Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Music · Pickin‘ Party? Hayloft
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Pickin‘ Party? Hayloft

Robert Downes - May 24th, 2010
Pickin’ Party: Hayloft open mic offers authentic Americana
By Robert Downes
It’s not quite the Grand Ole’ Opry, but it feels pretty durned close:
Every Thursday, a driven group of guitar, banjo and mandolin pickers
congregate at a country-western bar outside of Traverse City to open their
musical veins and let it flow in what is widely considered to be the best
open mic in the region.
The open mic Roundup is the brainchild of Bill Dungjen, whose roots as a
master of ceremonies go back to 1998. Starting at 8 p.m. every Thursday
at the Hayloft tavern on M-72 West, Dungjen presides over a crowd that’s
largely made up of local musicians, their friends and spouses.
The Hayloft open mic has come a long way, baby. Five years ago, the
‘audience’ was often largely made up of a few disinterested patrons and
the stuffed deer heads staring down from the wall. But these days that’s
all changed: Dungjen has installed lush, red velvet drapes on the stage
and the event, which is officially known as the WNMC Roundup, is recorded
for the best performances to be played on the college FM radio station
each week.
That kind of loving care and persistence has built the popularity of the
Hayloft’s open mic through the years. On a recent visit, the venue was
packed with customers eating dinner and enjoying the music in a smoke-free
“We get every level of player here and we invite everyone,” Dungjen says.
“It’s always real friendly and a goal for local musicians to play here.
We’ve seen lots of players really improve through the years and even have
a “most improved” trophy.”

Dungjen started hosting open mics at the Cedar Tavern in 1998, moving on a
few years later to Mackinaw Brewing in Traverse City. In 2004, he
launched the open mic at the Hayloft, priming the show with veteran
players such as Dick Costlow, Brant Leonard and Joe Lake, who remain
‘regulars’ to this day.
“It seems like I’ve been here almost forever, or maybe it’s just like
yesterday,” Dungjen says with a smile. “I never tire of it because
there’s always something new.”
Dungjen’s musical roots are steeped in old-timey, traditional songs. “My
dad’s a big cowboy and I came up listening to a lot of Bob Wills songs. I
listened to a lot of cowboy music from the ‘20s when I was a kid -- they
were horrible recordings, but they had great songs about riding horses and
sleeping by the campfire.”
It’s hard to imagine, but Dungjen also plays pop dinner music as a solo
act at North restaurant in Leelanau County -- stuff like “Five-Foot-Two,”
“All of Me,” and tunes by Billy Joel. He also performs with his wife,
Susan and Jonah Powell in their band, Susan Marie and the Cedar Valley
Boys, offering harmony-laden, upbeat songs in the mode of the Indigo
But his heart is in the country, and you’ll often hear Dungjen performing
near-forgotten odes to Americana and bluegrass on guitar, mandolin or bass
that sound straight out of the Dustbowl days or Woody Guthrie’s playbook.
That bluegrass vibe is also at the heart of Sour Mash, a house band at the
open mic which Dungjen and friends launched two years ago. The band has
curtailed its playing at the Hayloft in order to seek paying gigs, but it
helped pump up the Roundup’s reputation as the place to be for local
acoustic musicians. “We’re a straight-up open mic now,” he notes.

A bluegrass vibe has taken root at the Hayloft in terms of how the sound
from the stage is projected. A single condenser microphone occupies the
stage; there are no amplifiers or a p.a. to plug in to, as is the case
with most open mics. You just get up there and bang out a tune unplugged,
just like Woody Guthrie or Bill Monroe might have done, back in the day.
“The reason we brought in the curtains and a rug for the stage is because
it baffles everything, sound-wise, so we get studio-quality recordings,”
Dungjen adds.
Plus, it adds a lot of drama to the show, with those big, rich, red
drapes framing the players like (as one player says) “either a funeral
home or a brothel.”
So, what’s the scene like? On a recent Thursday, a player named Doug got
up and performed “Don’t Dream it’s Over” by Crowded House -- a tough song
to pull off on an acoustic guitar, and then a rousing version of Nancy
Sinatra’s “Boots are Made for Walking.” A guitar/banjo duo, DSR, played a
cowboy tune by Hank Williams and some high-flying bluegrass that got a big
hand from the crowd. Meanwhile, a player named Matt performed
“Pocahantas” by Neil Young, nailing the vocals and following up with a
Traveling Wilburys tune.
Often, you hear dead-nuts Americana from the last century: bluegrass,
roots music, cowboy and old-timey stuff from the heyday of the Grand Ole
Opry, especially at the “Pile On” jam at the end of the night, when half a
dozen or more players get up on stage for a foot-stompin’ finale.

“Jimmy Crack Corn” anyone? “Camptown Ladies”? “Sweet Georgia Brown”?
Chances are these tunes have wafted over the Hayloft stage a time or two,
along with lots of original numbers too as the pickers of the WNMC Roundup
carry on an American tradition.

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