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Caught in the Act...

...by the publisher

I caught Dave Dale and the Blues Control at Rick's. They performed some straight-ahead, rockin' blues with a few twists -- like Minneapolis-style funk and some serious alternative rock influences -- on various songs to keep it interesting. Also of note were Cat Fisher's strong vocal contributions.

Figurehead served up a Small Planet show of light, airy hard rock with a noticeable Pearl Jam influence. The band's vocals were stronger, crisper, and featured a broader range than most '90s-style hard rock bands, suggesting we'll hear much more from the band in the future.

Though struggling with his voice due to one of this spring's many bugs, Dahliagrey's vocalist/drummer was generally in tune as the band motored through its set with the sort of pulsing, pounding power that provides a dictionary definition of power trio. Of note is Dahliagrey's skill at working its hooks into the bass line.

I swung by the Cappuccino Cafe one evening just long enough to catch a couple songs from the Joe Luloff Trio. I particularly enjoyed the band's renditions of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "All Of Me," for which they were joined by a "special guest" violinist.

Cleveland's The Fifth Wheel swung through the Small Planet, treated the audience to that hard-driving Midwestern college rock-style thing but with a little more finesse and, in some songs, one hundred mile per hour drumming. A couple of the lines in the Elvis Costello-reminiscent "If I Was a Girl" caught the whole room's attention!

The Fruitflies mixed in all their influences during a Rick's show, working in many of the cuts from the band's new CD. Various songs were reminiscent of anyone from Allgood to Randy Newman, sporting a classic, guitar-rock base with influences ranging from funk to Southern rock. The band was joined on stage during its set by Cora Johnston, who appears on the CD.

Kung Fu Diesel, the area 3-piece with the stand-up bass, followed, delivering its unique sound in the Lansing area -- a sort of pop alternative everything. KFD's sound may be hard to pin down, but it's easy to listen to.

Chain Reaction rocked the Small Planet recently to an evening of great guitarwork and versatile musicianship. The axework ranged from blistering solos to near-surf guitar. The vocals were gritty, throaty, and emotional (sometimes Eddie Money-esque) on the rock stuff, lighter on the poppier stuff. And they even threw in a ska tune! This is one versatile Detroit band! Worth checking out!

I spent the evening running between clubs that night in order to catch the first five songs and the last set from New York's Lisa St. Ann. I had a taste of her talent at Undercurrents, but I fully experienced it this night. Lisa (on keyboard) took the stage alone for the first song, "Two Friends," which displayed the mix of tenderness and power that sets her vocals apart from the pack. Then she was joined by her talented band -- a guitarist whose skills are strong from mellow to shredding and a strong rhythm section -- and you've got a band capable of competing with crisp, clear, mid-tempo rock bands on the big stages and a crowd-friendly act that should keep the college crowds happy. Wow!

...by Shane Copher

On May 17th, I attended the CD release party for Michigan's own Gypsy Wind, in the quiet little village of Ubly. It appears the entire community was in attendance, as were several fans from the Flint and Saginaw areas. The crowd was treated to a great dinner and a fantastic evening of country music. The enormous dance floor was packed throughout, as Gypsy Wind blew through a host of country favorites. Covers included hits from such diverse artists as Faith Hill and Kevin Sharp to "baby boomer" memories from Van Morrison and Loggins & Messina. Without a doubt, the highlights were the band's original cuts, which included tracks from their PRESSING OUR LUCK cassette and the new CD.

Gypsy Wind's sound combines the commercial appeal of contemporary country with the instrumental flash of southern rock. Steady drumming, catchy rhythms, and sparkling guitarwork set the stage for the band's mature lyrical skills. The vocals are shared between the keyboardist, covering the female duties, and the male roles by the guitarist, together harmonizing to provide an impressive sound for a three-piece. Based on the strength of their album and the night's performance, I imagine you'll be hearing a lot more from this talented group in the very near future.

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

...by Kevin Hurrell

Skipping Stone: Skipping Stone is a soul filled group found playing at the Green Door Monday nights. I personally found them more than satisfying on St. Patrick's day when I caught a Green Door appearance. Paul E.O., Skipping Stone's director, vocalist and keyboardist, says a CD is in the works for them, possibly by late fall. Songs to watch for at Skipping Stone shows are originals "China Baby" and the smooth "None Like You." A great band for blues/funk enthusiasts.

Cool Ray and the Snakehandlers: Seeing Cool Ray play at any venue is a treat within a treat. Whether it is with "The Kings" or with the "Snakehandlers," its always a top notch performance. Seeing Cool Ray at Capitol Hill Station is a trip within a treat. Surrounded by relics of graveyard train yard antiques, your brain turns from the acoustics that make the blues come alive. I've caught many a show by the Snakehandlers, and the precision they have with their music is unique. A real "one of a kind" band.

Blues Express: Mac's Bar hosted Blues Express on the First of May and graduation economics proved profitable. The little bar was packed to the ceiling with people drinking and listening to the smooth tunes pumping from the band. Although I like to see my blues more direct and regimented, Blues Express proved that they can swing. A standout for the band is a musician by the name of Andy Wilson, who I also caught playing with The Snakehandlers. During that performance, his harmonica seemed untouchable by Cool Ray himself. Definitely a good show to see.

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

...by The Wild Card

Flashback continues to knock 'em dead at Mac's Saloon on South Washington. These guys do everything from "Born to Be Wild," "I Got a Line On You," and "The Court of the Crimson King" to lighter fare such as "Green Eyed Lady" and "Everything I Own." Guitarist and lead vocalist Scott Litz has the voice and showmanship that helps keep the crowd feeling like a true part of the evening's proceedings, and bandmates Tim Van Epps (bass), Jim Early (keys) and "Machine Gun" Ronnie (drums) follow serious suit. Catch these guys fast before they take a small break later in the summer.

The Bach Dor Cafe has been providing a much needed live outlet for local bands and solo artists who have just been getting off the ground. Bands such as Nackt and Acoustic CPR have been packing 'em in on various nights, providing the listener with a wide assortment of musical virtuosity. The Wild Card hopes things will continue to grow at the Bach Dor for quite a while.

...by Mike Somers

The Alligators made another stop at Capitol Hill Station in early March and blew the freakin' roof off the place. If you guys love the blues and haven't seen this Detroit band yet, check them out now!! I have yet to watch a band with more energy, stellar musicianship, or pure blues attitude in a long time. These guys are favorites of mine, and I would not steer you wrong. Vocalist David Krammer shouted and sang the blues with complete and authentic mojo soul. Greg "Wailin' Dale" Blankenship blasted pure blues harp power with genuine and earnest passion on every note. Guitarist Steven Schwartz played such oozing slide leads that it made me want to, well, just give up and pawn my axe. The ultra-tight rhythm section put on a live clinic on how to make the blues snap, crackle, and pop with divine authority and professional finesse. The Alligators perform primarily original material in their shows, but I heard fine covers of James Harmon's "My Little Girl," Jr. Walker's "Shake and Finger-Pop" and even a little of "Big Momma Boogie" from long-ago rockers Cactus. Man, what a show! The Alligators will be back in town in August, so until then, check out their Blues Factory CD release, GIMME SOME SKIN.

During the third set of the Alligators' show, local vocalist Kathleen Mendoza, in the crowd with us and celebrating her birthday, was called up on stage and stunned the Station with a passionate version of "Stormy Monday." The Gators rarely invite sit-ins, but I'm glad they made this exception because Kathleen captured everyone's attention with her delivery and soaring range.

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

...Other Local Writers

To get them to catch your show, call Patrick Ondrus at (517) 669-7124, Elizabeth Sawyer at (517) 351-1247, or Bob Smith at (517) 625-3282.

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.

The Domino Brothers: "...are an acoustic band (trio) consisting of Dan Mead (drums), Vincent Green (stand up bass), and Don Cadwell (acoustic guitar and harmonica). Playing acoustic blues, rockabilly, torch 'n twang, and rock 'n roll. Currently looking for small clubs."

Those Delta Rhythm Kings: "Seven-piece swing and jump blues band covering classics and originals. Great Googly Moogly!"

Lansing Music News

Gypsy Wind opens for Aaron Tippin at the Elkton Centennial Celebration on August 30th.

Looks like another hot Michigan Festival! Main Stage acts already confirmed are Little Richard, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Lonnie Brooks, the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Steve Miller Band, Sheryl Crow, and a country extravaganza of Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, Deana Carter, and Daryle Singletary.

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