Rich Tupica spotlights some of the major players in Lansing's music scene
Another year is gone, leaving behind a trail of DIY records and rock shows only Lansing could produce. Aside from slabs of vinyl and compact discs, new venues, artist collectives, and a local music TV website also appeared in 2010.
Here is a rundown of the year.
One band making noise nationally and overseas is The Cheap Girls, a Lansing alt-rock band that released a split 7-inch vinyl with a band called Above Them on All In Vinyl (a UK Label) in October. The band is getting set for a United States tour with major label punks Against Me! in January. The band was recently featured in Spin Magazine for their contribution to “Germs of Perfection: A Tribute to Bad Religion.” The Cheap Girls are also more than halfway through writing a third full-length. No release date has been announced.
“I’ve been very impressed and proud of Lansing for the past few years — even more than before,” said Cheap Girls drummer Ben Graham. “The scene has become a big family with a lot of like-minded people and it’s a great thing. There are great bands and great shows.”
Frontier Ruckus, an indie/folk band, has also continued making waves far beyond Lansing. Since it formed at Michigan State University in 2003, the band signed to Ramseur Records (which has also released Avett Brothers records), and continued a rigorous tour schedule. The band’s latest album, “Deadfalls and Nightmalls,” was released July 20. As for 2011, Frontier Ruckus has already booked another tour across the U.S., which started this week.
The People’s Temple (Lansing psych-punk) has released three 7-inch records, on three different out-of-state punk labels over the past two years, the latest being “Make You Understand,” released in May on HoZac Records — the same label releasing “Sons of Stone,” the band’s first full-length, which is set for early 2011. Goodbye Boozy, an Italian garage-punk label, will release another People’s Temple single in 2011.
John Krohn, a local producer and musician, kept busy with his label Lower Peninsula Records. The label released two vinyl LPs: “How Does It Know?” by Sunil Sawani on May 19, and “Proud Flesh” by Husband & Wife on Dec. 18.
As for 2011, Krohn said he is focused on a promising new wave/post punk group.
“I manage and produce the band Jason Alarm (from Grand Ledge), and we are dedicating winter break to songwriting and demoing new songs,” Krohn said. “These guys have amazing songwriting potential. One day they’ll polish up their rough edges and really start impressing some people around here.”
Bermuda Mohawk Productions, a Lansing punk/rock label, released nine albums in 2010 — which bumped the label up to 53 releases.
Randy Thunderbird’s “…How to Talk to Kids About Robots” was released in January and kicked off 2010 for BMP. A month later BMP released “Bow & Quiver” by imadethismistake. After a few months of behind the scenes work, BMP released the Natural Disasters self-titled album and a To Fear the Wolf/Dead North split CD in June. The debut EP from Lansing favorites Frank & Earnest dropped in July and Fisher King’s “Forget It” followed in August. The label’s 50th release was the “BMP 2010 Sampler: BMP5 is Alive! Nifty at 50...releases,” which hit its online store in October. Rounding out the year for BMP was “Get Busy Dying” by Tin Horn Prayer and “Art” by Lenin/McCarthy, both released in December.
BMP founder Cale Sauter said intimate shows in grimy basements are the best part of local music.
“My personal Lansing music highlight of this year, and any year from about 1999 on, has been yelling along to the chorus of one of my favorite songs by my favorite local bands in a sweaty basement,” Sauter said. “Though house-show spaces are fleeting, and 2010 hasn't been a great year for them, it happened a handful of times and all of them served to remind me why I do this year in and year out.”
What’s next for BMP?
“I've got a Natural Disasters/One Win Choice 7-inch coming out in January,” Sauter said. “The Cartridge Family’s second, and likely final, DVD is under production: It’s tentatively titled ‘Gods and Genitals,’ due to the inclusion of our Civil War re-enactment show. We may also finally record an official anthology type album. Cavalcade (a Lansing metal band) is on the precipice of our long-awaited album ‘Dear Endtrails…,’ coming out on Housecore Records (label owned by Phil Anselmo of Pantera). We should have an official release date soon, at which point we plan on doing some touring. So it looks like there is a lot to be excited for in 2011.”
Good Time Gang Recordings (GTG), a local indie label and recording studio operated by members of The Plurals and The Break-Ups, released a pile of DIY discs.
Tommy McCord of GTG, who said he is “forever writing songs and recording bands at the GTG House,” also said his label’s 2011 itinerary is already filling up.
“Myself, Hattie Danby, Nich Richard and Timmy Rodriguez are continuing to organize and help raise the profile of GTG. It’ll be a big focus in 2011. The Plurals are in the middle of recording a new full-length record and booking a West Coast tour for the spring. Drinking Mercury is also in the middle of recording a full-length record, with plans to finally release that in 2011.”
However, 2010 may be hard to top. To name a few GTG discs, The Hat Madder’s “Rogue Notes and Phones” and Small Houses’ “Our Dusking Sound,” were both released in February. In April, GTG released two debuts, Narc Out the Reds’ “… Are on the Run,” and “The High Life” by The Guest Stars. The Plurals/Honah Lee “Lick It EP Split” also dropped in April. MK Ultra Culkin, which recently broke up, released “Homeland Insecurity” on GTG in May, and Stargrazer’s “Trieste” was released in November.
December not only saw “Austin Gump,” a new EP from The Plurals, but also the release of “Explosions! Lansing Salutes Devo” and “No More Tomorrow Baby! A Tribute to KISS.” The two tribute albums featured almost all local bands and were released Dec. 3 at Oade’s Hidden Camel. The release show packed in over 100 people and featured two sets from Devo and KISS cover bands (in costume), made up of local musicians.
“My favorite moment of the year was the Devo/KISS tribute show,” said Todd Karinen, drummer of the now-defunct MK Ultra Culkin. “The amount of people who came out to that show was amazing, and the bands just killed.”
While his long-running band has ended, Karinen said he is working on a “heavy blues rock” project with Nick Merz (also formerly of MK Ultra Culkin) and Joe Hart (of The Chairmen, a defunct Lansing band). In 2010 Karinen also kept busy with the release of “No F%#king Egos: This Is Lansing” on his own label, Silver Maple Kill Records. The compilation features a large cast of area rockers, like Hordes, Cavalcade, Nocturnal Aviators and The Plague Years (to name a few). Karinen is also getting set to release another Lansing comp in late spring.
Another local comp was “In the Orchard of Osiris,” released in December by It Takes A Village to Make Records, a label operated by local musician Peter Richards, a.k.a. Stargrazer. Richards is working on a Stargrazer full-length with production help from Eric Merkling (CrookedSound and owner of Scavenger Hunt), set to be released in early 2011. A Stargrazer tune will also be included on a compilation raising money for WikiLeaks, called “Like Badgers and Birds.”
Electronic music in Lansing is also booming these days. The birth of Neon Tuesday (a weekly dance night at Mac’s Bar) showed the demand for live techno in the capital city. Along with that came the formation of Lansing Electronic Artists Kollective (L.E.A.K.) — a team of DJs including: Noah Desmit, Andy Lynch, Rob Perry, Beatloaf, Jeff Hoisington and GK. The group hosts shows periodically at Club X-Cel and continues to host Neon Tuesday. Overall, it aims to enhance and showcase talented local DJs.
LansingMusic.TV was formed by Dewitt music fans Sean Bradley, Casey Cavanaugh and Austin Howard. The website posts video interviews with local bands and rappers, exclusive acoustic performances and show footage. The site also occasionally posts record reviews of local releases. To date, the site has posted nearly 20 episodes.
While Mac’s Bar, (SCENE) Metrospace, The Loft, The Green Door, Ten Pound Fiddle, The Pump House, Level II, and Basement 414 continue to book shows, a few newbies popped up in 2010. Uli’s Haus of Rock gained momentum in 2010 and continually has a full roster of shows. Leroy’s Bar & Grill began booking legit blues, jazz and soul acts in November and plans to continue into 2011. The newly opened Blackened Moon Concert Hall, a venue with a 400-plus capacity, has mainly acted as a metal venue, but it’s already booking a variety of other genres, including acoustic/solo shows.
Bigger Brush Media is the latest indie label to pop up in Lansing. It was founded by Dave Suchanek and fellow musician Kevin Pritchard. Bigger Brush features a large roster of indie acts such as Loune, Babycakes, Carter Moulton, Dizzy Dearest, Joe Hertler, Jeff Pianki, DSF, Jeff Hurlahe and JT Royster. The label is more of an artist collective that strictly focuses on talent in mid-Michigan.