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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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

Positive Vibes – John Kay & Who’s To Say Gets Upbeat with New ‘So Fine’ EP, Video

John Kay & Who’s To Say will drop their new “So Fine” EP and video tomorrow. Photo by Adam Barnett

A new EP and video from John Kay & Who’s To Say will keep the positive vibes of summer alive well into the fall.

The Detroit progressive pop duo of John Kay (lead vocals, guitar) and Steve Lupinski (bass, vocals) have dropped “So Fine,” a new upbeat, funky three-song EP, and released a new video for “So Fine” today.

“We were using a back catalog of songs I had written mostly on my own, and then we started writing collaborative songs,” Kay said. “Something we realized was that a lot of our tunes, while they have a message of inspiration and going through suffering but coming out on top, can be interpreted as being negative. We sat down specifically to write some songs with a positive message, that are more upbeat, don’t dwell on the negative so much and are a little bit lighter and happier.”

The EP’s title track opens with a soft acoustic guitar and quickly transitions into a dancy, optimistic jam focused on the present: “I don’t need to go gangster/I just need to be so fine/I don’t need to get angry/I just need to be so fine.” It’s a strong reminder about having integrity, living in the moment and following your own path.

“Being the entrepreneur that I am, I don’t want to be known as somebody who is a hustler in the negative sense,” said Kay, who releases a new song each month with Lupinski. “I just need to be the best person I can be and focus on my work and make it as undeniable as possible, and that’s what ‘I don’t need to go gangster, I just need to be so fine,’ is about. I just need to be a fine human being.”

John Kay & Who’s To Say also has included a “stuck-in-your-head” acoustic version of “So Fine,” the group’s first stripped-down track since “Bartender” from 2016’s “Dealing with People.” It also ties nicely into the band’s beach-flavored video for “So Fine” as well as their “Beach Sessions” video series that launched on YouTube earlier this month.  They collaborated with videographers Joseph S. Quick and Bradford Clark to film the videos at Portage Lake near Jackson.

“Steve came up with the idea to do a beachy acoustic music video, and we set aside a day to do the filming,” Kay said. “We filmed all those Beach Sessions and the music video in about 3.5 hours. We didn’t really go too deep with it, we just wanted to keep it simple.”

Continue reading “Positive Vibes – John Kay & Who’s To Say Gets Upbeat with New ‘So Fine’ EP, Video”

After Dark – Dani Darling Releases Dreamy, Haunting ‘Nocturne’ Debut EP

Dani Darling hangs outside Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti with Joel Harris and Noor Borealis of The Dreamers. Photo by Kyla-Rose.com

Dani Darling believes life’s true answers emerge in a vivid dream-like state.

The Ann Arbor alternative soul singer-songwriter reaches deep within her nighttime subconscious to tackle unanswered questions on “Nocturne,” an enchanting six-track, jazz-filled journey that lands in between the lo-fi chillwave world of today and the old Hollywood film scores of yesterday.

Throughout her emotive sonic journey, Darling reveals her inner struggles with breakups, loss, anxiety and depression.  The recent passing of her grandfather caused many sleepless nights and served as the overall inspiration behind her debut EP.

“I have a very active dream life so I kept seeing my grandfather on a park bench, and he’d turn to me and open his mouth to say something, but then nothing would ever come out,” said Darling, aka Danielle Davis, who sang in church, choir and theater and listened to musicals with her grandfather while growing up in Tree Town. “I kept having it over and over, and I kept getting ready just in case if I had the dream again, and then each time, nothing.”

To give her late grandfather a voice, Darling wrote “Two for Joy,” a haunting two-minute ode wrapped in lo-fi vintage vocals and delicate acoustic guitars alongside a scratchy, warm vinyl soundscape – “An old man sat down/Removed his little cap/Put his hand to his heart and turned my way/And he said baby girl I know, I know that smile is a voice/He sighed and he said what’s the sorrow, but two for joy.”

“I wanted to give him words to say about why he was there, and I felt like he was probably trying to help me out in my sadness by saying, ‘It’s OK, you’re gonna be all right,’” she said. “The other songs are just a series of random dreams that I had around that same time where I’d turn into a bird or things like that.”

Continue reading “After Dark – Dani Darling Releases Dreamy, Haunting ‘Nocturne’ Debut EP”

Sonic Storytellers – 4 Michigan Artists Host Singer-Songwriter Show Tonight at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe

Four Michigan artists will share the stories, successes and secrets behind their music tonight in the Motor City.

Brian Perrone, Shawn Butzin, Mike Gentry and Mark Jewett will host a “Singer-Songwriter Night” today at Detroit’s historic Cadieux Café, 4300 Cadieux Road, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For the artists, it’s a rare chance to share their eclectic, timeless music in a live, intimate acoustic setting on the city’s east side. Perrone, a Livonia singer-songwriter, relishes any opportunity to bring talented local artists together.

“I try to find artists who are somewhat similar, but still different enough for the audience,” said Perrone, who’s organizing tonight’s show.  “I like to set it up where we either all take the stage at the same time and take turns rotating songs, or we each go up, play two songs and do a round like that. That way, it’s not just one act for four or five songs.”

During tonight’s show, each artist will reveal past and present tunes from their musical catalogs and introduce their favorite covers. They also might surprise the audience with a new song.

Continue reading “Sonic Storytellers – 4 Michigan Artists Host Singer-Songwriter Show Tonight at Detroit’s Cadieux Cafe”

Signing Off – After Hours Radio Announces Split, Performs Final Shows This Week

After Hours Radio’s Greg Hughes and Nate Erickson perform at Ann Arbor’s Club Above in January.

Ypsilanti’s After Hours Radio will officially sign off this week.

After five years, the progressive groove-heavy indie rock trio of Nate Erickson (guitar, vocals), Greg Hughes (bass) and Mark Dunne (drums) will call it quits and perform their final shows tomorrow in Ypsi and Friday in Bowling Green, Ohio.

“We had a lot to celebrate this year with our five-year anniversary and the brief return of our original lead singer, Calum Galt. No matter how successful a band can be with longevity, ultimately, there are going to be some challenges on an interpersonal level between people,” said Hughes, co-founder of After Hours Radio.

“There have been a lot of changes in our lives as well as ideas about how we want to approach being in the band and writing songs. We’re just trying to end things so we can explore opportunities that better align with our interests, goals and preferences.”

Hughes co-founded After Hours Radio with Erickson in 2014 after performing at the Nakamura and Luther Buchele co-ops while attending the University of Michigan. Together, they cut their musical teeth  at co-op open mic nights and introduced a freeform musical approach that incorporated several genres.

That freeform musical approach resulted in the band’s self-titled debut EP in 2015 and their follow-up EP, “What Happened?,” in 2017. With Hughes and Erickson at the helm, After Hours Radio went through some lineup changes, including several drummers and the recent departure of keyboardist and synth player Jordan Compton, and expanded their sound to include more electronic effects.

Last year, After Hours Radio launched their own do-it-yourself (DIY) music venue, The Late Station, in Ypsi to showcase local emerging artists and musicians across a variety of genres. Bandmates and friends helped promote events, run the door and assist with gear at The Late Station.

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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”