Friday night’s band and solo artist battle at Kalamazoo Valley Museum determined the final two performance slots for the March festival. See the rest of the 2019 lineup.
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The (still) solo and somewhat sublime Matt Martinez, as well as the get-down sounds of the Milford-based Chris Canas Band, will be showcased at this year’s Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival on March 2 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
Their inspiring performances Friday night at the festival’s annual play-in contest held at the museum earned them wins in the solo and ensemble categories, respectively, landing them the final two slots on the March festival bill, which will feature more than a dozen artists.
While many blues fans in Kalamazoo are no doubt familiar with the Chris Canas Band’s high-energy and soulful sound, the group — which has made waves on Michigan’s music scene since 2003 — will make its first appearance at the festival in March.
“We’ve played the Kalamazoo Blues Fest and the old 411 Club here, but that was moons ago,” said Canas after his band got the nod. “We’ve always wanted to attend the (Fretboard) Festival, but we’ve always been playing somewhere, and when I saw about the (competition) I was like, well this looks fun, we should do this.”
Speaking of fun, it didn’t take but a few measures of the band’s first song for those in attendance Friday night to pick up exactly the type of fun that Canas (guitar/vocals), Angela Cottingham (vocals), Michael Scott (drums) and DC Washington (bass) were putting down together as they led the crowd in call and response, shredded riffs and danced while they played.
And despite high praise for the other bands vying for the same spot, it didn’t take much longer than that for judges to choose the Chris Canas Band just ahead of Lowell-based rockers The Ryne Experience or Allendale alt-rock trio Free Food.
FLOURISHING BEHIND A FAST GUITAR
Scoring in the solo category was tight, but in the end, it was Portage’s Martinez beating out Kalamazoo country songstress Carrie McFerrin and 14-year-old singer songwriter Lucy Lowis, who both delivered crowd-pleasing sets of their own.
Flourishing behind a fast guitar, Martinez, who heralds from the Detroit area and has spent much of the past 10 years moving around the country, is finding a home in the Kalamazoo music community.
And while he may have been playing out for the first time since August, he didn’t miss a beat as he picked out songs about revolution, traveling, self-empowerment and love, all with a sound reminiscent of Sublime, Santana and Jason Mraz.
Keeping busy writing new material and getting ready to record his second EP, Martinez is actually looking forward to his solo career winding down as quick as it has ramped up.
“Being solo, sometimes you have to be the whole band,” he said. “There’s something to be said about having a drummer behind you, a bass behind you. There’s just so many more possibilities and places you can take the music. Being solo is fun, but I’m ready to have a band.”
ABOUT THE FRETBOARD FESTIVAL
The 2019 Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival kicks off with an opening night concert on Friday, March 1, featuring Shari Kane & Dave Steele.
Saturday’s music during the day-long festival on March 2 will consist of sets from Red Tail Ring, Elden Kelly Trio, Joel Mabus, Mark Sahlgren & the Fragile Egos, Dacia Bridges Project, Elephant Rescue, The Birdseed Salesmen, Rene Meave, Jordan Hamilton, Gifts or Creatures, the Jump Bunnies, Bob Rowe & the Green Valley Boys, The Kalamazoo Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra, and pop-up sets from Matt Cosgrove, Megan Dooley, Public Access and Out of Favor Boys Trio.
The free annual fest will also feature numerous workshops and musical vendors geared for musicians. Admission is free.
Judges for this year’s play-in competition on Friday were: Mark Larmee, booking agent at Bell’s Brewery; Cara Lieurance, WMUK 101.2 radio host; Bethany Flores, general manager at WIDR 89.1; Kathy Nichols, Great Lakes Acoustic Music Association president; and John Sinkevics, publisher of Local Spins and host of the Local Spins on WYCE (88.1 FM) radio show.
PHOTO GALLERY: Fretboard Festival Play-In Contest
Photos by Derek Ketchum, Ryan Boldrey
VIDEO: Fretboard Festival Play-In Contest Highlights
Video by John Sinkevics
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC