Another eclectic W. Michigan week of live music: Reviews of Over the Rhine and UV Hippo, plus photo galleries from fan-pleasing shows by Brett Young, Tommy Emmanuel, The Outer Vibe, May Erlewine and super-groups reprising 1997 and honoring Tom Waits.
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A mind-blowing jam band. Poignant, well-crafted songwriting. Jaw-dropping acoustic guitar mastery. Fan-igniting, dance-inspiring sets. Nostalgia-inducing tributes and jubilation.
All of it was on display this past week in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and Local Spins was there to capture much of it in images and words.
Check out all of the photo galleries, videos and more.
Ultraviolet Hippopotamus at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo (Friday)
After an opening set from Kalamazoo prog-rockers Lazara — a band that is preparing to release its second EP in the coming months and has a sound similar to early Umphrey’s McGee — Grand Rapids’ experimental, multi-genre-fueled jam band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus (UV Hippo) took to the Bell’s stage Friday night, leaving some in the audience wondering what happened to former Garaj Mahal guitarist Fareed Haque, who was also supposed to be supporting Hippo.
Haque, who has been touring with legendary jazz drummer Billy Cobham of late, lent his support in a different fashion, however, as four songs into UV’s two-set performance, the Chicago guitar virtuoso joined the GR quintet on stage, where he added plenty of improvisational jazz-infused, high-neck solos to the mix for the remainder of the show while playing on a gorgeous Stromberg Montreux.
In addition to the inclusion of Haque, who introduced Garaj Mahal classic cut “Hotel” by saying “It’s not the Waldorf Astoria, it’s the s—hole for you,” UV’s first was highlighted by an announcement of the band’s forthcoming album and a debut performance of “Disguise.”
“We are going to be putting out a new album next year and we said we wouldn’t play anything off of it, but we are going to break our own promise right now,” announced bassist Brian Samuels, before Hippo took the delighted crowd, basking in a top-notch light show, to another level.
After a rollicking “Yin Yang” — sandwiched around Beck’s “Scarecrow” — closed out the first set (video below), UV came back for a second set that was highlighted by the original “Hey Tommy” and a set-closing cover of the Beatles’ “Baby You’re A Rich Man” that had everybody singing along, getting down and raising their arms in the air.
While Samuels and Haque no doubt shared the spotlight, the on-point percussive work of Casey Butts and drummer Joe Phillion fueled the band all night long as Dave Sanders’s keyboard solos sent the crowd into a frenzy and Hippo guitarist Andy Kirby gave the feeling to those in attendance that he had been with the band a lot longer than 18 months. – By Ryan Boldrey
PHOTO GALLERY: UV Hippo and Fareed Haque photos by Derek Ketchum
Over the Rhine at the Calvin College Chapel in Grand Rapids (Saturday)
Over the Rhine has played Calvin College so many times over the past 25 years that neither the guy who books the college’s concert series (Ken Heffner) nor the band itself (Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist) can recall exactly how many appearances OTR has racked up on the Grand Rapids campus.
But one thing’s for sure: Over the Rhine’s tenure as Calvin’s “house band” has produced some of the series’ most captivating and provocative performances, and Saturday night’s “Acoustic Christmas” tour stop in the college’s chapel was no exception.
Detweiler and Bergquist, accompanied by guitarist/mandolinist Bradley Meinerding, unfurled nearly two hours of new material and the Ohio band’s own take on “holiday” music that spanned American, folk, indie-rock and sultry pop, buoyed by flawless harmonies, poignant lyrics, razor-sharp musicianship and an engaging, often-humorous stage demeanor.
From “Blood Oranges in the Snow” (from the band’s 2014 holiday album) to “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue,” the trio meandered gracefully through the winter season courtesy of inspiring, well-crafted strains mixed with ample doses of melancholy.
Detweiler joked that he and Bergquist had invented a new genre of music: reality Christmas. Indeed, their approach creates moving and insightful holiday music, minus the schmaltziness … or sleigh bells.
Indeed, propelled by Bergquist’s seductive vocals, “All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue” should rank right up there with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” when it comes to holiday classics, with the trio transporting those gathered in the chapel to a smoky bar for this confessional ballad.
In between, Over the Rhine delivered fetching new songs from an upcoming release, including “Broken Angels” and “Let You Down,” as well as magnificent renditions of “Born” (from 2005’s “Drunkard’s Prayer”) and “Poughkeepsie” (from 1996’s “Good Dog, Bad Dog”).
Detweiler had quipped early on that when Over the Rhine first started playing Calvin “pretty much the entire undergraduate student body was not born,” then added, “We’re still waiting for that honorary doctorate.”
After yet another impressive campus visit, I think they deserve one. – By John Sinkevics
PHOTO GALLERY: Over the Rhine photos by Kendra Kamp
THE REST OF THE WEEK
VIDEO: Earth Radio at SpeakEZ Lounge (Wednesday)
PHOTO GALLERY: Brett Young at The Intersection in Grand Rapids (Thursday)
Photos by Eric Stoike