Buzz by the Bay #3

Posted In: News, ,   From Issue 888   By: Jason Dean

16th November, 2019     0

The channels that connect the music community in Bay City run deep. Some connections are obvious, while others can be a tasty surprise. Bay City’s vinyl and vintage purveyor, Electric Kitsch, is a natural magnet for creative types. But consider the restaurants and bars that support the music community by booking live entertainment. 

Bay City is not lacking for venues that offer solo, combo, or full band entertainment. This was not the case when I returned to the area after college. Back then, video jukeboxes and karaoke ruled the bars. Live entertainment was for dancing and drinking in a dimly lit room too loud for having a meaningful conversation.

With the emergence of microbrews, the landscape has changed in terms of live entertainment. Bay City venues such as Tavern 101, Governor’s Quarters, Tri-City Brewery, VNO Wine Warehouse (and, hopefully, the new Beaver’s Pub, which just took the place of Asian Noodle at the corner of Center and Saginaw), complement their ambiance with live entertainment of all types. Bars such as Crowne Pub, Jake’s Corner Lounge, and Chet’s Corner Bar have a regular schedule of local and regional acts, and the variety of talent that one can see on a given weekend can necessitate some barhopping to fit it all in.

Friday Night Jazz

Every Friday night over at Brooklyn Boyz on Midland Street, owner Kevin Novellino makes good on the promise of “live jazz” painted above the restaurant’s entrance. Jacob Wisenbach (guitar, trumpet) and Hillary Huebler (keyboard, vocals) fill the room with the mellifluous tones, and despite the popular eatery’s limited space, the music feels right-sized.

Wisenbach and Huebler met when both played in the orchestra of  the Pit & Balcony production of “Legally Blonde.” The duo’s mutual appreciation of standards overcomes their divergent musical tendencies. “I’ve always been more interested in instrumental post-bop jazz and she really loves musicals and vocalists,” sums up Jacob. 

The duo began their Friday residency in late August and plan to continue into 2020. Whether he’s playing trumpet (his first instrument) or electric guitar, Wisenbach’s technique is smooth. His fretboard work is fluid and complements Huebler’s lilting voice and capable accompaniment. 

Sharing Novellino’s commitment to broadening the exposure of jazz to the general public, Wisenbach offers: “I think a lot of people misunderstand jazz. It’s not simply one artist or time period in the music. It goes all the way back to the 1920s up until now. That’s a lot! So I find it really hard to believe when someone says they don’t like jazz. Who doesn’t like the smooth sound of Ella Fitzgerald’s voice or that brassy sass of Louis Armstrong?” 

Boxey-Pries Duo (+2)

In addition to owning the aforementioned Electric Kitsch, a veritable goldmine of eclectic musical finds, Jordan Pries occasionally brings the live experience to town. Such was the case when Detroit-based avant-garde instrumentalists Dave Hurley and Kenn Thomas came to Bemo’s Bar on November 16. The pair was joined for a riveting final set by Boxey-Pries Duo, which consists of Pries on percussion and guitar and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Donovan Boxey.

Boxey’s rapid rise among the ranks is testament to his considerable talents. The recent Central Michigan University grad has leveraged his inquisitive nature to forge relationships with mentors and peers alike.

“Donovan just never seemed to be afraid to ask people things, whether it was about music, or asking them to play,” says Pries, who has collaborated with Boxey since 2017. “He has gotten all of those gigs really just by asking to play or audition. We met through Mike Johnston of the Northwoods Improvisors. Mike broadcasts Destination Out in Mt. Pleasant, and Donovan was a hand at the station, and started talking to Mike about the music he was playing. I think that lit another fire under him, discovering more 'out' music.”

The Boxey-Pries Duo incorporates prepared pieces with improvised music, as well as interpretations of songs by the likes of Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, and Wayne Shorter. The duo plays every 6-8 weeks at Bemo’s, with the next performance on a date to be announced in February.

Helping Hands

Thanksgiving is a reminder that each of us has something to be thankful for. Picking up the pieces after a devastating tragedy as the holiday season kicks in can be especially challenging. Recently, the owners of Washington Avenue Salon experienced devastating loss when their Essexville home burned down, taking their three dogs with it. While no family members were injured, the house was not insured. 

Members of the community and local business have rallied to support. Bayshire Beauty Academy, which owns the building that the salon occupies, held a fundraiser. A Go Fund Me page has helped, as has local news coverage. 

As the holidays approach, take a moment from your frantic deal hunting to consider those in your community who have experienced difficulties and could benefit from your time or more.

As always, whether it's a business district, establishment, event, or form of entertainment that is enriching Bay City, if you have some buzzworthy news, email me at





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