Due West – Desmond Jones Explores Vibrant Americana Landscape on ‘Why Not?’

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Desmond Jones opts for a cohesive Americana sound on “Why Not?” Photo – Purchase Productions

Desmond Jones boldly explores the sunny, vast terrain of the undiscovered countryside.

The Grand Rapids jam quintet of John Nowak (drums, vocals), Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), Taylor Watson (bass) and George Falk (sax, vocals) proudly ventures through blazing deserts, rolling hilltops and sprawling mountains on their latest Americana-infused album, Why Not?

“We’re lucky it fell together in a cohesive way because some of the songs were written almost 10 years ago. Others were written two years ago or right before we started recording the album,” Nowak said.

“We tried to collect them in a way that made thematic sense, even though we didn’t write them all together with the intention of releasing a concept album.”

As a refreshing, countrified conceptual immersion and stylistic detour from their funky, glam-jam sound, Desmond Jones’ Why Not? glides through 15 insightful, majestic tracks filled with nomadic adventures, lovelorn moments and bucolic musings.

The addition of warm, folky instrumentation – pedal steel guitars, fiddles, banjos, Dobros and mandolins – and rich four-part harmonies allow the band’s newfangled Americana sound to travel beyond the Midwestern landscape.

“A lot the songs we’ve been performing for over eight years now, and the Americana sound and songwriting style have always been a part of our live show and our catalog. We just never had the opportunity to record a lot of it or package it in that way,” said Nowak about the band’s third album.

“Once we started writing more songs that were a verse-chorus structure and a singer-songwriter style, they started to add up. We realized we had enough material to put it all together in one album, so that it wouldn’t feel as disjointed if we had put some of this stuff together with our funky or more progressive songs.”

Continue reading “Due West – Desmond Jones Explores Vibrant Americana Landscape on ‘Why Not?’”

Double Groove – Ma Baker Hosts 2-Set Blind Pig Show Saturday with Scüter, Sleezy Hamilton

Ma Baker blends elements of rock, funk, jazz and disco into their groove-filled sets. Photo courtesy of Ma Baker

For Ma Baker, Saturday’s Blind Pig headlining set will bring double the jams and twice the grooves.

The Ypsilanti jam fusion quartet will host their first two-set show at Ann Arbor’s legendary rock club with EDM artists-DJs Scüter and Sleezy Hamilton against an enchanting backdrop of live visuals and electronic vibrations.

“It will be the first of its kind in terms of a local show equipped with three interactive screens for live visuals controlled in real-time by visual artist Mark Samano and Scüter,” said Jordan Smith, Ma Baker’s guitarist and keyboardist. “Our goal as a group has always been to get to the level where our shows feature two sets. Our intent is to create a conversation between the band and the audience.”

Ma Baker also will feature different genres during each set – the first will spotlight funk while the second will capture a psychedelic-experimental feel. It’s the ideal setting to reimagine an EDM scene in Tree Town while sharing a mix of originals, new tunes and covers intertwined with improvisation.

“We chose to pair ourselves with two DJs to differentiate this show from the typical three groove-jam band bill the way we normally play at The Pig. All of us in the band love electronic music and rock and roll equally, and we wanted a night to really surround ourselves with more electronic vibrations and interactive visuals more akin to the ‘Movement’ or Detroit techno scene,” Smith said.

In 2012, Smith discovered a shared love of EDM and rock with a collective of community college students in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Together, they rented a storage unit two miles from school to jam, improvise and store gear while having deep philosophical discussions late into the night.

Those initial sessions led to forming Bearfoot with 10 rotating members who would perform based on availability with zero premeditated music. By Devil’s Night 2015, only four of the 10 members showed up and a new creative chemistry emerged. Six months later, the band’s original lineup played their first show on Earth Day at Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery.

As a quartet, Bearfoot became Ma Baker (after the 1977 Boney M. disco track) and now includes Guy Williams (guitar), Jared Weimer (drums), Dylan Risinger (bass) and Smith in their latest formation.

Continue reading “Double Groove – Ma Baker Hosts 2-Set Blind Pig Show Saturday with Scüter, Sleezy Hamilton”

Groovin’ for Good – New Ann Arbor Charitable Organization Hosts Inaugural Benefit Show Friday to End Domestic Violence

Tetra Music Project will perform at the inaugural Groovin’ for Good benefit show Friday at The Blind Pig.

A new Ann Arbor charitable organization is ready to groove from the heart.

Known as Groovin’ for Good, the organization hosts benefit shows and creative events to raise funds for local people in need. It will host its inaugural event, “Break the Cycle: A Benefit to End Domestic Violence,” Friday at The Blind Pig with The Funk Factory, ZZvava, Ma Baker and the Tetra Music Project.

“We developed this concept to throw these benefit shows and have the shows go to a good cause. We found out October is domestic violence awareness month, and we were planning it in April and thinking a fall show would be good,” said Erika Ratliff, who co-founded Groovin’ for Good in April with Sara Adas, MSW and LLMSW, and Stormy Chromer drummer Amin Lanseur.

“We had the concept, and then we had the cause, and we started calling around. We made a list of different area nonprofits that focus on domestic violence and sexual assault, and we settled on First Step. We’re really excited that they’re involved, and they’re going to be at the event, too.”

All ticket sales from Friday’s show will go directly to First Step, a Wayne County nonprofit based in Plymouth that provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual assault. Services include a 24-hour help line, information and referrals, community education, transitional housing, temporary emergency housing, assault response, and children’s advocacy and prevention programs.

In addition, Friday’s show will feature a silent auction with creative items and services donated by visual artists and local vendors. All proceeds from the silent auction will go directly to First Step.

Continue reading “Groovin’ for Good – New Ann Arbor Charitable Organization Hosts Inaugural Benefit Show Friday to End Domestic Violence”

Groove On – Stormy Chromer Hosts Jam-tastic Blind Pig Show Tonight with Biomassive, RADO

Stormy Chromer will host a fall hometown show tonight in Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor will groove three times over tonight with Stormy Chromer at the musical helm.

The Ypsilanti progressive jam quartet will host a fall hometown show at The Blind Pig with Biomassive and RADO filled with danceable improvisational rock, jazz, funk and electronica.

“We have a long list of covers that’s somewhere near 80 or 100 total. Every time we perform one, we log it into an Excel sheet. We’ve been going back over this past summer and looking at it to see which ones we can let fall by the wayside, so we have a few things up our sleeve in terms of things you haven’t heard us play in a long time,” said Ryan King, Stormy Chromer’s bassist.

“In terms of originals, we might have some new stuff for you. We’re not entirely sure if we’re going to be playing some of it live yet, but we have new material in the works.”

Along with bandmates Brendan Collins (lead guitar), Spencer Hanson (lead guitar) and Amin Lanseur (drums), King has grown his improvisational chops during a month-long mini-residency at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids as well as several Michigan-based festivals and a tour out west.

“The goal for a long time was just to be comfortable enough doing it in front of a crowd and to be not doing it where they don’t stop moving,” said King, who’s racked up more than 30 original songs with Stormy Chromer. “I think that’s going to be the direction the band is headed in right now and trying to do something live that’s really unique and special at every show in terms of creating something that’s only gonna be there for that night.”

Together, Stormy Chromer started cutting their improvisational teeth after forming in 2014. Named after an accidental tribute to the legendary Michigan cap company, the band blends complex songwriting with real-time compositions to create a unique live experience. In true jam-style fashion, Stormy Chromer has performed a growing roster of live shows locally and nationally with unique nightly setlists for a dedicated fan base.

Continue reading “Groove On – Stormy Chromer Hosts Jam-tastic Blind Pig Show Tonight with Biomassive, RADO”

Running Down a Dream – Nashville’s Jeremy Ivey Makes Blind Pig Debut Saturday

Jeremy Ivey will open for Ian Noe at The Blind Pig tomorrow night. Photo by Cal & Aly

As the everyday person’s troubadour, Jeremy Ivey will share thoughtful tales of the nation’s turbulent political climate mixed with personal diaspora and societal struggles at The Blind Pig tomorrow night.

The Nashville, Tenn., singer-songwriter will make his live debut at the legendary Ann Arbor rock club and open for Ian Noe, a Beattyville, Ky., singer-songwriter.

“It will be me and a harmonica and a guitar, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been on enough hectic production tours that I’m ready to be by myself for a little bit,” said Ivey, who kicked off his tour Sept. 12 at Nashville’s AMERICANAFEST. “I’ll definitely play some songs from the record, but I’ve already recorded a second record and have the third one already written.”

Interpreting ‘The Dream and the Dreamer’

For his intimate Saturday night set, the prolific Ivey will feature homespun, deeply introspective tracks from his brilliant nine-track debut, “The Dream and the Dreamer,” which dropped earlier this month on Anti-Records.

Recorded in a small Nashville home studio with producer and wife Margo Price, Ivey’s album beautifully weaves elements of classic folk and gently-frayed psychedelia with Southern rock and Americana pop-tinged sensibilities. Price encouraged Ivey to write and record a batch of his own songs during a brief tour break.

“I co-write a lot with her, but I had been writing stuff that I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to sing. It only took me a couple of weeks, maybe a month tops, to write the whole thing,” said Ivey, who initially played with Price in the country-soul group Buffalo Cover as well as Secret Handshake.

“Everyone always says you take your whole life to write your first album, and I’ve been writing since I was 15, so that’s not necessarily true for me. I went in to record, it was supposed be demos, and it turned out pretty good. Anti had heard them, and then it all started to happen. I never really planned for it to be a record.”

Continue reading “Running Down a Dream – Nashville’s Jeremy Ivey Makes Blind Pig Debut Saturday”

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.”

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

Adventures with Vultures Embraces Duality on Latest Single, ‘Youth & Danger’

Adventures with Vultures latest single, “Youth & Danger,” seamlessly blends two songs into one.

Adventures with Vultures wishes he could thank Freddie Mercury.

The Plymouth indie folk-rock singer-songwriter credits the late Queen frontman with inspiring his new single, “Youth & Danger,” which blows past the traditional 3.5-minute mark.

“I recently watched the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ movie, and they were telling Freddie Mercury how the song, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ was way too long to be a single,” said Matt Sauter, aka Adventures with Vultures. “He’s like, ‘Fuck you, if I want a 15-minute single, then I’m going to put a 15-minute single out.’ Then, I was thinking about ‘Youth & Danger,’ and I said I’m just going to make it one long song.”

Adventures with Vultures’ latest single, the alt rock, indie folk-tinged “Youth & Danger,” clocks in at 7.5 minutes and originally started as two separate songs. During live shows, Sauter and his bandmates brother Dan Sauter (bass), Jon Staten (drums) and Jimmy Showers (guitar) would merge both songs since they’re in the same key.

“The first part of the song, ‘Youth,’ is about my grandma. I wrote that song about a week after she passed away, and it was one of those songs that took me not even 30 minutes to write,” Sauter said. “I also decided to write a song, ‘Danger,’ about how I was growing up with drinking, smoking, partying and girls. My brother is in the band, and he was like, ‘Blend the two together, man,’ and the name stuck.”

A gorgeous track, “Youth & Danger” opens with a quiet acoustic guitar solo while a slide guitar echoes in the background. This complementary guitar work sets the stage for a quiet, reflective tune as Sauter sings in a raspy voice, “Well, heaven’s gates won’t let me in/When I die I’ll guarantee they’ll sing so they can come down.”

A set of quiet, delicate cymbals crash in response to Sauter’s solemn tone – “They married young and they raised their kin/They had two young daughters and my mother Kim/And a son named Joseph/But oh I cry every time I sing this song.”

Continue reading “Adventures with Vultures Embraces Duality on Latest Single, ‘Youth & Danger’”

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”

Spring Migration – Chirp Moves from Stage to Studio for Self-titled Debut Album, Hosts Release Party Tonight at The Blind Pig

Chirp has released their self-titled, full-length studio debut album today.

On their melodic self-titled, full-length debut studio album, Chirp knows how to magically capture and beautifully deliver the sweet, groovy sounds of spring.

Today’s release of “Chirp” celebrates the Ann Arbor funk, prog rock and jazz fusion quartet’s creative migration from improvising on the stage to nesting in the studio.

“Those songs turned out how we really envisioned them because we were able to take a long time to plan everything out as well as record and mix,” said John Gorine, Chirp’s drummer. “When we play those songs live, we know what we want to do, but it’s different when we have a lot more time to plan certain things out and just get what we want out of those songs.”

As a follow-up to last year’s “Live at Ann Arbor Summer Festival” release, the new studio album’s nine genre-hopping tracks take listeners on fleeting sonic journey filled with upbeat, danceable mind trips to “Dickerville,” “Greener,” “Planet Groove,” “Cozy,” “Pig Beach” and other joyful auditory destinations.

Chirp does their share of genre-hopping by blending catching progressive rock, funk and jazz originals with majestic reinterpretations during their high-energy, dynamic shows. Though their music incorporates many technical, well-crafted elements, they’re committed to grooving with a solid, dedicated fan base.

For dedicated Chirp fans, the album is a direct sonic flight through their eclectic catalog without any layovers or turbulence. While hearing “Chirp,” listeners travel smoothly through a series of glistening grooves, riffs and beats eloquently condensed into a brilliant studio package.

“You want to trim the fat a little bit, even though most of the songs are on the longer side of what people are used to hearing. I’d say the average song length on the album is five and a half minutes while our average live song length is between eight and 10 minutes,” said Jay Frydenlund, Chirp’s guitarist and vocalist. “As a songwriter, for me, it’s always difficult figuring out what we want to cut down and how we want to cut down the length of a solo section or maybe take parts out.”

Continue reading “Spring Migration – Chirp Moves from Stage to Studio for Self-titled Debut Album, Hosts Release Party Tonight at The Blind Pig”

Adventures with Vultures Explores Alt Rock Sound on New ‘Back to Normal’ Single

Adventures with Vultures has released their latest single, “Back to Normal,” which features a new alt rock sound.

Adventures with Vultures is bringing a new normalcy to acoustic indie folk rock.

The Plymouth singer-songwriter, aka Matt Sauter, combines his down-to-earth indie folk rock roots with lush new alt-rock growth on his latest single, “Back to Normal,” which drops today.

Akin to Kings of Leon and Mumford and Sons, Sauter’s catchy 4.5-minute single features his signature raspy vocals backed by brightly-toned guitars and pulsating drum beats. “Back to Normal’s” clever lyrics include an infectious play on words ranging from “cooking dishes” to “growing lawns” to “breaking fences” to “painting songs.”

“It’s a concept song, first it was kind of like a joke, I was writing it and trying to sing everything backwards,” said Sauter, who wrote the track while attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME). “The chord progressions are churchy and powerful, and once we got a full band with it, it became this super, big and powerful song, and we’ve been playing it live for a year now, and it’s one of our fan favorites.”

That live fan favorite also features the talents of Dan Sauter (bass), Jon Staten (drums) and Jimmy Showers (guitar), who now serve as official band members for Adventures with Vultures. He also worked with Jake Rye of Social Recording Company in Adrian to produce and mix the track.

“We go in there with Jake, we plug in, and we play our shit loud,” said Sauter, who originally started as a hip-hop artist and honed his drumming skills while growing up in Plymouth. “We’re going for an early 2000s indie alt rock sound with these new songs.”

Adventures with Vultures’ Matt Sauter

Originally, Adventures with Vultures started as an emerging indie folk solo act for Sauter, who released his brilliant, introspective four-song debut EP, “Junction,” in 2017 through Original 1265 Recordings, an independent label owned by CND America, DIME’s parent company.

Sauter expanded the project into a full band after playing a growing roster of live dates in Michigan and going on his first national headlining tour last year. He’s also transitioned from being part of Original 1265 Recordings to becoming an independent, do-it-yourself (DIY) artist.

As a DIY artist, Sauter recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help support releasing new music as well as an upcoming tour. To date, he’s raised nearly $2,000, thanks to his burgeoning fan base, and sponsoring additional casino bus and golf outing fundraisers.

“Being a DIY artist is more community-based, and it feels more organic,” he said. “With the support of our fans, we’re going to release a new single every three months for the next year.”

As a next step, the band will release a new video soon for “Back to Normal” and return to the studio in April to record their next single.

Adventures with Vultures also will perform a series of upcoming live shows, including April 13 at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor with LVRS and Jackamo, April 26 at New Way Bar as part of Ferndale Spring Fever and May 24 at Mac’s Bar in Lansing with Joshua Powell.

“We’re going to keep course, we’re going to do our thing, but we want to be part of SXSW’s Michigan House next year,” Sauter said. “We’re going to keep the name growing, and people keep telling us to come back down to Nashville and Milwaukee. Every year, more and more keeps happening, and as long as we stay on our path, we’ll be pretty fucking happy.”