It had been 100 degrees in LA the week before. Shirtless Dodger fans had been all over the World Series broadcast and I had packed accordingly with t-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, and my fave vintage swim suit. Arrival, though, found something disappointingly more familiar: grey skies and a cold front, hoodies and jackets as far as the eye could see. If you ignored the palm trees, it felt like home. It was kind of perfect.
The Go Rounds first played Michigan House//ArtPrize back in 2015. Since then they'd recorded a few tracks with Peter Fox at Stone House Recording, and they had made the trip down to Austin with us last spring. So when their manager called in August to ask if we had any ideas for marketing a "Michigan" show in Los Angeles, we immediately were down to help. Once we heard Chris Bathgate and Anna Ash would also be on the bill and that they were hoping to attract a roomful of Michigan ex-pats, we realized we wanted to do more than just lend a hand.
You might have noticed we've done a lot of "Michigan" related projects over the last three years. Okay, so maybe that's an understatement. For us, there's always been a certain irony in it, though, as none of us are really your Lake Superior in our veins, Pure Michigan folks. All of us love getting away from home and out in the world. All of us have a "conflicted" relationship with this peninsula of ours for at least six months out of the year, and none of us ever planned on being geographic cheerleaders. Our complicated relationship with home might even be the key to whatever success we've had with Michigan House etc. Unburdened by rose-colored-glasses, we've been able to see and find some really vital contours.
The last three years have also changed our relationship with home. We've somehow found ourselves in ambassadorial roles and we've been able to witness firsthand what "Michigan" means to people near and far. We've seen a visceral reaction from a guy 20 years after he'd left the state when he saw a Meijer Penny Pony (Sandy!) we brought down to Austin, and we've had passionate, late night conversations with a Venture Capitalist about the Detroit garage rock scene in the 70s. Michigan sticks with you for some reason; it kind of always remains home.
All this is to say we've discovered that there is some power in where we live. Enough that it seemed worth our while to not just help our pals out in their West Coast journey, but to actually join in the fun. So what did that look like?
It looked like engaging our talented friend Fairfax Buchanan Banks, a Kendall grad who now lives in LA, in designing the show poster. Like asking longtime partners like Founders Brewing Company and Boxed Water to come along and help promote the show. It looked like getting The Oddest Supply Company to pack up a bunch of gear that we could bring along, and reaching out to Michigan and Michigan State Alumni Associations to see if they might want to see a show. And, finally, it looked like biting the bullet and hopping on a plane for supposedly sunny California.
And that's pretty much how The Satellite in Los Angeles became a little part of Michigan for one night in November. Worries that the California cold spell might keep people away evaporated before Anna Ash started her (absolutely stunning) opening set. Old friends, fans, and curious ex-Michiganders filled the room and kept the All Day IPA flowing as Anna's voice kept us all under a 45 minute spell. Next came The Go Rounds who brought their typically dazzling energy and huge sound to the stage. They surprised even us by calling Michigan bluegrass legend Billy Strings, who happened to be in town for a video shoot, up for a few songs. By the time Chris Bathgate swooned us through his excellent new album and the end of the show, we all hit the California night quite sure there must be a Great Lake nearby.
"Thanks for coming out and thanks for supporting Michigan," Graham Parsons of The Go Rounds said at one point. "That's what it takes for us to make it in LA. A little loyalty. A little coming together."
Loyalty and coming together. It's stuck with me ever since. The more and more I think about the more I'm thinking it might be a secret weapon.