Monday, April 25, 2011

It's April??

Yikes, this is what's April and I haven't had a posting since December. what. Lots to do in January 2011 (albeit late in the month) musically, so here goes.

Jan 21, hmmm, gaping hole in info saved relating to this particular night. The Coffeehouse is always fun.  A night of singing/playing/reading.  More info in Feb.  Oops.

The 34th Ann Arbor Folk Festival

January 28 & 29 at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan campus
This is an annual showcase event for Nicky and me...we have attended more than 10 Ann Arbor Folk Festivals and in recent years we have attended both nights.  The AA Folk Festival is a wonderful multi-purpose concert series that is the principal fundraising event for The Ark as well as giving the audience a taste of what is to come to the Ark in the next few months.  Typically the Friday night caters to a "younger" audience and Saturday books long-time acts.  Each night begins with an artist not-so-well known and builds to a headliner most have come to see. Lastly, an emcee guides us through the night, introducing the acts and providing entertainment so the stage hands can make the necessary equipment changes.  The format is each artist gets 3 or 4 songs to give us a taste of who they are and what they sound like and if you do like it, you'll probably come back to The Ark when the artist has its own show.

The lovely Susan Werner
The emcee for both nights was the fabulous Susan Werner....a multi-talented Chicago-based artist who was clever and musically brilliant.  Equally happy on guitar or piano she regaled us with witty tunes beautifully sung. Sometimes it was simply her amusing stories that filled the equipment-setup time.  Hats off to The Ark...Susan Werner was a wonderful choice!


Paper Raincoat

We missed Theo Katzman and enjoyed Anais Mitchell. An eye-opener (or should I say ear-opener) was Paper Raincoat...a bit of a surprise, only perhaps because I had never heard them.  They ended their set with a fantastic a capella number, "Rewind" that had the entire audience on their feet.  Wonderful stuff.  Look 'em up for sure.

The Spring Standards
The second set included a perfect folk festival-type experience with The Spring Standards.  These 3 have a tight folk/pop sound that I really enjoyed.  I am VERY happy to say they will be at The East Lansing Art Festival on Saturday, May 21...check 'em out!

The next treat, and I do mean treat, is the awesome Vienna Teng.  What an instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, composer.  What stage presence!  She is exciting and fresh.  Her songs are deep, her melodies simply beautiful.  I really like her.  Much has been written about how she is a grad student at the University of Michigan, and as much as all that is true (and simply adds to her amazing story) t was the performance that had me enthralled on this night.  For (some) more on her U of M effort and an excellent review of the Folk Festival see Roger LeLievre's review here

Citizen Cope
Ms. Teng was followed by a crowd favorite Citizen Cope...and I have to say, his style and songmaking are not for me.  Not quite sure what it is...there was a sameness from song to song that bordered on monotony for me.  That sounds unkind when I read it here, but it is what I was thinking at the time.  I was certainly in the minority as he was enthusiastically received by the Ann Arbor audience.
The final set was performed by The Avett Bros. An interesting mix of folk/pop/punk/bluegrass that had the crowd on it's feet. Again I was left just a little cold and I am not quite certain why.  They are great musicians.
Avett Bros

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of The Swell Season

Saturday Night

Truth is, I enjoyed both nights and most of Saturday night was filled with surprises....good and not-so-good.  The opener was Newfound Road...a bluegrass/gospel group from Franklin, Ohio (outside Dayton) and as much as I love the genre and groups like this, they did not do it for me that night.  2 reasons come to mind, one was someone must have told the band they had a virtuoso picker (on mandolin) and a singer extraordinaire.  neither struck me as such.  Everyone was good, the band was tight...I enjoyed it...when we were left with the "special instrumentalist" alone for a bit I thought, "Geez, he just isn't that good".  Same for the of the band members said, "Isn't he wonderful?"..."Isn't he awesome?"...uh, no.  Good stuff, not great.

The Doyle and Debbie Show followed and this hit the nail on the head for me...I liked them so much when their Ark performance was announced I mad a point of buying 10 tickets knowing I would find 9 friends to join me for a fun night out in Ann Arbor (and we did do it!).  This duo has great voices and a comedy act (parody of country music) that had me laughing out loud.  Fun!

Next was EILEN JEWELL...a group I had on my iPod on the way down to the concert in the car and thought not much of but was pleasantly they were great.


Next up was a folk "supergroup" (sort of like Cry, Cry Cry which was Dar Williams, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky) RED HORSE featuring ELIZA GILKYSON, JOHN GORKA AND LUCY KAPLANSKY.
They were fun and funny and sang each other's songs...I really enjoyed this set.  Their self-deprecating humor worked and they were cute at the right time and poignant at the right time...most enjoyable.

There's more though, Judy Collins came out and simply wowed us.  What a voice!!  She was crystal clear...simply 71. She walked out and as soon as the audience allowed her to, she launched into "Both Sides Now"...the Joni Mitchell song I am certain Joni Mitchell is thrilled Judy Collins has had so much success with over the years.  I'm telling you, it was special. She was (mostly) humble and always gracious. I feel fortunate to have seen her.
Judy Collins by Lon Horwedel |

I was really looking forward to Mavis Staples...she has been pursued and repackaged by Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) and has hit the road on a massive tour which has included stops on the Late Night talk show circuit and clubs and arenas everywhere.  Well, I was pretty disappointed.  here backup singers and band itself were wonderful but I wonder if Ms Staples had an off-night.  Her voice was "rough" to the point of not enjoyable.  She did do an overly-long rendition of the Staples Singers big hit, "I'll Take You There" and although it was fun to hear (big song when I was in high school) it was done for dramatics and it left me cold.

When I originally looked to see who was coming to the Festival this and found that Swell Season ( Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) was headlining Saturday night I have to say I was surprised.  it was a little ironic for me because I had just seen the 2006 movie, "Once" in which these two talents starred and the songs, "When Your Mind's Made Up” and and “Falling Slowly” had come and which they did beautifully that night. Another highlight was Glen Hansard singing van Morison's, "Into The Mystic"...Wow!!

The night finished off with Glen Hansard leading most of the performers from both nights in a rousing, really good rendition of Bob Dylan's, "Forever Young". The 2011 Ann Arbor Folk Festival was sold out and a huge success.

RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles - Jan 30, 2011 -
Wharton Center for the Performing Arts, East Lansing, Michigan

It was crazy-busy as the Ann Arbor Folk Festival wound down and Nicky finally made our way back to East Lansing on Sunday afternoon we had about 2 hours break before we went to the Wharton Center and saw, "RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles" with our good friends the Bakers.  Have you ever seen this show?  Amazingly accurate renditions of the Beatles and what sets them apart from other Beatles cover bands, in my opinion, is the ability to do well across the entire Beatles spectrum.  They do a fabulous (yes, I used the adjective fabulous when mentioning the Beatles) job of early Beatles...and because RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles travels with large screens, placed on either side of the stage, they are able to broadcast many of the commercials which were aired at that time...and some the "Beatlemania" footage we have come to know so well.  What it did was put us into an from which we did not want to leave.  Other than "Paul" needing to play the acoustic guitar right-handed for, "Blackbird" I would say they were note perfect.  So was the harmony...essential to making it "sound" like the Beatles.  It was a fun show...who doesn't love the Beatles?

RAIN : A Tribute to the Beatles


John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett at the Michigan Theatre, - Ann Arbor Jan 31, 2011

Bob K and I traveled back to Ann Arbor (yes Bob, I am terribly grateful you drove) to see 2 of our favorites and had a really pleasant surprised when a 3rd showed up.  More on that later.  John Hiatt has written so many good songs...and often they are made popular by someone else (ever heard Bonnie Raitt do, "Thing Called Love"?  I thought so.) Well, he did many of his hits and they were solo..showing he had some guitar chops as well.

Lyle Lovett is a polished performer...and he made sure the banter between him and John was light and fun.  Of course Lyle Lovett is a wonderful singer songwriter and did many of his hits as well.  They would collaborate on some singing harmony for the other or take an instrumental solo...very nice.

Then, something fun and wonderful happened...they introduced, "a good friend", and it was none other than Michigan's own, Jeff Daniels.  Have you ever heard Jeff Daniels play and sing?  I have and knew we were in for a good time.  He played (well) with the 2 of them and they left the stage and Jeff Daniels did the most amazing rendition of "Grandfather's Hat"...brought me to tears. Gosh that was wonderful, sublime.

He came back for the encore where the 3 of them did, "Baby Don't Tolerate" to a standing ovation.  Great night.


1 comment:

lisafindley said...

Great post, Dad! I still haven't seen Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt together; next time, I will for sure.