Taped for national broadcast, the evening of music lined up by Ralston Bowles boasted up-and-coming Michigan artists as well as national touring acts. (Review, photos, video)
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Acoustic Café radio host Rob Reinhart nailed it when he said the crowd gathered Thursday night for the eclectic, generation-spanning lineup of songwriters in St. Cecilia Music Center’s Royce Auditorium must have been “curious about music and curious about discovering new things, and we’re not going to disappoint you tonight.”
With plenty of uncertainty and nervous anticipation preceding the debut of St. Cecilia’s Acoustic Café Folk Series, organizers and frontman Ralston Bowles – who assembled an all-star cast of players for the series opener – clearly were pleased with the turnout of a few hundred attentive and appreciative concertgoers, and especially, with the impressive blend of performances on stage.
Ranging from inspiring short sets by seasoned singer-songwriters Phil Madeira, of Nashville, and Michael Fracasso, of Austin, to the hyper-energetic performance by the teen musicians in Traverse City’s The Accidentals and the charming piano work of 10-year-old Milo Birch, Bowles did a masterful job of showcasing what was described as “the next generation” of artists as well as spotlighting a couple of nationally respected, touring veterans unfamiliar to many in the Grand Rapids audience.
DIVERSE SHOW TAPED FOR A NATIONAL AUDIENCE
The show – taped for future broadcast as part of the syndicated Acoustic Café series which airs at 9 a.m. Fridays on WYCE-FM (88.1) in Grand Rapids and elsewhere across the country – launched a new partnership between St. Cecilia and Acoustic Cafe, with Reinhart introducing and interviewing Bowles on stage during the first segment of the evening.
Bowles, who sang touching renditions of “Fragile” and “If It Were Up to Me,” to begin the concert, didn’t perform again — though many fans certainly would have urged him to do so – but instead served as the ringmaster for an ever-shifting “variety show” that delivered New Age-styled piano pop, gypsy swing and insightful Americana music with improved acoustics aided by a sound-absorbing curtain at the back of the stage (which also boasted a homey flavor with comfy seating and rugs).
At one point, drummer Dan Rickabus of The Crane Wives, who accompanied Milo during his set along with keyboard player Mike Lynch, even played an original, solo ukulele number after being encouraged to do so at the 11th hour backstage by Bowles.
All of it added a certain unpredictable air to the evening, something that seemed to please many in the crowd who happily gathered afterward for a post-concert reception to purchase the artists’ CDs and chat with performers.
As Bowles put it, it was “a night of revelry and some experimental things.”
Next up in the Acoustic Café Folk Series: Justin Townes Earle on Dec. 11. Get tickets and more information online at scmc-online.org.
RALSTON BOWLES’ ALL-STARS: THE LOCAL SPINS PHOTO GALLERY
Photos by Anna Sink
Copyright 2014, Spins on Music LLC