Sunday, Jan. 24
While Moriarty’s Bar has hosted local bands for years, the venue hasn’t always been comfortable for performers.
“The bands used to set up in front of the fireplace,” said local drummer Jeff Shoup said. “It was awkward and cramped.”
A proper stage was installed about four years ago. Owners Joy Allswede and Carolyn Baron, who purchased the bar from former owner Michael Moriarty in 2014, continue to book local bands. This weekend, Shoup has assembled a diverse crosssection of Lansing’s musical talent for a fundraiser, Mort’s Fest, to further improve the bar's live music setup.
“Mort’s is becoming the new home for live music in Lansing,” Shoup said. “We want to make it an even better place to play music.”
Shoup runs the popular Jazz Tuesdays series at Moriarty’s, which he started about a year and a half ago. He previously hosted a similar series next door at Stober’s Bar, which he described as “mildly successful.” But the series really took off when he moved it to Moriarty’s.
“(Jazz Tuesdays) has become more successful than anyone thought it would be,” Shoup said. “Everything worked out perfectly.”
Moriarty’s — Mort’s to its regulars — has also become the home of Lansing’s best known open mic night, hosted Wednesday evenings by singer/ songwriter Jen Sygit. After 13 years at Dagwoods, Sygit moved her open mic night to Moriarty’s in November.
Shoup uses social media to promote his Jazz Tuesday events. He encourages attendees to post pictures and videos on Facebook and Instagram. He also posts videos from the performances on YouTube. As he edited the videos, he was bothered by the drab stage setup.
“I looked at the videos, and the stage is boring and beige, and there are ugly mirrors behind the band,” he said.
Shoup started floating the idea of a fundraiser to improve the bar’s stage among his musician friends. The response was virtually unanimous.
“Everybody was like, ‘Yes! What do you want me to do?’” Shoup said.
In fact, the most difficult part of planning the fundraiser was whittling down the list of performers.
“It was hard. I had 10 hours and 16 bands who wanted to play,” Shoup said. “I hope I didn’t step on anybody’s toes.”
Shoup is hoping to raise $2,500 at Sunday’s event. There is no cover charge, but donations are encouraged and there will be raffles and other “crowd participation” opportunities. His first priorities are buying curtains to dress up the stage and replacing the bar’s “ancient” PA system. If there’s money left after that, he’d like to upgrade the stage lights.
“The lights they have look like they’re from the ‘80s,” Shoup said.
Shoup is hoping that the festival will be annual. He said future festivals will likely raise money for local charities.
The 10-hour marathon concert boasts an impressive lineup of local talent. In addition to sets by Shoup and Sygit, the slate of performers includes blues/soul singer Twyla Birdsong, folk duo the Springtails and experimental rockers From Big Sur.
“I tried to get a wide variety,” Shoup said. “I don’t think there are too many venues where you’ll see this kind of diversity of music.”
Noon-10 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24 FREE (donations encouraged) Moriarty’s Bar 802 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 485-5287, moriartyspublansing.com