,” Lanseur said. “We’re striving for that same type of energy for ‘420’ as well, so obviously it will be the whole pot thing.”

Continue reading “High Times – Stormy Chromer Celebrates ‘420’ Blind Pig Show with Pajamas, Earth Radio”

Active Duty – Major Murphy Plays Easter Weekend Shows to Grow Eastside Musical Troops

Major Murphy’s Jacki Warren, Jacob Bullard and Brian “Bud” Voortman will play shows Friday and Sunday in Hamtramck and Lansing.

For Major Murphy, Easter weekend means active duty on Michigan’s east side.

The Grand Rapids nostalgic rock trio will perform eastside shows Friday and Sunday to grow their musical troops in Hamtramck and Lansing.

Friday’s show will take place at Ghost Light Hamtramck with Carriers and Katy Kirby while Sunday’s show will occur as part of the Capital City Film Festival at Mac’s Bar with Lily Talmers & Monte Pride and Composetheway.

“We haven’t played at Ghost Light before, but we’re excited to play there and in Hamtramck for the first time. We’ll be able to get some new ‘Lafayette’ EP stuff into our set as well as songs from our ‘No. 1’ album,” said Jacob Bullard, Major Murphy’s vocalist and guitarist. “In Lansing, there’s going to be bands playing all weekend, and it’s in conjunction with the film fest.”

Bullard will join bandmates Jacki Warren (bass) and Brian “Bud” Voortman (drums) to share their 1970s-inspired radio rock with Hamtramck and Lansing crowds. They’ll perform hypnotic, mellow tracks from their latest EP, “Lafayette,” which dropped in February on Winspear, and last year’s full-length debut, “No. 1” as well as a cover of The Beatles “Revolver” classic, “She Said She Said.”

Recorded as demos in Bullard’s Grand Rapids-based house on Lafayette Avenue, the “Lafayette” EP features six songs that chronicle the creative evolution of Major Murphy from a stripped-down solo project to a three-piece rock band.

“I think it’s an extension or a companion to ‘No. 1,’ and we wanted to share stuff that we felt was interesting,” said Bullard, who formed Major Murphy with Warren and Voortman in 2015. “If people listened to ‘No. 1,’ then they might find ‘Lafayette’ extra fun because it’s where the songs started, and it gives them a behind-the-scenes perspective.”

Lafayette EP

For three tracks on “Lafayette,” each band member plants a promising sonic seed for the growth of “No. 1.” Bullard writes about an open-hearted expression that’s nostalgic and forward-thinking on “Come By Sunday” while Warren provides enchanting harmonies on “When I Go Out.” Meanwhile, Voortman jams for the first time on the initial demo for “No. 1.”

“They were recorded well before we went to Russian Recording, and they were mostly for my own benefit of being able to sketch the songs out,” said Bullard, who’s inspired by The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Patti Smith. “I anticipated being able to record them again since they were very lo-fi, and the production was done in my bedroom.”

By 2017, Major Murphy ventured to Russian Recording in Bloomington, Ind., to record 10 nostalgic tracks for “No. 1.” The album’s jangly guitars, shimmering riffs, synth grooves, and dreamy, commanding vocals gently hook and draw listeners into a vintage, yacht rock world.

Together, Major Murphy hones a retro sound filled with harmonic structures, melodic progressions and emotional shifts that rely heavily on concert-like, energetic recordings. A year after “No 1.’s” release, the album stills sounds as refreshing and inspiring as its initial spin.

“I feel really proud of that record, and that’s never happened before. When I’ve made music in the past, I think about how we could have done this differently,” Bullard said. “I think this album is different because we were collaborative by working with Mike Bridavsky at Russian, and we brought in Ben and Aaron in addition to Bud and Jackie.”

With “No. 1” and “Lafayette” under their belt, Major Murphy will return to Russian Recording in July to record their next album. They also plan to release a new single soon.

“I’m super excited to put this next record together and share it with people,” Bullard said. “I’ve written the new songs precisely with all of us in mind and with the knowledge of what a dynamic life is like along with the strengths and weaknesses of that. It feels like it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to put out some new music.”

Show Details:

Major Murphy with Carriers and Katy Kirby

9 p.m. Friday

Ghost Light Hamtramck

2314 Caniff in Hamtramck

Tickets: $8

Major Murphy with Lily Talmers & Monte Pride and Composetheway

7 p.m. Sunday

Mac’s Bar

2700 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing

Tickets: $10

‘Still Creatures’ – Desmond Jones Gets Philosophical on Funky New Single from Upcoming ‘Hello, Helou’ Album

Desmond Jones has released “Still Creatures,” a funky new single from their upcoming “Hello, Helou” album.

With their infectious new single, “Still Creatures,” Desmond Jones keeps the bigger picture of life in perspective.

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet abandons daily trivial nonsense to live a more purposeful existence.

“When I wrote that song, that feeling was weighing heavy on me. There is so much that goes on every day in our lives, some of it important, and some of it only seems important,” said Isaac Berkowitz, Desmond Jones guitarist, drummer and vocalist.

“There’s a lot of trivial nonsense that we let get in the way of living happy and meaningful lives. When that nonsense piles up on us, it can be hard to see through it to what really matters. Some people like to look at the stars and feel small as a way to get perspective, and in the same sense, I think remembering the idea that we are all animals, or that we are all ‘still creatures’ on this planet just trying to survive, can give us that same perspective and peace of mind.”

Together, Berkowitz and his Desmond Jones bandmates – Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals), John Loria (guitar, vocals) and John Nowak (drums, guitar, vocals) – beautifully capture this personal philosophy in lighthearted, funkified way.

Still Creatures single artwork

On “Still Creatures,” a fun, groovy wah-wah guitar riff opens the four-minute track and mimics the sound of a chicken while jazzy alto and baritone sax solos and rhythmic bass and drums bring a smooth, melodic feel.

“Even though it’s a new release, it’s something we’ve been working on for over a year in our live shows, and we’ve had it recorded for a while,” said Nowak, who formed Desmond Jones with his bandmates in 2012 at Michigan State University. “When we first started playing that song and Isaac showed it to us, we actually were just calling it, ‘Chicken Fingies,’ for a long time. At some point, Isaac said, ‘Actually, it’s called Still Creatures.’”

Continue reading “‘Still Creatures’ – Desmond Jones Gets Philosophical on Funky New Single from Upcoming ‘Hello, Helou’ Album”

Detroit’s Nice Place Hosts ‘Punx ‘N Funx’ Show with Emerging Music, Visual Art Tonight

Funx ‘N Punx show poster by Peter Kotas

Nice Place will host a bevy of “Punx ‘N Funx” music along with emerging art in Detroit at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Located at 70 Glynn Ct., the Motor City creative workspace will feature the music of Ape Not Kill Ape, Summer Like The Season, Space Trash, Jemmi Hazeman & The Honey Riders and Bryni Makiko as well as pop-up visual art from Jacob Waymaster (aka Synefeld), Zach Wendt, Isabel Leader and Sam Welsing of Blueberry Thrift.

“I want every musical act, every artist to work off each other’s creative synergies and styles. I’m excited about the eclectic nature of the show and believe the performers will complement one another in a unique way,” said Patrick Norton, organizer and manager at Nice Place and guitarist for Dirt Room. “I’m eager to see the different scenes from around the city come out of the woodwork and step outside of their social circles.”

Ape Not Kill Ape

For the “Punx” side of music, Ape Not Kill Ape, a Grand Rapids post-punk trio, will perform raw fist-pumping tracks from their 2017 full-length debut, “Bushman.” Adis Kaltak, (vocals, bass), Brett Dame (guitar) and Allen McAllister (drums) will bring an introspective, primal feel to connect with the crowd at Nice Place.

“We’re pretty confident about a lot of the ‘Bushman’ material,” said Kaltak, who was born in Slovenia and grew up listening to Bosnian music, ABBA and The Beatles. “We’re going to do the bulk of some new stuff for our 30-minute set along with two or three older songs.”

Continue reading “Detroit’s Nice Place Hosts ‘Punx ‘N Funx’ Show with Emerging Music, Visual Art Tonight”

Jam Session – Desmond Jones Promises Unique Set for Thursday’s Headlining Show at The Blind Pig

Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet Desmond Jones will perform at The Blind Pig Thursday night with Pajamas.

For Desmond Jones, no two setlists or shows are alike.

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet relies on skillful improvisation, sophisticated musicianship and scintillating compositions to capture a crowd’s attention. Each show brings a unique vibe and sonic quality depending the band, audience and venue.

“The more cut and dry structured songs we don’t take out at all in terms of improvisation and jams,” Even if we write a setlist out before a show, which we don’t always do, a lot of times on stage we’ll pick what songs feel right or naturally transition into them,” said John Nowak, Desmond Jones’ drummer, vocalist and guitarist.

“Lately, we’ve been mixing in a sense of humor in terms of making weird or spacey noises. We’re deliberately trying to shock the audience, be as weird as we possibly can and see how they react.”

That ingenious live approach has connected Desmond Jones to thousands of fans at more than 500 shows over five years nationwide. The band also has a sprawling online archive of 300-plus shows available for streaming on their website.

Luckily, Ann Arbor fans will be able to visit the Desmond Jones online live archive after Thursday’s show at The Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., with Pajamas, a Tree Town rock-funk fusion trio.

“When you get a good opening act, I think that vibe is strong with the crowd because it gets people moving and ready to go. Then, we’ll come on, and we’ll rock out,” Nowak said. “We love playing The Blind Pig. I think that venue offers a certain one-of-a-kind dirty, grungy, fun atmosphere, which is where we’re also at with our music.”

Nowak and his Desmond Jones bandmates – Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals) and John Loria (bass, vocals) – will play new material and older improvisational jams from their extensive catalog of 50-plus tunes.

“We’ll be playing a wider range of things, some new songs that aren’t on any of the albums. It’s always fun because unless you’re listening to the archives or have gone to a lot of shows, then a lot of the songs will be new to your ears,” Nowak said. “Expect a lot of different feels, but definitely some improvisational jams and opportunities for dancing.”

Continue reading “Jam Session – Desmond Jones Promises Unique Set for Thursday’s Headlining Show at The Blind Pig”

Smart Pop – John Kay & Who’s To Say Plays Saturday Acoustic Show at Warren’s Dovetail, Follows Strategic Musical Approach

John Kay & Who’s To Say (left to right): Steve Lupinski, Brandon McNall, John Kay, Tamara Marla Laflin and Jason Rauschenberger. Photo by Adam Barnett

John Kay & Who’s To Say will make their Dovetail debut Saturday night in Warren.

The Detroit progressive pop group will perform a free acoustic show at The Dovetail, 29200 Hoover Road, beginning at 8 p.m.

“We’re going to be performing stripped-down versions of our music – no drums, no high-powered amplifiers,” said John Kay, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist. “We’ll still plug in some instruments, but this isn’t going to be a full-band, over-the-top kind of night.”

Kay will be joined by Who’s To Say bandmates Steve Lupinski (bass, vocals), Brandon McNall (lead guitar) and Jason Rauschenberger (rhythm guitar, percussion, vocals) for the one-hour set, which will feature songs from Kay’s 2016 album, “Dealing with People,” as well as some newer tunes and maybe a cover. Mark Bolohan of Scarlet Lies will kick off the music Saturday night.

“Steve and I visited the Dovetail last month, and the place is clean with an inviting atmosphere,” said Kay, who grew up in Livonia and started playing drums at age two. “It should be an interesting night and allow for meeting some cool new people.”

John Kay & Who’s To Say are building a strong live music presence in Detroit after performing their first show at a sold-out P.J.’s Lager House in March. Kay and his bandmates spent some time building a solid musical and artistic foundation before booking shows.

“We rehearsed for over a year in the dark; we didn’t put up photos, we didn’t put out snippets, we didn’t tease anything,” Kay said. “What we did was we worked hard, and we busted our ass until we had three rehearsals in a row that we thought, ‘Hey, we could have done all three of those rehearsals in front of a paying audience, and they would’ve gotten their money’s worth.’”

Continue reading “Smart Pop – John Kay & Who’s To Say Plays Saturday Acoustic Show at Warren’s Dovetail, Follows Strategic Musical Approach”

Grand Rapids’ Major Murphy to Enlist New Fan Base at Audiotree Music Festival on Sunday

Major Murphy’s Jacki Warren, Jacob Bullard and Brian “Bud” Voortman

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a multi-part series this week previewing the Audiotree Music Festival and profiling artists from the lineup.

Major Murphy will enlist a battalion of new recruits at Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival this weekend.

The Grand Rapids nostalgic rock trio will conquer the crowd Sunday with a 12:50 p.m. set on the main stage at the two-day festival in Arcadia Creek Festival Place. Major Murphy will join nearly 30 other acts, including Father John Misty, Local Natives, Real Estate, Diet Cig and Blitzen Trapper.

They’re one of five West Michigan-based artists featured in the Audiotree Music Festival lineup along with Michigander, Lushh, Jake Simmons & The Little Ghosts and Moss Jaw.

Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

Major Murphy’s Jacob Bullard (vocals, guitar), Jacki Warren (vocals, bass) and Brian “Bud” Voortman (drums) will share their 1970s-inspired radio rock with Audiotree festivalgoers during a much-anticipated set.

They’ll be performing laid-back, catchy songs from their full-length debut album, “No. 1,” which dropped in March on Winspear. Those new to Major Murphy will hear jangly guitars, shimmering riffs, synth-sheened grooves and dreamy, commanding vocals.

“When we perform as a trio, there is a more immediate sound and energy that I think we all enjoy. It boils down and reveals the really important parts of the songs,” Bullard said. “When you’re in a festival setting, there’s generally a big stage with a big PA so you can push the crowd a little bit, and it’s super fun. Live music is powerful, and it’s important to let loose sometimes.”

Continue reading “Grand Rapids’ Major Murphy to Enlist New Fan Base at Audiotree Music Festival on Sunday”