Over the past several years, whether it was the rise of DJs, the shuttering of popular nightspots, or the economic downturn, the result was less live music in the region.
But things are picking up. Established eateries are rediscovering the appeal of live music for their patrons. Bars and nightclubs are expanding their offerings, and new venues are popping up, making the region a more musical place.
Guitarist Ron Getz performs numerous times each week, from outdoor gigs to brunches, from Petoskey to Traverse City.“There’s a resurgence of live music,” he said.
Getz plays or has recently played at Om Cafe and Brew in Traverse City, two of the area’s newer venues. He’s also played at Chandler’s in Petoskey and cava in Bay Harbor, as well as Little Bohemia, the deck at the Holiday Inn, and Poppycock’s in TC.
The various outlets allow him to play in different musical settings with different ensembles.
“That’s what I like about music. It’s nice to mix genres,” he said, noting that his playing with other artists allows him to delve into rock, jazz, blues and world music.
For example, his gigs at Stella’s and Kilkenny’s feature solo guitar; at Om he typically plays with Nancy Stignatta or Laurie Sears on flute; the deck at Holiday Inn finds him with singer/songwriter Mike Moran. At Poppycock’s he often plays with a trio; at venues like Union Street Station he’s part of a quartet with Jack Dryden, Joe Willie and Dave Collini called Cowboy Fusion.
“We play everything from Led Zepelin to Chick Corea,” he said with a laugh.
CAMBRIA SUITES SCENE
Jazz pianist Jeff Haas isn’t playing as many places, but the crowds at Cambria Suites grew all year long for his Thursday night gigs with bassist Jack Dryden, drummer Randy Marsh, and woodwind player Laurie Sears.
“Our setlist features contemporary and fun arrangements of jazz classics from Gershwin, Ellington and Irving Berlin to Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock and Antonio Carolos Jobim,” said Haas. “We also feature selections from my book of over 130 original tunes.”
On June 20 when Haas begins his annual Thursday night residency at Chateau Chantal, the space at Cambria won’t go silent, though the music will switch nights. The “Sundays in the Summer” program will feature a multitude of acts, including singer and pianist Treva Jaffe with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Hunter, vocalist Rose Fraser, classical pianist prodigy ChaoJun Yang and folk-rock duo The Accidentals.
Haas has also performed at the Circuit, the former Traverse City Christian Church and subsequently Just Imagine Creative Arts on 14th Street. The refurbished concert setting has also hosted saxophonist Bill Sears and his Chicago quartet. The venue is home to Building Bridges with Music, the program Haas runs for anti-bullying programs across the country.
“I also use the Bridges performance space for our Teen Mentoring Program with Music,” Haas says. “That is a program for high school music students who are interested in learning more about jazz and are willing to commit to 14 weeks of weekly three-hour rehearsals culminating in three public performances.
David Chown has similarly experienced an uptick in business. The popular piano player and his musical partner Miriam Pico are part of the roster for summer at Cambria Suites, and has a Thursday residency at Phil’s on Front in Traverse City.
Chown recently performed at the grand opening of Opa Uptown. He says he is pleased at the increased opportunities for performing.
“It’s nice to have some venues for some of the veterans,” said Chown.
Opa Uptown owner Paul Barbas says he intends to continue to provide occasional music at the restaurant, where a grand piano sits invitingly at the end of the bar.
“We’ve had David, a jazz trio – I’ll try anything and see if it works,” he said.
The Good Work Collective on Union Street in Traverse City, a project of Porterhouse Productions, offers numerous programs. They include performances by local and touring musicians, such as The Accidentals and Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. Sam Porter also books artists for events such as Paella in the Park and the Microbrew festivals, as well as other outlets, such as the California Guitar Trio at Crystal Mountain.
BOYNE & PETOSKEY
Singer/songwriter Robin Lee Berry of Boyne City sees the venues from both sides. She has performed at places like the Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City and Red Mesa in Boyne City, and she and her husband Tony Williams host concerts each year at their Freshwater Studios Gallery in her home town.
“I’m playing Morel’s Bistro in Boyne City, Café Santé and at Oryana with Glenn Wolff,” said Berry. “Patrick Ivory started that (the Oryana shows), which is a really nice gig.”
Meantime, their concert series continues to draw fans from around the area.
“We just finished our fourth season, and all our shows have done really well,” she said.
Johnnie Walker of Petoskey has a long history in the music industry. He’s worked as a roadie for touring groups, booked musicians for different establishments, and currently is working with Petoskey’s Festival on the Bay and Indian River’s Summerfest on their musical needs.
“Back in 1999, there weren’t that many venues,” he said. “Now we’ve got the casino, Northern Lights Recreation. Chandler’s, Petoskey Brewers, Shorts in Bellaire. Twisted Olive is opened up for acoustic music. Boyne Mountain has hosted some concerts like Kid Rock, The Allman Brothers, Randy Travis, the Gin Blossoms.
“There’s potential everywhere. Northern Michigan is a destination spot. I think it’s on the verge of busting loose.”
THE BREW SCENE
Even smaller establishments are hosting music. Brewery Ferment on Eighth Street just south of Union Street and Northern Natural Cider on Front Street host music on a weekly or monthly basis or on special occasions. Brewery Ferment even is hatching plans for a larger-scale event to take place in the parking lot in back.
On the horizon, owner Susan Leone of the Platte River Inn in Honor says once the lounge is open they will be booking live music as well. Harbor 22, at the intersection of M-22 and Cherry Bend Road in Leelanau County, is beginning a series of Wednesday night shows.
The Pavilions next to Munson Medical Center hosts a weekly lawn concert series, including artists such as Claudia Schmidt, The Bay Area Big Band, and Jazz North. The Leelanau Summer Music Festival, Bay View in Petoskey, the Manitou Music Festival, Interlochen Arts Festival and National Cherry Festival add to the fun.
Add to all that the proliferation of house concerts by touring folk and jazz artists and nightspots such as City Park Grill in Petoskey, Kilkenny’s, Little Bohemia, Holiday Inn and Union Street Station in Traverse City. Throw in Southside Hideout in Buckley, the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay, the City Opera House and NMC’s Milliken Auditorium, and it’s almost hard not to hear music.