Lots of great events at our home base of The Avenue this month. Thursday November 4th features GTG family Mistic Mountian (Nich Plural, Blaine “And His Keyboard”), and LoLo (Pudvay, Hunky, Knights, et al), November 5th is a sticky sweet Stick Arounds night, November 12 features the first-ish show by Cutlass Supreme (Frank and Earnestish), November 24 will have a cover band of Baratonos, Plurals, Aymors ‘n such, and every weekend is chock full of a wide variety of music! Whoo!
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!
2021 is bringing some shows! The Wild Honey Collective will be gracing The Corner of Main & Steele in Ionia, MI with a full-length set on Sunday June 13– this band has been playing virtual shows for almost a year but this is, at last, a, for real, in-person show. No cover, bring a lawn chair!
Never one to waste an opportunity to get on the road, Jeremy Porter has a run of solo dates in the Midwest from June 17-19 – Candy Coated Cannonball has been out on vinyl since the beginning of the year but just like the aforementioned Wild Honeys, this is the first chance to truly catch Jeremy playing live in support of it. Fingers crossed for Tucos shows soon!
We had a guerilla parking lot show at GTG House over Memorial Day weekend with sets by The Plurals, Marsha, and The Hunky Newcomers. We’ll be having more of these as the shows start to come back… just what we needed! But HEY – get vaccinated! We wanna keep doing this and not have anyone die! If you think you know better than medical professionals about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, look, you just don’t. It’s awesome to be part of a secret club and to feel in-control of your destiny – as a collective of punk musicians we understand that more than most – but the so-called “anti-vaxx” movement is rooted in publicity stunts by insecure celebrities for TV ratings in the 1980s and, well, we ain’t looking for answers in Al Capone’s vault are we? Anyway, get your shot, we’ll do shots, don’t be a dick, etc etc here’s some pictures (c/o Michael Boyes ‘n Danielle Gyger).
Friday May 21, 2021! Best Friends Club is gonna take the summer off from our “big show” series (but will still post video content periodically) and we’re going out with a bang! We’ve got the great Cryptkeeper Five streaming a full set with Tim and Dim from Honah Lee and The Wild Honey Collective opening things up. After the show we’ll be broadcasting video of The Plurals Futurospective CD release party at Mac’s Bar from May 21, 2011 i.e. 10 years later to the day! This album was very important to the band and the label, and the video is a riot. Check it all out at 7 PM, Friday 5/21 at bestfriendsclub.us or on facebook.
And HERE is an article written about BFC and the show, thanks to City Pulse!