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.”

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

Start Anew – Anthony Lai Weathers Life’s Obstacles on ‘Take Me with You’

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Anthony Lai threads uplifting themes of resilience and renewal on “Take Me with You.” Photo – Reyshaun Payne

For Anthony Lai, it’s never too late for a fresh start.

The Dearborn vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist boldly weathers life’s painful losses, changes and challenges on his latest hopeful, folk-inspired album, Take Me with You.

“Every song is a very real experience, and some are more specific than others, but they’re all very honest. As I was choosing what songs I’ve written, I kept gravitating toward the honest ones and the ones that gave an emotional response,” Lai said.

“The album just started to take shape, and it ended up having this theme. I originally set out for it to be less themed and more of just a collection of tunes, but it looked like I had a common thread after all.”

In fact, Lai beautifully threads uplifting themes of resilience and renewal throughout eight introspective tracks into his genre-defying tapestry of Take Me with You.

Each thread weaves different tonal colors and instrumental palettes to represent a cohesive sound tinged with hints of pop, rock, bluegrass, classical, choral and folk.

“It feels like this album is finally me saying I understand who I am as a Beatles fan and as someone who has also studied classical music and is a choral director. You can hear all avenues of my life in this album,” Lai said.

Continue reading “Start Anew – Anthony Lai Weathers Life’s Obstacles on ‘Take Me with You’”

Beacon of Hope – The Legal Matters Bring Power Pop Shine to ‘Chapter Three’

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The Legal Matters’ Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith chronicle the pandemic, politics and personal struggles on “Chapter Three.” Courtesy photo

The Legal Matters brilliantly shine a light during a lingering time of uncertainty.

The mid-Michigan and metro Detroit power pop trio of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith combines sunny melodies, lush harmonies and spirited instrumentation over a dozen contemplative tracks chronicling the pandemic, politics and personal struggles on Chapter Three.

“Music lovers value music even more now than they did before the pandemic. We hope people enjoy this record, and that it’s another decent thing that’s come out of this crappy time. We want people to put their ears on it and give it a chance, and we think there’s a little bit of something there for everybody,” Reed said.

Now available via Klingensmith’s Futureman Records, Chapter Three serves as The Legal Matters’ third infectious, compelling release since 2014. Each track provides an intimate, thoughtful perspective about moving forward in today’s ambivalent, precarious world.

“This record was mentally one of the most helpful things through all of this because it gave the three of us a chance to work on something that we really enjoy doing. We’re ridiculously pleased with the results,” Reed said.

Continue reading “Beacon of Hope – The Legal Matters Bring Power Pop Shine to ‘Chapter Three’”

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.

Continue reading “Livestream Universe – Eck’s Men Hosts Virtual Show Tonight at Bowery Electric”

Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’

The Soods’ latest album, “Ornaments of Affection,” features collaborations with Grand Rapids artists, songwriters and musicians. Album artwork – Dominic Ryan Photography

Jason Roy thoroughly mines for Michigan music gold.

The Soods frontman uncovers rich collaborations and treasured tracks with a growing collective of scintillating local artists, songwriters and musicians on his latest indie folk-psych rock musical gem, Ornaments of Affection.

“I pared it down from a list of 36 songs; those were the ones to get vocals on, and from there I followed through with 22 of those. Some of those are the newer singles that I’ve been putting out. It was a fun thing like, ‘Well, I haven’t put any music out in a while,’” said Roy, who released the album in October via GTG Records.

“For ‘Morning Harold!’ and ‘Nomadic Marine Biologist,’ I’ve had those two instrumentals for eight months. I just hadn’t gotten vocals on them yet, and then when it came time to make that list of 36, I was like, ‘Ooh, I like that title,’ and I remember liking this track. It was like, ‘Two check marks, you’re in,’ and then figuring out from there who fits best.”

Throughout Ornaments of Affection, Roy beautifully melds 13 priceless Soods folky, trippy tracks with a talented array of Grand Rapids collaborators, including Steven Meltzer, Matt Ten Clay, Shane Tripp, Patrick Wieland, Drinking Mercury’s Timmy Rodriguez and others.

“These guys have their own ways with words, and weirdly somehow it all does sound like a band if I keep the thematic elements constant. Like having Matt Ten Clay sing the backing vocals on a track strengthens the foundation of that illusion of like, ‘These guys got together in the studio for a week and pounded these songs out.’ If you only saw all our emails and Google drives, it’s very different,” said Roy with a laugh.

“It’s a great compliment when people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I like that band.’ That’s what I want; I don’t necessarily need it to be a Jason Roy brainchild thing. I enjoy collaborating with these guys.”

Continue reading “Gold Mine – The Soods Uncover Rich Collaborations, Treasured Tracks on ‘Ornaments of Affection’”

Musical Shapeshifter – Andy Reed Undergoes Personal Transformation on Introspective ‘Relay, Vol. 2’ EP

Andy Reed flexes his pop-rock songwriting muscle on “Relay, Vol. 2.”

Andy Reed quickly morphs from one musical role to another.

The Bay City pop-rock singer-songwriter seamlessly shifts from acclaimed producer to multi-instrumental collaborator to introspective artist on his latest soaring solo EP, Relay Vol. 2. It’s his second release in a growing series of Relay EPs dedicated to highly-personal, contemplative songs written amidst other projects.

“The songs themselves are a little bit different than I typically write; I am from the power pop school of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Over the years, I’ve worked with so many artists like Michael Robertson, J.D. Dominowski and Amy Petty, and this is more on singer-songwriter side, and I love that kind of music,” Reed said.

“My goal with this was to be a little more Dawes and be a little more Jason Isbell, but in the background my McCartney-isms are still going to come through, and that kind of stuff too because that’s who I am. I tried to think of it a little bit more from the storyteller’s perspective, and I just wanted to flex that muscle to see if I could do it.”

Reed strongly flexes his songwriting muscle on five poignant tracks about long-lost friends, newfound love, sci-fi journeys, family struggles and childhood nostalgia. He wrote and recorded the reflective Relay, Vol. 2 earlier this year in his home-based Reed Recording Company studio while producing projects for other Michigan artists and working on an upcoming album for The Legal Matters.

“They were all kind of recent personal things that I observed, and it’s definitely my most personal record. I wanted to write new songs because I’ve already handed over the songs for this newest Legal Matters record that we’re gonna do. It’s all the stuff I love about music in a little five-song thing,” said Reed, who played all the instruments on Relay, Vol. 2.

Answering the Call for Ennio Floyd

Reed beautifully opens Relay, Vol. 2 with a shocked response to unexpectedly hearing from a former love interest. “Answer the Call” blends drifting electric guitars, dreamy acoustic strums and soft drums as Reed reflects, “Build the perfect version of a life/Sometimes I can get in the way/Makes it harder each day/No looking back to try to make it right/We’re all better off in the end/Don’t even try to pretend/Seeing all that you took from me/Won’t make it better now/Wonder why you’d think of me at all/I won’t answer the call.”

“I have a buddy who recently went through a separation, and we were sitting together, and his ex called him, and so he saw the number flashing, and said, ‘Oh man, I wonder what that could be for?’ All these emotions just went through his head in like five seconds. What could this be? I was like, ‘Well, we’ve all felt that before.’ Someone calls you that you haven’t talked to in years. Did somebody die? Do they miss me? What is this all about? Don’t they remember they were a jerk to me?” Reed said.

Continue reading “Musical Shapeshifter – Andy Reed Undergoes Personal Transformation on Introspective ‘Relay, Vol. 2’ EP”

The Nonconformists – Mike & Joe Poetically Expand Folk Rock Boundaries on ‘What About You?’

Mike & Joe blend folk and rock influences on their latest album, “What About You?” Photo by Brandon Fecteau

As modern beat poets, Mike & Joe distinctly carve new pathways to folk rock.

The Detroit-Ann Arbor first-cousin duo of Mike Benoit and Joe Provenzano etches experimental elements of dreamy psych pop soundscapes, rich retro textures and deep mystical lyricism into traditional harmonized folk rock on their second and latest album, What About You?

“Our little tagline is ‘folk rock and beyond,’ and there’s a lot of folk rock on that first record, but when you get to the second record, you hear my crazy ass solos on ‘One Trick Pony?’ We’re able to do that because we trust each other so much as songwriters, and through doing that, we arrive at what we feel is an original, seamless collaboration that’s something special,” said Provenzano, co-lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.

“If that trust and expansive, multi-genre appreciation didn’t exist in both of us, then it would be extremely stifling to our collaborative process, so that’s why we just trust each other and rock on.”

Throughout What About You?, Mike & Joe rock beyond typical folk genre boundaries and jam into new territories draped in jazzy prog, baroque pop and singer-songwriter sensibilities. They seamlessly weave a broad spectrum of folk and rock influences, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty and My Morning Jacket, into 10 captivating, nonconformist tracks.

“They were making this music that was informed by their own enthusiastic study of history and filtering it through their own modern, original minds. It was like finding out this whole army of like-minded people existed, and they were acting, and they were doing so with power. It’s the extra torch-bearing, energizing thing that made us demand even more of ourselves and feel even more of a kindred association with those acts,” Provenzano said.

Provenzano and Benoit share this kindred association thematically through several internal struggles – heartbreak, inauthenticity, disillusionment, desensitization of violence and self-doubt – while externally chronicling their creative growth as songwriters, lyricists and musicians. Track by track, they share different emotional challenges, unearth hidden meanings and reflect poignantly on their newfound growth on What About You?

Continue reading “The Nonconformists – Mike & Joe Poetically Expand Folk Rock Boundaries on ‘What About You?’”

Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album

Hello Forever emits an eclectic mix of sounds of their full length debut, “Whatever It Is,” out Friday.

Hello Forever brings eternal sunshine to musical minds.

The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.

“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”

Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.

“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”

Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”

“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.

Another heartwarming track includes “Anywhere is Everywhere” with upbeat Vampire Weekend a capella-like vocals intertwined with soaring sha-la-las – “I would love anyone just to feel it/And I won’t question who I’m loving/I won’t question who I’m loving/I’ll just love, just love, just love.” The track’s video also features Hello Forever painting blank canvases while gathering in the bright California hills. Continue reading “Here Comes the Sun – Hello Forever Radiates Broad Spectrum of Sounds on ‘Whatever It Is’ Debut Album”

Come Together – John Lennon’s Political Impact, Creative Legacy Still Rings True Today

John Lennon continues to be an advocate for peace nearly 40 years after his death. Illustration by Nick Fewings

By Nicole Bouwkamp

John Lennon is often remembered for his time as an enigmatic member of The Beatles, the smart and witty frontman who could charm crowds and gain their animosity alike. He is also remembered for his strong political stances, namely for causes of justice and the promotion of peace.

Ann Arbor recently saw one of these promotions for peace in memory of John Lennon. On Oct. 10, the Veterans for Peace John Lennon Birthday Concert at The Ark saw local musicians come together, performing both Lennon’s own songs and other peace and protest songs. Proceeds went to the local chapter of Veterans for Peace to fund their Peace Scholarship Program.

Lennon was always leery about the politicians whose influences steeped into the lives of everyday citizens. In 1968 at The National Theatre, believing that “…our society is run by insane people for insane objectives, and I think that’s what I sussed when I was 16 and 12, way down the line.”

He also stated that “If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government and the Russian, Chinese, what they are actually trying to do and what they think they’re doing… I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing, I think they’re all insane!”

These sentiments can be heard through his song, “Gimme Some Truth,” a song where Lennon sings that he is tired of hearing the things spread by “neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians.” As Lennon’s political voice demanded to be heard, so did his music grow to become the tool to spread it to the world.

His voice was also spread by the support and influence of Yoko Ono. As a contemporary multimedia artist and peace activist herself, Ono helped Lennon find ways to voice his own thoughts about the world around them, from government corruption to the Vietnam War and everything in-between.

Continue reading “Come Together – John Lennon’s Political Impact, Creative Legacy Still Rings True Today”

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.”

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