A familiar beard–
This week, I headed all the way to the tiny town of Ellsworth for a concert benefiting the Martha Wagbo Farm and Education Center. Wagbo is a non-profit organization situated on a 212-acre historical homestead in the rolling hills of the beautiful Jordan River Valley. Their mission is “To provide an inspirational place for people to connect with each other and the land.” I’ve never actually attended any of the educational or recreational activities at the farm, but I’ve always been impressed with the variety and depth of what they have going on. Throughout the year, they offer: maple sugaring in the spring, foraging forays in the summer, cider pressing demos in the fall, and animal tracking in the winter– plus workshops, field trips, and festivals scattered through the seasons.
The benefit concert which I attended was to raise money for a new, more energy efficient roof for the farmhouse at Wagbo. The night started out with Contra dancing to the Peacemeal String Band, but my friends and I arrived a bit late and didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the free dance lessons.
Soon after arriving, I saw a familiar dark haired, bearded visage in the crowd. I could hardly believe my luck. Micah Middaugh, singer, song-writer and one of my all-time favorite Michigan musicians was in the crowd, dancing with friends and family. Micah is from East Jordan and one third of the indie folk/rock band, Breathe Owl Breathe. We went up to him and said hi, loaded our plates with food and proceeded to feast on local, healthy cuisine.
My first introduction to Micah Middaugh’s music was during my freshman year of college, close to a decade ago. My dad was selling soap at a music festival and had a kid stop by his booth to give him a free CD. The band’s name was No A.M.
That was one of Micah’s first ventures into music. That year I was a freshman at the University of Michigan and Micah’s poetic and free spirited lyrics kept me going through some really difficult times. I was 17-years-old and had never been far from home. I was surrounded by a world I’d never experienced: competitive, high achieving and sometimes cruel. I missed the peace of northern Michigan. I missed the lakes, the rivers and I missed my family. Something about Micah’s music comforted me and made me feel at home. Those early recordings were not the most technically refined recordings, but I loved them and they continue to be very dear to me.
Micah’s career with Breathe Owl Breathe has since been very successful. He started playing with cellist, Andrea Moreno-Beals soon after I was listening to him in my dorm room. They then acquired a third band member, percussionist Trevor Hobbes, and have exploded on the indie music scene. The trio packs venues across the country and was featured on the “best music of 2010” list by National Public Radio.
Probably the distinguishing element of Breathe Owl Breathe for me is the playfulness of their music. There is little regard for convention and although sometimes bizarre, it is always imaginative. As a creative writing major, lyrics are very important to me when listening to music. Micah uses an entirely literary way of expressing himself. Phrases like the title of this blog are simple, but don’t shy away from philosophical complexity. Last, as long as I’m gushing about this band, I might as well mention that I can’t imagine a better musical combo than cello+guitar+percussion+the occasional banjo.
The main act at the benefit concert was Ann Arbor musician, Chris Bathgate. I’ve only recently started listening to him, but quickly fell in love with his dark,mellow and impossibly catchy tunes. I played his song, Buffalo Girl over and over after listening to it for the first time. Bathgate’s repertoire has a folk music/ singer songwriter feel, but is way more modern and cool. With influences from blues and bluegrass, the young (only 29) musician incorporates just enough experimentation to keep his music interesting, but not inaccessible. His voice is sort of gloomy and his word-choice dark and poetic. A few examples I really like: “The fog rolled in and choked our hearts.” and “I’m a fumbling fake and a f***ing fool and that’s why I can’t fall in love with you.”
Budget for this week’s adventure–
Whole thing only = $15