Bank of Ann Arbor is pleased to announce the first half of the line-up for the 2018 season of Sonic Lunch. The rest of the line-up will be released May 16th on Ann Arbor’s 107.1.
Now in its eleventh year, Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch is a free summer outdoor concert series happening at the corner of Liberty and Division in downtown Ann Arbor. Every Thursday, beginning June 7 and concluding on August 30, Sonic Lunch features an impressive array of bands from the region and national acts. New to the line-up this year are opening acts for each show beginning at 11:30am that will feature predominately local Michigan artists.
The following bands will comprise the June and early July 2018 Sonic Lunch line-up:
6/7 Moon Taxi wsg Nadim Azzam
6/14 ZZ Ward wsg Jill Jack
6/21 JD McPherson wsg Olivia Millerschin
6/28 Mt. Joy wsg Michigander
7/5 Michigan Rattlers wsg Misty Lyn
“We are extremely excited to announce the first half of our 2018 Sonic Lunch lineup” said Tim Marshall, President and CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor. “There is an incredible amount of talent coming to the Liberty Plaza stage for our eleventh season hosting the concert series. It has always been important to support the local arts and culture of our community and Sonic Lunch is an important part of that commitment. By contributing the necessary resources into a community event like Sonic Lunch, Bank of Ann Arbor helps make the greater Ann Arbor region a better place. I hope that many can set aside time to stop by Liberty Plaza and enjoy the 2018 version of Sonic Lunch with family and friends.”
Marshall added, “Rest assured, the second half of the season is going to be just as exciting as the first. We will be making the announcement with Martin Bandyke on Ann Arbor’s 107one the morning of May 16th.”
June 7th – Moon Taxi wsg Nadim Azzam
Fearlessly melding rock with pop hooks, clever synths and roots touchstones gleaned from their home in Music City, Moon Taxi's forthcoming fifth record and first for RCA will find the five-piece doing what they do best: coming together and fighting for music that triumphs above all. "We can come together, we won't give up on the fight," sings Nashville's Moon Taxi on their smash single "Two High," a song that catapulted them to the top of the streaming charts and the forefront of the national stage. Filled with emotive vocals, a percussive beat and some unexpected, infectious horns, it's a track that shows the band – which has been together for over a decade – venturing into more adventuresome territory than ever.
"Two High," the band's newest single, has been taking Moon Taxi - Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitarist), Spencer Thomson (lead guitarist and producer), Wes Bailey (keyboardist), Tommy Putnam (bassist) and Tyler Ritter (drummer) – to new heights, topping over 90 million streams on Spotify and making heavy rotation on SiriusXM. Written in response to the push for peace, but not reacting to the politics, of the Women's March this past January, it's a song that encourages listeners to keep looking for a positive way forward – from their own internal battles, to the ones suffered by the world at large. It's perhaps due to Moon Taxi's inspired, inclusive worldview when it comes to their music that they've been able to have songs featured as the soundtrack to multiple commercial and TV placements - from BMW, Nashville, MLB, NFL to HBO Sports – but it's their infectious live performances that keep fans coming back night after night. Touring for the better part of the decade, they're the kind of band that inspires a loyal following willing to drive miles and miles (or fly many more) to catch them again and again. "If there's one thing we want when people hear this record or see our shows," says Terndrup, "it's to leave elated." www.ridethemoontaxi.com
June 14th – ZZ Ward wsg Jill Jack
ZZ Ward didn’t have to look far for inspiration on her second full-length album, 2017’s The Storm. Equally evocative of blues grit and hip-hop bounce, the Los Angeles-based vocal powerhouse and multi-instrumentalist leapt forward by taking a deeper look at some of her earliest inspirations- including Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Vera Ward Hall and Big Mama Thornton. ZZ Ward's unique blend of blues, rock, hip-hop, R&B, and neo-soul, as well as her multi-instrumental skills (she's proficient on guitar, piano, and harmonica), brought her a recording deal with Boardwalk Entertainment Group and Hollywood Records, and she began work on a debut album. A free mixtape, Eleven Roses, with Ward's interpretations of contemporaneous tracks by other artists, appeared in February of 2012, with an EP, Criminal, following in May. Til the Casket Drops, the completed album, showed up in October that same year. A track from the album, "Put the Gun Down," rose to number 39 on the Alternative Rock charts, while two other tunes, "Last Love Song" and "365 Days," cracked the Top 30 of the Adult Alternative charts. In 2015, Ward released the four-song EP Love and War, which was intended as a teaser for a 2016 album called This Means War, but the full-length never appeared. Instead, she worked throughout 2016 on the album that became 2017's The Storm. Preceded by the singles "The Deep" (featuring Joey Purp) and "Help Me, Mama," The Storm arrived in June 2017. www.zzward.com
June 21st – JD McPherson wsg Olivia Millerschin
As a visual artist, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native JD McPherson is well versed in the process of working within clearly defined formal parameters, and he employs a similarly rigorous discipline with his music. On Signs & Signifiers (Rounder, April 17), McPherson’s debut album, produced by JD’s musical partner, Jimmy Sutton, this renaissance man/hepcat seamlessly meshes the old and the new, the primal and the sophisticated, on a work that will satisfy traditional American rock ’n’ roll and R&B purists while also exhibiting McPherson’s rarefied gift for mixing and matching disparate stylistic shapes and textures.
JD needn’t have worried. It’s highly unlikely that even the most discerning listeners would guess that the arrangement on his cover of Tiny Kennedy’s R&B chestnut “Country Boy” incorporates not only the tambourine beat of Ruth Brown’s 1955 Atlantic single “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” but also Raekwon and RZA’s “abstract, out-of-tune piano loops” on Wu-Tang Clan’s innovative ’93 LP Enter the Wu-Tang; or that the mesmerizing churner “Signs & Signifiers” is powered by an unchanging tremolo guitar figure modeled on Johnny Marr’s part on the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now.” Then there’s “Firebug,” which JD “wanted to sound as if Stiff Little Fingers had recorded at Del-Fi Records.” And while it may not have been specifically what McPherson and Sutton were going for, the haunting dreamscape “A Gentle Awakening” seems to chart a course from “Heartbreak Hotel” through Terence Trent D’Arby to Amy Winehouse.
Never has an album of so-called “retro” music been laced with such a rich payload of postmodern nuance. But that was precisely the intent of what JD describes, only half-facetiously, as “an art project disguised as an R&B record.”
McPherson took a circuitous path to get to this point. Broken Arrow butts up against Tulsa, a cultural oasis in the Heartland that has long been not only a musical hotbed but also a bustling center of the contemporary arts. “Tulsa’s got a lot of resources for people who are into weirdo art,” JD points out. And he gravitated toward it. “I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma in experimental film,” he says. “I wanted to paint, do installation, make video art, performance stuff, and sculpture. I’ll bet I’m the only person to have received graduate credit hours in card magic.” He wound up with an M.F.A. from the University of Tulsa in open media, a discipline designed specifically for his interests and ambitions.
But all along the way, music was an integral part of McPherson’s life. His dad introduced him to Delta blues and jazz as a kid, and after getting into Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and punk rock during high school, he picked up a Buddy Holly box set. “Something about that scratched an itch,” he says. “Then I started getting into the black side of rock ’n’ roll: Larry Williams, Little Richard, Art Neville’s stuff on Specialty, then soul and Jamaican rocksteady.” While studying visual arts, he also played in bands, doing everything from punk to western swing. JD was still scratching that itch when he recorded some originals with his previous band and took a shot in the dark. Well aware of Sutton’s status as a heavy hitter on the roots scene and the leader of R&B group the Four Charms, he fired off a MySpace friend request and asked if the producer/bassist would listen to his demos. www.jdmcpherson.com
June 28th – Mt. Joy wsg Michigander
Mt. Joy started off as a rekindling of shared musical ambitions between two Philadelphia high school friends, Matt Quinn (vocals, guitar) and Sam Cooper (guitar). Reunited in Los Angeles thanks to the ebbs and flows of adult life, the pair met multi-instrumentalist Michael Byrnes through a Craigslist ad. They named themselves Mt. Joy as an ode to a mountain in Valley Forge National Park near Sam’s childhood home, and together, with Byrnes’ roommate Caleb Nelson producing, they recorded three songs and sent them out into the world, hoping for the best. “I knew I still wanted to write songs, but the realities of life made that dream seem pretty impossible,” Quinn says.
Much to the band’s amazement, “Astrovan” accomplished the impossible. Without initial promotion or fanfare, the song took off on Spotify, racking up 5 million streams to date. “The irony of ‘Astrovan’ was that song was really about being stuck in a life and wanting to have the opportunity to pursue a dream, and in an instant it gave us that opportunity,” Quinn says. Mt. Joy quickly transitioned from a part-time calling into a full-fledged band rounded out by Byrnes on bass, Sotiris Eliopoulos on drums and Jackie Miclau on keyboard.
Come 2017, Mt. Joy hit the road, and hit it hard: They played tour dates alongside the likes of The Shins, The Head and The Heart, The Lone Bellow, and Whitney, and popped up at some of the summer’s biggest festivals, including Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Lollapalooza and Made In America. “We were put on some big shows very quickly,” Quinn says. “The growth for us has been exponential - we’ve really just become a family that’s constantly pushing each other and the live show to be great.” They eventually caught the attention of Dualtone Records and began work on their debut album.
Steeped in folk-rock tradition and powered by the intuitive creative connection between Quinn and Cooper, the songs on ‘Mt. Joy’ depict Quinn wrestling with his own conscience, where the mundane and the fantastic collide as he processes tragedy, society, and love. Opener “I’m Your Wreck” describes “monsters in (the) closet, using up the wi-fi” as it cycles from its desperate, spiraling verses to its swinging, stubbornly optimistic coda, while the loping, plaintive chords of “Younger Days” meditate on a frayed psyche and the fear of choosing the wrong path. “Sheep,” with its collapsing, hoarse-voiced cry of “freedom was paid in blood,” is a post-Trump salvo on the responsibilities of the fortunate to overcome political and social despondency. And on “Silver Lining,” perhaps the album’s brightest moment, Quinn surveys the damage of hard drugs and the vicious cycle of addiction, as the song’s melancholic sentiment kicks into its fervid, defiant chorus, all shout-along vocals and trilling guitars.
Taken together, the self titled ‘Mt. Joy’ LP is a startlingly open document, wracked with the anxieties and fears that come just as life seems to start working out. It’s a natural reaction from a wary band like Mt. Joy - the result of a sort of professional vertigo, as they’ve gone from virtual unknowns to a hot young commodity in a little over a year. But there’s a sense of hope underlying everything, girded by the fact that the Mt. Joy LP is an impressive, honest portrayal of a young band facing that moment where dreams become reality, and finding beauty in the exhilarating uncertainty of it all. www.mtjoyband.com
July 5th – Michigan Rattlers wsg Misty Lyn
Upholding a time-honored songwriting tradition, Michigan Rattlers recount human stories through a soundtrack of Americana punctuated by countrified rock'n'roll and folk. The subjects of their 2016 self-titled debut EP practically live and breathe between Graham Young's rustling guitar and Adam Reed's percussive upright bass. Born in Petoskey, MI and based in Los Angeles, the duo's music plays out like a film. "All of my favorite songs tell stories," says Graham. "It's the most important part. They're about people trying to overcome life's obstacles. That's what it always comes back to." Lifelong friends Graham and Adam began writing music and performing together in their Northern Michigan high school. Residing in a quiet tourist town of 6,000 located on the banks of Lake Michigan, the pair regularly played every bar, cafe, and stage in town, developing an inimitable musical chemistry informed by the likes of AC/DC, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more. Adam headed to Ohio for college as Graham went to Illinois, but upon graduation, Graham beckoned Adam to move to Los Angeles so they could start a band. A four-day cross-country road trip gave birth to Michigan Rattlers.
Settling down in Los Angeles, the two young men recorded a short demo and began playing locally. The demo found its way into the hands of super producer Johnny K (Plain White T's, 3 Doors Down), and they cut the bulk of their first EP at NRG Studios in just one day. "My favorite music is recorded that way," continues Adam. "You get in a room, plug in, and cut as many songs as you can live." www.Michiganrattlers.com