Senior Photojournalist: John Swider
DETROIT, Michigan (December 28 & 29, 2017) – Opening up for Greta Van Fleet, Goodbye June’s Landon Milbourn, Brandon Qualkenbush and Tyler Baker
© John Swider. Please do not alter images.
Straight up rock & roll isn’t dead, it’s just returned to the fringes and outskirts where it can find its organic roots all over again. Goodbye June understands all that: cousins who came together to cope with the death of lead guitarist Tyler Baker’s brother. That thrash, slash, churn, burn rages through grief as their catharsis fuels every note they play.
“I came to the band as a coping mechanism,” Tyler Baker admits. “I was gonna be an engineer or accountant, but when he passed, it was a light switch. I’d always loved music, and I realized life is now – and you better live it. That’s what pushed us together, and the grief is what we were all trying to get out.”
For the trio, the death may’ve been a fulcrum moment; but it was more than grief the trio was trying to exorcise. Beyond the obvious loss, the church-raised extended family members were also trying to reckon with their own background.
“It was a grieving process, really,” Brandon Qualkenbush acknowledges, “especially for me and Landon. But it was so much more. It was a rebellion of sorts, an unraveling of a lot of things and layers we’d grown up believing. It comes down to, do we believe in something? No one really knows…”
“At this point,” Milbourn picks up without missing a beat, “our faith is in our music and our lifestyle.”
“Yeah,” adds Tyler Baker, “we want to be as loud and as raw and as dirty as we can be. When you hear us live, we want you to hear all of it – the living and the struggle, the guitar parts, and the passion.”
Passion is something there’s no shortage of with Goodbye June. Raised in West Tennessee and Southern Indiana, the cousins made a decision to chase a dream – and proceed no matter the cost. If not reckless, the reality of struggling to get by gives the lacerating, guitar-driven music a grittiness that’s nothing short of broken glass.
Milbourn laughs, looking back. He knows rejecting their staid raising and toughing it out in the trenches forges a pretty cutting sound. As he says, “When you’re starting out as a rock band, you’re playing the shittiest bars and nastiest places. Those nights at the Nick in Birmingham, playing to two people in the back who don’t care. You just slam into that indifference, trying to break it down or through it.
“And it’s hard to get going. You’re eating cheap awful gas station hot dogs, sleeping in a van, not showering for days and it sucks. But it builds you up, turns into something glorious when you put it into the music.”
Having moved to a pre-gentrified Nashville in 2009, the threesome dug in and started slugging it out. Focusing on writing songs, mastering their instruments and really stripping away the sludgy build-up so many bands think is important, they hit upon the essence of their uniquely aggressive sound.
“We grew up playing Southern gospel, black gospel and blues music,” Qualkenbush explains. “We loved Creedence, and Zeppelin, and Hendrix, too. But we were so immersed in the other, when we started to play as kids in a room, it all melted down into what you hear. Nothing is obvious, but somehow it’s all in there in different ways.”
It came together in East Nashville, in the wake of American Bang and Kings of Leon. Qualkenbush says, “There was this Southern sound kinda rolling; Kings of Leon were on their fourth or fifth record and becoming more global – and it created a void. There was no scene, really, but we met a lot of great musicians – and we honed what we wanted to be.”
They played out. They toured incessantly. They placed hard-hitting songs on Madden 17, as well as NFL and ESPN broadcasts. With the EP Danger in the Morning, their focus was strengthened and their indie label Cotton Valley Music found a partner in Interscope. Goodbye June realized their strength lay in stripping down.
“We’ve always been about a couple electric guitars, bass and drums,” Qualkenbush explains. “Every single beat is important, every word, every note. We don’t have any frills. That room for the instruments to expand? That’s really important for rock & roll. You just don’t need as much bullshit if you play your instrument well and the lyrics need to be heard.
From the blistering “Charge Up The Power” with its jackhammer drum beats and Milbourn’s scalding vocals to the hushed mixed blessings of “Darlin” with its hot candle wax slide solo and Gregorian chorale to the trippy feel good “Daisy,” Magic Valley represents the moods and moments that define being 20 something and coming into your own. There is the trainbeat hoedown blues of “Oh No” that explodes into staccato bursts of electric guitars and the slithering lurch of “Good Side,” both flexing bravado and the kind of intensely focused playing that pummels.
“There’s something about less is more,” Qualkenbush says. “When we’re writing parts, the idea is to make them all work together. We write to have them build into these intense bursts of notes, all hitting at once.”
Milbourn concurs on the potency of how they lay their parts in. “When the electric guitar – all the way back to Chuck Berry – came in, those guitars were replacing whole horn sections. The guitars did a lot of heavy lifting.”
Baker expands the musical assault, offering, “We don’t use click tracks. We don’t use a lot of loops or synths. It’s against the grain – even when we’re paring things down – because there’s power there.”
Sprawling bits of out of control Aerosmith, the heavy aura of Queens of the Stone Age, a sense of blues and a bit of sweeping melody infuse these eleven songs. There’s the quiet back and forth “You Don’t Love Me Like Before,” the speed metal jut of “Bamboozler,” the spaghetti Western undertow of “Bad Things” and the Robert Plant locomotive of “Goldmaker” for versatility.
“There’s straight up rock & roll,” says Milbourn. “But you can rock a lot of ways. If ‘Oh, No,’ ‘Bamboozler’ and ‘Charge Up the Power’ are one side of the pendulum, then ‘Daisy,’ ‘Good Side’ and ‘Bad Things’ are the other. That difference, that back and forth drives the music, too.”
“‘Oh, No,’ that’s the ultimate church stomp,” Baker reports. “It was very exciting, a black gospelesque experience with the lyrics coming off with the idea nothing’s gonna get in your way. It’s a shout beat from the Pentecostal church that would just take off…”
And the church is present in the circling guitar part grounded “Fear of Jesus,” the thoughtful dissolving of what we unthinkingly accept. Milbourn marvels, “I was raised to fear God is to love God, to fear Jesus is a good thing; but that trembling about his power doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s letting go,” offers Baker, “It’s the painful unraveling of growing up. This song is filled with a certain nostalgia, but also the part of evolving past who you were that’s going to have some impact on your soul.”
God, girls, guitars. What’s a poor boy to do – as the Stones once barked – but play in a rock & roll band? For Goodbye June, it’s more than that. More than the catharsis of losing close family, the band has figured out how to distill being young and wide open to life – and how to connect to their roots without straining.
“There’s a part of Nashville that’s a part of us,” Qualkenbush says, before cautioning. “And it’s not the current one or even the last ten years. But that old-school country – Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, Ernest Tubb. Big steel guitars, and drinking, and sadness, as well as the attitude of Waylon Jennings.
“It’s not what we do, but that spirit – it’s inside. You can’t hear it obviously, but you can feel it when you listen and really hear what we play.”
A hard rock band who blend a rootsy sound with big guitars and plenty of strutting style, Goodbye June was formed by lead guitarist Tyler Baker, lead vocalist and guitarist Landon Milbourn, and drummer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist Brandon Qualkenbush in 2005. All three are first cousins, with Milbourn hailing from West Tennessee, while Baker and Qualkenbush were raised in Indiana. Baker, Milbourn, and Qualkenbush first started making music together in church (Landon’s dad led the choir at his church, and Brandon’s father was the preacher at a Pentecostal church), but they hadn’t cohered into a band until Baker’s brother, while on leave from the military, died in an auto accident in June 2005. As Baker struggled to deal with his grief, he bonded with Milbourn and Qualkenbush, and as they mourned they started writing songs. Calling their trio Goodbye June, the three moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2009 in search of their big break. The group’s fiery live shows earned them a reputation in Music City, and in 2012 they brought out their debut album, Nor the Wild Music Flow, which was released on the independent Cotton Valley Records. The group produced a music video for one of the tracks from the album, “Microscope,” which featured a cameo from St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher. After extensive regional touring in the United States, Goodbye June took their act abroad for the first time in the fall of 2013, playing shows in Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Holland, and Finland. 2014 saw the band taking home first prize in the Unsigned Music Competition, where a jury of musicians and journalists awarded them $10,000 in cash, as well as equipment and mentoring from music business executives. Goodbye June’s growing buzz led to the band signing a deal with Interscope Records. In the spring of 2016, they released a track online, “Oh No,” that racked up an impressive 2.5 million plays, setting the stage for their major-label debut, the five-song EP Danger in the Morning, which arrived in August 2016. In early 2017 the band issued a single, “Good Side,” in anticipation of the release of their sophomore full-length outing, Magic Valley, which arrived later that spring.
Senior Photographer: John Swider
Detroit, Mich. (December 28 & 28, 2017) – Michigan’s own Greta Van Fleet took to the stage at Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit for the last two nights. Be sure to check out their support, Goodbye June‘s coverage, too!
© John Swider. Please do not alter images.
Senior Photographer: John Swider
Lita Ford, the former lead guitarist for the groundbreaking Runaways made her Detroit tour stop at the historic Harpo’s Concert Theater tonight. When the 80’s reigning metal queen and current band members Patrick Kennison (guitar), Bobby Rock (drums) and Marty O’Brien (Bass) took the stage at 10:30 the crowd was ready to rock! Lita and her band covered the highlights of her three-decade-plus catalog of guitar shredding rock classics and power ballads with ease and precision. The band was powerful and tight during the 2-hour set culminating with crowd favorites “Close My Eyes Forever” and “Kiss Me Deadly”.
Ford was born on September 19, 1958, in London, emigrating to the U.S. as a young child.
She began playing the guitar at age 11; just five years later, she joined the Kim Fowley-produced The Runaways, an all-female project designed to mix the aggression of simple, punky hard rock with teenage bad-girl sex appeal. Ford was their lead guitarist from 1976-1979.
When the band dissolved, Ford took voice lessons and embarked on a solo career and went on to become the first female guitarist/singer front-woman on the Rock/Metal scene. Ford is inarguably capable of rocking out aggressively and assertively. She released her debut album, “Out for Blood”, in 1983; it was followed the next year by “Dancin’ on the Edge”. Four years later she worked on, but abandoned and never released “The Bride Wore Black”.
By the time Ford returned, the lighter pop-metal she had long favored had broken through to mainstream audiences, which set the stage for her most successful album, 1988’s “Lita”. “Lita” featured Ford’s first hit, track 12 “Kiss Me Deadly“; its follow-up, a duet with Ozzy Osbourne entitled “Close My Eyes Forever“, provided both artists with their first Top Ten single.
Follow-up efforts like 1990’s “Stiletto” and 1991’s “Dangerous Curves” failed to thrive. Ford found herself without a label after alternative’s explosion in the early ’90s. She re-emerged on the scene in 2009 with uncharacteristically heavy “Wicked Wonderland”. Lita resurfaced in 2012 with eighth solo album “Living Like a Runaway”, an emotional album with lyrics about divorce, betrayal and estrangement throughout.
In February 2016, Ford published a tell-all autobiography “Living Like a Runaway”. She released the album “Time Capsule” in April 2016. According to her Facebook page – she is currently working on a 2017 album.
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Tonya Feig (Joan Jett), Dan Feig (backing vocals, Guitar), Kyle Mikolajczyk (backing vocals + Bass), Michael Stoker (Drums)
Splice Senior Photojournalist: John Swider
DETROIT, Mich. (December 07, 2017) – The Fillmore Detroit was the latest tour stop for Jon Pardi and #cmtontour, “Lucky Tonight Tour”. Pardi is on the road in support of his latest release, California Sunrise. California Sunrise is an album where you’ll hear old country style, reminiscent of the country legends, infused with lyrics that speak to today’s listeners. Along with special guests, Levon and Runaway June, the stage was set for a classic old-school country show with a modern day twist.
“Jon Pardi headlines CMT’s 16th annual CMT On Tour with special guests and friends Midland and Runaway June. Officially titled CMT On Tour Presents Jon Pardi’s Lucky Tonight Tour, the event brings Pardi’s distinct classic country sound to venues across the United States throughout its multi-city run.”
As a last-minute replacement for the band, Midland, which is currently touring with Pardi, Levon had big shoes to fill. Levon is a new all-male trio out of Nashville, Tennessee featuring five-octave vocal ranged, Michael David Hall (guitarist and lead vocalist), multi-instrument-talented, Jake Singleton (bass and harmony vocals) and seasoned bluegrass musician, Ryan Holladay ( guitar and harmony vocals). Tonight Levon was first to grace the stage of The Fillmore Detroit. The trio performed a short set in support of their current self-titled EP Levon. With their smooth harmonies on “Why Oh Why” and “Ms. Marianne” the crowd made sure Levon left the Motor City with a few more fans than they arrived with. Rolling Stone has named Levon as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know”. No surprise there.
Up next was the female-power trio, Runaway June, featuring the harmonies of Naomi Cooke (lead vocals and guitar), Hannah Mulholland (mandolin and vocals) and Jennifer Wayne (granddaughter of John Wayne) (vocals and guitar). The bright and upbeat trio performed a 30-minute set off their debut release album, Wild West. The crowd-pleasing performance was highlighted by the current hit single Wild West and the chart-climbing hit Lipstick. Rolling Stone has also named Runaway June as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know”. After seeing Runaway June live, the crowd tonight certainly agrees.
When 2017 CMA New Artist of the Year, Jon Pardi, finally took the stage, the “Pardi animals” that packed the house were ready to “Pardi”! After a brief pace of the Fillmore Detroit stage, waving to his cheering fans, Jon and the band fired the crowd up with “Paycheck” off certified Gold-selling California Sunrise. It’s not often you can feel the energy from the crowd during the first song of the night, but Jon Pardi certainly made an exception.
Tonight was different because it was Jon Pardi doing the music his way. The classic country lyrics, but with a modern beat that kept the crowd on its feet throughout the evening. First, it was crowd-pleasers “Cowboy Hat” and “Empty Beer Cans”. Next, Jon Pardi launched into “All Time High”, quickly followed by the self-proclaimed Motown cowboy romp, “Heartache on the Dance Floor”. The crowd inside the Fillmore was deafening; everyone in attendance was standing, singing each song back to the band word-for-word as they performed it. The raw emotion that the crowd was displaying continued through “Trash a Hotel Room” off Pardi’s 2014 Write You a Song.
As some of the band members left the stage for a “well-deserved breather”, Jon was left standing with his guitar at the microphone. As he began to play “Lucky Tonight”, another band member returned with a slide guitar and they playfully dueled back and forth. Moments later, the rest of the band returned to their familiar spots on stage to finish up.
The crowd appeared to be slowing down as the end of the 2-hour set of 18 songs approached. As Jon performed his latest chart-climber, a traditional country ballad “She Ain’t In It”, most in the audience seemed to settle back into their seats. A true testament to the connection his music makes with the fans. Classic country, with a modern feel, the way Jon Pardi wants to play it.
When the band returned to the stage for their encore, the fans were expecting to hear fan favorites “Head Over Boots” and “Dirt On My Boots” both number-one hits across the country. Jon had other ideas for Detroit, though. Don’t get discouraged; those beloved songs would be played, just not quite yet…
As the band started playing their guitars softly in the background, Jon made small talk about his Ford Bronco back in California. As he speaks, the buzz of the crowd begins to grow as they recognized what the band is playing. When Terry, Jon’s lead guitar player, steps up to the microphone the crowd joins in right in with him: “I was a little too tall could’ve used a few pounds, tight pants points hardly reknown”. Jon stepped up to his microphone and joins in… “She was a black haired beauty with big dark eyes, and points all her own sitting way up high.” Everyone in the Fillmore Detroit this chilly December night is standing, singing along: “Workin’ on our night moves, trying’ to make some front page drive-in news”.
As the cover of Detroit native Bob Segar‘s classic song “Night Moves” comes to the end, Jon Pardi knows what songs his “Pardi animals” expect to hear next. His top-hit, “Head Over Boots” and then the chart-topping “Dirt On My Boots” closes out the Lucky Tonight Tour stop in Detroit, Michigan. A unique country sound, Jon Pardi’s sound, capable of getting even the most devoted classic country fan to start singing along.
Jon Pardi is not your typical country artist in today’s modern world. Born and raised in California, he honed his sound in the West Coast’s honky-tonks instead of on the stages of Nashville. Instead of following current trends, he creates his own sound, his way. No programmed drums or hip-hop rhymes, instead he chooses to follow classic country styles. Old school country mixed with a modern-day flare. Music that will pass the test of time yet pays respect to the country artists that came before him.
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Detroit, Michigan (November 24, 2017) – There are ‘must see’ events held each night somewhere around the world that music fans embrace the chance to witness. Tonight that event happened in Detroit when American blues legend and rock guitar mastermind, Joe Bonamassa, brought his Fall North America Tour to the Fox Theater, Detroit, Michigan
Anticipation was high as fans, both young and old arrived, early ready to take in the guitar legends heralded live performance. The lights dimmed right on cue at 8:00 PM and as the spotlights focused in on Bonamassa, he ripped off the opening guitar licks of critically acclaimed “This Train”. As the enthusiastic crowd tried to settle into their seats Joe moved effortlessly into “Mountain Climbing” and “Blues of Desperation” which energized the crowd and brought them to their feet.
The energy from the crowd on hand seemed to drive the band; they were tight as could be and did not miss a beat throughout the highlight reel 14- song 2-hour set. After witnessing the band live tonight – it is no surprise why Bonamassa has 16 #1 Billboard Blues Albums!
The band carried us through with hits: “No Good Place for the Lonely”, “How Deep This River Runs”, “Cadillac Assembly Line” and “I Get Evil”. After a fantastic performance of “Angel of Mercy”, Bonamassa introduced the members his band: Anton Fig, Michael Rhodes, Reese Wynans, Lee Thornburg and Paulie Cerra. As each member took his obligatory quick solo there where subtle hints of what was up next. Once the first chords of “Slow Train” were played the crowd was back on their feet dancing and playing imaginary guitars like they were the ones on stage. As the end of the set drew near they were still on their feet for “Boogie with Stu”, ”Last Kiss” and “How Many More Times”.
When the time came for the band to say “goodnight”, the crowd had no intentions of leaving. After a few minutes of cell phone lights, loud cheers and chants of, “Joe, Joe, Joe” the band hit the stage one last time for an extended encore version of “Hummingbird”. As Joe and his band performed the last song of the night they could be seen laughing and waving to his adoring fans. When the last guitar was silenced, Bonamassa and his band met at the front of the stage and waved goodnight to the approvals of the loud, cheering crowd.
As the house lights were raised, one could still see the fans playing their ‘air guitars’, in a way saluting Bonamassa for his stellar performance they just had witnessed tonight.
“We play loud with 50’s technology without the help of Backing Tracks, Sympte Timecode, or Pro-Tools. We occasionally play a bad note. Deal with it or go see Maroon 5.”
“As Joe Bonamassa approaches his 26th year as a professional musician, he continues to blaze a remarkably versatile artistic trail, and amass an authentic, innovative and soulful body of work. Bonamassa’s career began onstage opening for B.B. King in 1989 when he was only 12 years old. Today, he is hailed worldwide as one of the greatest guitar players of his generation and is an ever-evolving singer-songwriter who has released 16 solo albums in the last 14 years, all on his own label, J&R Adventures. Bonamassa’s tour schedule consistently hovers at around 100 shows worldwide each year, and a heaping handful of markedly diverse side projects keep him thinking outside the box and flexing every musical muscle he’s got. He founded and oversees the non-profit Keeping The Blues Alive Foundation to promote the heritage of the blues to the next generation, fund music scholarships, and supplement the loss of music education in public schools. There’s a case to be made that Joe Bonamassa, like another star who shared the same initials, is the hardest working man in show business.
This spring, Bonamassa and J&R Adventures released two projects. The first was a collaboration with powerhouse singer Mahalia Barnes, one of the most impressive female vocalists to come out of Australia, and her band The Soul Mates on an album of Betty Davis covers called Ooh Yea! – The Betty Davis Songbook, which explores tracks from Davis’ sexy, raw funk records of the early 70s. Next is the CD, DVD and Blu-ray Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks, a tribute to Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf that was filmed last summer to a sold-out 9,000 person crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Glide Magazine called it “one of the best live blues albums released in the last decade.”
Unlike any Bonamassa show before, Muddy Wolf At Red Rocks marks the start of a tribute concert series that will display a different band and catalog of material that will vary from Bonamassa’s music as a solo artist. This summer, he’ll continue his celebration of blues heritage with the Three Kings of Blues Tour during which he’ll travel to amphitheaters across the country with a musical tribute to Albert King, B.B. King, and Freddie King.
It all builds on Bonamassa’s ascendant prominence of the past few years. Recent kudos include his very first Grammy nomination for Best Blues Album, which he earned with much-buzzed-about singer-songwriter Beth Hart for their sophomore collaboration, Seesaw; a #1 debut on the Billboard Music Video Chart and Billboard Blues Chart for Muddy Wolf at Red Rocks; 14 #1 Billboard Blues Albums (more than any other artist); a platinum DVD certification for Joe Bonamassa: Live At The Royal Albert Hall; five consecutive “Best Blues Guitarist” wins and a top “Best Overall Guitarist” honor in Guitar Player’s Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, and recognition as Billboard’s #1 Blues Artist in 2010 and more recently in 2014.
Last fall, a much-anticipated new solo studio album called Different Shades Of Blue was released featuring all-new, all-original material. He recorded it in Nashville with Jonathan Cain (Journey), James House (Diamond Rio, Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride) and Jerry Flowers (Keith Urban).
It debuted at #8 on Billboard’s Top 200, Bonamassa’s highest charting album, first top 10, and biggest sales week ever. According to Billboard, “Different Shades of Blue is the highest-ranking blues album in almost two years.”
Critics echoed its accolades calling it the guitarist’s “most cohesive and satisfying artistic statement yet” (MOJO),“the best yet and then some from an artist whose vision continues to expand with every release” (Uncut) and “a career high” (American Way).
With sales climbing and accolades pouring in, music insiders and media are beginning to take note of J&R Adventures, the label Bonamassa started with longtime manager Roy Weisman ten years ago. Together, the two mavericks have built a business model that is thriving and nimble in a shaky and unpredictable industry. With divisions in publishing, management, promotion, and memorabilia, the label gives control to the artist and its management directly, rather than a larger entity. This strategy has allowed them to redefine the kind of success an independent artist is capable of, making them two of the music industry’s more savvy entrepreneurs and disruptors.
As usual, Bonamassa will continue performing live-on-stage, which is exactly where he’s most comfortable. “No one on the scene today plays with as much passion, has as much finesse and raw talent, has reverence for those who came before him and has as much passion for his craft as Joe Bonamassa,” writes Classic Rock Revisited.
In January, he graced a new stage when he headlined two sold-out nights at the iconic Radio City Music Hall – a feat Bonamassa himself almost can’t quite believe. But Bonamassa’s still got a long way to go, and will certainly in turn inspire many who come after him as he continues to reinvent himself with a varied palette of side projects—and logs endless miles “dressing up in sunglasses and a suit,” touring the world and growing his legacy as one of the greatest guitar slingers of all time.”
Joe Bonamassa – FB