Marquette Music Scene

Marquette, the Midwest’s Secret Independent Music Hotspot!

If you’ve been lucky enough to be in the know the last few months you’ve had the opportunity to catch some headline entertainment in Marquette for not a headline entertainment price.  Now, there’s always great shows in town. FACT: We’re spoiled. However, it’s not every weekend we get national touring talent playing, let alone for no cover.  This has happened twice in recent months, and both nights were absolutely memorable.

On February 25th “The One Man Hippie Band” Cash O’Riley played a solo night at Flannigan’s.  Now, straight up at most there ended up being 20 people in the room.  However, when they came in, they stayed, and Cash is why they stayed.  O’Riley ran through 3 solid sets of ripping songs from his catalog as well as an array of old country, rock, and blues covers all through his punk rockabilly filter. He may be only one man, but he put out a much bigger sound.  Very much representing the multi-tracked sounds that dominate his discography, but with a faster, gruffer live edge.  However, that rougher approach wasn’t still palatable enough for your average rural bar goer.  In fact, they ended up intrigued, and Cash ended up well-tipped.

I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Cash on this evening, I can officially vouch that he’s a cool cat who’s living it. Like many of us with heavier roots, the fully sleeved, O’Riley has found his home in the alternative & outlaw country realm. He brings a fairly unique psycho/rockabilly style that I’d compare to acts like Rob Coffinshaker & Coffinshakers with vibes that could easily still fit with the more extreme acts like Those Poor Bastards or more any, more, straight-up outlaw style country act.  He also brings us all this in a custom van with his dog Ruby, just give ‘em a place to park for the night and they’re happy.

Sure, it wasn’t overly well attended, but I know some folks who have some pull were in the room and I’m not the only one who saw how Cash controlled it.  Whether it’s as a solo artist, or with his new band The Five & Dime Poets, we need to get Cash back to Marquette. He’s extremely approachable, and down for just about anything if the price is right, and that price may be less than you think.  Wanna book him?

Fast forward a couple weeks, and on the cusp of the VERY cool, Mountain Top Boogie at Indianhead in Wakefield (I’m going to actually get back to that), Rachel Brooke FINALLY found herself playing a Marquette venue with a full band.

Now, I’m not going to lie, this as close to fanboying as my jaded ass gets, but I’ve been waiting 10 years for this to happen. Sadly, I just was never in the proper position to do it myself, even though, through my work with the Peninsula Arts Appreciation Council I was able to bring Barry “The Banjo Picker” Van Guilder’s family band in to play the Okla-Ho-down as promotion for the upcoming production of “Oklahoma.”  Why is this relevant? Well, Rachel’s maiden name is Van Guilder, and she grew up playing in the family band.  Anyway, when Rachel reached out to me earlier this year, even though we’ve been near overwhelmingly busy at the office, I was determined to help her find a show.  Thankfully, it wasn’t all that difficult because Rachel is the shit, and Khris at the Ore Dock knew it.  Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out for that second gig (Congrats to the new owners of The Orpheum Theater in Hancock on the birth of their child!! That’s definitely more important.), but Rachel and crew came across from Wakefield on Saturday and set up at the Ore Dock for a night that anyone who attended isn’t going to forget anytime soon.

The band took the stage and Rachel immediately started off with a solo performance. Her sultry voice tore through the Ore Dock causing a momentary pause where everyone was looking at the stage. Now that was only a pause, but when the full band kicked in at the end of the opening song I saw multiple groups of intended “passers through” stop dead and stay for the set.  One particular group of ladies surprised me and even joined in with the dancers, and oh, were there dancers.  I don’t honestly think there was a full band moment where there wasn’t at least one couple dancing (this couple I don’t think left the dance floor).

Rachel & her band of J’s…

Jordan Siden (Guitar/Slide Guitar), Jason Oberliesen (Bass) & Justin Rossan (Drums)…

…ripped through two sets that covered the span of Rachel’s discography. The crowd heard old school country, bluegrass, dark folk, Mississippi Delta crossed with Chicago Style Blues, and even a little bit of acoustic indie-pop (from her side project Modern Mal), and then some new ones from an album they’re heading into the studio for very soon.

If you’re familiar with Rachel’s catalog you’ll know her style leans towards the of slower, more melancholy, sometimes gothic, oftentimes murderous.  Not that she doesn’t have some blazers, especially on “A Killer’s Dream” (which they killed this night), but I REALLY wondered how that was going to go across to a crowd that usually is looking for faster happier music.  Well, I shouldn’t have worried, because Rachel and crew are pure performers, and of course, everything’s a little faster live.

If y’all missed this show, you may have missed the last time you could have seen Rachel for free In Marquette, or honestly, at least I hope so.  After this Saturday night I know I’m not the only one clamoring for her return.  Though the Ore Dock may benefit if they procure a local opener next time, as the show did feel a touch “short.”  Of course, the U.P. is pretty damn demanding on what they expect from a band (sets/length), and those standards can be high especially for more seasoned national touring groups.

I mentioned earlier that Rachel came across from Indianhead’s “Mountain Top Boogie.”  Now I only heard of this show because Rachel said she was playing it, but D-A-M-N if it didn’t have a killer line-up and we’ll be watching for it next year.  I’ll admit I don’t know who The Peoples Brothers are, and well, Charlie Parr may as well be local, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive when you add in insane one man show Possessed by Paul James, Joseph Huber of .357 Stringband fame, Rachel and a fine array of regionals including Dig Deep (who I’d love to see in Marquette) and Buffalo Galaxy.

If you’re a fan of the more outlaw side of Country, Bluesy Americana, etc, this region is turning into a total powerhouse.  Them Coulee Boys have been back since the Rachel Brooke show.  Local boy Ethan Bott is starting to make waves, check out his new EP “Saddle Up” at your favorite streaming outlet, we should probably get together with him at some point here. Finally, this summer’s festival line-up is completely off the charts with Thunder on the Iron Range’s “Upper Michigan Music Fest” (Blackberry Smoke, Hellbound Glory, Band of Heathens, Cecil Allen Moore) & The Lake Fanny Hoo-down (Ricky Skaggs/Joe Nichols) leading the charge (look for a story about our AMAZING experience at last year’s Lake Fanny Hoo-down next week). Hiawatha is back, Bluesfest just dropped a killer line-up, and as May goes on we can’t wait to see what else this summer of gettin’ back to it has in store.


One response to “Marquette, the Midwest’s Secret Independent Music Hotspot!”

  1. Larry Avatar

    Caught both shows and want to thank everyone who was responsible for bringing those artists to Marquette. Greatly enjoyed the music.

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