On Thursday, Jan 11, Empty Mug Records hosted their first showcase of 2018 at the Blind Pig in downtown Ann Arbor.
Empty Mug, a University of Michigan student run organization, hosts a showcase once a month around the downtown Ann Arbor area, and looks to host a variety of artists from the Southeast Michigan area. Thursday night’s showcase was no exception, featuring Ann Arbor’s Lily Talmers and Been Stellar, and Ypsilanti locals Ness Lake and Normal Park.
The Blind Pig has been a classic establishment for the Ann Arbor area locals to hear new music since it first opened in 1971 and tonight’s showcase exhibited there is still desire for live music. The dimly lit dance floor and bar were filled with students and music fans excited to watch a talented selection of people perform their art.
First up was singer-songwriter Lily Talmers. Armed with only a single guitar and her own voice, Lily felt a little intimidated and out of place in a venue normally occupied by loud, full rock bands.
“I feel like I won the award for ‘most inappropriate for this venue’,” said Talmers, “I normally only play little folk tunes.”
Regardless of setting, Talmers immediately captured the audience with sweet, heartfelt songs, with minimalistic instrumentation and structure, letting her voice carry each tune. While normally solo artists have to fight to be heard and paid attention to at many of these shows, Talmer played to a crowd hushed and in awe of her raw talent.
The next act to take the stage was Ness Lake, a dreamy pop group playing for the first time with drummer Alex Sorenson. Ness Lake is a shimmering wall of reverb, fuzz and emotion. Guitarist Chandler Lach and keyboard player providing the massive layers of sound and mood, and Lach’s vocals and Sorenson’s drumming keeping the songs from turning into aimless messes of effects and volume.
Ness Lake’s songs are an emotional roller coaster, but the band was clearly having fun onstage, with Lack joking about loving being in a “rock and roll band, playing rock and roll shows” to a crowd that had likely never heard anything like the sonic wave that Ness Lake brings to the table.
Third was Been Stellar, composed of students of both University of Michigan and New York University. These very young musicians immediately brought the energy to the Blind Pig’s stage. The young musicians did not waste any time kicking through each and every song dance all around and even off the stage throughout their set.
Vocalist Miles Caminier did not have much to say between songs in their set, preferring to let the music speak for itself while flinging himself all around stage, and the rest of the band was more than happy to follow suit, keeping the onstage banter almost non-existent, except when to announce they were performing their last song.
Last up for the night were Ypsilanti locals Normal Park, a fiery blend of pop-punk and early 2000s emo. The bands tightness and enthusiasm was apparent and infectious, bringing the crowd that was by then quite tired immediately back up in energy, prompting the first and only mosh pit from Been Stellar and their friends.
As Normal Park wrapped up their set and the night, they echoed what the general sentiment of the crowd had been: that this was a successful first day back for Empty Mug Records. Every performer and attendant was welcome, and Normal Park was left with a “laundry list of people to thank,” ending with a shout out to the other bands that performed.
“Every band tonight was amazing,” Frontman Jordan Mosley said. “They far exceeded any expectations I had for them.”