MxM's Favorite Midwestern Musicians: We Don't Just Like Us, Y'Know.
There are a lot of awful things about living in the Midwest. With winter right around the corner, all of us Michigan transplants are in a particularly dour mood about the state we call home at the moment. Sure, the weather here’s no Nashville and the seafood can’t hold a candle to Boston but we do have something other than that special water tower to call our “claim to fame” around these parts - We’ve also got an amazing music scene.
Sure, there’s us, Match by Match, a duo that’s kinda sounding like the freak love child of The Black Keys and The Civil Wars! (If you ask us! We’d link you to our new album but…. Y’know.) And there’s also miss Amber V., our behind the scenes glamor gal manager and merch babe, who’s been spending a lot more time than usual behind the computer lately demoing the scratch tracks for her Wizard of Oz inspired EP! She says it’s a pop record but someone on the internet compared it to a choir of creepy kids singing Aphex Twins in a field so listen at your own risk.
The cacophony of the musical Midwest keeps on keepin’ on once we skeedaddle past Match by Match Manor’s doors. Here’s a list of our top five fave Michigan acts (plus one bonus Chicago choogler) that always keep us movin’ and groovin’ ‘round these parts. It isn’t often that we leave the house to brave the arctic tundra but a show from any of these guys or dolls can usually do it -
Despite their age and despite the fact that one-third of the Ypsi trio lives in the D these days, Lighting Love still manages to be the strangest teens of all. There is something very adolescent about Lightning Love’s music, and yet simultaneously, something deeply sad and upsetting. Their music is the sound of a girl (Leah Deihl) grappling with adulthood, while wholly unequipped emotionally to process mature relationships. It’s something sweetly-damaged, yet not bitter, like pop music that’s fallen down the stairs drunk. Their new record, (the utterly superb) Blonde Album, is pure power-pop joy which, combined with the lack of sneering irony, keeps them in rotation constantly at MxM Manor.
Us and NK go way back. For one, he is ubiquitous. For months after our arrival in Michigan, it felt like we were seeing new posters for Nathan K shows every few days. The man plays shows with a borderline compulsive zeal but never more than him, a guitar, and an endlessly complicated stack of loop pedals piled in front of him. There’s a certain confidence and unshakeable faith in his approach that smooths out the rough edges of his voice and musical aesthetic. It’s uncanny, watching him turn an awkward melody into something beautiful and swelling. His new record is a moody, engrossing affair and showcases the depth of his songwriting.
There is only so much that we can continue to say about Matt Jones to inspire people to love him as much as we do. He is extremely tall. He plays guitar like his fingers are dancing on ecstasy. He sings like a beautiful, heavenly angel. He has an uncomfortable obsession with the Civil War. His songs are gut-wrenching, the emotional equivalent of waking up in your car after a bender and trying not to think of the terrible things you might have done the night before or why you’re covered in blood, or why the blood doesn’t seem to be your own. We’d call him a “singular talent,” except that he really belongs alongside dudes like Neil Young.
(Bonus Amber V. appearance at the end of that music video, ya’ll! And that was before she managed us! Small world!)
We’ve been smitten with these electropranksters since their Ordinare EP, but “Must Land Running” is the jam of the millennium. I doesn’t hurt they’ve added another one of our picks to their ranks (aforementioned Michi-bro Nathan K on guitar), but they seem to be having a good time mixing together the goofy, the poignant and the joyous with great, ridiculous results.
Now these scrappy boys are a new favorite of ours. Despite being a drop in an unending fountain of folk-influenced music that infects the midwest, The Hand in the Ocean does it with more flair, panache, and eccentricity than most. Three guys, one banjo, one guitar, and (increasingly with each passing show) great songwriting. They’re masters of the bitter-sweet: Tearing, uncontrolled snarls give way to soft, expert harmonies. Gray says they’re the heir to the theatrical, whiskey-soaked throne of Tom Waits. Amber says they’re like the murder baby of the demented carnival of Man Man and the possessed gospel stomp of early Timber Timbre. Either way, the entire Manor approves.
Archie and the boys are HANDS DOWN one of the tightest, most well-oiled rock machines there is. Besides having unbelievably well-written tracks, unexpected philosophical lyrics, and a frontman who seems to be the reincarnation of This Year’s Model-era Elvis Costello (yes, we know Elvis Costello isn’t dead but it’s one of them “metaphors”), the band consistently delivers a raucous, tuneful live show every time that make their flaw-free album sound like it was recorded in-person. No joke! Sometimes, it actually is just nerdy what huge fans of AP&E we are here. Great Ideas In Action hasn’t left the turntable since we bought the vinyl when the band came to visit last month. We are all just pilgrims under the wheels of this power-pop juggernaut.
December might still be a week or so away but it ain’t to early to get pumped for some pre-yuletide festivities - No word on the presence of nog but we’ll keep you posted!
On December 13th, MxM is gonna be hitting one of our favorite Michigan venues - And one that we’ve never played at that! - PJ’s Lager House! And to top it off, we’re playing it with one of our fave acts, The Hand In The Ocean!
One - or maybe even TWO! - more acts are going to be added to the bill so keep an eye out for that because this bill it already killer and it can only go uphill from here!
This is a show that we here at MxM Manor are particular pumped for, folks. Not only does it feel like ages since we’ve left the A2 area but it’s our first time playing as a rock duo in the dirty D, our first time at PJ’s, but this is going to be the start of a three date mini-tour for us that’s gonna find us honing our new songs like nobody’s business!
The next day, we’re TBA-ing it before heading back to Ypsilanti for Dragon Wagon's Wagon Wreck Music Festivalat Ann Arbor’s LIVE for what is turning out to be fiddle seductress extraordinaire Diana Ladio’s last show with the bluegrass six piece. You can still pre-order your tickets for another two days on Dragon Wagon’s Kickstarter here!
Best of all? Looks like we just might have some new swag in time for these December shows of ours including the coolest stickers of all time and maybe - Just maybe! - even that cd single if we’re lucky!
Sounds like the makings of an exciting three day stint on the great highways of Michigan if you ask me!
It might appear that Team MxM is taking things nice and easy during November but - Au contraire! Gray and Melissa are practicing just as vigorously as ever, gearing up for the release of NEW MUSIC, the recording of NEW SONGS, an playing of NEW SHOWS, and a whole bunch of other junk we’ve got in the pipeline for all ya’ll little dearlings!
Within the next few weeks, we’re going to be making a number of exciting announcements - Starting today!
On December 14th and 15th, our always-enthusiastic friends in Dragon Wagon are going to set Ann Arbor ablaze with their first annual Wagon Wreck music festival and we are going to be a part of it!
Along with us and, of course, Dragon Wagon, the line up will also feature acts like Third Coast Kings, The Crane Wives, Covert, Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellies, Lawless Carver, October Babies, The Ben Daniels Band and more.
We’ve shared the stage with Dragon Wagon a number of times before, from the Taste of Tree Town Sound at the Blind Pig to Earth Tones at the Ark, and each time has been a blast. Now, you can ensure your spot at Wagon Wreck by giving to Dragon Wagon’s Kickstarter.
The band is preselling tickets to the fest and $30 gets you a two day pass to the fest, to take place 12/14-12/15 at Ann Arbor’s LIVE.
If you’re feeling generous, more dollars gets you more perks, such as music, merch, or even live performances in your very own living room. Check out the Kickstarter for more deets!
The time is nigh and we here at MxM Manor have a very special Devil’s Night surprise for you - A Halloween mix!
Gray, Melissa, and Amber got together (Which wasn’t hard as they live in the same house) and brainstormed up some of their favorite bone-chilling tunes (Which also wasn’t hard as they’ve spent all of October listening to the “Murder Mix” and “The Spooky Shuffle” and Amber’s ipod). The creepiest choice cuts have now made their way to you on what we hope to be the first of many annual American Crowbar Goes American Gothic MxM Mixes!
And as a special nightcap… Do any other ‘80’s babies remember this nightmare inducing childhood gem? Not to mention the jam of a tune it’s paired with! A gem with a jam! Now ain’t that just the thing to make you want to slaughter a young goat. Or commit arson. I mean, it is Devil’s Night after all! And I was born and raised in Dee-troit Rock City!
We here at MxM Manor hope you enjoyed our mix as hope as we enjoyed making it (and repeatedly listening to it). If you want to hear the Spooky Shuffle in it’s 4 hour long unadulterated glory, we’ll be spinning it before the music begins at the Manor tomorrow night! Come by, won’t you? And don’t forget to bring your death certificate!
If you need directions or if you have any questions, comments, or if you just wanna say howdy, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org! See you tomorrow night, my little monsters!
Ol’ John Skelebones here, Boils and Ghouls! Taking a break from being resident Pumpkin Duke of MxM Manor to announce two new additions to "NIGHTMARE… at the Manor!" Ypsi-loopster ORPHANAGE and Queen of Noise WILLA RAE! This show is shaping up to be MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER!
You want deetz? Email email@example.com. Be there… or be SCARED!
MxM team mom-ager Amber V. is at the helm today and I have to tell you guys, I’m getting more and more pumped by the day for Nightmare At The Manor. Like the rest of the Match-sters, Halloween is my favorite holiday. In fact, my aspiration in life is to live at the Haunted Mansion. You know, the Disney one.
Disneyland Paris is preferred but I’ll take what I can get.
Halloween in Ann Arbor is a bit different from Gray’s east-coast autumnal experiences of yore but then again, most things in Ann Arbor are different. A2 is a city oft described as “some-odd miles of heaven surrounded by reality” by the people who reside inside it. It’s a plce where the smell of legalized marijuana wafts through through the air and the streets are lined with signs proclaiming support for Obama. Sometimes people even just have pumpkin patches growing in their front yards like it’s no big deal!
But we don’t quite live in Ann Arbor. We’re in Ypsi, a town best known for it’s phallic water tower. We like it here. Instead of pumpkin patches in our yard we have a dachshund in our blood stained window.
Clearly, we win.
One of the things that’s gettin’ my bones chilled the most lately is MxM’s standing Wednesday band date of huddling together in our band cave to watch in terror as the deeply distrurbing effed up glory of American Horror Story unfolds in front of us.
If you’re not familiar, American Horror Story is an FX horror miniseries that comes around like Sandy Claws this time of year. It’s run by Ryan Murphy and much like his previous works (Nip/Tuck, Glee, Popular, etc.), it finds him working out his issues with sexual identity, mental illness, and mommy issues - Only this time, instead of singing cheerleaders, there’s serial killing ghosts! And instead of Jean Grey as a transexual (I can’t be the only one who remembers that), there’s demonic possession!
Consistently paying homage to one classic horror movie trope per episode (Last week saw the series tackle The Exorcist), the unpredictable twist of “bat shit insane” that Murphy adds to the show leaves the MxM fam speechless after most eps. If you’re looking for a scare, we rate this way above The Walking Dead on our Hallo-watch list!
Hello ghouls and gals, Melissa tuning in for a special surprise announcement about NIGHTMARE at the Manor….
I’m a nerd! As a former student of Manhattan School of Music, one of my favorite party activities in school was pulling out some Disney songbooks and sight reading them on the piano for everyone to sing along with me. I’m bringing back my old tradition for the first time in years to celebrate this Halloween, and what better opportunity than NIGHTMARE at the Manor?
(ISN’T IT CONVENIENTLY NAMED?)
Bring your smartphones and get ready to pull up some lyrics!
We’re gonna sing along to Danny Elfman and Tim Burton’s musical masterpiece,
Five Days Until... NIGHTMARE at the Manor: Gray's Favorite Halloween Movie Musicals
Despite having lived in the midwest over the last few years, I am by birth a New Englander. That means Halloween lives in my blood.
Halloween (like the rest of the country) was born on the salty shores of New England and this is where it continues to reside for me. Yes, yes, we all celebrate Halloween and I’m sure everyone feels their quaint little town, once the leaves start turning and the pumpkins come out, embodies that spirit better than any other place. But Halloween is something altogether different, more palpable in New England. There’s a chill in the air that doesn’t just get into your bones, but gets into your soul.
There’s a real darkness to living out there, an edge to life, one you don’t get to talk about until the witching season comes around. We New Englanders are the masters of self-denial (founded by Puritans, all that jazz). This self-denial creates real problems when faced with the darker aspects of life. It reduces us to children struggling to conquer the unending darkness, which (among other things), gives us a childlike awe and delight in Halloween. So the hardships and macabre moments we experience in our lives generally go over like the first half of every horror movie: Our plucky young hero witnesses something ghoulish, tries to tell a grown, the grown up shrugs it off, the grown up is then eaten by aforementioned scary thing, the cycle repeats itself.
We’re New Englanders. We’re supposed to shrug these types of things off. But not Halloween. To us, it is a primal celebration of the things we’ve heard go bump in the night but have been afraid to tell about. To us it is a pass, license to openly acknowledge the Terrible-Things-We-Know-Are-Out There. Hell, we had honest to goodness (accused) witchcraft going on up in Salem! RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSES.
Suffice it to say, I will save you the suspense and deliver spoilers for my own list: my number one favorite Halloween movie (musical or otherwise) is Hocus Pocus. This, I realize, is a controversial choice. It beats out a legion of highly qualified other contenders (including movies with titled after the holiday itself), is made by Disney for children, and features Bette Midler.
On the other hand, I posit there is no movie better at capturing the dry, cold wind and ubiquitous menace and thrill of being a kid on Halloween in New England. And yes, I am aware of the irony that the film having been (quite obviously at times) filmed on a LA studio set. Still, to see Billy Bones stalking Max, Dani, and Allison (three of the 90sest names to ever have been assembled) and that fucking cat Thackery Binx through the red, dry leaves of Salem… It warms the heart of a homesick ghoul to this day.
Some of my strongest memories related to the film are it’s musical moments. Now, obviously, if you’ve got a diva like the Divine Miss M, ya gotta have a big showcase number, kid! That in mind, they whip up a pretty respectable version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell on You” (it was actually my first exposure to the song. Just because I have a degree in Media Studies doesn’t mean I was born having seen Stranger than Paradise). It’s downright mean in that Vegas way.
The other musical moment is, perhaps, more of a product of the time in my development durring which encountered the film. My, uh, manly development.
Sarah Jessica Parker singing “Come Little Children” gave me weird feelings. And not just your run-of-the-mill puerile excitements (THAT type of thing can be squarely placed on her delivery of the line “Hang him on a hook and let me play with him!” That kind of thing puts hair on your chest). It was legitimately seductive. The melody had that haunting lullabye quality, and her delivery was the perfect mix of sexual and naive. It was the first time I felt a certain tug on my senses by an exotic, mysterious lady (with, pipes up the Lech, a killer rack. Seriously, sexiest SJP has ever looked. You know Matthew Broderick has had her dig that corset out of the closet a few times to help counteract the wilting repulsion at her present leathery state).
While on the subject, it was also the movie to introduce me to the word “virgin.” I had never even HEARD the word before (I’m Jewish, so the Virgin Mary wasn’t a thing). The movie is vague on its precise meaning, but suffice it to say, the embarrassment on Max’s face when he has to admit it to the girl he likes paints a pretty compelling picture. Being a virgin was lame. Being a virgin means that if you light the black flame candle, a bunch of witches are gonna be summoned from the grave and fuck your shit up. Being a virgin means your little sister makes fun of your dumb 90s haircut. That shit is weaksauce.
Pretty heavy stuff for a kids movie.
That in mind, I present you with my definitive list of the greatest Halloween Movie Musicals.
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ahhhh, my first love. You never forget your first. In elementary school, I’d skip class to hide out in the woods behind the school and declare at the top of my lungs that I was the Pumpkin King. Sadly, it would be another decade or so before I discovered psychedelics and this would be considered acceptable. Still sets the standard for the perfect mix of the cute and the macabre and inspired a lifelong appreciation for Oingo Boingo. Generally good for a repeat performance around Christmas too, so that’s a plus.
6. Repo: The Genetic Opera
A young upstart contender! How did he make it into this shaky, hastily tossed-together bracket? By being FUCKING CRAZY, that’s how! By having Giles from Buffy play an organ repossession lunatic, that’s how! By having rock legend Joan Jett show up to play rhythm guitar in the background of a scene for no reason, unexplained, apropos of nothing, THAT’S HOW! By having goddamned BILL MOSELEY IN IT, THAT’S HOW!
I know, and I haven’t even gotten to Paris Hilton mincing around alongside Sarah Brightman as “Blind Mag,” or how this actually functions pretty well as an opera, in spite of its diminished expectations. Just watch the clip, OK?
5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Hard to call this one a real quintessential Halloween pick since it’s a little too scatterbrained, a little too winking to be considered properly “horror.” Still, I’ve loved it since I was a wee babe: the charmingly low-budget effects, the campy performances, the gleeful reveling in kink, and Richard O’Brien’s faithfully rendered tribute to the protorock bubblegum and rockabilly of the 1950s (back when it wasn’t just encouraged, but downright obligatory to have a sweet sax solo), it all works for me.
4. Trick or Treat (1986)
This is a real perfect storm of a movie. Debuting in the era when people were actually concerned backmasked lyrics and albums called “Fuck Like A Beast,” it feels like the strange combination of the hysteria felt by both anti-metal crusaders and the adolescent wish fulfillment of a pimply Ratt fan. Hard to say whose agenda it serves. Great appearance by Ozzy (still able to convincingly “act” without needing subtitles) Gene Simmons (greasy as ever), and pretty gnarly 80s hair metal tunes though.
3. Young Frankenstein
Look, I know it barely counts as a musical. But Young Frankenstein it probably quantifiably the greatest comedy of all time (its only real competition is The Jerk) and it’s loving homage to the Universal horror aesthetic put it high on my list. Besides, one of the most enduring goofs of the movie is music based, so that’s a thing.
2. Phantom of the Paradise
Now THIS is a hidden gem. Barely coherent, it coasts on this twisted glam vibe that sounds like a Martian had to dictate what he thought thought Faust was about into the IAmT-Pain app. Still, it has a some truly impressively campy dance numbers, a really excellent soundtrack filled with bizarro pastiche (sensing a theme here?) by Paul Williams (think Randy Newman on a budget and LSD) and a pretty strange acting performance by the same.
1. Hocus Pocus
Sanderson Sisters ain’t nothing to fuck with. ‘Nuff said.
If MxM ever gets famous, it’ll go down in wiki-history that Melissa briefly played drums in now-defunct Detroit all-girl rock band Smudge Candy. Well, it seems as if Halloween will be a bit of a Smudge Candy reunion with former frontbabe Willa Rae showing up at the Manor with her guitar to sing a few Smudge Candy favorites, new tunes, and covers! Will she be playing anything spooky? Will Melissa be coerced into harmonizing on “Julia”? Come to Match by Match Manor on Halloween for NIGHTMARE At The Manor and find out!
It’s an even better day than usual at Match by Match Manor because it’s rapidly approaching our very favorite day of the year - Halloween! Team MxM get the shakes for the spooks pretty bad year ‘round. Just look at our salt and pepper shakers!
Believe it or not, that DVD was already there.
Now that we’ve gotten ourselves settled in for the autumn at our swank Ypsi digs, we’re ready the get creepy. And in true MxM fashion, we want you to be a part of it.
On October 31st, we’re inviting some of our closest friends and fans to the manor for our very first house show featuring our pals A Hand In The Ocean, us, and more than a few surprises to be announced this week during our countdown to NIGHTMARE At The Manor!
The whole shindig will start at 10 pm on Halloween.
Costumes? Of course!
Beer? You want it, you bring it!
If you don’t know the place, send a love letter to mxmmanor(at)gmail(dot)com and the lovely Miss Amber will give you some instructions - And maybe even a password!
Get ready for this one, guys. After all, life’s no fun without a good scare.
If you missed our Tuesday night show at the Pig this week with our super awesome Bay Area homies Ash Reiter, it isn’t too late! Join us at the Tap Room in Ypsilanti tonight for some sodas and sunny tunes. It was great getting to share the stage with another duo, especially one as tight as Ash.
Plus, they rock a sweet clear drum kit and a fine-as-hell green guitar. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Bad news, friends. Team Match by Match has to cancel our autumn tour. This means that our Chicago, Bloomington, and Indianapolis dates have been put on hold for the time being.
It’s been a tough summer at Match by Match Manor but we’re all banding together and soldiering through it. Unfortunately, this means that our tour and the single release of “Kings of the New Sincerity” have been temporarily put off for the time being.
One of the unforeseen complications we’ve faced has been the health of our manager, Amber Valentine. Amber’s been suffering from an eating disorder for the past fifteen years and this summer, she’s decided to finally seek help. Match by Match stands by her 100% and we want nothing more in the world than to see a happier, healthier Amber.
Did Someone Say Something About A Big Announcement?
Well, it seems like that big announcement was supposed to happen yesterday according to facebook. Oh well! A little procrastination never hurt anyone!
The team over at MxM manor has been busy as all get out this summer. We’ve recorded a new EP and have been prepping tons of new content coming your way - Webisodes! Blogs! Merch! Tour dates! And of course, new music!