Monthly Archives: July 2013

Audio expert Vintage King hosts 20th anniversary party

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Ferndale-based music equipment company Vintage King Audio will celebrate the store’s 20th anniversary at The Loving Touch bar on Thursday, Aug. 1.

Founded by Brothers Michael and Andrew Nehra in 1993, Vintage King started

Brothers Mike and Andrew Nehra founded Vintage King Audio. Photo courtesy of Vintage King

Brothers Mike and Andrew Nehra founded Vintage King Audio. Photo courtesy of Vintage King

in Detroit, where they ran the White Room recording studio and performed in band Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise.

 FYI: The celebration takes place Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. Guests can RSVP to the free event by visiting or liking Vintage King on Facebook. The Loving Touch is 22634 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale.

“What really sets us is apart is that we have a passion for what we do, and we are really involved in music — it’s not just a job,” Mike Nehra said.

The vintage music equipment sales started out as a side venture Michael and Andrew did to earn extra money, after doing it to gather their own equipment. But after meeting musicians, it evolved into a business.

Notable musicians the Nehra brothers worked with for The White Room included Kid Rock, Bob Seger and other Detroit artists, but they closed the studio three years ago to focus on Vintage King.

Vintage King provides consultation, repair and sales of more than 250 brands of new and vintage gear, personalized for each musician.

Locally based, the company has expanded nationally to Chicago, New York City, Nashville and Massachusetts, but its Michigan workers still make up the company’s majority.

The staff is made up of musicians and producer-engineers who are acquainted with local musicians and bands, and have a passion for the products, Nehra said. Knowledgeable about the gear, the workers help musicians with services ranging from equipment selection to designing an entire music studio.

“It makes us feel really good to employ such a quantity of people in the local community. Through the ups and downs of the economy, even in 2008, we’ve never laid off anybody,” Mike Nehra said.

“We’ve always believed in the future and kept our staff fully intact in believing we would grow. We’re becoming more of a leader in professional audio equipment sales, and it feels good to be based out of Ferndale and Detroit, giving people a living off of what we’ve created.”

The celebration at the Loving Touch features a night of drinks with local music and mingling. A deejay set by Good Music Gentleman will be followed by a short live-rock performance by the band Bars of Gold, featuring Vintage King Employee Scott Lulianelli on guitar, to end the night.

“The fun part (about Vintage King) is meeting all of the various people we work with,” Mike Nehra said. “Everybody’s needs are different. Being able to help them and advise them, and them trusting our opinion of what type and flavor of gear they should use to create their artistic vision in the recording studio — it feels really good to be able to advise them.”


Musician Stewart Francke tells the world “What Makes Me Strong”

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Music makes a difference in people’s lives. For musician and Saginaw native Stewart Francke, it saved his life.

In his memoir, “What Don’t Kill Me Just Makes Me Strong,” Francke discusses how music and the Detroit community helped him get through his struggles to

Photo courtesy of Untreed Reads

Photo courtesy of Untreed Reads

come out tougher, dealing with a bone marrow transplant and treatment for leukemia and overcoming drug addiction.

“Music was essential to surviving. Music changed my life and saved my life on many occasions,” Francke said. “When I was 17 and I didn’t know what I wanted to do, music helped me figure that out. Later, it helped me get through the transplant; it saved my life — literally saved my life. It’s that important — music is as essential as breathing.”

Francke has performed on tours with Bob Seger, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Money, Chicago and Hall and Oates.

He was named Most Popular Musician by Hour Detroit from 2002-2004, and won a music Lifetime Achievement Award from the Saginaw County Cultural Arts Commission. Francke also wrote as a music critic for the Metro Times.

Francke was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998.

Throughout the two years following, as he went through treatment and turmoil with the bone marrow transplant, he wrote songs as a way to deal  with the pain, as well as worries that his wife and young children might have to live without him.

During his struggle, he founded the Stewart Francke Leukemia Foundation as a way to help others suffering from the disease.

Concerts and music recordings brought in donations for the cause.

Through fundraising, Francke raised $200,000 to help minorities find bone marrow donors, because the process is expensive and it is difficult to find a match.

“(I chose this cause) because the disparity between Caucasians and minorities is enormous,” Francke said. “It’s so hard to find a match in the donor pool, that it was just calling out to be addressed. Detroit is a great blend of much ethnicity and races, and it was just something that needed to be addressed.”

Francke’s memoir shares his story, with commentary and flashbacks to different parts of his life. He said writing it was a long process, but helped him make sense of the situation.

“(It was) really cathartic to get it all out emotionally, to look at it in a chronological order of how things happened,” Francke said. “At the time, everything feels like chaos — a pandemonium. You don’t know if you’re going to make it from one second to the next. And then you look back on it, and it reads like a novel. Life makes more sense in retrospect.”

While the story itself is strong, Francke also said he is proud it was published eco-friendly as an ebook through Untreed Reads.

He said he wants people to approach his memoir with an open mind and take from it what they want.

“I want them to read it because I think it’s a compelling story, like a soldier that gets close to death,” Francke said.

“The experience helped me get some insight that I wouldn’t have had normally. The story is compelling — both poignant, with moments of great humor, real seriousness and battle.”

Concert Review: OneRepublic helps blast the rain away at Meadow Brook

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

ROCHESTER HILLS — OneRepublic’s brand of upbeat pop-rock cleared the stormy skies over the Meadow Brook Music Festival  on Saturday, July 27, as the group performed following two Michigan-born opening acts.

Pontiac native Tony Lucca was the first act of the night.

Pontiac native Tony Lucca was the first act of the night.

Tony Lucca was the first up, playing a solo acoustic five-song, 25-minute set. The Pontiac native, who now resides in Waterford, appeared on “The Mickey Mouse Club” during  the 90s and achieved greater fame during his 2012 run on “The Voice,” where he was second runner-up and signed to judge (and Maroon5) frontman Adam Levine’s label. His songs “Never Gonna Let You Go” and “Pretty Things” were lightweight and acoustic, while he switched things up with folksy covers of Mouse Club mate Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby, One More Time” and a sing-along performance of Jay –Z’s“99 problems.”

Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne followed, asking “Are you guys having fun out there? It stopped raining, you can’t ask for much more in Michigan”  and

Mayer Hawthorne is an Ann Arbor native.

Mayer Hawthorne is an Ann Arbor native.

then offering up a spirited set of soul-pop. Clad in white pants and navy jackets – yacht attire — Hawthorne and his band, the County, brought a vintage vibe to the stage.  A cover of Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” nodded to the ‘90s, while his own songs “The Walk,” “The Stars are Ours” and “Back Seat Lover” were reminiscent of  Motown. “Her Favorite Song” and “Reach Out Richard,” a song about Hawthorne’s father, slowed things down soulfully to close out the 45-minute, 12-song set.

Silhouetted behind a large white sheet, One Republic performed “Light it Up” to kick off it hour and 45- minute, 16-song set. Dressed in all black, the band danced around stage under diamond shaped lights, while video clips played in the background to add a cinematic vibe.

One Republic performed new and old pop hits at their Saturday night performance.

One Republic performed new and old pop hits at their Saturday night performance.

“Six hours ago I didn’t have a voice. I’d like to thank the doctor who shot steroids in me. I think it’s going to be a kickass show,” frontman Ryan Tedder told the audience, and he sang strong throughout the night, adding vocal improvisations throughout the set despite having caught “whatever is going around.” “Secrets” opened with the track’s trademark viola solo by Zach Filkins, while performances of “Apologize” and “Stop and Stare” brought a more melancholy mood.  A good-humoredcover of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” spotlighted Tedder’s rap abilities, and energetic performance of “Good Life” featured heavy electric guitar and a sample from M-53’s “Midnight City.”

Lighted, transparent beach balls were thrown across the stage during the encore, synchronized to “Life in Color,” changing to shades of blue, red and green during the song’s chorus. The globes were thrown to the audience during “If I Lose Myself Tonight,” and the requisite confetti showers launched as the group played the title track from its latest album, “Native.” “We’re gonna be back again,” Tedder promised the audience – which was certainly happy to hear that.

Northville hosts 2nd annual Concours d’Elegance Preview rare car exhibit

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Rare vintage cars will fill the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth for the 35th annual Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, July 28.

Northville will host a preview event the day before, featuring 30 pre-war rare vintage cars and other entertainment. This is the second year for the preview, said Lori M. Ward, AICP director of the Northville Downtown Development Authority.

Howard Payne's '37 Cord is an example of the cars that will be shown at the Northville Annual Concours d'Elegance Preview Event and Rare Car Exhibit , 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 27. Courtesy Photo

Howard Payne’s ’37 Cord is an example of the cars that will be shown at the Northville Annual Concours d’Elegance Preview Event and Rare Car Exhibit , 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 27. Courtesy Photo

“(Northville is) a great place to show off these cars like this. Northville is such a quaint town,” Ward said. “It’s got a lot of charm to it, and we take a lot of pride in history of community and just showing these vintage cars in that kind of a setting is a really good fit. Having these two things together makes a lot of sense and makes for a good event.”

Concours d’Elegance is a high-profile show of valuable vintage vehicles. The event was originally hosted at Meadow Brook Hall, but was relocated to Plymouth three years ago for more space and convenience to the exhibitors, said Executive Director Jim McCarter.

The main show features 300 cars from around the world, selected based on uniqueness. Owners will be onsite with information about their vehicles, as they participate in a competition by class, where cars are judged on varying criteria from unusualness to restoration, McCarter said.

A 1932 Ford V-8 Roadster and 1923 Kissel Brougham Sedan are among the 30 pre-war vehicles that will line up between Hutton and Center Streets in downtown Northville for the Concours d’Elegance Preview Event and Rare Car Exhibit the day before.

The Tom Allport Band will perform live to close the night. The preview was originally set up as entertainment for guests bringing their cars for Sunday, but the event is free and open to everyone, Ward said.

“We’re hoping it will bring people who are not as familiar with Northville into the community, so they can get acquainted with our restaurants and shopping to get an idea of who we are and spend some time here,” Ward said.

FYI: Northville’s Annual Concours d’Elegance Preview Event and Rare Car Exhibit takes place from 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday, July 27, between Hutton and Center Streets in downtown. Admission to the preview is free. Concours d’Elegance takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28, at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, and tickets are $25.

Concert Review: Under The Sun tour brings ’90s back in force at DTE

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

It was an upbeat evening of ’90s nostalgia Sunday, July 21, at the DTE Energy Music Theater as Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray headlined Under the Sun, a funny four-hour package show of pop and alternative hits from the final decade of the 20th century.

Lead singer Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray at DTE on July 21.

Lead singer Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray at DTE on July 21.

Sugar Ray singer and tour founder Mark McGrath – who acted as a spirited and comedic emcee throughout the evening – promised that “We’re gonna kick some ass!” and joked, like so many others, about whether he should still refer to the venue as Pine Knob. Fastball kicked things off slowly with a 40-minute, seven song set, introducing the new song, “Love Comes in Waves” and closing with its hit “The Way.” Vertical Horizon followed with a 25-minute, five-song show highlighted by “You’re a God” and “I’m Still Here,” which lead singer Matt Scannell jokingly said he wrote about being sick and needing Advil. The group also got a positive reaction when they mentioned their t-shirt for sale to help Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit benefitting the armed forces, before closing the set with “Everything You Want.”

Following those one-hit wonders, Gin Blossoms — whose frontman Robin Wilson was born in Detroit — took the stage for a 56-minute, 10-song set that included “Follow You Down” and “Found Out About You.” The band members reminisced onstage about previous performances at DTE and were joined by two members of Smash Mouth during “Hey Jealousy.”

Sugar Ray was the liveliest of the evening acts, thanks in part to McGrath’s constant commentary — which at times got in the way of the music but made it clear that the band considered the concert a celebration. McGrath’s frosty, spiked hair and white blazer screamed ’90s, and when he compared the show to “a U2 concert without the talent,” it was clear the group didn’t take themselves too seriously.

During its 45-minute, eight song set, Sugar Ray played hits such as “Someday,” “When it’s Over,” “Every Morning” and “Fly,” sprinkling in lesser-known songs like “Under the Sun,” about growing up in Newport, California. The show started to resemble a comedy club, as McGrath took an audience member’s phone and began talking to the man’s girlfriend, but he told everyone he wanted them to have fun even though Michigan is going through tough times. An exctended performance of Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” certainly helped make that happen.

Smash Mouth closed the night with a nine-song, 45-minute set filled with hits such as “Then the Morning Comes” and “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby.” Drummer Randy Cooke, bassist Paul DeLisle and keyboardist Michael Klooser all took solo spots, while the group’s cover of the Monkee’s “I’m a Believer” took audience members back to the first “Shrek” film – with DeLisle sporting a pair of ogre ears. Lead Singer Steve Harwell joked about keeping the shoe an audience member handed him to autograph, and Smash Mouth finished on an up note with “All Star,” although the lack of a formal encore left fans wanting a bit more Under The Sun from the band.

Under the Streetlamp a toe tapping joy for summer

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Photo courtesy of Under the Streetlamp

Photo courtesy of Under the Streetlamp

Doo-wop, Motown and old rock ’n’ roll will fill Meadowbrook Theatre on Saturday, July 20, as Under the Streetlamp brings the retro sounds of the four-piece vocal group to the stage for a benefit concert.

Michael Cunio, Michael Ingersoll, Chris Jones and Shonn Wiley were the original “Jersey Boys.” After touring for the musical, they wanted to continue performing together, so they formed the doo-wop group Under the Streetlamp, says Wiley, a Michigan native.

FYI: Under the Street Lamp will perform two shows — at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at Meadow Brook Theatre. Tickets are $98 to $125 can be purchased or at the Meadow Brook Theatre box office. Proceeds from the concert benefit the nonprofit Meadow Brook Theatre.

Under the Streetlamp will bring out hits from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, while dancing onstage and interacting with the audience.

Nattily clad in suits, the men sing onstage both accompanied and a capella to hits such as the Four Seasons’ “Working My Way Back to you,” The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around,” and Aretha Franklin’s “Rescue Me,” with each vocalist spotlighted in various songs throughout the show.

“We take the music very seriously, but we really don’t take ourselves seriously at all,” Wiley says.

Though the event is not a play like “Jersey Boys,” the audience will get an experience because the musical group puts on a great show, he says.

The men dance and sing, bringing out the music visually and vocally, as well as sharing stories with the crowd.

“We feel like we’re throwing a party, and we’ve invited the audience to come to this really great party,” Wiley said. “We’re dancing around the stage and singing this great music in kind of the same way that the music is with Jersey Boys. But there’s no script, there’s no story.”

In Concert: Dave Matthews rocks DTE

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP — The Dave Matthews Band’s laid-back mood helped clear the stormy skies Tuesday night, July 9, at the DTE Energy Music Theater during its two-hour and 40-minute, 21-song set.

Dave Matthews Band performed at DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston Tuesday, July 9.

Dave Matthews Band performed at DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston Tuesday, July 9.   Photo/Stephanie Sokol

“It’s turning out to be a lovely evening, and I hope ya’ll are enjoying yourselves,” Matthews said halfway through the show, which was dominated by the jazzy, light-rock fusion and mix of fast and slow tempos that are the Virginia group’s trademark.

A large video screen at the back of the stage showed  psychedelic images, audience shots and close-ups of band members while Matthews kept his between-song patter limited mostly to thank-yous.

“Crash into Me” and “Granny” were bolstered by flashy instrumental features, and while  Matthews’ voice was quiet at times, the playing of his seven-member band carried the music and kept things lively. He was often joined center stage by Boyd Tinsley, who performed many smoothly executed violin solos, while  trumpeter Rashawn Ross and saxophonist Jeff Coffin added tonal punch to the songs.

Matthews and company kept things unpredictable as well, covering songs such as Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up”  and a dark and acoustic-leaning rendition of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” “Jimi Thing” unexpectedly transitioned into a cover of Prince’s “Sexy M.F.,” changing up the vibe once again and making the audience dance wildly.

The extended encore performances of “Drunken Soldier” and “Ants March,” meanwhile, made it clear that, in the end, what Matthews wanted most was to make sure his fans had a good time.