Artist, singer and writer Rick Beerhorst discovers full-band glory with The Wealthy Orphans’ Eastern Euro-flavored indie-rock. (Video, podcast)
Leave it to Rick Beerhorst to give a CD-release concert an unusual twist.
Not your average musician by any stretch, the Grand Rapids artist, singer-songwriter and frontman for The Wealthy Orphans has turned Saturday’s celebration of the band’s new “Throwing Glory” album into a visually entertaining family affair at The Pyramid Scheme.
Dancer and choreographer Laura Armenta and the At-Neemrah Dance Company will dance to the acoustic-driven indie-rock songs performed by The Wealthy Orphans during the elaborate show that starts early – at noon – to allow children and families to attend.
Not only that, but the concert hosted by The Verve Pipe’s Brian Vander Ark will feature a set by indie-folk’s Strawberry Heritage and a Kevin Kammeraad puppet show.
It’s all part of Beerhorst’s fertile, collaborative vision of artistry: meshing music, dance, visual arts and more to energize varied audiences as well as the artists themselves.
And that’s just par for the course for the 52-year-old who describes his eight-member household as “the artist version of a circus family” inhabiting a “city lot that we have turned into a micro urban farm” while creating artwork for sale.
Beerhorst dropped by the studios of News Talk 1340 AM (WJRW) for Local Spins Live on Wednesday to talk about the debut album for his band project – the two-year-old Wealthy Orphans, which currently features Michael Schaeffer on accordion, Adam Thompson on bass and Levi Gardner on drums – and to perform a song on the air.
You can listen to a podcast of this week’s Local Spins Live show here, and watch a video of Beerhorst’s performance of “The Young Become the Old” below. (You can watch a YouTube preview of the dance-meets-Orphans show as well, and check out last week’s Local Spins Live guest, AG Silver, here.)
In Beerhorst’s words, the band’s new album – with distinctive cover packaging designed by Beerhorst and GreyMatter Group – has “Eastern Euro” textures but still retains an accessible folk-rock approach.
As for the subject matter, the album probes the pain of the human condition balanced by the light of hope, delivered through Beerhorst’s emotion-drenched voice . “For a lot of people, things are tough,” he says, adding that the worst of times and best of times often “cohabitate” – a theme weaving its way through the seven tracks on “Throwing Glory.”
For Beerhorst, his painting and music cohabitate as well. “Songs are all really drenched in imagery … they’re really built out of the nuts and bolts of what my life is,” reasons the Calvin College alumnus, who was inspired as a young man by such divergent influences as “church music” and The Violent Femmes.
After releasing solo projects, including 2011’s “A Little Piece of the Pie,” Beerhorst decided to pursue a full-band approach in forming The Wealthy Orphans, an admittedly “puzzling and paradoxical” band name that also happens to be, well, unforgettable.
“Being a solo player … you’ve gotta create everything yourself,” he says. “When you’re playing with a band, you’re just a component … bowing out and coming back in and making acoustic room for the other instruments. I absolutely love that kind of team spirit.”
Recorded with Alex McGrath at Grand Rapids’ Hoi Polloi, the band’s “Throwing Glory” album was mastered by Gene Paul (son of Les Paul) in New York City.
Admission to Saturday’s CD-release show at The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce Ave. SW, is $8 in advance or $10 the day of the all-ages show. Get ticket details at The Pyramid Scheme website.
And get the lowdown on a host of Grand Rapids area rock bands and recording studios in the Sink’s Spins on Music column in the November issue of REVUE Magazine.
A veteran journalist and former music writer for The Grand Rapids Press, John Sinkevics is editor and publisher of LocalSpins.com, profiling regional artists and commenting on West Michigan's music scene. He hosts "Local Spins Live" on News Talk 1340 AM in Grand Rapids at 11 a.m. Wednesdays, with a preview at 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays on WLAV-FM (96.9). He also hosts the hour-long "Local Spins on WYCE" at 11 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1).
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