By Kristi Kates
While some tribute bands pay homage to big acts like Pink Floyd or The
Rolling Stones, a plethora of performers around the country choose a
solo artist to be the focus of their act. Mackinaw City
guitarist/singer Mike Fornes has chosen to perform the music of Gordon
Lightfoot, the Canadian performer perhaps best known in Michigan for
his Lake Superior-centric song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Lightfoots music has become legendary in folk/pop music circles, and
Fornes - along with his band of backing musicians - pays careful
attention to every performance detail in order to do justice to
Known for his work in journalism and sportscasting (I have lived
several professional lifetimes in the broadcasting and journalistic
worlds, he says. Right now, the Lightfoot music project is my main
focus.), Fornes sings in a voice of similar timbre to Lightfoots,
and he purposefully plays similar instruments.
I play Gords Gibson B-45 12-string and the Martin D-18 that he
uses, Fornes explains, and Todd Golnicks lead guitars are a Martin
and a Gretsch Country Gentleman, just like Terry Clements plays in the
Lightfoot Band. We have the same amps and effects too. All of us use
authentic instruments in order to create the sounds of a Lightfoot
The instrumentation, Fornes believes, helps the show stay as true as
possible to Lightfoots original recordings. In addition to Golnick,
Fornes sidemen include George Krawczyk on keyboards, John Riemer on
bass, and Joe Kwiatkowski on drums and special effects, augmenting his
drum kit with percussion instruments for various songs.
Fornes himself got his first guitar in the fifth grade, he says, and
loved The Beatles.
I learned to sing in church, and in school choirs and performing
groups, he says.
Those formative years would prove useful later in his life, when he
began putting together the replication of a two-hour concert of
Lightfoot songs that would resonate especially well with Michigan
This is music from our culture, our way of life, he explains.
His Lightfoot playlist is set to include such classics as Carefree
Highway, Sundown, and, of course, ... Fitzgerald.
I think you have to play the big songs, he says, especially that
song. It happened less than 100 miles from where were from, and
anybody who has ever heard that song identified it with storms they
have seen here, and what happened on that horrible night. But there
will be some surprises, too - some other great music Gordon wrote that
I think people will really enjoy.
CAPTURING A LEGEND
Lightfoots music, Fornes says, connects with a lot of people, and
he sees a lot of emotional reactions, from hand-holding to sheer
attentiveness, at his performances as Lightfoot.
I think our show is simply an honest effort at recreating the
Lightfoot concert experience, he says, his music is about the
forests and lakes and ships, and a lot of it is about broken hearts
and lost loves, as well.
If you couldnt already tell, Fornes is a respectful fan as well as a
Were in awe of the mans songwriting and performing abilities,
Fornes says, weve worked very hard at capturing the acoustic
presence his music brings to a theater.
For Fornes upcoming Lightfoot show at Ground Zero in Traverse City,
the venue will be setting a more folky, quiet mood to suit Lightfoots
introspective tunes and acoustically-focused sound.
I think Traverse City is a great place to present this music, with
all the woods and lakes nearby, Fornes says, and Streeters will be a
wonderful venue, as they are planning a cabaret-style floor plan for
the show with tables and chairs. It will be a fun night together, with
Mike Fornes Whispers of the North, Gordon Lightfoot Tribute will take
place Friday, August 27 at Ground Zero in Traverse City, with a
pre-show Deep into Dylan tribute by Acoustic Dynamite. Evening is
presented by Oldies 97.5 WCCW. All seats for the 8 p.m. show are on
sale at the Ground Zero box office for $10/$12 day of show; call
231-932-1300 for more info, or buy tickets online at