A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail inviting me out to a show at Papa Pete’s on Saturday, July 21st. The lineup was to consist of Plastic Fantastic, Electric Jug Band and Kalamazoo River Monsters. Having never seen any of these bands live, I decided to go check them out, and see what I had been missing out on.
I arrived at Papa Pete’s around 9:30PM, ordered my first beer, then sat around wondering why the place was still pretty empty. As Electric Jug Band began their sound check, I stepped outside for a pre-show cigarette where it became apparent why there weren’t that many patrons inside–many of them were outside, smoking. And that’s when I thought, “Boy, it’s a good thing there’s a smoking ban. Imagine all of these people being inside, relaxing, buying drinks and not having to pry themselves away from the music so that the five non-smokers still inside aren’t bothered by secondhand smoke. Brilliant.”
Electric Jug Band took the stage first, and right away I knew we were in store for something cool. The group had a variety of instruments in tow, from electric guitar, bass and drums, to harmonica, saxophone, lap steel and even a washtub bass. There was a definite folk rock sound and vibe, with elements of blues and other traditional styles, all wrapped up in to a neat little package of jam-friendly, dance-worthy ass-kickery.
Early on in the performance they cranked out a fairly long piece, with several lyrical and melodic shifts. I initially thought this to be a medley of some sort, that is until after the song was finished and one of the band members noted, “It’s been a while since we’ve done that one.” The guys also nailed a pretty fantastic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” staying true to the sound and style of the original, with just enough difference to really make it their own.
Enter Plastic Fantastic, who I’ve been meaning to get out and see for some time. This three piece has been extremely active in the West Michigan area for well over a year, with regular performances at Old Dog Tavern, Louie’s and Waldo’s, as well assorted shows at other area venues. Due to the band struggling with sickness over the course of the past several weeks, including a nasty case of bronchitis, this was to be their first time playing together in about a month. Luckily for those in attendance, the lack of practice didn’t show at all.
These guys have more of a straight rock feel, with definite punk, alternative and classic rock influences. The set was mostly solid with a decent amount of energy, as was showcased by some random guy out on the dance floor who made what I assume to be his best attempt at grooving in some awesome fashion. Unfortunately for him, not everyone in the crowd was as enthusiastic about his performance as he was himself, and after seeking validation from the audience that he quickly noticed would not be forthcoming, he left the floor deflated. Plastic Fantastic continued on with their set, sharing vocal responsibilities and just plain flat out rocking in general, unfazed and undaunted by Random Dude’s display of “hey look at me.” Either that or they just didn’t notice.
Closing out the night was Kalamazoo River Monsters. A decidedly folk and funk theme emanates from this group, who brings a nice variety of instruments to the table as well, including banjo and trombone. Aside from the hilarious distraction of the guy who couldn’t unglue his eyes from the ass of a girl he was playing pool with, I was really sucked in to the music. I particularly liked the pirate-themed song, though I’m unsure of the title. Hell, it may even be “The Pirate Song” for all I know. I unfortunately was unable to stay for their entire performance, but this is definitely one band to go see live if you haven’t already.
The music scene in Kalamazoo definitely sees a bit of a lull over the summer months, but really that mostly has to do with attendance. There are still plenty of fantastic events with extremely talented bands most any night of the week. You just have to get out there and be a part of it.