Bands & Venues Bucking the Odds and Making a Mark

    icon Dec 26, 2008
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The Mid-Michigan music scene flourished with many different colors and settings throughout 2008. Due to economic arrangement, much of the music was found in only a handful of places over the year. While the entertainment business took a nose-dive due to the financial constraints and woes of the country, only the strong held on tight for the year, from specific venues that continued to book live acts and groups that maintained a flickering light at the end of the tunnel.    

Breaking out in 2008 was the rising of local favorites I Became The Sky (left), a feature at White's Bar early on. The band is able to keep its hand on the pulse of the underground as it stabs at mainstream idealism. Intriguing vocals and a flush musical layout of different sonic tapestries, along with both acoustic and electric tunes (not to mention performing nearly everywhere in the area), they have made a name for themselves.     

Sticking around for a few songs was Your Best Friend who has made touring a way of life in 2008. Their self-titled CD is not to be missed and their live show has piqued a reputation.     

Another new face on the scene was John Vasquez and the Bearinger Boys. The son-in-law of local legend Johnny Krogman has set sail for his own adventure and popped up around the area giving 110% at every gig with his own style and his own way. His near-midnight performance during the final day of the Melita Farm Fest showed just how much potential and poignancy Vasquez produces as a performer.  

In it's second year, the White Crow Music Conservatory in Saginaw has again proved their worth as a venue and quality distributor of original acoustic music. With only a handful of venues left offering original music in its various forms (usually rocking—hats off to White's in Saginaw, Bemo's in Bay City, Hamilton St. Pub in Saginaw, Indian Barry's in Bay City, and Bushy's in Midland), it's the Crow that has opened it's doors to blues, reggae, rock, folk, country, world, and everything in between.                                    

Songwriters flock to the Crow for owner's Zig Zeitler and Siusan O'Rourke's own brew of Irish stew and often putting their own funds up for touring artists to appear. Offering original acoustic instrument sales as well as housing a studio in the back, the Crow IS music in the highest and most pure form.    

New faces on the scene popped up from around the state and region. May-be August (right) made two appearances at the State Theatre in Bay City this year with Hello Dave from Chicago and Pinky Lee from Petoskey. When you get artists of that stature to make the trek, you have to thank May-be August, one of the most veteran of original acts for thinking of the Tri-Cities. After all, they do all they can—a lot of times again as above—out of their own pocket, just to expose great talent. That's as noble as it gets.                                                      

Speaking of Bay City, the Bay Arts Council in conjunction with the Hell's Half Mile Film and Music Festival organizers kicked off three Rock the Waterfront dates in the late summer at the Friendship Shell. The shows paired a regional act with a local act, with the premise of offering original music and an almost-carnival atmosphere with food, drinks and art going on as well. The kick-off show in late June featured Dirt Road Logic with the Kincaids. The second in July was Dangerville with special guests Cornpone. Mustard Plug with local icons the Swaggering Rogues wrapped up the season in August. All shows were held on Thursday's around 6 p.m.      

Speaking of Cornpone, the band was one of the biggest standouts at the 2008 Review Awards. The acoustic trio, steeped in outlaw country and honky-tonk captured the minds of new fans as well as many awards wins along they way. The Award show was postponed a month and ended up back in Frankenmuth in June after a contract to bring it back to Bay City failed to pass for the usual early May event.        

The Thunderchickens took home Review Artist of the Year among many other wins and have plowed forward throughout the year, hitting the road with their non-stop touring. Two other standouts at the Review Awards included The Steel Wheels Band (Best Country Band among many others) and the Banana Convention who have graced the stage for numerous Awards over the past three years (Best Concert/Group Project among others).                  

The captivating original CD release of the year belonged to Sprout who launched When The Silence Breaks in June. Recording of the disc was many years in the works and was well worth the long wait. Of all the cats on the scene, original and cover acts, underground or popular veteran favorites, everyone mentioned that When The Silence Breaks was a mind-blower. If you don't own it yet, there is no reason not to. Harmony, musical excellence and dedication to craft isn't always found this easy in such a unique package the way Sprout brings it home. Sprout also managed to launch a successful evening tribute to The Band way back in January with The Last Waltz Tribute, featuring many local artists sitting in and sharing moments from the great Band Last Waltz show. The evening was historic and held at the Pit 'N Balcony Theatre.

The House Katz reunited with an all-member all-history weekend at Bemo's in May. The show was successful and packed wall to wall. The recent version of the band has had a few shows pop up this fall as well.

Rapper Prozak gained notoriety as Saginaw's 'Hitchcock of Hip Hop' with a debut at #52 on Billboard Magazine's R&B/Hip Hop charts for his CD Tales From The Sick. A $1.5 million campaign helped bolster the Saginaw star to new heights.

The return of the Golden Glow Ballroom with acts as diverse as Larry McCray and Sprout opened its doors once again after being known as a historical music landmark back in the early days of rock and roll. Parkapalooza IV went off without a hitch in Sanford. The Annual Event continues to feature local and regional artists and raise money for a charitable cause all through the help of organizers and music moguls Dstreet Entertainment Foundation. The Dstreet team also joined forces with The Review to present the Review Awards this year as well.                                                                                         

 Essexville is producing one of the #1 pod-cast shows in the nation right now with the Soupygato Show. Producer Dan Harris has tied music of all styles from around the world and introduces many local artists to the mix in nearly every episode. For local musicians with original music looking to be heard, get the Soupygato show a copy and shake hands with national acts and world sounds on the popular world-wide web show.                                                     

In the rough economic times, some local artists have banned together to produce the 'big show' as tribute artists. They have gone all the rage as of late with two big ones—Voodoo Lounge tribute to the Rolling Stones and Stand Back—A tribute to the Allman Brothers Band.)           

Other notable tidbits rounding out the year include: Burnaround reforming; Ray Torres leaving The Banana Convention to concentrate on The Holy Gun and his family; A tribute show for Al Limberg (coming into full recovery!) having been recently ultra-successful; Daniel Patrick joining May-be August on drums (with a successful solo-career to boot for the ex-Gone Daddy Gone'er!); Andy Reed and Brett Mitchell having found continued success as solo artists, both with notable new releases; Jimmy & The Growlers recently formed featuring Jim Spaulding and Eric Janetsky (also both ex-Gone Daddy Gone'ers); The huge loss of poet and band leader Al Hellus in November, coming just behind the release of another new book of poetry; And wrapping the year with an eye on 2009, a new group named the South End Suarez (very Bay City featuring Pete Socha and Bob Hausler). They just kicked off their first show at White's in early December---keep an eye out for this group as they reach into the Pink Floyd canon in the coming year.

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