The Kalamazoo country songstress and eclectic Grand Rapids jam band topped six acts competing for slots at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s March festival. Check out photos and a video from Friday’s event.
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The competition at Kalamazoo Valley Museum, which featured three acoustic acts and three electrified acts each performing for 15-20 minutes, is an annual prelude to the festival that brings in musicians and music fans from all over southwest Michigan and beyond.
Kalamazoo’s own Sarah Lynn, who performs regularly with a full backing band and recently released her debut album, took to the stage as an acoustic duo with her ukulele-playing sister, Emma, wowing the audience and judges with her wide-ranging voice, tight-knit picking and comfortable stage presence as she blended new and old country with a true folk flair and striking harmonies.
“I am shocked, very excited, blown away actually,” she said in regard to being selected to help round out this year’s festival lineup that will feature such acts as May Erlewine, Joel Mabus, The Moxie Strings and more in early March. “I just can’t wait to see everybody who is coming to play (at the festival). I really look forward to meeting all the other bands because I learn so much from them and get so many new ideas. It’s a lot of fun, just being part of a real big (music) family.”
The sentiment was a similar one from Cosmic Knot guitar-wielding frontman Tom Wall.
‘PRETTY AMAZING’ EVENT
“The fact that we get to come rock out in a museum in the first place is pretty amazing,” he said, adding that he was impressed by the quality of the band competition. “You know it’s going to be good music, but there were some really good bands. It’s always good to see cool music that you can draw from. I’m just really excited to be a part of it.”
Wall, who at times played his guitar behind his head a la Jimi Hendrix, is joined in the Grand Rapids-based “gypsy-core” act by drummer Mario Copeland, saxophonist Rolly Smith and bassist Zach Gregory.
Dubbed gypsy-core, because as Wall states “it never settles on one place for very long,” the band fuses psychedelic jazz and funk with old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, reggae and rockabilly, drawing on influences from Hendrix to Mars Volta to Led Zeppelin.
Other acts competing Friday were:
On the Line: The Rockford-based progressive act opened up the night with a mix of hard-driving garage rock and space fusion. Highlighted by the experimental guitar work of Frank Tuka and vocals of Ryan Jamgotch, the band also features tempo pushers Zach Dubay on drums and Calvin Garvey on bass. The act just released its first album, “Color Tour.”
Luxury Flux: The alternative Lansing three-piece featuring Lindsey Taylor on guitar/vocals, bassist Sam Makula and drummer Dan Zanetti feels like a little bit of a ’90s throwback. Taylor’s voice reminds of a young Courtney Love or edgy Hope Sandoval and the mix of her guitar and the rhythm of Makula and Zanetti has a tinge of Dinosaur Jr. to it. The band, which pulled together its set after a 15-second sound check due to a late arrival, is carving out its own niche nicely.
Borr+McFerrin: Kalamazoo Americana duo Matthew Borr and Carrie McFerrin have been performing together for six years. With songs about men who are dogs to freight trains, sweet cocaine and a small town in eastern Montana, the country-leaning folk act took turns on lead vocals, each taking two of the four numbers performed. They can be seen together and on their own in clubs around Kalamazoo.
Allie Garland with Awesome Sauce: The Battle Creek country rock three-piece took to the museum stage with a passionate high energy performance that teetered the line between the electric and acoustic categories. The bell-bottom, straw hat wearing Garland played as fast as she sang as she brought forth a strong, positive vibe, letting the men know she doesn’t stand for messing around and the people she loved, “whose people, you’s people,” know it. She’s one to watch out for.
Judges for the competition were: Matthew Smith, booking manager for Louie’s Trophy House; Cyrus Zerbe, music coordinator for Arcadia Ales and John Sinkevics, WYCE radio host and editor/publisher of Local Spins.
ABOUT THE FRETBOARD FESTIVAL
The 2018 Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival will take place March 2-3 at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, as hometown favorites The Corn Fed Girls kick things off with Friday’s opening night concert. In addition to May Erlewine & The Motivations, Joel Mabus and The Moxie Strings, the Saturday lineup will feature performances by Bob Rowe and the Green Valley Boys, The Mark Lavengood Bluegrass Bonanza, Honeywise, Delilah DeWylde, Channing & Quinn, Mark Sahlgren and the Fragile Egos, The Boulevard Billies, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot and Small Sounds.
The free annual fest will feature numerous workshops and musical vendors geared for musicians. Workshops will hone in on everything from picking and strumming techniques to resonator guitar mechanics to expanding your solo act. There will also be demonstrations by Heritage Guitars, area luthiers and family-based workshops focused on making musical memories with children.
VIDEO: Fretboard Festival Play-In Contest Highlights
PHOTO GALLERY: Fretboard Festival 2018 Play-In Contest
Photos by Derek Ketchum