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”

Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP

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Cashmere Washington seeks inspiration from film on his new EP, “Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington didn’t expect a car accident, a degree completion and several rom-com binges to spark a new EP.

Ironically, that chaotic period provided the Ypsilanti indie rocker with an unexpected setting for writing their new “love letter-style” EP, Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them, out today.

“I got rear-ended by a tow truck right after The Shape of Things to Come came out, and it really destroyed my confidence for a bit … like I didn’t want to be online or even want to leave my house,” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who’s now an Eastern Michigan University (EMU) alum.

“But I had this screenwriting course at EMU in which we analyzed movies from a screenwriting perspective, and I watched so many more of them because of last semester. I blazed through so many Rachel McAdams or Meg Ryan movies and also got really interested in a few K-dramas. I watched a lot of them while I played guitar at night and most of the new EP was written this way.”

While watching rom-coms and K-dramas, Washington also sought inspiration from another unlikely source, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s 2007 Academy Award-winning film, No Country for Old Men.

“I pictured the whole EP as an indie romantic-comedy soundtrack. Because the songs on the EP lean into a variety of emotions, I see ‘Life Is’ as a good example of both. It straddles the line between a cataclysmic sadness and an unwavering optimism to me,” they said.

“It’s funny because No Country for Old Men is such a dark film. I love how it sits within many genres and influences, yet is its own thing. The EP … pushed me to write songs that have multiple sides and angles. The songs have these dark and cinematic edges to them, but I hope they also feel kind of cheeky and cute.”

Continue reading “Screen Time – Cashmere Washington Channels Rom-Coms, Coen Brothers on ‘Almost Country for Old Men, Electro Country for They/Them’ EP”

Moments of Clarity – Premium Rat Unearths Deeply Buried Emotions on ‘Cope’ EP

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Premium Rat extracts her raw vulnerabilities from different places on “Cope.” Photo – Lee Hubbel

For Premium Rat, writing and recording a debut EP brings unexpected moments of clarity.

The Ypsilanti indie rock singer-songwriter finds truth and comfort while addressing deeply buried emotions on Cope, a poignant six-track introspection, dropping on Friday.

“Making and releasing Cope has honestly been one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. It’s funny, one of the reasons I named it ‘Cope’ is because the EP itself helped me cope with certain things, so it’s kind of meta in a way,” said Mer Rey, aka Premium Rat.

“Songwriting is absolutely something I use for reflection and processing, and sometimes I’ll write a song and figure out what it’s about after it’s written. It’s like I can access my emotions with a certain clarity when I’m songwriting that I don’t have otherwise.”

Premium Rat extracts her raw Cope vulnerabilities from a myriad of places – drug store parking lots, internal acknowledgements, post-breakup analyses and crystalized memories. Each track is beautifully wrapped in confessional lyrics, melancholic soundscapes and cathartic instrumentation.

“It’s very honest, and we live in a society that does not prioritize emotional honesty. So it’s, of course, nerve-wracking and very vulnerable to release these songs, but I think that’s also why it feels important to me,” Rey said.

“I want my music to make people feel less alone and to give them permission to feel their feelings. If even one person feels comforted or validated by what I’ve written, then I’ve accomplished my goal.”

Continue reading Moments of Clarity – Premium Rat Unearths Deeply Buried Emotions on ‘Cope’ EP

One Love Symposium – This Week’s Events Aim to Unite Washtenaw County Communities and Public Service Providers

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This week’s One Love Symposium includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels focused on eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

A Washtenaw County symposium aims to forge stronger connections between local communities and public service providers this week.

Known as the One Love Symposium, the three-day event is geared to educate local residents and public service providers who make high-impact decisions for the community, including doctors, teachers and police officers.

Taking place Thursday through Saturday, it includes a series of public conversations, music events and expert panels dedicated to developing solutions for eliminating discriminatory behavior and racial inequities in the community.

Events will occur online and in-person in Ypsilanti and Detroit. They feature police administrators, public school officials, jazz musicians, local business owners, public policy experts and other participants.

Eastern Michigan University researcher Anna Gersh launched a survey and symposium in response to increasing racial, social and political tensions between public service providers and the public after George Floyd’s death in May 2020. She’s enlisted a team of youth data collectors and critical adult thought partners to assist with the survey and symposium.

The symposium also focuses on developing anti-bias training and creating a work certificate for public service providers, or “Human Services Professionals.” The ultimate goal is to create a “Human Services Professional Conference” for “the development of a common scholarship toward improved practices.”

The Stratton Setlist recently chatted with Gersh about the symposium, the work that’s been accomplished, this week’s events and what’s up next.

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City Love Letter – Cashmere Washington Reveres Ypsilanti and Local Connections on ‘Life Is’

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Cashmere Washington pays homage to Ypsilanti and its people and places on “Life Is.” Photo – Mikael Dunn

Cashmere Washington openly shares a love letter to their current city.

The indie rocker expresses deep appreciation for Ypsilanti and the memorable friendships and experiences that accompany it on their introspective new single, “Life Is.”

“Ypsilanti is the first place I ever said, ‘I want to live here,’” said Washington, aka Thomas Dunn, who hails from Midland and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University. “It’s the hometown I got to pick.”

Throughout “Life Is,” tender piano, fuzzy electric guitar, strolling bass, steady drums and glistening cymbals instantly evoke sentimental images of people and places along Michigan Avenue and nearby neighborhoods.

Washington sings, “Watched the best minds of my generation/Stumbling back home, coming down the avenue/Yeah, they don’t even stop at the venue.”

“It’s based on this memory that I have of my friend walking home in front of a venue on Michigan Avenue on their way from work, and this really wonderful conversation I had with another friend about how our favorite songs have the ability to let us focus on a beautiful sunrise when we know something awful is looming just beyond the frame,” they said. “The original goal was to mash those two scenes into a song (with a few artistic liberties taken).”

With that vivid imagery in mind, Washington closes “Life Is” with a thought-provoking verse that prompts listeners to take chances and pursue their goals. In a sense, the city of Ypsilanti provides the ideal backdrop for Washington to fully realize their true sense of self.

Washington reflects, “Cuz I know I’m not scared to die/I know that I’m petrified/To try and fail.”

“The line alludes to my own history with depression. Personally, the worst days have never been the tough day; it’s usually the day after,” they said.

“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but who knows, maybe tomorrow I’ll get a raise; or a week from now I’ll bump into someone funny in line for coffee; or someone will send a really nice, thoughtful email about a beat-tape I put online five years ago. You just never know what can happen.”

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En Route – Daring Detour Returns to Live Music Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse

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Daring Detour’s Kathi Dvorin and DeVeaux Gauger perform at a house show. Photo – Richard Greene

For Daring Detour, the new year arrives at a long-awaited destination.

The Ann Arbor acoustic Americana duo of Kathi Dvorin (vocals) and DeVeaux Gauger (guitar) marks the return of their intimate live music performances after a pandemic-induced hiatus.

“We decided to put Daring Detour on hold early in the pandemic. Part of that was due to closing venues, and part was our general emotional state with all the upheaval going on at the time,” Gauger said.

“We tried writing virtually and that didn’t work out, so we agreed not to force the creative process and would pick it up when we both felt comfortable.”

With comfort now on their side, Daring Detour will share their emotive originals and covers Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse in Ypsilanti. It will be their second live show since December.

“Playing at the Ypsi Alehouse was a wonderful experience. We had quite a few friends show up despite it being on a weekday evening and lingering COVID concerns,” Gauger said. “All the rehearsal time and mentally being on the same page showed as the music flowed, and we told some stories in between songs.”

During their two-hour set, Daring Detour will perform poignant renditions of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Almost Home” and “I Feel Lucky.” They’ll also share an unnamed Taylor Swift cover.

“We draw cover material from decades of artists, much of it out of our generation. We wanted to expand our repertoire to include some more upbeat songs and have some fun in between the more introspective tunes,” said Gauger, who’s inspired by Harry Chapin, James Taylor and Jim Croce.

“It’s highly possible that Ted Badgerow, Alehouse owner and brewer, will make an appearance. I played there solo the week before Halloween, and Ted joined me for a couple of songs playing flute, harmonica and some backing vocals.”

Continue reading “En Route – Daring Detour Returns to Live Music Thursday at Ypsi Alehouse”

Wide Awake – Denae Explores Lucid Dream World on ‘Sleep Junkie’

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Denae wonders whether her nocturnal adventures are rooted in fantasy or reality on “Sleep Junkie.” Artwork – Denae

Denae deeply explores the vivid realities of living in dreamland.

The Detroit indie soul singer-songwriter recounts insightful tales of lucid dreaming on her latest hypnotic single, “Sleep Junkie.”

“For a period of my life, I got into lucid dreaming and traveled in this dream world. I was exploring my sleep life, but it was during a time when my depression was fluctuating,” Denae said. “This was at a low point for me when I was just not having life, and I ended up liking my life better in my sleep and in my dreams.”

Throughout “Sleep Junkie,” Denae becomes immersed in an alternate universe filled with wistful electric guitars, floaty synths, sweeping bass and booming drums. She quickly questions whether her nocturnal adventures are rooted in fantasy or reality.

Denae sings, “Count your fingers/Check to see/Dream or reality?/I left my body at home/Lyin’ between the sheets/Memories distant enough to haunt me/Haunt me.”

“I went through this period where I was working all the time, and anytime I wasn’t working, I was sleeping like 14 hours a day. It created this sense of paranoia when I was awake, and the longer I did it, I was like, ‘Is this a dream?’ I didn’t know sometimes, and I had to snap out of it and get my mental health together,” she said.

“‘Sleep Junkie’ is really a reflection of mental health and that need for escape, but it brings in the sleep element and lucid dreaming because that was my escape at the time. I don’t think many people think it’s based off real events, but it was really was.”

Denae breathed new life into “Sleep Junkie” with Ann Arbor producer Eon Zero. The duo transformed her initial stripped-down version of the track into a soulful, atmospheric rejuvenation.

“Eon did so much, but it was also a collaborative effort where I was picking sounds and instruments. I played the minimal guitar on it, and he played more of the electric guitar on it. It was this cool second generation of collaboration … where we saw the vision together,” said Denae, who’s known Zero since high school.

Denae also brings her “Sleep Junkie” dreams to life in a mystical new video, which eloquently captures her hypnagogic state. Directed and edited by Joe Cavanaugh, it shifts between dreamy shots in a paper-filled attic and a dimly lit swimming pool.

“I had a lot of ideas that surrounded the water and the events in the video. (Joe) found this really cool house in Hamtramck, which was his friend’s house that was gutted. He had this vision in this space, and the set design was us bringing our collaborations together,” she said.

“We also went to a pool of a friend of my parents, and we filmed at night. It got really cold, and it was like 60 degrees in this pool. Joe was shivering, and I was in this dress I couldn’t swim in. We had to have someone swim to the bottom of the pool and bring me up when I would go under for a take because the dress weighed so much.”

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Solid State – Linen Ray’s Longtime Relationship Defies Personal Obstacles on ‘Love Ain’t Easy’

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Gabriel Craft and Rebekah Craft withstand mounting challenges on Linen Ray’s “Love Ain’t Easy.” Photo – Mike Frieseman

Filled with abundant love, family and music, Linen Ray remains rock solid.

The Nashville, Tennessee married folk-rock duo of Rebekah Craft (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Gabriel Craft (drums, backing vocals) strongly withstands the mounting challenges of weather, the pandemic and personal stress on their latest bluesy, gospel-tinged single, “Love Ain’t Easy.”

“There are so many tests, and a lot of people and marriages broke up during that time. Being in a relationship is hard work,” said Rebekah Craft, an Ypsilanti native who’s been married to Gabriel Craft for 18 years.

Along with his wife, Gabriel Craft nodded in agreement. “I think the biggest challenge we faced during that whole time with the tornado and the pandemic was how suddenly things had to change. You would start to acclimate to the change, and then there was a change again.”

Back in March 2020, the Crafts encountered a deadly tornado that devastated part of Nashville just 10 days before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation.

Reeling from those life-changing experiences, they quickly adapted to lockdown life at home, which included virtual school, remote work and Linen Ray home studio recording sessions.

“We went through all of that, and then things started to change. We were able to leave a little bit, and the kids were back in school, but then after two weeks, somebody got COVID, and then the kids were back at home,” said Gabriel Craft, who grew up in Spring Arbor.

Despite the constant changes and lingering uncertainties, the Crafts relied on the strength of their marriage and family to focus on the future. Last fall, they penned their soulful solidarity anthem, “Love Ain’t Easy,” as a fervent tribute to lifelong love and commitment.

Continue reading “Solid State – Linen Ray’s Longtime Relationship Defies Personal Obstacles on ‘Love Ain’t Easy’”

In Full Swing – Nine Mile Shakers Bring Bluesy Sounds to Novi’s Beerhead Bar & Eatery Friday

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Nine Mile Shakers’ Daniel Bloink, Thomas Chance, Maggie Robinson and Kenny Schabow gather for a practice session.

When it comes to live shows, a new metro Detroit blues quartet is getting into the swing of things.

Known as the Nine Mile Shakers, the smooth bluesy sounds of Kenny Schabow (guitar), Maggie Robinson (vocals), Daniel Bloink (bass) and Thomas Chance (drums) will flow Friday throughout Novi’s Beerhead Bar & Eatery. It’s the band’s first in-person show after performing a series of livestreams during the pandemic.

“We’re doing our thing with the livestreams, but we want to play for an audience. We’re all dancers, and there’s that conversation, right? When you’re dancing with someone, there’s a conversation, and it’s not just a constant one-way,” said Schabow, who met his bandmates at local swing dance events.

“It’s back and forth, and we want that with our audiences, too. But we can’t do that with the kind of dynamic that we want through online streams. We don’t get the feedback until after. You can tell when the audience is like, ‘This is really good,’ and they’re waiting for the next song.”

Throughout their three-hour set, the Nine Mile Shakers will share a mix of bluesy originals as well as bops, bangers and genre classics.  

“We have a lot of originals. Thomas and I have been writing together, and his songs are all very cryptic. We love asking people, ‘What do you think this song is about?’ and nobody can figure it out. My songs usually have a really obvious meaning and a hidden meaning,” said Schabow with a laugh.

Schabow created his own musical meaning after forming the Nine Mile Shakers with Robinson, Bloink and Chance in 2020. The four friends and swing dancers decided to start their own project filled with timeless blues, swing and hard rock sounds.

“We participate in a livestream called Third Friday Blues, which was born from the (blues) dances in Ypsilanti. That relationship between dancers and musicians is just so important, and I wanted to create an avenue for the artists to still perform,” said Schabow, who used to jam at similar events hosted at Ypsilanti’s Riverside Arts Center.

“It’s really targeted toward swing and blues dancers, but it’s grown to people who aren’t in that community. It’s provided more exposure for some of those artists to get their music out there.”

Continue reading “In Full Swing – Nine Mile Shakers Bring Bluesy Sounds to Novi’s Beerhead Bar & Eatery Friday”

Seismic Love – Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack Chronicle Passionate Relationships on ‘Worth the Trouble’ EP

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Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack’s “Worth the Trouble” EP documents the rise, fall and resurgence of a romantic relationship. Artwork – Tom J. Reed

Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack beautifully chronicle the rugged emotional terrain of a passionate relationship.

The Ypsilanti alt-rock trio of Jerry Heiss (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion and programming), James Johnson (bass) and Danarus Greene (drums) spotlight that fervent rise, fall and resurgence of romantic love throughout their latest reflective, five-track EP, Worth the Trouble.

“I did realize in retrospect that these songs fit together because it is a roller coaster ride of the different feelings you have with losing someone, breaking up or apologizing. I put a pretty vague story to the album myself of trying to link the songs together and seeing if it was coming from one point of view in chronological order. That wasn’t necessarily the intention, but I’m glad it does feel that way,” said Heiss, aka Jeremiah Mack.

“The same way that writing these songs was kind of therapeutic for me, I hope that other people are able to listen to them and feel that same wave of relief that someone else has gone through this and that it’s been OK.”

Throughout Worth the Trouble, Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack thoughtfully document the volatile feelings, thoughts and concerns that quickly emerge as one partner responds to the unexpected actions of another.

Each poignant track seamlessly flows from one encounter to the next against an expansive sonic backdrop filled with pop-rock, emo-rock, alt-rock and folk-rock sensibilities.

“I try to make each song that I write like a different kind of song, and Worth the Trouble does jump from genre to genre for each song. I never want someone to listen to two of my songs and say, ‘Well, that song sounds like the other songs.’ It keeps me entertained because I like a bunch of different styles, and it’s fun for me to play in all these different styles,” Heiss said.

Continue reading “Seismic Love – Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack Chronicle Passionate Relationships on ‘Worth the Trouble’ EP”