Bringing the Magic Bus • Damned by Dawn Wants to Make Oscoda Rock Fest a Can’t-Miss Event

    icon Jun 27, 2019
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When hard rock sextet Damned by Dawn plays the 1st Annual Oscoda Rock Fest on August 10, they’ll arrive in their purple and silver tour bus, per usual. 

And when the doors open, before all six band members exit, at least 30 fans will stream out first, also per usual. 

When Damned by Dawn goes on the road, you see, along with the instruments, amps, and other necessary hardware, they pack in as many fans as the bus will allow. This converts an ordinary, road-weary tour bus into a lively pre-show party bus. 

“Not too many bands bring a tour bus full of fans to a show,” says band spokesman Chris Martin. “When you’re bringing the crowd, it turns some heads.” Still, with fuel and insurance, the costs can add up. So the investment needs to pay off for more than mere convenience.

“We do giveaways of merchandise and we do an acoustic show on the way down,” he adds. “[Fans] can do anything they want on the bus, except smoke.”

It’s one way for a band that formed in Evart, a Michigan town of less than 2,000 located in the northwest reaches of the middle of nowhere, to attract fans down in the Detroit area and all over the state. 

Now that members are spread out from Traverse City to Clinton and various points in between, transportation is a consideration to get everyone onstage together. “We’ve basically got two full rehearsal studios” in different parts of the state, says Martin.

Tired of playing in cover bands, Martin (rhythm/lead guitar, bg vocals) formed Damned by Dawn in 2016 with Levi Elder (lead/rhythm guitar, bg vocals) and Justin Miscikoski (vocals), who had been playing and writing together as an acoustic duo. Filling out the band were Ameer Poré (bass, bg vocals) and Dave Armentrout (rhythm guitar, bg vocals). Nicky Dolph (drums, bg vocals) joined the band this year, replacing the original drummer.

Martin was itching to do something original, and the band was all in.

In terms of influences, there was a lot to draw upon. Elder is the musical chameleon with broad influences, says Martin. “He’s … AC/DC to Waylon Jennings, with some funk, punk, and metal mixed in.” 

The other band members’ influences are diverse as well.  “Everything from Del Shannon to Slipknot,” sums up Martin. “We’re a melting pot of sounds.”

All those influences add up to a sleek but heavy sound with ample girth and lightning-quick reflexes. The band self-released its debut album, “Blood, Sweat, and Retrospect,” in December 2018.  

Songwriting within the band is a democratic process, with all members sharing writing credit, even in cases when one member brings a fully formed idea to the band. “All the string [players] get together and map out the song” to build out parts, all contributing to the final product,” says Martin.

Getting together to rehearse requires some advanced planning. “If we’re doing an early practice, we’ll do it at Dave’s in Canadian Lakes,” says Martin. “If it’s going to be later, we do it at my place in Harrison. I’ve got a big pole barn out in the country with no noise restrictions.”

Just as Damned by Dawn has shrewdly leveraged the rock star transportation experience to grow its fan base, it has likewise picked up endorsement deals from GHS Strings, Rocktron, and even Strip Club Choppers.

The band welcomes those interested in hearing about upcoming shows, giveaways, backstage meet ‘n’ greets, and more to text “ROCK” to 833-682-9189. The band’s website also provides details about new developments and upcoming events.

As a “tune up” prior to hitting the stage at Oscoda Rock Fest, the band has a show July 27 opening for Saliva at Nikki’s in Sturgis.

“We fill in the blanks with other tours that come to Michigan,” says Martin. Many of the bands playing Oscoda Rock Fest were on the same bill when Damned by Dawn did a recent show with Quiet Riot.

The 1st Annual Oscoda Rock Fest happens Aug. 10 at Furtaw Field in Oscoda. Sharing the bill with Damned by Dawn are Assault the Silence, Everyday Ghost, Grounded, Here After Six, Polychromic, Silverspork, and Siren, with other acts to be added.


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