By: Jeff Milo

JAMIE D’ANGELO MARKED THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF RUNNING FERNDALE’S NEW WAY BAR BY MAKING A SIMPLE, YET BOLD MOVE. Starting in January, there would no longer be admission fees on nights featuring live local music. “That door charge was just bothering me,” D’Angelo said. “It just didn’t suit me well.”

It might be expected that a handful of folks would opt to go find another bar if they find out there’s a cover charge for their intended destination, but for D’Angelo even just seeing one person turn away was one person too many.

Under D’Angelo’s management, the New Way’s standing in the local music scene has certainly elevated; it’s now among the regular hotspots of weekend nightlife activity, where you’re likely to find a variety of contemporary artists like the band Remnose. “I’ve met a lot of fellow local musicians through the New Way, for open mic nights formerly hosted by [now-deceased] Brian Miller,” said Remnose singer/songwriter Marlon Morton.

D’ANGELO IS A LIFELONG MUSIC LOVER who does have some experience in the food service
industry — but his main gig used to be construction. “I was a builder,” as he puts it… But with New Way, he’s been able to build some-thing beyond bricks and mortar, and instead with heart and soul. New Way sprang from his own vision of making it into a traditional neighborhood bar for Ferndale, with the blue-collar intimacy and easygoing-ambiance of a classic “dive bar.”

It’s also a bar going out of its way to build a home for musicians. “We’re their host,” he said. “We want (local bands) to feel welcome. Without them, I’d barely have a business. And without them it certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun!”

Morton recalls when D’Angelo brought up the idea of free shows. “I’m sure he brought it up to many other of his regulars,” said Morton. “But as a musician, it’s a win-win. Bands are compensated for the music they provide and the people they bring to their shows, while the no-cover policy can help bring in more people who might otherwise never have heard your music.”

“You’d have no way of knowing that (D’Angelo) owns the place the way he’s just out amongst the crowd,” Morton continued. “(He’s) just enjoying watching everybody do their thing. (D’Angelo) likes to consult with the locals and regulars about any changes he wants to make; he genuinely wants to know what they think.”

Now, five years in to running the New Way, D’Angelo is definitely in a groove, with a solid staff, an upgraded PA system, updated lighting, and new monitors for the stage. Then there’s the satisfying result of improving the menu, beers on tap and liquor selection.

D’Angelo has a starting rate that Morton appraised as quite amenable to regional artists. Before the switch, his motto was to always give bands 100 per cent of the cover charge, but now there will be a rate that can fluctuate depending on the bill and number of bands. The sound engineer is also compensated in this new “no cover” era. “So far I’ve kept (prices) the same,” said D’Angelo. “I might have to raise (some items) by a quarter here or there, but so far everything is the same. I’ll look at things after a few months.”

Along with regular weekly concerts, The New Way has a strong following for its weekly stand-up comedy nights (on Mondays) and open mic nights (on Wednesdays). Singer/songwriter Ryan Dillaha (leader of the band The Miracle Men) took over as host of the Wednesday open mic nights after the untimely passing of Brian Miller. Dillaha deemed D’Angelo’s decision to be “a positive one.”

THE OPEN MIC NIGHTS DILLAHA OVERSEES became one of New Way’s surest ways of nurturing a sense of community between performers and music lovers. “They have a crowd and following at that bar, but I have noticed how they were sometimes deterred at the door by being asked to pay for a band they didn’t know. I think it’s a good move for musicians to have folks hear them who normally wouldn’t, and for the bar to get the bands’ fans in there too.”

“People who love music but aren’t familiar with the incredible scene in Detroit need an ‘in…,’” said Lisa Joan, a Ferndale resident and ardent music fan often found deeply embedded in the audiences of several venues on a weekly basis. “And if they don’t have a friend in it or a connection to the scene, then I don’t even know how they could dip a toe into it. Free shows are a way…, and I hope it works out for the (New Way) and for the bands.”

D’Angelo said it came down to a simple platitude: “Treat people nice!” That went for his customers, his staff, and the bands he wants to host on a regular basis. “I have a passion for this; I really love what I do. I’m glad to be there every day…I’m lucky to be there every day.”

One of D’Angelo’s favorite events of the year is Record Store Day, when local quartet Duende performs a matinee rock show. This annual vinyl-celebrating holiday was on April 21, and if you visited New Way during the afternoon, you were treated to a free show from Duende. Then again, you can walk in any weekend, this year, free of charge.
A five-dollar fee will no longer be a barrier to someone discovering their new favorite band. In fact, you’d be surprised how many of your new favorite bands might be living just down the street from you. You’ll find them at the New Way.

By David Ryals

AS MEMBERS OF THE FERNDALE ARTS AND CULTURE COMMISSION (FACC), Tim Brennan and Sharon Chess were charged with creating a community band. In February 2015, Sharon set up a FaceBook page and named it Ferndale Community Concert Band. The interest in the idea was inspiring, and they knew they were heading in the right direction. They separated from the FACC that Spring, and became a recognized 501c3 non-profit organization.

Now, beginning their third season, they are excited to welcome 20 new members, bringing them to a resounding 83 members. Their members are exceptional musicians, having various talents and degrees in teaching or performing music and longevity. Twenty-five members are alumni of the Ferndale Schools (FS) Music Program, from 1969 to students who are now Freshman through Seniors in the FS program.
The fascinating part about FCCB is, as a group, they have become a community of individuals who share the passion for music, people and community. The friendships, camaraderie and mentoring for each other is unlike anything Sharon and Tim have ever witnessed or experienced in other organizations.

Being part of this organization has been a wonderful opportunity for all of them.

One of their flute players, Ms. Anne Dwyer, put it best, “The opportunity to interact with and learn from this wealth of musical knowledge is like finding a million dollars in my attic – it’s a treasure in my own house.”

Though Sharon does not play an instrument or read music, her passion for music and those who are talented and gifted in music touch her heart and soul. She is the band’s biggest cheerleader, as she listens through every rehearsal and performance.

Her job as Director of Development is to create awareness and opportunity for members and the whole organization. They now have several smaller ensembles within the band who are invited to play at area events. The organizers of such events in turn donate to the band, welcome assistance for a non-profit with a slim budget.

They gladly accept donations for the band, and encourage everyone to join their email list. Immediately following their concerts, the FCCB offers a bake sale, and many of the members put their culinary skills to work and contribute to the sale.

Other opportunities are blossoming. A new event being produced by Quicken Loans, Winter Wonderland, has reached out to the FCCB to be a part of an innovative way to bring people to Downtown this winter.

The Ferndale Community Foundation, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, Woodward Dream Cruise, Downtown Development Association, Social Connection and Ultimate Fun Productions are a few of those who have helped to recognize and support them in this endeavor.

The FCCB is extremely excited to announce they are the recipient of a grant for 2018 from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The Council invests in organizations which encourage the growth of arts and culture in any community.

The FCCB Home Town Holiday concert, on Sunday, December 17 at 3:00 P.M. will be held in the Ferndale school auditorium, and is free to all those who attend. This performance is not your traditional singalong of carols. A new tradition will begin with this concert; they are encouraging everyone to wear an ugly holiday sweater or tie, and join them in a Santa march scheduled for the same day.

The FCCB has also been invited by the Clarkston Community Band to join them and the Rochester Community Band in a single performance in the Clarkston High School auditorium on March 4, 7:00 P.M. The facility is state of the art, having been recently renovated. This invitation, once again, shows the respect gained in such a short period of time with in the world of community bands.

Their Music Director, Ed Quick, is excited to lead an incredible collection of talent and devoted musicians, and smiles as he raises his baton to begin each rehearsal. They couldn’t do it without him.

Continued support and opportunity will increase the Ferndale Community Concert Band’s longevity. Check them out on YouTube and at

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Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos By Amy Claeys Photography


Kevin Davis, known to many as K.D., was close friends with Ricky Lentz III for nearly 30 years. The two were bandmates in several groups, the last of which was Longneck Strangler. “I met Ricky when he was 12 or 13, and I was playing in another local band. I was 18, six years older than Ricky. We became best friends. I ended up being the best man at his wedding. We just did everything together – deer hunting, fishing, went to ball games.”

He describes being as blown away with the young teen’s musical talent as he was with his appearance in the early days. “He was so tall and had a beard, I swear, even at that age. He had hair down to his waist, definitely didn’t look like a preteen.” Ricky was in a band with his father, Rick Jr., at the time, and was already capable of playing numerous instruments when Kevin first met him.

“Ricky was in a band with his dad. That’s how he started. His dad inspired him when Ricky was little and he was playing with a microphone when he was two years old. In the early years, I handled the bookings and promotional events,” says the former musician’s mother, Marlene, who was very proud of her son’s accomplishments.

“At 16, Ricky was doing very well playing all around at local bars, such as New Way,” Marlene says.

“He played in just about every bar in Michigan by the time he turned 18,” Kevin explained. “We did a lot of shows at Emerald Theatre back then, as part of the Psychedelic Blues Society and then with JoCaine.”

Ricky was a forced to be reckoned with on stage. “He’s was involved in all different genres of music from punk, to rock to reggae,” according to Marlene. Kevin adds, “Even at a young age, Ricky could play the guitar like Jimmy Hendrix.”

Marlene describes Ricky as a family man, first and foremost. “His presence on the stage and off – it was almost as if he was too different people,” she explains, adding, “On stage, he had a very commanding presence. Off stage, he would wear glasses and a ball cap. He was humble and quiet, always putting his family first.”

RICKY LEAVES BEHIND his wife Lana and two children, Lulu, five and Henry, three. “I remember one time I walked into the living room and he was singing a song from a cartoon that was on the T.V. while the kids ran around and danced,” Marlene recalls. She said Ricky was known for singing “Let It Go” from the Frozen movie for the kids. “He never left a family function without saying thanks for having us. Always with gratitude. Him and Lana had a special relationship, too. Near perfect as a marriage could be.”

Kevin echoed her sentiments. “Ricky was a God-fearing man, a man of faith. He loved his family, his two children and his wife. His main priorities were God, his family, and the band, in that order. And, he loved to make people feel good about themselves.”

“I have no words to describe how heartbroken our family is,” said Ricky’s aunt, Melissa Schwartz. Her family has been heavily involved in the area for many years. “My family has been ingrained and active within the community for three generations.”
Melissa says Ricky “inherited all of the positive traits of both his mother and father. He was special – a very dutiful man.”
Kevin said Ricky never forgot his roots and was always reaching out to the community, hoping to give back. “We always tried to be charitable,” he said. “Especially to Hazel Park, our hometown. We grew up together. Knew a lot of the same people and had many of the same friends.”

Kevin said the band had a shared goal of wanting listeners to hear their music and relate to it. “We wanted it to reflect what people went through in life. Let them have their own artistic translation of the lyrics, let their minds paint a picture.”
And, Ricky, who wrote some of the music, was very intelligent. “He was real smart,” Marlene says. “Always a book in this hand and the Bible in his pocket.” Kevin and Ricky were engineers by day and they would often “talk to each other in German.” He laughs, “We were always challenging each other, you know, with different trivia and tidbits.”

KEVIN SAID THAT IN 2012, Longneck Strangler signed a deal with Funky D Records and put out an album in 2014, entitled Home. “It was meant to be a tribute about going back home after being gone on the road. There was a trilogy of songs relating to home titled Home, Coming Home and Get Back Home. Listening to the tracks now, I can feel Ricky’s emotions in the lyrics,” he says. “I just hope memories of Ricky will live on through the songs.”

“One time, I was watching a performance,” Marlene recalls. “An audience member said to Ricky ‘you’re our hero.’ My son shook his hand and replied, ‘No, you’re mine.’ That’s the kind of person my son was.”

ON AUGUST 20, 2017, Lana, Lulu and Henry unexpectedly lost Ricky Lentz – husband, father and sole breadwinner – to an extremely rare congenital heart condition. The young family was only beginning their lives together and was unprep-ared for such a tragedy. After spending most of his life as a musician, performing with Longneck Strangler and many other bands, Ricky had begun a new career to provide for his new loves; his wife and young daughter and son, only five- and three-years-old.
Sadly, these few years were not enough for Ricky to set up his loved ones for a future that unexpectedly and unfortunately would be without him. Ricky was a proud and private man, rarely one to ask for help. We know, however, that in his death, Ricky wouldn’t want to cause any hardship to anyone, and would want to know that Lana, Lulu and Henry were taken care of.

As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for the family to recover, either emotionally or financially. In any case, they are facing this misfortune, and we would like to enable a second chance for Lana, giving her time to find a way to support her family.

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By: Maggie Boleyn

TEN HUT! THE FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND IS PREPARING TO TAKE THE FIELD AT FORD FIELD THIS NOVEMBER,participating in the Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) State Championship Contest.

Many people have seen high school marching bands in action, but few watching the performance know how much hard work and long practice hours that staff and students put in to reach the state-level competition. “Marching Band at the highest level has become music theater on a football field,” says FHS Marching Band Director Elon J. Jamison. “The kids play, march, dance, sing, act, and so on. It is a monumental physical, mental, and emotional activity.” Jamison has been on staff at FHS for 20 years, serving more than a dozen years as FHS Marching Band Director.

FHS typically does very well in MCBA statewide events. “Ferndale has brought home top honors nine of the last 13 years,” says FHS assistant band director Audrey Langley.

There is quite a process in achieving a slot competing at the state level. Each spring, MCBA member bands are divided into four flights of competition based on school enrollment numbers taken from the second semester school count. The four MCBA competition flight levels range from schools with less than 728 students to greater than 1436 pupils.

Owing to enrollment numbers, FHS was moved into Flight IV competition for a couple of years. Under cur-rent criteria, FHS is again competing as a Flight III school. Langley, who served as volunteer for seven years prior, said “We have placed first in Flight IV the last two seasons and now the stakes are a little higher with our return to Flight III.”

To advance into the MCBA State Championship con-test, bands pay a $150.00 fee and must compete in at least two of the 20 or more contests that MCBA holds each year. A band must attain scores at MCBA contests placing it among the 12 highest scoring bands in its flight competition. Judging categories are weighted between musical, visual and overall general effect.

Despite the highly competitive nature, participating in marching band brings new awareness to students and fosters cooperation among students. “It really changes your perceptions of what is possible,” Langley said. “The band, staff, and parents literally create a show from nothing. Every single person involved has their sights on one goal – creating the best show possible. It unites people.”

No matter the size of the school, the competitive spirit is strong. “The competition is still quite stiff coming from the west side of the state,” Langley said. “Historically our biggest competitors in the Flight III category are Stevensville Lakeshore and Byron Center.”

ASIDE FROM ACHIEVING HIGH SCORES, music education in general and marching band participation particularly carries many benefits for students.

“Music educates the soul in a way that nothing else can,” Jamison said. “Music and music education teaches and expresses what cannot ever be properly expressed in words or pictures; it has to be heard, seen and felt to properly appreciate it. I often use the analogy that if, as they say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ a recording or live performance is worth a million.”

Langley adds, “Learning to play as a band teaches teamwork and selflessness. Working on a piece requires focus and determination. The kids learn to lift each other up. Students who participate in ensembles think more about the whole rather than just them-selves.” Langley went on to say, “This activity is the determining factor of success in many kids’ lives.”

Jamison notes students who participate in marching band also get an intense physical workout. “There has been research done that when marching band kids at this level are in the midst of a performance, all their vital statistics are maxed out: heart rate, lung capacity, mental activity – everything.”

Asked what she wished more people knew about FHS Marching Band, Langley replied, “I wish people knew how much we get done with very little funding, how much we are dependent upon the parent volunteers, and how dedicated the staff is to the students. They don’t get much limelight but are the reason the students are able to compete at the highest level. It isn’t just a bunch of kids marching around a field; it’s about the kids experiencing being a part of something bigger than themselves.”

INTERESTED COMMUNITY MEMBERS CAN HELP THE ARTS at FHS through the non-profit group FAB (Ferndale Fine Arts Boosters) which supports the march-ing band and other programs. “Marching band is a large subcommittee of FAB run by a handful of dedicated parents,” Langley said. “Without them, we would not be able to function at the level we do. They are wizards of finance.

“FAB meets the second Tuesday of every month in the Ferndale High School Media Center at 7:00 P.M. You need not have a student in the schools to be a member; all interested adults who wish to support FAB are welcome. A $5 donation or more helps continue the Fine Arts Program at FHS. Donations are tax deductible.

Ferndale Fine Arts Boosters – FAB 881 Pinecrest Ferndale, MI 48220

Photo and story by Kevin Alan Lamb

MATTHEW BALL IS ON THE BALLOT FOR CLAWSON CITY COUNCIL this November, helps run a toddler play-center in downtown Ferndale called Nature’s Playhouse with his wife, and averages 35,000 views per month on YouTube since breaking out as the “Boogie Woogie Kid.”

With over 3.7 million views on YouTube, Ball is the attorney-turned-pianist-and-singer who tours nationally playing favorites from the Swing era and more. Here’s my conversation with the man who has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition as well as Michigan Public Radio’s Ann Delisi’s and Rob Reinhart’s Essential Music Programs.

Walk us through your performance at the Arches Stage in Cincinnati that helped launch your career…
The Arches Piano Stage is part of the larger three-stage Cincy Blues Festival. It is special because it is the only major festival that hosts an all-day stage dedicated to boogie-woogie piano-driven music, and welcomes boogie-woogie performers from around the world. It was my first major festival appearance before a large audience. Significant to me, I headlined alongside some the same names and personalities that had first inspired me to play boogie-woogie and blues piano back when I was just a fan and onlooker in the audience.

Who first coined the nickname, “Boogie Woogie Kid?”
The “Boogie Woogie Kid” I derived from a viral comic Youtube video about the high price of Starbuck’s coffee that was around at the time in which I was deciding upon an online avatar. The video was from an old guy who goes by “The Kid From Brooklyn” online.

Can you describe the work you do with children and its significance to you?
The work with children grew out of my becoming a father six years ago really, and my wife buying into a toddler play-center in downtown Ferndale called Nature’s Playhouse. There, we developed a boogie-woogie nursery rhyme program for tots that we performed every Tuesday, and that I’ve even performed for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra organization since departing from Nature’s Playhouse.

What was your first YouTube hit to break out?
I get on average about 1100-1200 views a day, or approximately 35,000 view per month steadily. I think the most-viewed video is an older one, wherein I play a piece I actually don’t even perform anymore called ‘Hot Boogie-Woogie.’

Who had the greatest influence on your development as a musician?
My musical development was most influenced by the wonderful pianist teachers I’ve had as a young man. First, Flavio Varani, with whom I trained while at Oakland University and who himself graduated from the Paris Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music.

The other influence was Bob Seeley, who was an internationally known boogie-woogie, stride, and traditional jazz pianist. He was also a personal friend of one of boogie-woogie’s celebrity stars, Meade Lux Lewis, one of the pianists who launched boogie-woogie into a popular 1940s craze.


By Jeff Milo

What better way to get to know a band than in a cozy, domestic setting like a front porch? Michael Benghiat and Gary Graff’s vision of more than two dozen Ferndale homes hosting a diverse lineup of more than 30 regional bands is coming to life on Saturday, June 24. This six-hour suburban music festival is called The Front Porch, and it doubles as a prototype, or pilot program, for what could turn into a regular television show (of the same name). The concept has been pitched to Detroit Public Television (DPTV, Detroit’s PBS affiliate) already, and could be shopped to other media outlets as well.

Benghiat, head of Front Porch Productions and founder/CEO of Optimum Marketing, has been a lifelong music fan. He has vast experience in event-planning, marketing and communications in the global entertainment industry, most notably with Olympia Entertainment. Graff, meanwhile, is a venerated local music journalist who’s byline and features regularly appear in The Oakland Press. When they went to the Ferndale City Council and special events committee to present their idea for an afternoon’s worth of outdoor musical performances situated upon Ferndalian front porches for a strolling audience of neighbors, families and music lovers, the response was more than enthusiastic!

“We thought it’d be really cool to be a part of this because we’ve played many stages, but never a front porch,” said Carrie Shepard, singer/guitarist of local country/rock quartet The Whiskey Charmers. “Plus, Ferndale is just a town that really supports live music. Hanging out on a front porch, playing some of our songs in such a relaxed setting, it’s bound to result in a cool, unique vibe!”

“I think it definitely compliments the overall vibe that is ‘Fabulous Ferndale,’” said Joshua James, the multi-genre-specialist and leader of string-band/Dixie-jazz outfit The Ashton Neighborhood Pleasure Club. “We’re a very connected neighborhood; residents really embody that motto of ‘Good neighbors,’ and I think something like (The Front Porch) could be the perfect catalyst to strengthen the community. Having been to Jackson Square in New Orleans where everyone is out playing music, I can say that having something like a porch concert is going to be a lot of fun.“

Something similar to the schema of Benghiat and Graff’s citywide concert has been achieved in other markets, with great success and an expectedly enthusiastic response from residents. Various Porch Fests are featured in up to 50 communities around the country, but Benghiat’s idea is to develop this into a TV show where he and Graff can travel to several cities all around Michigan where they can film vibrant, music-packed portraits of that area’s local artists, interviewing bands on front porches and filming live performances. DPTV loved Benghiat’s idea, but they requested a pilot episode first, before they decide on whether or not they’d like to produce a full season of episodes.

That makes Ferndale’s June 24 Front Porch Show the possible precursor to a future television show. Benghiat arranged for a film crew to capture each performance and prepare a feature-length package to DPTV and other channels of distribution. After that, fingers are crossed! Benghiat hopes to know by mid-Autumn whether or not The Front Porch can start stepping it up!

Meanwhile, mark your calendars for June 24! And get your maps out! North of Marshall, east of Central, South of Maplehurst and west of Livernois! You’re going to find up to 25 houses in that square of sidestreets hosting 35+ local bands, including The Luddites, The Codgers, The Corktown Popes, Brother Hallow, and many more!

For more information, visit

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Story by Jeff Milo
Photos by David McNair

Singer/Guitarist Eugen Strobe became a frontman by necessity.  The leader of local trio Cosmic Light Shapes has never actively sought the spotlight, throughout three decades of playing music. While he did serve as a primary force for the founding of the annual Hamtramck Music Festival and then, most recently, captained the vinyl release of his band’s debut album last December, you’ll nevertheless have a tough time getting him to take any credit or adoration. He’s not your typical rock star.

“When I started playing music, the goal was just to play…” said Strobe. “Being in bands, that was more of like the ‘fantasy,’ ya know, the idea of
‘being up on a stage’ and ‘rocking out…’ and all of that… no, I loved it just because of music. I loved making sounds.”

The sounds that Strobe makes with his bandmates, drummer Zenas Jackson, and bassist Adam James, are a patchwork of psychedelic-pop, ‘60s rock, fluidly-structured prog, abstruse glam, and ambient/experimentalism. It spans the spectrum of bubblegum-pop and boogie-able ditties to psychedelicized intonations cast upon a darker, more ominous sea of jazz-like jamming. It’s, as Strobe says it, a metamorphosis of many things, “the tangible and the imaginary.”

Meanwhile, the other big musical component of Strobe’s life involves event-planning, particularly the three-day-long Hamtramck Music Festival, kicking off March 2, spread across the Detroit neighborhood’s venues and featuring close to 200 bands from around the region.

After more than a decade of being a side player for locally renowned groups like The Sights and The Witches, Strobe officially started showcasing his original works in late 2008, with Jackson as his main collaborator, to properly launch Cosmic Light Shapes.

“I had a workspace inside the Russell Industrial Center (in 2008); where my main goal was just to get out all the sounds that were inside my head. It had just been too long up to that point, and it was like a breaking point…”

Strobe and Jackson first performed as a drum/guitar/vocals duo, but eventually brought in the post-bop warble of an accompanying saxophonist during that first year. By 2010, they’d honed into a rock schema with bassist Jennifer Pearson augmenting the intricate rhythms. In 2013, they recorded their self-titled album with famed producer Jim Diamond in Detroit. But in the time it took to finally have those songs pressed to vinyl, the bass position shuffled, until 2014, when James joined as its permanent bassist.

“Just from playing sports, I learned about being a team player,” said Strobe, looking back on a 10-year odyssey of being more of an accompanist or collaborator to several local rock outfits. “It never bothered me to be just playing drums or just playing guitar in a band; I never felt like I had to be in front. So, being in front kinda’ happened by accident. It was my turn to put my stamp on something, so I wound up having to be out in front, for now.”

Strobe, Jackson, and James performed an album release concert back in December; you can listen to the single, “Can You See In 3-D,” online at:

Meanwhile, Strobe revealed that he has enough sketched out song demos to fill two whole albums worth of material for Cosmic Light Shapes. BUT…, that’s going to have to wait until after the Hamtramck Music Festival.
The Hamtramck Music Festival was, and continues to be, a grassroots effort; an exemplary coordination of local artists, local music fans, and business owners volunteering their time to put on a multi-dayevent hosted across 20 unique venues, clubs, bars, and performance spaces. Venues like Paychecks Lounge, Small’s Bar, and even the Hamtramck Public Library, will have two nights of unique lineups featuring local bands performing both on Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4.

Initially organized in 2013 to fill the void left by the disruptive disbursement of the Metro Times Blowout, Strobe was integral in helping steer the efforts of the volunteer committee that booked, promoted, and monitored the first Hamtramck Music Festival. You can find HMF on Facebook, where there will be links and information about buying your weekend wristbands (as well as full schedules, lineups, maps and venue information). All proceeds from festival wristbands benefit Ben’s Encore, a local nonprofit awarding scholarships to music students and grants to under-served school music programs.

A smaller iteration of SXSW in Austin, or CMJ in New York, the Hamtramck Music Festival is a joyfully noisy and fun celebration of the local music scene. “We’re all giving each other a gift,” said Strobe, who prefaces any chat about the music festival with emphasizing the importance of the city, its residents, and its independent business community. “The organizers give the city and this scene a gift by putting on (HMF), and making it the best it can be. Hamtramck residents give a gift by hosting it, the businesses are also giving back to the fans, and so everyone’s sharing in this gift to where it builds a sense of community, a sense of togetherness, a celebration of local culture. That’s what brings me back, doing this for each other.”

And that brings the ostensible spotlight back to Cosmic Light Shapes. “Ideas for songs are always evolving. Any song I put together, I want it to happen as naturally as possible; I let the rhythm pave the way, at first, and then let the melodies color it in from there…” Sounds familiar, as he bangs the drum to start HMF, and he lets the melodies of each volunteer-organizer help him color it in from there.

Coming in to the Detroit music scene in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, Strobe was inspired that so much diversity of genre could be represented under one venue’s roof. Thusly, he and the HMF committee strive for inclusivity that generates a refreshing smorgasbord of styles to heighten the experience of each music fan.
Keep it unpredictable, keep it organic, and keep it adventurous — that’s Hamtramck Music Festival, that’s Cosmic Light Shapes…and that’s Eugene Strobe.

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By: Andrea Grimaldi
Photo: Bernie Laframboise

The Michigan Fingerstyle Guitar Society is a 501 (3) (c) nonprofit organization started in 2001 with a goal to bring more awareness to the art that is fingerstyle guitar. Maintained by six enthusiasts, several in the Ferndale area, the MFGS aims to connect guitarists from all over the world with affordable local venues and interested crowds in Metro Detroit. The Society has been responsible for over 100 acts coming to Michigan, and hopes to bring in many more.

Fingerstyle guitar encompasses many genres and refers to the technique of a single guitar performing multiple parts of the musical arrangement. This means using advanced techniques to play harmonic melodies and low bass notes simultaneously while keeping percussion with the body of the guitar. The guitar is played with fingertips rather than picks. Many fingerstyle guitarists play solo, but there are also Italy’s Guitar Republic or the world-renowned California Guitar Trio. Many of the guitarists that the Michigan Fingerstyle Guitar Society contact play classical guitar, or perform their own compositions that range from a classical-jazz mix to an avant-garde style, known as Contemporary Acoustic Guitar. However, not just any fingerstyle guitarist will be hosted. One of the caveats of the group is that one of the MFGS members must “love” the music of the artist they are bringing in.

Many of the musicians live to tour, using proceeds from one show to fund the next. These musicians depend on fans and groups like MFGS to help find the locations and audiences needed to sustain their tours. Although there are a lot of guitar fans and avid concert goers of all genres, it can be hard for small acts to reach these people. This is especially true for international acts. Members of the MFGS understand this and go above and beyond. They have even invited guitarists to stay in their homes and act as a local tour guide during their stay. Without the support of MFGS, Michigan could be completely skipped over on these small tours.

The guitar society used to book concerts primarily in Ferndale but they have recently spread out a bit further, booking shows in Lake Orion at 20 Front Street, and Livonia at Trinity House Theatre. They have also helped book shows as far as the Upper Peninsula, Grand Rapids, and Madison, Wisconsin. However, they hope to find a home base in Ferndale. The group is currently scouting the perfect location; a music-centered venue, intimate but not too small, professional but not too price-centered. Michigan Fingerstyle Guitar Society’s slogan is to Promote the Artist, Promote the Music and, with the perfect venue, the group is hoping to draw a bigger network of live music fans, creating a market for more concerts as well.

Concerts start in March in both Livonia and Lake Orion. In June, the group hopes to bring Italian guitarist Stefano Barone to Michigan. Barone has played across the US and is no stranger to Michigan. His music was featured as a backdrop for Ferndale video journalist Brian Kaufman’s documentary on the wolves of Isle Royale, “Predator/Prey: The Fight for Isle Royale’s Wolves.” Barone was honored to perform several of his pieces live before the world-premier viewing of this film at the Detroit Free Press Film Festival in 2016. Barone has also played many venues in Michigan, including the Detroit Institute of the Arts.

To keep an eye on upcoming fingerstyle guitar events, find their Facebook page or see their full calendar at These concerts are a unique and intimate experience and are not to be missed.

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By Jeff Milo

Zander Michigan – 48018
Zander’s pretty unforgettable. It’d be one thing if his performance style, his music and his lyrics weren’t already charismatic and theatrical, but he’s often sporting a bow-tie, a stately blazer and a basher hat brimmed over a typically smiling face. With his third album, the local songwriter conjured a bit of his own mythology, inventing a city inside which the narratives of each song could play-out, with heartbreak, soul-searching, community spirit and existential contemplation, over a sonic gravel path of acoustic folk strums and rock ‘n’ roll riffs. I think most early fans remember Zander’s implicit nods to Dylan, but this album’s strayed admirably towards his own signa-ture sound and style.

Anthony Retka – Fields & Fortresses
Local songwriter Anthony Retka’s heart has always been on his sleeve, going back more than a decade ago with Americana/folk projects like Tone & Niche. With Fortresses, his mind and his musings are both exceedingly more observant of the human condition with a weary voice melodically threaded to slow a pulse or percolate some goosebumps. There’s often a raging storm inside of Retka, but emotional torrent never sounded so sweet.

Counter Elites – Pledge of Aggrievance
We interviewed the two Ferndalians behind this terrifically tempestuous hardcore punk-rock band in the October 2016 Edition of Ferndale Friends. Together for four years now, they’ve industriously assembled several DIY recordings, satirical dadaist/gallows-humor propaganda sheets and a slew of sweat-drenched concerts (continually incognito with bandanas, sunglasses, wigs and more). While still keeping their tight tunes as aerodynamic as ever, the riffs and the reverb, the rhythms and the rhetoric are showing substantial stylistic evolution. Beautifully cathartic, philosophic, and at times straight up metal!

Nolan The Ninja – He(art)
I can’t remember hearing hip-hop with such urgency, such ferocity, such profundity. Nolan The Ninja is Detroit-based emcee/producer Nolan Chapman, and his He(art) LP is a tour-de-force of vital conversation-starters lyrically catapulted with rapid/energizing cadences of words and beats, imbued with soulful brass samples, atmospheric jazz vibes and propulsive rhythm. The credits in the liner notes are also noteworthy, with plenty of cameos and contributions from big name producers and contemporary emcees in the recent renaissance of hyper-conscious hip-hop.

Audra Kubat – Mended Vessel
This is the most powerful album on my list. Audra Kubat’s got a voice to freeze time. It’s supernatural; able, it would seem, to even alter the luminescence of the very room or space where you find yourself listening, glowing radiantly at the choruses or dimming to a chilled discreteness during her more muted verses. Mended Vessel finds the local composer/music-educator embracing her family’s roots in holistic healing and her own already-assured renown for reinventing the folk-singer trope. While her majestic voice is salve enough for any weary heart, there’s also excellent production and accompanying Americana-inclined instrumentation to sweeten the overtures.

Six & The Sevens – It Has To Be That Way
The second this EP kicks off, you feel like you’re flying… driving, running, moving, pure power pop with a bit of refreshing grease and grit, this local quintet have some dangerously enticing guitar hooks, classic garage-rock bluster, but sweetened with an earnest baring of hearts on sleeves. Some songs feel like ‘80s underground-indie (“Nothing To Say”), others like throwback ‘60s pop (“You Belong To  Me”), while others trudge some tremendous blues and funk onto the dancefloor (“Go, Go, Go”). And then, “By My Side” is full on tsunami of soulful rock, packed with such a full-sounding production by Zach Shipps (with a handful of songs also recorded with Jim Diamond).

Escaping Pavement – the Night Owl
Guitars, mandolins and mellifluous voices merged in melody are all you’re going to need… Ferndale-based songwriting partners Emily Burns and Aaron Markovitz are gracefully getting us back to the basics and the beauty of folk, country and bluegrass, exuding the power of the organic/earthy qualities of acoustic musical performances, strums and serenades.  The Night Owl is a fully realized folk odyssey, the recordings so full of intonation, heart and harmonies.

Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms – Basement Punk
Allen’s still a young man, but the pop-punk auteur got started in bands bouncing off basement walls in his teenage days, finding him nearly in his mid-‘30s with a deep well of perspective and perceptive poise. This collection has some tenacious and tough tunes that are as urgent and aggressive as anything on his resumé, along with some softer acoustic mini-ballads bearing the more heartfelt sides of “punk” without a shred of self-consciousness. Riffed-out and as rambunctious as anything you’d need, but enriched with more of a storyteller’s insightfulness.

Zoos of Berlin – Instant Evening
We can’t limit this record to any genre-tag. These are ornate sonic smorgasboards of funky bass lines, caustic guitar drones, buoyant synth-pop runs and carefully reverb-coated vocal crooning all fused together into an uncanny harmony, with toe-tapping percussion that you could almost dance to and a nonchalant-chic or casual epic-ness simultaneously tightened by post-rock guitar riffs and salved by smooth clouds of ambient dream-pop.

FAWNN – Ultimate Oceans
FAWNN’s pretty much a super-group, with each member having fronted, or continuing to front, other local bands leading up to their formation in 2012. The rhythms are energetic and agile, the dual vocalists hit us with a sonic yin and yang with their harmonies, and the guitars are splashed with a splendid amount of reverb so as to evoke this dreamy fog, like gazing at a sunrise through a rain-beaded windshield or hearing distant thunder at a shore as the tide comes in. Each song is full with timbre and tone, a tidal din of pretty sounding drones barreling into ornately threaded earworm riffs.

One of the longest-running and most popular winter events in Southeast Michigan is the Ferndale Blues & Music Festival. The annual festival is set for January 27 thru February 4, and includes live bands and music from blues and jazz to rock–n-roll and every-thing in between. The festival, held in downtown Ferndale and neighboring communities, showcases a large array of local and regional musicians and bands playing dozens of concerts in a variety of venues over the course of nine days. Volunteers work the events and help raise thousands of dollars for Ferndale Youth Assistance.

The Music Festival began in 2002 and has gained in prestige and popularity each year. Expenses are kept low, and all proceeds go to FYA, a not-for-profit 501c(3) organization. Venues include bars, nightclubs, restaurants, coffeehouses, churches, schools and community centers. Thousands of people will attend the events and more than 500,000 people will see the advertisements, website, Facebook pages, news stories, posters and programs.

All contributions, donations, and sponsorships are tax deductible. The Annual Blues & Music Festival is supported by the City of Ferndale, the Ferndale DDA, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, Ferndale Public Schools, elected officials, and numerous businesses, churches, and media outlets.
Event Co-chair Alyssa Atkinson; 248-259-0058
Event Co-chair Craig Covey, 248-721-6434