At Home – Ann Arbor’s Pajamas Hosts Headlining Show Friday at The Blind Pig

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Pajamas opens for Karina Rykman at The Parliament Room at Otus Supply in Ferndale. Photo – Austin R. Grinnell

Filled with gratitude and anticipation, Pajamas wants to show their hometown some love.

The Ann Arbor rock-funk jam quartet of Graham Low (drums, vocals), Nick Orr (guitars, vocals), Dan Schuler (bass, vocals) and Owen Kellenberger (keys, vocals) eagerly awaits their first headlining show Friday at The Blind Pig in nearly two years.

“Since we do perform in Ann Arbor pretty regularly, this one is going to be a love letter to our friends and fans, something unique and special. We’ve put a lot of work into making this happen. It’s a chance to celebrate our town, our community and where we are now as a band,” Orr said.

“I think people have a lot to look forward to with this show. We’ve hired a professional lighting engineer to accompany the music with an incredible light show. The Blind Pig is an Ann Arbor institution, and we’ve all been attending and playing shows there for years.”

As part of their show, Pajamas will share The Blind Pig stage with Toledo’s Cactus Jack, a quintet of talented friends quickly gaining traction with live Michigan audiences.

“We met Cactus Jack by putting a show together with them at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids. It was our first time playing together, but I think we fit together really well musically,” Orr said.

“They’re really talented players with very good original songs. We got along really well and are happy that they were available to play with us again for this upcoming show. This show will be their Blind Pig debut, so it’s extra cool for that reason.”

Another extra “cool” reason to celebrate Pajamas’ Blind Pig return – new material to preview and experience from their forthcoming second studio album as well as some improvised covers.

“I’m really proud of the music that we’ve written for it, and I think it showcases how far we’ve come and where we’re currently at as a band,” said Orr, who previously released Onesie with the band in 2018. “It feels like we are hitting our songwriting stride, and more importantly, finding our own sound and voice. I think with this second full-length album we just know who we are and what we are about musically.”

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From the Heart – Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips Co-Headline Saturday’s Trinity House Show

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Two Michigan singer-songwriters will inject some heart and soul into metro Detroit Saturday.

Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips will share emotive selections during their co-headlining Feb. 12 show at Livonia’s Trinity House Theatre. Both sets will melt away the wintry blues and provide a warm, spring-like welcome.

Ahead of Saturday’s soulful show, The Stratton Setlist chatted with Plomaritas and Phillips about their current inspirations, live sets and musical plans for 2022.

TSS: How has your 2022 been so far? What’s been inspiring you these days as an artist, songwriter and musician?

AP: 2022 has been off to a good start, all things considered. I started it off playing a Caribbean cruise for a week. Since then, I’ve been in the studio a bit and coaching high schoolers for the singing competition, Future Stars, in Ann Arbor. I’ll be the musical director for the show, which happens later in February.

What inspires me generally in songwriting are my wife and three sons. It’s also the struggle of being a professional musician and all of the trappings of fighting through insecurity and enjoying your own and others’ art, and being jealous of their success and reveling in it at the same time as they’re often my friends.

Two things I’ve taken in that have affected me greatly in the past year – The Ken Burns documentary on the history of country music and the “Cocaine & Rhinestones” podcast by Tyler Mahan Coe. Some processing of those will surely spill out onto the stage at Trinity House.

KP: I’ve been experiencing a lot of personal challenges and upheaval, but also so much growth and hope as of late. I’ve been more grateful than ever for the outlet that songwriting is to me. During this season, it’s felt more like a necessity than a choice.

Continue reading “From the Heart – Adam Plomaritas and Kylee Phillips Co-Headline Saturday’s Trinity House Show”

High Note – Marc Dorian Shares Uplifting Life Anthems on ‘Another Lucky Day’

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Marc Dorian celebrates positive tales of everyday life on “Another Lucky day.” Photo – 6of6photography

For Marc Dorian, life includes several strokes of luck.

The Commerce Township singer-songwriter and keyboardist eloquently hits the high notes of growth, chance and connection on his latest inspirational album, Another Lucky Day.

“I wanted to have some kind of optimistic message or some kind of offer of hope. The first song, ‘End of the Tunnel,’ sparked things off, and I was working in the basement when I came up with a lot of those little comical lines. It’s not making light of people going through hard times, but it’s saying that we’re all waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dorian said.

Dorian brings an honest, thoughtful sheen to his 10 uplifting anthems about everyday life on Another Lucky Day. Filled with an enticing mix of rock, country and blues, the album melds warm, nostalgic reflections of the past with eager, optimistic expectations for the future.

“Hopefully, some people will say, ‘Hey man, that song made me feel good,’ because it makes me feel good to do it. That’s what makes me feel the most alive,” Dorian said.

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Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’

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Act Casual’s “Livin’ a Lie” is the band’s first new studio release in nearly four years. Artwork – Sam Flynn

Act Casual eloquently recounts the everyday struggles of overcoming a romantic rough patch.

The metro Detroit jam fusion quartet of Ryan Yoskovich (drums, vocals), Ryan Stafford (keys, sax), Will Richardson (guitar, vocals) and Danny Flynn (bass, vocals) addresses these mounting interpersonal encounters on their latest soulful, funkified single, “Livin’ a Lie.”

Throughout “Livin’ a Lie,” vivid, wah-wah electric guitars, climbing bass, fluid drums, tingly cymbals and sheeny synths engulf love-stricken listeners and provide them with bluesy-induced relief.

Act Casual reflects, “Never the one/Now it’s all done/Trying to flee with nowhere to run/I’m a livin’ a lie/A total loss/But at what cost/Thinking about all that I’ve lost/I’m livin’ a lie.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Act Casual about their first studio release in nearly four years as well as their background, previous projects and upcoming live shows.

New Single

TSS: What initially inspired “Livin’ a Lie” for you?

AC: It was an initial exercise of just trying to write a set of lyrics to a groove we had been working on. The lyrics started coming together about disagreeing and arguing with a lover; it was in hopes of showing that everyone has the same arguments and quarrels with the ones we love. No one is alone in feeling some of the emotions played out in the song.

TSS: How long did you spend writing and recording the track?

AC: We spent a few weeks writing the song itself, which also developed as we played it out live. We spent two days in the studio laying down the majority of the tracks, following up with a couple of more sessions for vocals. The track was recorded at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. with Ryan Hyland as the head engineer.

TSS: What was it like to translate “Livin’ a Lie” from the stage to the studio? Any plans to release a video for the track soon?

AC: The track didn’t take on too many alterations for the studio recording. However, we did add vocal harmonies during the recording process, which stuck with us for live performances afterward. We filmed some of the recording process and plan on releasing a music video in the fall.

TSS: You mentioned in your Dunesville Music Festival live set that “Livin’ a Lie” is also the name of your upcoming album. What work do you have left to complete on the album?

AC: We will be dropping another single entitled “Fresh (Out the Shower)” in October as well as another single in November with the full album dropping in the winter.

We will continue to work with Ryan (Hyland) at Plymouth Rock Recording Co. to finish any additional touches, and with Max Preissner, who has been helping us with the promotion and release of these songs as well as building our presence online. People can expect to hear more vocal-driven songs like “Livin’ a Lie” as well as instrumental pieces.

Continue reading “Moment of Truth – Act Casual Uncovers Everyday Romantic Struggles on ‘Livin’ a Lie’”

Endless Love – George Montrelle Celebrates Gratitude, Commitment on ‘Paradise’

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George Montrelle shares his gratifying journey of true love and commitment on “Paradise.” Photo – Steve Selvaggio (c) 2020

George Montrelle elegantly celebrates a life filled with love, beauty and tranquility.

The Ferndale rock-soul singer-songwriter and guitarist shares that personal mindset on his latest electrifying single, “Paradise,” as a romantic, grateful ode to his longtime partner.

“I’ve had that song more since the beginning of my relationship with my partner, and I wanted to validate how much I appreciate his love for me. This was one of the songs I felt strongest about early on, and I’ve been showing it to people for a while now,” said George Wilson, aka George Montrelle.

Montrelle beautifully chronicles his gratifying “Paradise” journey of true love and commitment as propulsive drums, crashing cymbals, fiery electric guitars and galvanic bass surround him.

He reveals, “Here for you till the end/Amaranthine love my friend/The very heart on which you can depend/Here for you for the rest our lives without a stress/Baby, forever, we will love no less.”

“I’ve tried to record this song a handful of times, and I finally just said, ‘I just need to get this done.’ I decided not to overanalyze it, but I also gave it my best,” said Wilson, who recorded and produced the track in his home studio.

For Montrelle, “Paradise” not only acknowledges the growth of his relationship, but also the evolution of the track from the stage to the studio. In 2018, he started performing a live version of “Paradise” with a full band before audiences at the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).

“I didn’t have a steady band all the time, so when I wanted to put this song out, I was either gonna hire a drummer and record all the guitars myself, which I did. Or I was gonna track the drums using the sequencer in Ableton, and that’s what’s on the release,” Wilson said.

“I tried to embody what might feel good on stage, and I tried different arrangements. I also developed the verses so it felt progressively fluent throughout the whole song and understood how the drums and guitars needed to work while the vocals sat through everything.”

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Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video

Jeremy Porter and The Tucos elegantly bring grit and glam to their stylish new video for Candy Coated Cannonball’sPut You on Hold” single.

The Detroit rock trio of Jeremy Porter (guitar, vocals), Gabriel Doman (drums, vocals) and Bob Moulton (bass, vocals) seamlessly fuse energetic live performance footage with colorful animation to illustrate “Put You on Hold’s” storyline about a girl becoming captivated with city life.

“I wanted to go for a bit of a throwback to the Aerosmith videos with Alicia Silverstone – sort of a very loose plot about a party girl that maybe worked with the song, but didn’t necessarily follow the song’s lyrics to a tee,” said Porter, who worked with director-photographer David Kellogg on the video.

“There are nods to the lyrics here and there, and in general, like the song, it’s about a crazy night out for a not-so-crazy girl, but the concept and its tie-in to the lyrics aren’t overthought. We glammed the look of the band up a bit for shits ‘n giggles to do something different, get out of our comfort zone and have some fun.”

Porter and The Tucos demonstrate that glamorous fun while dressing head-to-toe in white or black and adorning sunglasses and scarves, thanks to stylist Alessandra Lipman. They proudly sport those hip stage fashions in a darkened gym located at the Plymouth Arts & Recreation Complex (PARC).

“PARC is an old high school here in Plymouth that’s been converted into an art space with studios that local artists can rent and stuff like that. I wanted something big like a high school gym, and it just seemed perfect,” said Porter, who’s partnering with Ghettoblaster Magazine to premiere the video today.

“I also like to keep my money in my community when possible and support the arts when I can. David and I met the manager there, and she showed us around, and we agreed it was our spot. The gym has the feel of the ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ video a bit, which I liked.”

In tandem with the band’s live performance footage, the “Put You on Hold” video includes compelling animated characters and background scenery by Jones William. It explores the main character’s social outings with friends as well as her dating life and city adventures.

“(Jones) answered a Craigslist ad and was honestly one of the very few worth following up with. We never talked, just through email, a language barrier was an issue, and I wasn’t sure what I was gonna get. In the end, he delivered, and I was pleased with the work he did,” Porter said.

The band’s “Put You on Hold” video ultimately came together with Kellogg, who brought a “youthful, enthusiastic energy” to the camera.

“I met David through Instagram when we were recording. His work caught my eye, and he ended up doing all of the photography, including the cover, for the record. And even though he’s younger, he still gets the ‘70s/‘80s references we were throwing out – he’s well-traveled, so to speak,” Porter said.

“He didn’t have much to do with the concept or animation part, but he was very involved in scouting and choosing the location and everything that went into the performance part – lighting, setup, direction and all that. He and I also edited it together.”

Continue reading “Grit ‘N Glam – Jeremy Porter and The Tucos Release New ‘Put You on Hold’ Video”

Day Tripper – Adam Kennedy Circles Globe to Conduct Artist Virtual Photo Shoots

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Adam Kennedy continues to conduct virtual photo shoots with artists throughout the pandemic. Photo – Adam Kennedy

Adam Kennedy unexpectedly became a globetrotter during the pandemic.

The Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K. music photojournalist ventured to Finland, the U.S., Australia, Russia, Israel, Italy, Japan and other far-flung locations to shoot established and emerging artists – all from the comfort of his own home.

In fact, Kennedy’s international photographic jaunts have occurred online as part of a successful virtual photo shoot project he launched in April 2020. To date, he’s conducted more than 570 virtual photo shoots with rock, metal, jazz and blues artists over Facebook, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and other online platforms.

“It’s just to create a feel of coming together online and being in the moment. After an hour, you usually have something cool. Every session has been completely different, and every artist brings something different to the table,” he said.

“Every environment is different because I’m not working in a studio. I’m predominantly working out of someone’s home, or a person takes me out on location. I’ve been in Los Angeles on the strip, in Sochi overlooking the Black Sea, in Jerusalem at a park and in Victoria near the Great Ocean Road.”

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Lunar Magic – Desmond Jones Casts Appalachian Country Twang on ‘Pink Moon’

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Desmond Jones takes a refreshing vintage country detour on “Pink Moon.” Artwork – Daniel Benayun

Desmond Jones elegantly casts twangy lunar magic throughout West Virginia’s sprawling Appalachian Mountains.

The Grand Rapids rock-funk-jazz quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) takes a refreshing vintage country detour on their latest jamboree-filled, celestial single, “Pink Moon.”

“The song is actually named after a music festival that used to be held in West Virginia called ‘The Pink Moon Music Festival.’ The festival was named after the lunar phenomenon we call The Pink Moon, which is a unique yearly full moon that occurred last week,” Bota said.

“I guess you could say it’s a love song I wrote to the moon. It’s meant to be sung while I’m hanging out in the Appalachian Mountains on the outskirts of a small West Virginia mountain town dancing to some wonderful live music under the moon and the stars.”

As a timeless, torchy ode to our favorite pastel-tinged satellite, “Pink Moon” awakens the youthful, nocturnal spirit as swift drums, rich pedal steel, propulsive bass, soulful sax, jubilant mandolin and vigorous violin gallop into a bright summer night.

Bota nostalgically sings, “Once a year, my dear, I’ll spend a night with you/Lookin’ at sunlight through your view/Whistlin’ a tune until the sun’s had enough of you/As you drift into the sky.”

“I wrote the song very late at night five years ago after the second Pink Moon Music Festival that we played and attended. I touched it up over a week or two of playing and singing it solo on my acoustic guitar. We recorded the drums, bass, two guitars and saxophone live at our manager Kevin McKay’s studio in the fall of 2019 three years later,” Bota said.

“The vocals, pedal steel and instrument solos were recorded at everyone’s own homes during the winter of 2020-2021. We have one guest on this track who happens to be one of our favorite Michigan musicians, Don Julin. We had the pleasure to play with Don during two of our sets at the Cowpie Music Festival in 2019, and he agreed to lend his musical talents on this album.”

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Fantastic Voyage – Nick Behnan Embarks on Instrumental ‘Magic Trip’ Album Odyssey

Nick Behnan glides from one genre-filled world to the next on his latest instrumental album, “Magic Trip.”

Backed by timeless grooves, majestic electric guitars and funky beats, Nick Behnan effortlessly embarks on an enchanting instrumental journey.

The Detroit singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist beautifully glides from one hypnotic genre-filled world to the next on his latest 10-track, funkified R&B-rock odyssey, Magic Trip.  

Initially written and recorded for sync licensing opportunities, each fluid, spellbinding track showcases Behnan’s versatility, prolificacy and creativity as an evolving songwriter and producer.

“I’ve never released an instrumental album before that shows my love for all genres. My main focus was to pick songs that were groovy, funky and somewhat up-tempo, but I try to write and produce the same way that I listen to music as a fan,” Behnan said.

“I never just listen to one kind of music all night. It will roll from Gregory Isaacs to The Congos to The Bee Gees to Prince to Wilco to Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar to Beck and many others all in one night. The trick was picking the songs because I have so many; I could easily put out five albums right now.”

While Magic Trip eloquently blends Behnan’s eclectic, refreshing influences, it instantly soars into a laid-back, welcoming sonic adventure on the jam-tastic, improvisational title track. Shimmery, wah-wah electric guitars, majestic bass, whirring synths and soft drums recreate the sound and feel of a sunny, breezy spring day in the mind’s eye.

“Several of the songs were made mostly with TV and film licensing in mind while others were started a few years ago. Some songs like, “Magic Trip” and “Inner City Funk” are brand new. Overall, I hope people feel good when they listen to it and enjoy grooving and rocking out to the music,” he said.

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Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric

Eck’s Men will perform an 80-minute livestream set tonight at The Bowery Electric in New York City.

Eck’s Men will magnetize a virtual audience in the livestream universe tonight.

The New York City power pop-abilly quintet of Drew Eckmann (vocals), Rick Norman (guitar, backing vocals), Roger Astudillo (bass, backing vocals), Tom Wise (sax) and Dennis Vallone (drums, backing vocals) will perform a supercharged 80-minute livestream set at The Bowery Electric.

“There will be 20 songs, seven of which are on Who Knew?!?!?, 12 newer songs and one cover. There are probably songs that we’ve never played and two or three that we’ve played only once. The rest we’ve played a few times,” Eckmann said.

“Though it’s not the first New York City club we’ve played, Bowery Electric has a great vibe because it’s run by musicians. The audiences are ‘music smart,’ so we have to be on our A-game when we play there. It was at Bowery Electric that Jesse Malin and Joseph Arthur told me separately that I should start writing songs. The club has supported us from the start.”

Eck’s Men also will spotlight Wise and join forces with rootsy singer-songwriter Kelley Swindall to invigorate fans throughout their electrifying set.

“Since a bunch of songs are on the newer side, everyone will be trying to put the songs in a place where they’re just second nature. Tom will be playing the sax. He adds a drive to the fast songs and an underlying echo to the melody in the slower songs,” Eckmann said.

“Kelley was introduced to me by Jesse Malin about five years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. Kelley’s going to join me on a duet I’ve written called ‘Just Don’t Know It Yet.’”

Thursday’s livestream show also will allow Eck’s Men to reintroduce their timeless 12-track, rockabilly-infused debut album, Who Knew?!?!?. Released in August via 2WIN DISC Records, the album shimmies, sways and bops through powerfully succinct tales about love lost and found against a soulful, energetic backdrop.

“A lot of the songs, even though they were completed at the time, they’re still kind of new to us. Now when we do a livestream, we can say we’re gonna play some new songs and old favorites. We have a loyal core audience of people who come to see us, so it’s encouraging and refreshing that we have people we can count on,” Eckmann said.

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