THURSDAY, 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25
Old City Hall, 814 Saginaw St.
Jamaican Queens (Detroit)
What better group to kick off the music side of HHM than this sensory-stimulating trio? Jamaican Queens—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Spencer, guitarist/bassist Adam Pressley and drummer Ryan Clancy—deal in nuanced and trippy electro pop that is as catchy as it is experimental, merging disparate styles into an infectious concoction. Frequently bittersweet and always captivating, they master that elusive dichotomy of being fun without being mentally flaccid and cerebral without being pedantic. Don’t let their songs’ subject matter of streetside muggings, crumbling codependent relationships, and inevitable mortality scare you off, for no band delivers such material in such enjoyable fashion. Suggestive and playfully coy, their sonic kaleidoscope is a perfect storm of vivid textures, as evidenced on their critically lauded 2013 debut LP, Wormfood. Layered in glimmering and fluid production, the songs take on a new life when performed live, attaining a level of nearly transcendent exuberance.
FRIDAY, 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Populace Cafe, 1003 Washington Ave.
Bay City’s own Andy Reed practically lives on music. It’s not only obvious in his choice of day job as Recording Engineer and owner of Reed Recording Company, but also evident in his passion as a performer. Reed has toured nationally with the Verve Pipe, recently collaborated with renowned power pop recording artists Brandon Schott, Mike Viola, Brendan Benson and Steve Eggers, and also produced and released records with his bands The Legal Matters and An American Underdog. Even as Reed Recording Company prepares for expansion, Andy shows no signs of slowing down, with plans to release another solo album in the very near future. Bay City’s independent music scene would not be where it is today without Andy’s influence, and HHM is proud to partner with him once again as he’ll be kicking off the festival weekend’s free music events with a candid set of original material.
FRIDAY, 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Electric Kitsch, 917 Washington Ave.
Kelly Slaten and Dan Lake
Jazz guitarist Dan Lake and vocalist Kelly Slaten, both residents of Clare, Michigan, have music in their blood. Lake owns and operates Central Michigan Music in his hometown while Slaten studies music at Central Michigan University. Performing jazz standards as well as more conventional modern material during gigs, the two compliment each other with a ying-to-yang type appeal, as Lake’s crisp chords leave just enough room for Slaten to exhibit total control of her seductive and achingly expressive, emotionally charged vocals. An absolute treat to experience live, the duo will be performing an intimate set in the cozy confines of Bay City’s only new & used vintage vinyl retail shop, Electric Kitsch.
FRIDAY, 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Rusty Saw Ballroom, 1205 Washington Ave.
If the Smiths, Daft Punk and Marilyn Monroe conceived a child and delivered it on the east side of Detroit with the Kills acting as midwife, that child might grow up to be Tart. The two-piece sees Adam Michael Lee Padden, former bassist of the Hounds Below and Patrick Davy and the Ghosts, join forces with actress Zee Bricker in a new interpretation of what it means to be a rock band. Resting on a foundation of homemade drum machine beats, Padden serves up blues-inspired guitar riffs soaked in chorus and delay while Bricker holds the audience’s gaze with an enthusiastic stage presence and moody vocals alternating between the sweet and the cynical. Imagined in late 2013, Tart recently recorded with Scott Masson and released their debut four-song EP, Knots, in late summer.
Royal Pioneer (Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo)
Music serves our souls in many ways. Among the most notable are to honor friendships, to offer comfort, and to examine love and life through all of its highs and lows. It is in this vein of the human condition that we find Royal Pioneer, a Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo-based quartet comprised of underground indie music veterans banding together to pay tribute to their fallen brother, close friend and HHM founding father Tommy Jenkins. The music itself lands somewhere comfortably between the lines of post-punk hardcore and the Midwest emo of the 1990s. Guitarists Lawrence Jenkins and Benjamin Padget utilize unique, overlapping riffs that can evolve from forcefully gravelly to beautifully subdued at a moment’s notice, building an aggressive yet surprisingly catchy brand of songwriting that is held together by the flexible rhythm section of bassist Jason Kreska and drummer Pete Switzer who retain order and give cadence to their sound. Each song swells with a feverish, driving energy that is consistently on the verge of collapse; chaotic as it is complimentary and as noisy as it is melodic. No identifiable lead singer is featured, as each member instead takes their turn pouring raw emotion over microphones. Their words invite the listener to groove, remember, cope and reflect along with them. To witness Royal Pioneer perform is to feel them grieve, to collectively commiserate while at the same time celebrating the emotional potency of language and song that is embodied in punk rock in its purest form. As they prepare to cut the tracks to a forthcoming 7” vinyl pressing titled “For Tommy” at Bay City’s Reed Recording Company, the group will be making a special live appearance at Friday’s music event. Hell’s Half Mile is honored to invite you along for the ride as Royal Pioneer takes the stage for themselves, for each other, for Tommy, and for anyone else willing to share in the experience that is live, original music.
George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus (Detroit)
How do you like your indie pop? Served up with a dose of unabashed glam rock, hopefully, ‘cause that’s what you’re getting with this devil-may-care quartet. After the dissolution of Morris’s former band, the Satin Peaches, he spent some time performing solo before rounding up this collective of bassist Aaron Nelson (also from the Peaches), keyboardist Helena Kirby, and drummer Zach Pliska. Together, their sound is built around wheezy organs augmented by looped beats, jazzy percussion, ambient keys and crashing guitars. They champion shimmering underground anthems, tunes like “9 Lives,” “Fuck It,” “Girls on Parade” and “Explode” building with a sultry, cinematic groove before breaking open with a sweeping grandeur. On both the full-length Organ Solos and 2014’s Black & White EP, the numbers throb with a subtle vitality, but live, it’s a whole different animal of unbridled energy.
The HandGrenades (Detroit)
Since first playing an HHM Indie Music Showcase in July 2013, this group of melody-making ruffians has become something of a festival house band. They played the main music night of the fest last September and two more dates under the banner since then. In conjunction with that, the HGs have undergone an evolution in both their physical makeup and sonic compositions. With singers Nick Chevillet and Andrew Pawelski (also on guitar and bass, respectively) alternating and merging their vocals, Jesse Shepherd-Bates on guitar and vox, Joby Kaslowski manning the drum kit and newcomer Joel Sanders adding keys to the mix, they’ve progressed from Beatlesesque harmonies and guitar-driven pop structures to more ethereal and experimental tones (compare the instant infectiousness of “A Heart Like Yours” with the spacey “Wrapped in Plastic”). Their most recent EP, 52, was released in May and finds the newly fashioned quintet serving up their finest batch of tunes yet in the midst of this transition. When recreating the EP live—with a few altered versions of cuts from their LP, The Morning After, thrown in—the HandGrenades prove themselves one of the most invigorating and promising bands in Michigan today.
SATURDAY, 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27
Populace Cafe, 1003 Washington Ave.
Songwriter and instrumentalist Jason Milan began picking and strumming when he was eleven years old to keep up with his heavy metal minded cousins. Roughly two and a half decades after first picking up an acoustic guitar, he has blossomed into a truly gifted performer and technical virtuoso. Milan’s original instrumental compositions are experimental, spiritual, spellbinding and spine tingling. Fans of all-time guitar greats like Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery and Pat Metheny will surely appreciate the jazz undertones that resonate while he navigates effortlessly over the frets. After taking a few years off from extensive touring to pursue projects in the field of Visual Arts, Jason returned to music in 2012 with a double LP titled “URIM and THUMMIM” and is currently working on his next album, “Battle Hymns From the Nether”. Join us for a cup of Bay City’s best coffee as HHM welcomes Jason Milan for a delightful afternoon performance in the inviting atmosphere of Populace Cafe.
SATURDAY, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27
Electric Kitsch, 917 Washington Ave.
Searching for the perfect musical act to satisfy your appetite for top shelf minimalist electro-pop and sultry R&B? If so, you needn’t look any further than the Motor City’s resident falsetto crooner James Linck to curb your cravings for audible deliciousness. In recent years Linck has led Detroit bands James & the Rainbros and House Phone as well as collaborating with the likes of Motown hip-hoppers Passalacqua and Doc Waffles, Christopher Jarvis of Phantasmagoria, and Tunde Olaniran. Now on his own as a solo artist, Linck is poised to take his unique brand of brutally honest storytelling delivered with a soulful vocal confidence to a broader audience. Set to share some of the choice cuts from his most recent critically-acclaimed EP release, “Fortress of Solitude”, Linck will offer HHM attendees a taste of what they can expect in the future from this talented, dynamic vocalist.
SATURDAY, 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27
Masonic Temple Blue Room, Madison Ave. & Sixth Street
The Mud Suns (Chesaning)
The Mud Suns don’t mess around—they’re raw, nasty, and dirty, but with a glow that shines through the grime, as their name implies. Built on grungy guitar riffs, heavy bass lines and pummeling drums that could blast through a granite slab, the trio of Chadd Mattison, Cole Mattison and Kevin Kuchar pull no punches in their washes of distortion. For point of reference, think of a young Soundgarden with some Delta blues inclinations. Straight to the point, these three guys crank out a no-punches pulled brand of swaggering rock that belies their young age. They released their debut LP, The Hundredth Monkey, in 2011 with follow-up EP ABAB1234 having dropped in November 2013.
The Von Bondies were one of the premiere bands of the aughts’ garage rock revivalism. PONYSHOW is them, but not really. More accurately, PONYSHOW is something of the Von Bondies’ reincarnated progeny, composing three of the previous outfit’s members in a tweaked reconfiguration. Von Bondies’ frontman Jason Stollsteimer is still strangling chaotic melodies out of the guitar, but his new role finds him sharing vocal duties with bassist Leann Banks, with Don Blum the resident drum-banger. As a show of their solidarity, the trio performs live with each member lining the front of the stage. Formed earlier this year, the nascent trio are releasing their first 7-inch in September. As an aside, this is Stollsteimer’s second appearance at Hell’s Half Mile, having kicked off the 2013 festival with his previous band the Hounds Below.
Hollow & Akimbo (Ann Arbor)
Waves of anticipation heralded the February release of this group’s debut eponymous LP. For once, the hype was justified, as the record stands as one of 2014’s best. Composed of Jonathan Visger, Brian Konicek and Mike Higgins, Hollow & Akimbo pulls off that rare feat of being lyrically and sonically compelling in equal doses. Their lyrical concerns find them singing of molecules, singularity, doors to other worlds and more commonplace matters such as the anonymity that can accompany big city living and relationship turmoil. Musically, they fuse the Flaming Lips’ psychedelia, Radiohead’s progressive proclivities and Passion Pit’s textured electronics. What results are aural tapestries loaded with evocative beats at home with idiosyncratic guitar parts, the songs amounting to a sensory experience wherein you can practically see the colors as much as hear the notes. It doesn’t come much more energizing than this.
The High Strung (Detroit)
The High Strung is a band difficult to qualify, as they don’t snuggly fit into any subgenre. Suffice to say, they just flat-out rock in punchy fashion, all crunchy guitars and rapid fire drums. Laden with hooks you’ll find yourself humming after one or two listens, the band’s sound is also defined by the literary quality of their lyrics, which should come as no surprise as frontman and songwriter Josh Malerman’s debut novel Bird Box was published by Ecco in May and they once went on tour performing exclusively in Michigan libraries. But don’t get the wrong impression that these guys are pretentious; on the contrary, they imbue their shows with a contagious sense of ramshackle fun. A staple of the Detroit scene for years, the band has a litany of albums to their credit, once infamously left their tour van on the steps of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is probably best known to area audiences for their ramshackle anthem “The Luck You Got”, used as the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless. To get a feel for them beforehand, check out albums Moxie Bravo and Get the Guests, great starting points for the uninitiated.
Tunde Olaniran (Flint)
With this Flint native, it’s not simply a matter of standing back and watching a musician play a few songs. No, what Tunde Olaniran brings is a full-fledged interactive, performance art exhibition. A mélange of R&B, hip-hop, indie pop and electronica is what this guru of Afrofuturism champions. With his elaborate costumes, female backup dancers and synchronized moves, Olaniran uses the stage as pulpit as he croons and raps in a four-octave range, leading an audience in an energetic narrative. Steeped in a distinctly Michigan-bred social consciousness, his lyrics carry intellectual weight that is provocative rather than heavy-handed. The engaging quality of his shows ratchets up the lush vitality of the studio recordings hailing from his series of EPs. His most recent output, Yung Archetype, was released on Ann Arbor-based Quite Scientific in February. You can try to prepare yourself for an Olaniran show, but your best bet is to just expect sensory overload and ride out the whirlwind as it envelopes you.