Friday October 22 – The Avenue Cafe
8 PM, 21+, $5 Cover:
8:00-8:45 Dani Plays 45s
8:45-9:15 I Believe In Julio
9:30-10:00 Bloody Butterflies
10:15-10:45 The Hunky Newcomers
11:00-11:30 Narc Out The Reds
11:45-12:30 The Plurals “Futurospective” Full Album Live
Saturday October 23 – The Record Lounge
3 PM, All Ages, $5 Cover:
3:30-4:00 Cashcow Boytoy
4:15-4:45 Drinking Mercury
5:00-5:30 The Plurals “Hattest Hits” Set
5:45- 6:15 Dasterds
6:30-7:00 Rodeo Boys
Saturday October 23 – The Avenue Cafe
8 PM, 21+, $5 Cover:
8:00-8:30 Dani Plays 45s
8:30-9:00 A Rueful Noise
9:15-9:45 Jeremy Porter and The Tucos
10:00-10:30 KIND BEAST
10:45-11:15 Bank of America
11:30-12:30 The Wild Honey Collective & Cutlass Supreme
The phrase “Joy Is Elusive” appeared in Harborcoat’s Matthew Carlson head one day, and the singer/songwriter/guitarist wrote it in black Sharpie on a piece of paper and tacked it to the wall above his studio computer. Those words became a conceptual signpost for the Harborcoat’s sophomore album, aptly titled, Joy Is Elusive.
“Not that joy doesn’t happen, or that we can’t find a lot joy in life and work, but it seems it can be difficult to find these moments and hard work to sustain them,” the Lansing, Michigan artist shares. “I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life and it has always crept into my songwriting as a sort of veiled subtext. With this new batch of songs, I made a conscious effort to write about it more directly. They aren’t mopey or deliberately maudlin, but I think during these times people are feeling a lot anxiety, depression, and they have been grappling with isolation. These topics are part of the human condition.”
Matthew is the main songwriter in Harborcoat. Previously, he led The Pantones for more than a decade, and currently he writes songs and plays and sings in Lansing power pop outfit, The Stick Arounds. In addition, he is the owner and operator of Phonophore Records.
Harborcoat began as a songwriting outlet for Matthew in 2016 for output that didn’t fit with The Stick Arounds. The vision was initially a bedroom artistic venture, but a dear friend suggested Matthew make a real record, and Harborcoat became a functioning band that plays shows and records with an ever-evolving cast of musicians. Previously, Harborcoat issued the 2017 single, “See The Sun,” and the 2019 full-length, Brutal Gravity.
Harborcoat specialize in short stories with chords. The lyrics are novelistic and almost standalone pieces rife with emotive and well-crafted narratives. The band name is pulled from an early R.E.M. gem, and the music brims with nods to Matthew’s heroes. The songs recall the crunchy power pop and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub; the introspection and melodic storytelling of Billy Bragg; and sprinkled in are moments of 80’s esque Brit-Pop or working-class anthems. These influences, however, do not define the record, but are they are merely a strand of DNA in Harborcoat’s collective musical helix.
The songs on Joy Is Elusive are buoyant and energetic and are a powerful juxtaposition to the weighty lyric content. “I wanted there to be a sense of joy and excitement even though the lyrical themes are often terribly dark. There was a direct effort to play to that old maxim of ‘beautiful melodies telling me terrible things,’” Matthew admits. He continues: “On this record I wanted to write more intently about all of our unseen struggles and the baggage we travel with each day. There is a greater thread lyrically and musically rooted within the themes of the album and the fictional town in which they occur. As much as I cringe at the idea of a concept record, this is a record with a pretty clearly defined concept.”
The 12-song album is a cohesive and conceptually immersive collection that warrants a full album listening experience. That said, select record standouts include “Transit Town,” the title track, and “Where The River Bends.” “Transit Town” is a power-pop anthem with Who-style ringing guitars and a rich tapestry of sing-along harmony vocals. The song’s sugar rush is offset by the bummer of the fleeting nature of relationships in a college town. “The story here is of a self-contained world in a mid-sized industrial city not on an upswing where one person comes into town, they partner with someone for a period of time, and then move on, and that other person is stuck and doesn’t want to be where they are,” Matthew shares. This sentiment is epitomized by the lyric: This city is just a stepping stone/And so I guess am I/Everybody else has flown/I’ve got nowhere to fly.
The deeply emotive piano ballad, “Joy Is Elusive,” is a character-driven piece about a mentally ill sibling who does a stint at a state hospital, but is later returned to his family and they have to find a way to build a life together. The song is filled with poignant scene-setting lyrics such as: We picked you up in Traverse City, scars across your arms/Drove along the country roads, you stared out at the farms/Asked you twice if you were hungry you simply shook your head/We inquired if you were better this was all you said. The dynamic and imaginatively arranged literate rocker, “Where The River Bends,” paints a powerful picture of the terror of getting what you want.
The album was tracked at Matthew’s family cabin. Before the sessions began, his father died suddenly, and Matthew thought to cancel, but his family and friends convinced him to proceed with the sessions. “That week of recording was the first time in four weeks that I had managed to find any degree of happiness or hope,” he recalls. “It was cathartic, it was beautiful, and it was the perfect distraction.”
(writeup c/o Phonophore Records)
This October a unique version of The Wild Honey Collective led by Tommy and Danielle will hit the road, featuring Jeremy Porter (who will also play solo in addition to accompanying the Wild Honey set on lap steel, mandolin, and guitar) and Nicholas Richard. This tour is hitting a lot of new spots for this GTG crew, so while the tour is officially designated to promote The Wild Honey Collective Volume 1 and Jeremy Porter and The Tucos’ Candy Coated Cannonball, given the unique band lineup and that this is the first proper extended GTG artist tour in 2 years(!) it’s safe to also expect some Plurals tunes, a variety of covers, and some collaborations with other friends at certain shows. Dates are all listed above and there’s a full event thing going here. NY, VT, ME, PA, NJ, OH…. we’ll see you out there!
Saturday July 10 will see Cavalcade play the first show at Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids since early 2020. Way to go, boys! Somehow, GTG-affiliated acts are weirdly ushering in the return of live music to the, er, weirdos of the Midwest. Case in point….
Saturday July 10 is also the let’s-not-overstate-it-too-much return of shows to the Avenue Cafe in Lansing, featuring The Hunky Newcomers, Foxgrave, and Jeremy Porter. Geez! That feels good to say. No cover, 21+, 9 PM, just… come and watch! Wow! There’s shows every Saturday in July at the Avenue, and they’ve all got a GTG flavor to them: Saturday July 17 RK Andrews from No Skull opens up for our friends Bloody Butterflies and Bubak, Saturday July 24 Nicholas Weltschmerz opens up for the debut show of the latest Josh David fronted band Frowntown, and on July 31 the Wild Honey Duo will open up for a night of music featuring Michigan mainstay Jen Sygit. Something for everyone, you’re welcome!
The Soods did it again! Following up 2020’s excellent Ornaments of Affection, A Ray Rewired Volume 1 features 7 bursts of dreamy, jangly goodness. In addition to project mastermind Jason Roy and regular members Steven Meltzer, Chris Coble, Matt Ten Clay, Shane Tripp, and Haleigh Potter, A Ray Rewired features Ryne Clarke (The Ryne Experience) and Timmy Rodriguez (Wild Honey, Drinking Mercury, Sleeping, etc) among others. Download at the link above or check it out on Spotify. More Soods to come!
October was wild, bringing the new releases by Extra Arms, The Stick Arounds, and Blaine and His Keyboard into the world. And now there’s some great shows this month! We’ve already had a couple bangers from The Plurals, Extra Arms, Small Parks, and The Tucos, but let’s not let my lazy web-updating self drop the ball on the rest of ’em!
11/15 – Blaine and His Keyboard @ Mac’s Bar (Lansing, MI) w/ Marc Rebillet
11/16 – Tommy Plural @ The Avenue Cafe (Lansing) w/ Invisible Cartoons
11/17 – Bong Mountain @ Sleeping Village (Chicago, IL) w/ Typesetter
11/18 – GTG House Show (Lansing) w/ Mistic Mountian and Third Twin Sister
11/21 – The Hat Madder @ Mac’s Bar (Lansing) 10 Year Anniversary Party!
11/30 – Jeremy Porter and the Tucos @ Village Idiot (Maumee, OH)
11/30 – Sleeping Timmy @ Tip Top Deluxe (Grand Rapids, MI)
12/1 – Jeremy Porter and the Tucos @ PJ’s Lager House (Detroit, MI) 7-inch Release Party!
Yep, you read that right, a new 7-inch from Jeremy Porter and the Tucos to round off a great year of releases! Wow!
Starting today we’re launching a campaign to put out a new release every month in 2017, which will begin on January 27th with the release of a new live recording by The Hunky Newcomers entitled Harder Dude Stuff. This will be available digitally on the 27th and we’ll be having a release party at GTG House that night as well where CDs will be available too. 12 (minimum, there will likely be more) releases can add up so we’re offering up a 2017 album subscription plan via our bandcamp for anyone that wants to get in early and help generate some more fundage for the releases this year. We broke it down into three price models, one payment of $35 for the year will give immediate digital downloads of everything we put out this year, Lansing area people (that we can either hand-deliver or coordinate meetups with) can pay $60 to get physical product (it looks to be 4 vinyl releases and 8 CDs, possibly a cassette or two) along with the downloads, and everyone else can pay $75 to get the downloads and have the physical product shipped to them. Subscribers will also receive immediate free downloads of four of our back catalog items – Honah Lee “Life Won’t Let Me,” The Hat Madder “Orgy Opposite,” The Hunky Newcomers “Secret of the Booze,” and The Plurals “An Onion Tied To My Belt” – so if you’ve been sitting on getting any of those that’s part of it too. Bandcamp also insists on including an “exclusive fan community” thing with subscriptions, so that comes with it but I don’t have the faintest idea what we’ll do there. There also will be some bonus subscriber-only releases that will have some fun stuff (the plan is to put those out every 3 months to serve as companion releases to each quarter’s releases) – basically, you’ll get somewhere around 16 new releases for your collection this year, and we have a lot of cool stuff in the works.
We all have our goals and dreams and resolutions and such whenever the calendar rolls over, and while we’re doing our best to reassure friends and family that the world isn’t ending (yet anyway), we’ve been thinking about what the point of this label is in the first place. Sure, we all have our own self-involved reasons for playing music, but the whole point of building a community around independent, weirder, and/or less-commercial music is to give a voice to people and ideas that may not be heard otherwise and to inject some sort of positivity into our surrounding community. Let it be heard that we’re committed to doing our part to contribute positive and creative energy to help make the navigation through this life a little bit more bearable. And we’re doubling down to bring more of it out this year! It’s gonna be a fun! Scary! Wild! Inspiring! All kinds of good stuff. Happy New Year!