I know I repeat this over and over again, but I'll continue to until I can no longer talk or type. It's one of the main reasons I keep this blog going. There is so much great music coming out of metro Detroit and the surrounding areas. It's an embarrassment of riches for a music addict like myself, and the least I can do is write about it and help spread the message and music. Name pretty much any style or genre of music and it's being done here, and done damn well in many instances.
Two of the areas finest examples were on the same bill Thursday evening in Ann Arbor as both the Juliets and The Silent Years took to the stage at the Blind Pig. I've raved about The Silent Years on here at every opportunity, frankly, because it's deserved. The last thing you'll get from me is praise when I'm not feeling something. As big of a fan of certain artists as I may be, I'll tell you when I think they've released a dud. To this point, The Silent Years are on an amazing trajectory where each new release outdoes the last, and their quality control is impeccable. Personally, I feel they're the best band from this area and they continue to give me no reason to change that opinion.
The great part about going to so many local shows is the excitement of seeing new bands for the first time, or bands that have been around but you're just seeing for the first time. You never know when you'll be blown away, as was the case on December 11th of last year when I saw The Juliets for the first time at Pure Detroit's 11th Birthday show at the Magic Stick. I'd read about the band in various local publications, and knew of cellist Kaylan Mitchell from her work with The Silent Years and Jeremy Freer from his band Freer. But I wasn't expecting to leave the most impressed I've been with a local band since the first time I saw The Silent Years. With both of these bands on the same bill, this was a highly anticipated evening of music.
The night kicked off with Ypsilanti's The Ferdy Mayne. This was my second time seeing these guys, but the first was at an outdoor "festival" and it did not do them justice. Hearing them inside an intimate venue really brings out the strong musicianship of this quartet that blends elements of folk, rock, country, and some punk leanings as well, into a musical stew worth hearing. You can sample some of their material on their MySpace or, better yet, download their "Chase That Jackrabbit EP" completely free here.
Ann Arbor's Farewell Republic was next. Heavy on the art-rock with psychedelia, ambient and post-punk thrown in as well, this one is an acquired taste. You can check them out on their MySpace as well as their official website. The first two songs were very good, the rest of the set just really wasn't my thing. I'd swear the last song of their set went on for 30 minutes, at least it felt that way, as it went through one progression after another. Just when you thought it was over,they went off in another direction.
Now it was time for The Juliets to take the stage, and their set did nothing but make me even more anxious for the release of their debut album, "Parade" (and no I don't believe the band has made a movie called "Under The Cherry Moon" that this is the soundtrack to). This was a bit longer set than the one at Pure 11, but it did include all the songs they performed there including my current favorite "Evolved Into". Apparently everything played here will appear on "Parade", meaning it very well should make my Top Ten Albums of 2010 list as this is flawless material. "Parade" will be released as a free download, but this is pop music of such high quality it deserves to be richly paid for. Jeremy Freer has an amazing gift for writing insanely wonderful, memorable hooks and melodies. The guitar,bass,keys and drums are complimented by Mitchell on the cello and Sarah Myers on violin to produce top of the line baroque pop music. You can hear for yourself with free downloads of both "The Letter" and "This Just In".
The Silent Years closed it out, starting to set up around 12:45. But it became obvious it was taking longer than normal as there were issues with Cassandra Verras' keyboard, as well as other sound issues that would go on to plague their set. The band didn't seem too pleased there had not been a soundcheck and experienced issues with feedback and instruments and effects cutting out at times, but to their credit did not let it stop them from delivering a solid set.
Although it was great to hear older tracks like "On Our Way Home", "The World's Worst Birthday Gift" and set closer "Open Up Our Eyes", I was most excited for the new material that was promised and the band did not disappoint. Four songs from their forthcoming album "Spider Season" were played, three for the first time. The set opened with "Teeth Like Trophies" which was debuted during their set at the Pure 11 show. Two other new songs, listed as "Baptized" and "Wolves" on the setlist, show the band going in a, dare I say it, funkier direction. I can't wait to hear how these turned out in the studio.
The last new song, the stunning "Maybe We Will", is the next in a long line of classic Silent Years ballads. I hesitate to even use the word ballad to describe songs like "On Our Way Home", "Forest Fire" and "Maybe We Will", as The Silent Years usually put their own distinctive spin on the songs so they're not what you'd typically think of when it comes to a ballad. All I know is, I think my jaw hit the floor as this epic unfolded and closed in a sea of looped vocals and effects.
Sound problems and frustrations aside, the band put on a great set with a nice mixture of old and new. At one point late in the set, lead singer/songwriter and guitarist Josh Epstein said from the stage "Let's call a spade a spade, this is not a great set for us" after someone in the audience apparently commented on the sound problems. But he was being too hard on himself, the new material sparkled as an enticing preview to the new album, and the older material was performed with the typical emotion and passion that has endeared this band to so many inside and outside Michigan. Hopefully there will be a few more intimate shows like this one as the band gears up the promotion machine and prepares to tour behind "Spider Season".
All in all, another enjoyable and entertaining night Michigan made music. I can't implore enough, get out there and support the local music scene. You'll be glad you did as long as there are bands like the ones who took the stage this night at the Blind Pig out lighting up the local music scene.