Big Apple Rodeo – The Secret Emchy Society Takes Queer Country Music to Brooklyn’s Branded Saloon Saturday Night

Cindy Emch of The Secret Emchy Society

The Secret Emchy Society will bring their foot stompin’, heart breakin’ Americana music about good friends and hard times to the Big Apple tomorrow night.

The Oakland, Calif., queer country music collective will share their dark, sexy, boozy ballads, off-kilter anthems and cowboy songs at the Branded Saloon, 603 Vanderbilt Ave., in Brooklyn from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.

Hosted by the Gay Ole Opry and Queer Country Quarterly, the show also will feature country music compadres Karen & the Sorrows and Viva.

“It’s New York, oh my God, that’s how I feel about it,” laughed Cindy Emch, frontwoman, guitarist and accordionist for The Secret Emchy Society, in late September during a phone call with The Stratton Setlist from the Bay area. “That’s the Michigan native playing New York, and that gets people excited.”

Emch will make her sole stop in New York City Saturday as part of a short fall tour, which also includes a Nov. 18 gig during the Queer Country Showcase at the Ivy Room in Albany, Calif., with Lavender Country and Velvetta.

“The Ivy Room started doing this great thing the third Sunday of every month where they do a 4-9 sort of country music showcase, and they have different local bands doing it,” Emch said. “I feel like there’s a lot of good Americana coming out of the Ivy Room right now.”

Dubbed as the “First Lady of Queer Country,” Emch leads a rotating old school country music collective that appeals to fans of June Carter Cash, Lydia Loveless, Neko Case, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner. She’s been helping spearhead that flourishing music scene in San Francisco for more than a decade.

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Double Bill – Sylvania’s TwinPfunk Delivers Vibrant Harmonies, Covers for Ohio, Michigan Audiences

TwinPfunk’s Steve Wherry, Dave Pfenning, Mike Gramza and Mike Pfenning

Two and a half years ago, Dave Pfenning and Mike Pfenning doubled down on their music to form TwinPfunk.

The Sylvania fraternal twin brothers formed the all-eras classic, alt and indie rock quintet to share their mutual appreciation for Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, and The Head and the Heart with growing Ohio and Michigan audiences.

“That’s the charm of TwinPfunk, we’re just a couple of Sylvania kids who love playing music and have a really good time with it,” said Dave Pfenning, TwinPfunk co-frontman and guitarist. “I think people really appreciate the stripped-down, authentic and organic approach we take with our music.”

That organic approach started in high school when the Pfenning brothers sang in school and church choir and learned about classic rock, alt rock and grunge from their older siblings. Dave Pfenning soon picked up the acoustic guitar while older brother Mike Pfenning (he was born three minutes earlier) gravitated toward bass.

“Our older siblings laid the foundation for what we’re playing today,” Dave Pfenning said. “They also helped us discover the beauty of four-part harmonies, and that’s a dominant part of TwinPfunk’s focus today. It sets us apart from other groups in Toledo.”

By 2016, the Pfenning brothers had three vocalists, including djembe player Steve Wherry, but needed a fourth to round out their sound. Together, they discovered veteran blues musician Mike Gramza, a Sylvania vocalist and harmonicist who plays with the Toledo-based, all-genre trio Last Born Sons.

“I play a little guitar, I play ukulele, I can get around a little bit on the keys, but I love harmonies. I just love to sing, so I think that’s one of the strengths of the band,” Gramza said. “We have some really strong vocal harmonies, and Dave is one of the best vocalists in this area that I’ve heard.”

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Stratton Setlist Snapshots — Austin City Limits Weekend 1 Sizzles with Paul McCartney, Metallica

The hot, humid weather wasn’t the only thing that sizzled in Austin, Texas last weekend.

Music from Paul McCartney, Metallica, Travis Scott, Greta Van Fleet, Janelle Monae and various other acts heated up the first weekend of the three-day legendary Austin City Limits Music Festival.

More than 75,000 festivalgoers turned up each day during the Oct. 5-7 festival to catch amazing artists on six different stages at Zilker Part.

Here are some memorable artists and scenes we captured during our visit. Starting today, lucky weekend two attendees will get to relive the festival all over again.

‘Be Careful Be Safe’ — New E-Man Bates Album Honors Mother’s Memory, Addresses Inner Struggles

Emmanuel “E-Man” Bates releases “Be Careful Be Safe” today. Cover artwork by Leo James Willer.

Emmanuel “E-Man” Bates keeps the phrase, “be careful, be safe,” close to his heart.

The Canton hip-hop artist frequently heard that cautionary, heartwarming phrase from his mother while growing up.

“Every time I left the house, no matter what I was doing, no matter if I was going out with friends or doing some sports stuff or going out to shows,” he said. “It was ‘be careful, be safe, make smart decisions.’”

Bates decided to name his latest album, “Be Careful Be Safe,” which drops today, as a tribute to his mother, who passed away in January. He also timed the album’s release to coincide with his mother’s Oct. 6 birthday.

“The original title was going to be ‘Green Balloons,’ which is the theme for the whole album, but then my mom passed, and I decided to go with the quote she always said to me,” he said.

Throughout the eight-minute title track, Bates sings about heeding his mother’s timeless advice and the lasting impact it’s had on him.

The song speeds up and down against a jazzy sonic backdrop, courtesy of metro Detroit’s Honey Monsoon, to chronicle the rollercoaster of emotions he’s experienced since losing his mother. Bates also included the lyrics from the slower part of “Be Careful Be Safe” in his mom’s obituary.

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Scott Zanni Revisits Allman Brothers with Top Cats Detroit Show Saturday in Waterford


A group of metro Detroit musicians will celebrate the legacy of The Allman Brothers Band with a special tribute show tomorrow night.

Top Cats Detroit, a classic rock band infused with blues, jazz and progressive influences, will revisit the memorable set from the southern rock band’s legendary March 1971 Fillmore East show in New York City at Sweetwater Entertainment, 1450 S. Hospital Road, in Waterford at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Released in July 1971, “At Fillmore East” is The Allman Brothers Band’s first live album and one of the last records to feature Duane Allman before he died tragically in a motorcycle accident.

“The musicianship and the level to which they had mastered the blues and then put their own spin on it, it’s just mind-blowing,” said Scott Zanni, Top Cats Detroit vocalist and percussionist. “To this day, with the exception of Peter Frampton’s ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ and ‘Live Bullet’ from Bob Seger, this has to be one of the best and most notable live recordings.”

As part of Top Cats Detroit, Zanni and his bandmates, including Frank Faga (guitar, vocals), Steve Bander (guitar), William Pope III (bass), Shawn McDonald (keys) and Ron Pangborn (percussion), will vicariously relive the spirit of “Statesboro Blues,” “Hot ‘Lanta” “Whipping Post” and other Allman Brothers Band classics. Mark “The Paz” Pasman, host of WCSX’s (94.7 FM) “The Motor City Blues Project” show, will join the band for part of the set.

“We did the show at Sweetwater Entertainment last month, they liked us and said let’s have you come back and do it again,” Zanni said. “We also do other covers and groovy tribute stuff with an emphasis on technical playing.”

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Ypsilanti’s Foster Records Supports Local Music Scene, Hosts Friday Ch’i Machines and Baby Fangs Show at Hamtramck’s Korner Bar

Foster Records’ Nate Zuellig, Griffin Schultz, Jerry Heiss and Matt Wagner at 734 Brewing Co. in Ypsilanti.

Four Ypsilanti friends are fostering creativity and collaboration in metro Detroit’s burgeoning music scene.

Known as Foster Records, Nate Zuellig (Ch’i Machines), Griffin Schultz (Baby Fangs), Jerry Heiss (Jeremiah Mack & the Shark Attack) and Matt Wagner (promotion) bring an eclectic mix of groovy rocktronica, experimental pop and acoustic alternative rock to Washtenaw County and the Motor City through their own record label.

In early 2017, they formed the homegrown Ypsilanti-based label to focus on artist development and management, music, multimedia production and promotion. While working together, Zuellig, Schultz, Heiss and Wagner realized the collective value of combining their music, artistry and industry expertise.

“Foster Records was born over cups of coffee when we realized the path to success was spreading us too thin, and we started the label because we were booking shows by ourselves,” said Zuellig, Foster Records co-founder. “We started combining our talents and then recruiting the talented among us. Together, we elevate each other’s musical vision and know that no one creates alone.”

As a unit, the group recently released their first “Foster Records” sampler album, which includes two tracks by Zuellig, two tracks by Schultz, a collaboration between Zuellig and Schultz, and two tracks by Heiss. The album serves as a strong example of Foster Records’ emerging diverse artistry and musical approach.

“We have a team now with Griffin doing graphic design and communications, including posters and promos, he’s got the eye,” said Zuellig, who hails from Ypsilanti and shares a home studio with Schultz. “Jerry does video and web design while I’m doing the booking now, and Matt oversees public relations and promotion for us as artists.”

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Father John Misty Delivers Strong Kalamazoo Customer Service for Audiotree Day 2

Father John Misty headlines the Audiotree Music Festival Sunday night in Kalamazoo.

Father John Misty is Kalamazoo’s favorite customer.

The Los Angeles indie folk rocker dazzled a Kalamazoo crowd last night with an 80-minute headlining Audiotree Music Festival set at Arcadia Creek Festival Place.

Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) swaggered onto the Main Stage amid swirling clouds of smoke and deep red lights. He opened his swinging set with the catchy and melodic “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” from his 2012 breakthrough album, “Fear Fun,” and peppered it with six tracks from his latest album, “God’s Favorite Customer,” which dropped in June.

Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

Early into his set, Father John Misty sarcastically objected to the large red inflatable Virtue Cider beach balls bouncing toward the stage. The singer’s sardonic sense of humor is just as entertaining as his live show.

“That’s stressful for me just to watch people get hit in the head unawares over and over again. Is that a marketing thing? The balls – are they branded? Do you feel more prone to solicit their services after you’ve been hit in the head?” he asked.

“I’m just imagining that board meeting where they’re just like, ‘I don’t know, boss, sales are through the roof. It doesn’t make any f*cking sense, people hate them, they keep getting hit in the face with them, but we’ve having a very profitable quarter. I think we double down.’”

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