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Caught in the Act...

...by the publisher

Invisible Lisa, a band without much mid-Michigan exposure yet (our loss!), rocked the Small Planet. Many of this melodic, progressive-influenced, straight-ahead rock band's original songs are very powerful with a raw edge, with a kind of a rough Melissa Etheridge-ness to them. But on some numbers, vocalist Cindy Shedd's wailing reminds me of Andrea DeGolier's hypnotic voice. And the band does a rockin' rendition of Tracy Bonham's "Mother Mother" -- yes Cindy does the scream. By the end of the set, Invisible Lisa had won over some new fans.

I also caught just a bit of a Planet set by Grand Rapids' Turtle Toe, who struck me with their very strong, versatile college alternative rock sound.

Root Doctor landed the opening slot for Cheap Trick at the Lansing Center, launching Q106's free concert with a mix of blues-based music ranging from pure blues to mid-tempo blues rock. The crowd was subdued but was still clearly paying attention. Cheap Trick cranked up the crowd volume initially, launching into "I Want You to Want Me" right off the bat. In addition to most of the hits, the band played many cuts off the new CD, cleverly titled CHEAP TRICK, proving that they still haven't lost a step.

Ironhorse treated a Silver Dollar crowd to a mix of country and old fashioned rock and roll, ranging from Little Texas' "God Blessed Texas" to an evening-ending rock-o-matic rendition of Kiss' "Lick It Up." Also of note were the band's always-engaging version of "Dust on the Bottle" and the Ironhorse original ballad "Just Before We Said Goodbye."

Thanks to ETCH magazine, Mac's Bar is now a regular stop of some great out-of-town bands. On a recent weekend, Teenage Frames swung through town, treating Lansing to its brand of Chicago, hipster punk-fueled rock.

Headlining that show were Overture recording artists Solid Frog from Detroit. This band's heavy rock guitars drive a sound whose vocals and tunefulness often suggest Beatles-influenced rock though sometimes venture into the screaming zone. My favorite song of the evening: "I Describe." Catchy.

I was only able to catch a couple songs of the set, but those in attendance at Oldsmobile's 100th Anniversary weekend celebration were treated to a double whammy -- local Renegade recording artist Al Lopez took the stage early that Thursday afternoon with one of the state's top country bands -- Grand Rapids' Solid Ground -- backing him up. The portion of the set I heard included a rousing rendition of an Al Lopez hit, "Smooth Runnin' Engine."

The following afternoon on the same stage, lunchtime strollers were able to catch a trip to partyville from the ever-popular Mystic Shake. It had been a while since I'd seen these guys, but they clearly haven't lost a step.

Wilco opened close to country and grew, song by song, into a slightly country-flavored alternative rock band as a Michigan Festival main stage opening act. Many in the crowd became restless as the set wore one, suggesting that Wilco did not appeal particularly well to the assembled masses. Sheryl Crow, however, did. But, as is sometimes the case at the Mich Fest with particular artists' sounds, whether it's the sound system or the mixing or something else I couldn't begin to know, but Sheryl's voice didn't carry well to the edges of the crowd, so those of us who weren't early arrivals didn't get the full range of Sheryl's voice and, instead, suffered through the screeching edge to her voice and heard more of her band's bass lines than the rest of the instruments onstage. End result -- during the fourth song, I had to leave with a splitting headache. But, while returning to my car, I discovered the sound behind the stage outside the fenced-in area was amazing. Sheryl really does have a full, powerful voice when you can hear it properly.

One of the classier evenings I've had this summer was at Vickie Winans' CD release party for her LIVE IN DETROIT disc. Set at Vickie's new Detroit-area estate, the catered affair was attended by a plethora of label reps, numerous national Gospel media folks, and Vickie's friends and family. The evening culminated in a performance that showed why Vickie has achieved such success -- in addition to her great voice and presence, she comes across as a very caring, down-to-earth person. Regaling her guests with family stories between songs, the evening was unlike any other CD release party I've attended -- a very special evening. Now, go buy her disc.

...by Shane Copher

A Night of Country, Jackson Optimist Sports Arena: Family fun was the name of the game on Saturday, June 28th, as the crowd which ranged in age from one to eighty-one, enjoyed a pleasing blend of good country music and family entertainment.

Jeff Burchett got things rolling with an energetic rendition of Marty Stuart's "That's Country." His deep, rich voice really took mainstage on a locally penned original, "The Bottle."

Rick Thurber got the crowd moving with a jazzy version of Alan Jackson's "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and Grand Funk's "Some Kind of Wonderful."

Jackson County Sheriff's Scotty Kart did a fine job on Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes," along with "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Ron Hyden, the evening's host and organizer, displayed his strong songwriting skills on the lovely "Somewhere Beyond the Moon" and led his Sidewinder Band, which includes Jeff on bass and Rick on drums, along with guest keyboardist Kurt Hasselschwirt, through stirring renditions of "Rocky Top" and others.

Tim Salisbury treated the audience with his juggling skills, as he managed everything from bowling balls to cowboy hats, with plenty of crowd participation.

The Amazing Michael McGivern showed his sleight of hand with an astonishing, and oft times hilarious, magic act.

From ventriloquism and magic to great country music, this show was as entertaining as it gets, and rumor has it, we'll see them a couple times a year in the future... Don't miss out!

If you'd like Shane to catch your show, call him at (517) 694-5625.

...by Mike Somers

Hey hey, the blues are alright! The second annual Michigan Blues Talent Competition sponsored by the Capital Area Blues Society was held on August 16, and thirteen bands from across Michigan got to take over the Small Planet and strut their stuff. Local bands were heavy in the line-up, as well as blues bands from the Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Detroit areas. This year's winning band was The Mike Espy Band featuring Yakity Yak, and I'm certain they will represent the Lansing area very well when they travel down to Memphis, Tennessee to compete in the national competition. Other local bands that placed very high were The Blues Xpress featuring Kathleen Mendoza, with a very strong second place finish. My band, The Roadmasters, placed fourth overall by showcasing an original jump blues song with Jeff Thompson's harp blasting out hot and heavy. All bands put on extremely good showings, making it a very hard decision for the judges. After the competition, the loud crowd still wanted more and were treated to an on-the-spot jam session featuring members from the local competing bands. Cool Ray Aleshire from Those Delta Rhythm Kings belted out "Sweet Home Chicago" and "Wang Dang Doodle" backed by Mike Espy, Wade Olson from Smokehouse Jr., and Mike Somers from The Roadmasters on guitars, Yakity Yak on harp, and other guests. Six hours of back-to-back blues and a very appreciative crowd made the Small Planet spin and smolder all day long. Congratulations should go out to CABS for a very well run event and to all bands that showed the blues are alive and well in Lansing. Watch for the third annual competition next year during the Michigan Festival.

[Many attending noted that all thirteen bands put on good mini-sets and are more than worthy of your support. The eight competing acts who were not mentioned by name in the above coverage were Don Cadwell, the Grand River Blue Cats, Tom Duffield, Blues Generation, the Crescent City Blues Band, The Notorious Smith Brothers, Black Jack Blues, and Bobby, Roy and Mac. -GW]

Capitol Hill Station has been bringing great national blues acts to Lansing, and we recently got treated to a great show by the Texas-based band Mike Morgan and the Crawl. This band is hot, and their live performances are first-rate blues events. Back out touring with the original line-up, this band is what the blues is all about. Lee McBee's vocals and sweet, soulful harp work defines the band's sound and Mike Morgan's extraordinary guitar riffs set up every song as contemporary classics. These guys played non-stop way into the night, and everyone went away feeling like they had just witnessed what the blues in heaven must be like. Lansing own The Blues Xpress opened the show with a tight and energetic set that put the crowd into the right mood to enjoy a full night of blues power.

I also got a chance to stop in and hear some of the bands playing during the Old Town Jazz Festival on August 9. The street was packed, and the air was full of sweet jazz by the likes of Tim Cunningham, Betty Joplin, and the great Patti Richards. This even should not be missed if you are a jazz-lover or even if you want to experience first hand what jazz can do for your soul. Uplifting, exciting, and energetic all at the same time.

If you'd like Mike to catch your show, call him at (517) 393-8473.

...by The Wild Card

The 1997 North Lansing Heritage Festival featured a wide range of local talent. Friday's show featured folksters Acoustic CPR (Jim Cott, Lynn Parks, and Les Rout), Jim Ritchie and the American Beat, The Krebs Brothers (featuring Frog), Colt 45 (featuring the late "Madman" Mike Metz), The Blues Xpress (with Kathleen Mendoza), and No Warning. Saturday's show featured The Notorious Smith Brothers, Shaddard Glass, Comfort Road, Rusted Faith, The American Masquerade Dancers, The Habibi Dancers, Powerlight, and Blade Brigade. Each band performed an excellent set, and the crowd had a great time.

The Wild Card is sorry to report on the demise of the Bach Dor Cafe, but I'm happy to say that on one of the last nights I was there as a patron, I was able to catch singer/songwriter Craig Hendershot's hour long set of uptempo originals. Even though he performed as a solo that night, he has his own band, as well, and The Wild Card certainly hopes to catch Craig and his buddies somewhere else pretty soon.

I also managed to catch Kung Fu Diesel at Mac's Saloon on South Washington several weeks ago. These guys play cool rockabilly cover tunes, as well as a lot of their own stuff off of their CD.

...by Patrick Ondrus

Mucho apologies to my publisher and loyal Renegade readers, but my sabbatical from the writing world has given me an opportunity to witness some great Michigan acts. This summer I have noticed a trend in the local music scene. Since the declaration by the deities of Lansing radio that original local music has no place on the commercial airwaves, the entertainment establishments, which had until this point supported the original music scene, suddenly didn't want anything to do with it. In retaliation, the local musicians have been promoting their own music festivals. Hats off to all involved. This has given some of the finest area acts a chance to shine.

To start, the Fruitfest in Fowlerville proved to be a memorable showcase (besides the thunderstorm that almost took the stage down) featuring Drip, The Deans, Kung Fu Diesel, The Fruitflies, Stone Mary, and headlining Uncle Chuck. This was one day that should not have been missed. Drip, the only local band taking a serious stab at the techno-industrial scene, opened the show and got the crowd going for the afternoon. After that the afternoon moved into a rockabilly mood with The Deans and Kung Fu Diesel, with The Deans taking a serious '50s rock slant at it and Diesel taking it more with more of country twist. (By the way, I've heard rumors of a mid-Michigan rockabilly compilation; anybody have info?) The Fruitflies' guitar-based sound ran the range from R&B to rock to jazz and back again. Stone Mary took the stage and crunched the night with their heavy rock styling. Topping the night, Uncle Chuck showed the crowd why they're considered one of the heaviest bands around, even though they've been getting pretty funky lately. Nothing wrong with that!

After that one was the semi-annual Scott's Woods concert and pig roast, somewhere in the northern forests (where exactly, I'm not sure -- I was kidnapped by aliens at the time). The Notorious Smith Brothers filled the forest with blues rock, while Social Stigma shook the trees with a sound I could only describe as progressive grunge. Rusted Faith came slamming on the scene with a heavy rock sound that had chops but was punky at the same time. The evening was finished off (at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning) by No Warning and their solid set of covers from the '60s to the '90s.

I'm not sure that this last one was a proper concert but it was the best wedding anniversary party I've been to in years. How many anniversaries have a bunch of slamming bands playing at them? Bombthreat, Drip, Big Bad Busdriver, Uncle Chuck, and Powerface! Makes me wish I was at the wedding! Since I've hit Uncle Chuck and Drip in Fruitfest review I won't spend much time with them here, but don't take it wrong, they both put on killer shows. Big Bad Busdriver was everything you'd expect with a name like that. Heavy, obnoxious, loud, the kind of stuff you love because your mother hates it. And Bombthreat! Where the heck did these guys come from? They kick ass, serious ass for a bunch of guys who I'm not sure can all get into a bar. This is definitely a band to watch for, we will be hearing more from them, or at least I hope we do. Powerface finished off the evening with a set of groove heavy rock with elements of metal and rap.

If you'd like Patrick to catch your show, call him at (517) 669-7124.

...by Cathy Clause

The 1997 Michigan Festival: There are a lot of great bands in the area, and it was great to be able to see so many of them crammed into one weekend (August 16th and 17th). Kudos to the Small Planet for hosting half of the events each day so bands could play a set with electricity (Day 1, don't ask) and out of the rain (Day 2). Kudos also to the sign language interpreters who didn't miss a word (or at least it appeared that way).

Starting things off on Friday, Keith Niedermeier and Jory Pearson of The Hansons played an acoustic set at the MSU On View stage featuring upbeat, highly accessible, alternative-pop songs from their 1995 CD, ROB'S FASHION CORNER. Noteworthy was "Things Change," which received some airplay here in town as well as in the band's home base of Toledo.

On Saturday, Yakity Yak & the Mike Espy Band played a grooving set to win the Michigan Blues Talent Competition, held in the Small Planet due to lack of electricity at the M.A.C. stage. The City Park stage in "downtown" East Lansing featured a variety of more or less folky acts. Tex Morroco started things off with some bluesy tunes and nice interplay of sax and guitar, particularly on "Chicken Shack" and a cool cover of the classic Men at Work song, "Down Under." Then Kathy Ford and her band served up some twangy country sounds mixed with a little blues guitar and some foot-tapping oldies rock and roll on tracks such as "Welcome Back Ed" and a cover of "Preacher Man."

Next up was the self-proclaimed "Celtic Mayhem" of The Lash, as well as the afternoon's only significant rainfall. The band delivered their consistent hook-laden sound on jig-inducing originals such as "Brick Wall" and the tribute song "The Whiskey Made Me Do It" as well as the slower and prettier "77." Look for a live CD (to be recorded at the Small Planet) coming soon.

Wally Pleasant entertained the crowd and challenged the signers with his brand of spoof folk, including such classics as "The Day Ted Nugent Killed All the Animals," "Stupid Day Job," and "Alterna-Teen." Rounding out the day was the more mainstream folk stylings of Wanda Degen and Neil Woodard, featuring traditional Irish Waltzes and jigs as well as originals like the light-hearted "Fish Wish."

On Sunday, the M.A.C. stage briefly hosted some cool world and reggae sounds before the pouring rain shut it down, while the City Park stage activities were moved into the Small Planet. Parma's own Kung Fu Diesel started things off with some blues rockabilly, as well as the occasional two-step beat ("Streets of Gold"), an homage to Elvis, and a cover of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio."

Foster Kids stepped up to the mike for missing-in-action 19 Wheels with a blend of pop, two-step, and hip-hop offerings from their recently sold-out CD, including "Corduroy Boy" and "I Waited", as well as some new songs, notably the neo-disco companion to "Corduroy Boy," "Disco Girl".

Domestic Problems got the crowd on its feet with their eclectic mix of folk/funk/blues/rock and the celebration of sax/flute/clarinet player Job Grotsky's birthday. The set included favorites from Scattered Pieces as well as some songs to be included on their new CD, which should be out in mid-October. High points included the cool skat on "Hob Nob" and the bridge of "I'm a Line," both of which are featured on the new Michigan AWARE compilation, and the slowed down intro on "Ernie's Tragic Love Triangle."

Closing out the day was a laid-back, unplugged set from Dorothy, including tracks from their eagerly awaited CD, also due sometime in October. Standouts were the upbeat "Golden Rings," from the Michigan AWARE compilation, and "Plastic Tambourines," to be featured on the next national AWARE disc, as well as the gorgeous vocal harmonies on "40 Days."

...by Kevin Hurrell

If you'd like Kevin to catch your show, call him at (517) 333-9417.

Local Scene Writers Wanted

Two Renegade local scene writers have left the Lansing area recently, so we have a couple of openings. If you're interested, call (517) 332-7648. No pay. Great perks.

Lansing Band Guide

To help club-goers, the Renegade asks the Lansing area's local bands to describe themselves briefly. Their descriptions are featured here.

Blackened Earth: "After a brief debut in the fall of '96, Blackened Earth is back with a new line-up (including the mighty vocalist Brian Osborne) and a new demo. Powerful, emotional heavy rock but with a new attitude. Check it out!"

Bands: Read the "Hey Bands" section for information on how to get listed in the Lansing Band Guide section.

Lansing Music News

Capitol Hill Station played host to Old Blues Fest in late August, featuring top national and local blues acts. Among those featured were Matthew Skollar, Mudpuppy, Johnnie Bassett and the Blues Insurgents, and Mark Hummel.

Bands: Read the "Hey Bands" section for information on how to be included in the Lansing Music News section.

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