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[EAST HILLS] House Show Report: Ribbons of Song releases new album, hangs out in garden

Ribbons of Song in the Rumsey Garden

Ribbons of Song in the Rumsey Garden /George Wietor

Underwriting support from:

 

The other side of the Interview (added 07/27/10)

The other side of the Interview (added 07/27/10) /High Maintenance Machine by Matthew Reidsma

This article is the first in an occasional series of house show reports. House shows are pretty much exactly what they sound like, informal musical performances staged in and around people’s homes. From the caves to Victorian chambers and Appalachian cabins to modern day punk squats, the tradition of house shows parallels that of music itself and is the backbone of contemporary Do It Yourself (DIY) music culture. This series highlights Grand Rapids’ vibrant house show community.
 
While it wasn’t the largest garden concert of the evening, the Ribbons of Song album release show certainly made up for it with spunky charm. More than 70 fans of the local sextet crowded the backyard garden of Mark and Joleen Rumsey’s East Hills home.
 
The Rumsey's beautifully maintained garden, the sunny but breezy 84º weather, and the fireflies (my god, the fireflies...) provided the perfect setting for Ribbons of Song to unleash their much awaited second album, Pocket Dream, released tonight on local imprint Curious Lucunae.
 
The new release differs considerably from the ambient folk found on Ribbons of Song’s first album, "Comb My Cowlicks Down". That album was a largely solo endeavor, picking up where band mastermind Ben Scott-Brandt’s previous group, Bunkbed Nights, left off. It was moody, lo-fi, and relied heavily on the type of textured soundscapes that were the hallmark of Scott-Brandt’s previous work.
 
While still folky, the new material has a delightfully straightforward pop approach. This change in sound can be credited to expanded personnel. Alongside hostess Joleen Rumsey on keyboards, Scott-Brandt was joined by Chad Vickery on electric guitar, Sam Snedeker on upright bass and Tim Broderick on drums, with additional vocals and percussion by Kaitlin Deimer. The album features guest appearances by many local musicians, several of whom were present at tonight’s show—including trombonist Josh Usadel of local hiphop group A.B! and Coconut Brown, who accompanied the band on several songs and Jes Kramer who provided additional vocals on the evening’s final song, a wistful “The Rain Follows You."
 
Ribbons of Song, the night's only act, played two vigorous sets, each approximately half an hour in length with a brief intermission. Both sets were comprised primarily of Pocket Dream’s eleven original songs, with a few new unrecorded songs and a raucously amusing cover of the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of my Heart” thrown in the mix for good measure.
 
Scott-Brandt performed “Peek-A-Boo Eyes,” a new non-album song, solo.
 
“I wrote it for my daughter on her fifth birthday,” he said, “talking about being her dad and not wanting her to grow up too fast because I am enjoying this time so much”
 
Baxter residents Wendy Withrow and Matthew Reidsma thought this would be the perfect performance and setting for their three-and-a-half-week-old infant Mira’s first concert experience.
 
“I think that it was great just having it in the garden,” Withrow said, “It was a great atmosphere, she could move around a bit."
 
“We want to wait until she’s at least six weeks old before we take her to a mosh pit,” Reidsma added with a smile.
 
Scott-Brandt, who has been hosting and performing house shows for more than a decade, appreciates the accessibility of house shows.
 
“We played a 60th birthday party a couple weeks ago, and that draws a certain crowd,” Scott-Brandt explained, “Sometimes we play hippie coffee shops and that, too, draws a certain crowd. And then we have an all-ages crowd, and we have a few beer drinking, fun-loving people in our audience. We want to have an environment where we could invite all of those people at one time… the singular goal of the band is to have as many people hear the music as possible”
 
Jo))) Rakowski drove all the way from Ypsilanti with his wife, Joy, specifically because of the show’s intimate setting.
 
“House shows always create a cool atmosphere,” Rakowski said, “you don’t have to go the bar – even though the smoking is gone, which is totally rad -- it’s a lot more fun, you know? It’s not dim and grim; you can hang outside and get some sunshine... Actually, Ribbons of Song played at our house back when we lived in Kalamazoo.”
 
While Ribbons of Song are scheduled to play Jukes Bar next Saturday (July 17), they will more than likely be playing someone’s house or an empty swimming pool in the very near future.
 

Disclosure: I live with Sam Snedeker, who is both the band’s bass player and the proprietor of Curious Lucunae records. Ribbons of Song has played numerous shows at our house.

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