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Monday, May 12, 2014

Michigan music is a trip

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 9:12 AM

Those of us who live in metro Detroit are, as I’ve said many times, incredibly lucky. We live in a musical melting pot, a place where cultures, genres and ages clash resulting in a hot spot of manic energy and eclecticism. We can see amazing music on any night of any week, no matter what we’re into, and that’s an incredible gift. Venture just a few hours within Michigan though, and the story can change dramatically.

This past weekend, I drove my family to Saugatuck and Holland, the latter city hosting the annual Tulip Festival. Family-wise, it was awesome. My toddler son had a great time playing on a beach on Lake Michigan, we ate good food and saw a windmill. Beautiful. Any attempt to find music, however, provided serious challenges.

There’s a neat little store in Saugatuck that sells kitschy items like Batman lunch boxes, Star Wars pencils and Betty Boop figurines. You know the sort of place. I bought a pin there that reads “Support Local Music.” A chat developed with the proprietor, as he told me that there’s really no local scene in Saugatuck because “the tourists don’t want that.” It’s a terrible shame, the idea that people on vacation just want to eat their ice cream and listen to covers, but he’s right.

Wandering around town, I found a band called the Niche, which was playing a dreary version of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” to enthusiastic whoops and applause. I fared a little better at the Sand Bar Saloon, as Joe Johnson & the Bluebacks were just kicking into a set of white boy blues standards. Not exciting by any means, but better than the wedding stuff at the previous bar.

To be fair, this wasn’t the sort of trip where I was expecting to find hip joints filled with people begging for challenging sounds. Still, it served as a reminder of how lucky we really are. Mind you, the Tulip Fest offered something a little different, and more interesting.

Wooden shoe (or clog) dancing is serious business, and it was everywhere in Holland. They didn’t seem to be able to find any men to take part, because the women were dancing with other women dressed as dudes. Still, the flowing dresses and little Dutch boy hats were something to see. The Dutch trad folk music was sweet enough, particularly in these circumstances.

Bill Cosby was performing at Tulip Fest, but the $60 tickets didn’t seem worth it. Plus, what’s Dutch about Bill? I also carefully sidestepped performing bands like the Killer Bs! (“Barry Manilow, Billy Joel & the Beatles – like you’ve never heard them before”), Vocal Trash (Glee meets Stomp), and FiddleFire ("fuses bluegrass, Irish, classical and French Canadian music"). I did want to see the Windmill Chorus barbershop harmony choir, but it didn’t pan out.

I guess the lesson is this – don’t go on vacation searching for what you already have at home. Go out and find the strange. Listen to something you normally never would. Maybe dance a little. And try on some wooden shoes – they’re surprisingly comfortable.

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