Don't Skip These Beats: Bands To Check Out This Weekend

With ten stages and 200 performers, there's no way you'll miss any of the music this weekend - but here's some humble recommendations (heavily leaning local) you should highlight on your ABE itinerary.

It's Friday, welcome to the last long weekend of season and a traditional amped-up send-off to the Summer; there's no Labor Day celebration like the Arts Beats & Eats (in size/scope alone). 

Hopefully you catch this post before you're lunch break, let's get started:

12:30 p.m. - Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Stage:
Dragon Wagon - Break out the banjos! This burgeoning bluegrass sextet sets the toe tapping and the heart swooning with rustling percussion, sweet see-saw strings and hearty, honky-tonk-tinged harmonized balladry.

Listen: Dragon Wagon - "One Less Wife" (Stream/MP3) 

2:00 p.m. - Oakland County Parks Kids Stage:
Detroit School of Rock and Pop - This troupe of talented students will be performing regularly throughout the festival but you'll likely be charmed enough after their first set to revisit them. Teens, tweens (and even younger) don guitars, bass and full drum kits and rock-out with fierce focus, beyond-their-years-savvy and a palpable sense of respect for the Gods of Rock. 

8:00 p.m. - Michigan Lottery Stage:
Mayer Hawthorne & the County - Ann Arbor bred DJ/rapper turned arranger/songwriter and wickedly soulful performer, strutting to a Motown-musing pop beat and grooving to brass-bolstered backing band with snappy bass and punchy percussion. The perfect summer sunset party music, this cat brings an old-but-new elegance to the boogie-down.

Now, tomorrow...

Saturday -

3:30 p.m. - Citizens Bank Cultural/Acoustic Stage:
Britney Stoney - This Detroit-based singer/songwriter is so potently talented she needs only her acoustic guitar and voice to draw you in and sweep you off your feet. She's got this poignant crackly quaver to her voice, able to coo soft and low and arch up into cathartic curved belts, like a small, flickering (but still ardent) candle-flame. 

6:30 p.m. - Ford Escape Alternative Stage:
The Hounds Below - Jason Stollsteimer once fronted garage-era-expatriates The Von Bondies but his songwriting has evolved considerably, matured by penchants for the pure-pop of archetypal rock crooners. Crisp, sun-splashed guitar tones and swift-shuffling drum kicks rustling up Stollsteimers' latest trip towards jangly indie-pop anthems. 

Stream: The Hounds Below - "Chelsea's Calling" 

8:00 p.m. - Ford Escape Alternative Stage:
The Sights - Yes, just stay put at this stage for your early/mid evening on Saturday - because if there's one band to see, it'll be the Sights - sufficiently upgraded and shaped-up by their ambitious Summer tour schedule that set this Detroit quintet across 50 venues (many of them 500+ auditoriums as openers for Tenacious D). Crazed and kinetic soul-rock, surged with torrid saxophone blasts, raspy, revelatory vocal wails, ebullient organ effusions and a barrage of rhythms, they seem possessed (and, possibly, you'll be too...)


5:00 p.m. - Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Stage:
American Mars - Detroit's premier Americana auteurs, freshening up the dusty Western ballad with a subtle space-rock sensibility, adorning their syrupy/sharply-wound pedal-steel aesthetic with understated squalls of atmospheric feedback and dreamy-reverb. This is a fine-crafted, folk-pop production, spurred on by their newest batch of songs from their recently released LP Chasing Vapor. 

8:00 p.m. - Budweiser Rock Stage:
Amy Gore & her Valentines - Brash and stylish, a strutting, guitar-wielding pop provocation, plenty of throwbacky-snap and garage-murked-strut that's liable to kick you right up in the chin. Like the Sights or Stollsteimer (or even American Mars) this is a cool, collar-frisking guitar-pop that's girded by experience, cultivated performers who cut their teeth long ago across many local (and national) stages. 


5:00 p.m. - Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Stage:
Dutch Pink - Stately, rattled-up rock cuts slicing space-rock into piano-bar-blues and toughening up torch songs with an eclectic ensemble. Pianos singed with guitars, rustling drums under rock-minded bass grooves and vocals blending gritty blues-rasps under soulful harmonies. 

8:00 p.m. - Pepsi R&B/Jazz Stage 
Laith Al-Saadi - A blues-leaning rocker with a mind for both pop and jazz, Al Saadi is a fiery showman, a talented, down-to-earth dude who's inclination to get lost in the music is infectious. That, and it's not often enough we get to see our Ann Arbor/Ypsi-area musical friends, so make sure to swing by. 

8:00 p.m. - Budweiser Rock Stage
The Reefermen - Whatever you wanna hear, the Reefermen got it, this adroit rock quartet has been resident Royal Oak rockers for more than a decade (regulars at 5th Avenue), putting on a soulful pop/rock clinic as they rifle through covers of late 60's psychedelia, early 70's Brit-metal and blues and even late 70's funk. Stellar guitars, steady beats and affecting vocals.  

Watch: The Reefermen @ 5th Avenue in Royal Oak

Well... 11 bands, that should keep you busy. If there's still...time left, well, then maybe you can check out Morris Day? 

Have a good weekend. Enjoy the music. 


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