By: Zak Kolesar
Rumba Cafe is known to be home to artists with a diverse musical palette. Just this year alone, the trancy, sitar-fronted Dawg Yawp brought its psychedelic chants to Rumba. RADATTACK poised a takeover with rock...again. Tony Monaco frequently gathers his trio in an all-out jazz onslaught here. Hell, every Sunday evening the Hoodoo Soul Band packs the house at $8 a pop.
For those reasons, Rumba was also the most fitting stop on Tuesday for Michigander and its spacey, lyrical rock ‘n’ roll.
Before the group from up North filled Rumba with its live, fulfilling sound, Nick D’Andrea of Doc Robinson took the stage just after 7:30 p.m. to perform a solo set. Clocking in at just under 30 minutes, just under 10 songs, D’Andrea delighted Rumba once again with his soulful guitar playing and crooning.
His folk-laden tunes had the crowd in applause upon D’Andrea striking each last note, evoking a Happy Hour vibe. The warm up to his following-day performance of Tom Petty covers with Doc Robinson at Woodlands Tavern included the subtle campfire sounds of “Crucible” and “Pick Me Up” and the more upbeat ode to his wife, “16 Years.”
Minutes later MOON unleashed its emotional synth-pop onto the stage, also matching D’Andrea’s set length. Known as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Jack Sipes, he put together the full MOON band experience on Tuesday night.
Dodging some technical difficulties with witty audience banter, Sipes and his live band delivered dreamlike sequences of the same vein as Currents-era Tame Impala. The way the sound encompassed the room truly made you feel like you were in space.
Be sure to check out MOON’s material on Bandcamp below.
It was now time for Michigander to bless the stage with his humble presence. Born Jason Singer, the lead guitarist and vocalist behind the band graced the stage at 8:55 with a backing bass guitarist and drummer. So why have, primarily, colleges been buzzing over Singer’s lush rock?
Michigander began what will eventually be known in history as a meteoric rise shortly after releasing two singles—”Nineties” and “Mexico”—in 2016. Two more came out in 2017, leading up to the release of Michigander’s debut EP, Midland, this year. Audiotree even recognized his raw talent with a full recorded session.
You can check out Michigander's music available on Spotify below.
It’s through these more stripped sessions that Singer’s comprehensive mix of alternative, indie rock with introspective lyrics—perfect for this cloudy Tuesday—is able to emotionally touch audiences. I enjoyed Midland before Tuesday’s performance, but seeing Singer’s technical guitar playing while he belted out ethereal statements from the six-track project solidified why the Midwest is so nuts over Michigander.
The brimming sound that Michigander brought to Rumba was overflowing by the time the band struck its first note of the night with “5am.” Evoking chills reminiscent of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” Michigander then began to strut its musical elasticity with “Alice,” also off of Midland.
Songs that ended with Singer passionately unleashing his lyrics into the microphone resonated the best with the audience. The way his voice would wax and wane on a whim while singing, “If love is a river baby you can’t swim/You’re going under,” best showcased Michigander’s knack for gutting lyricism and moody, reflective guitar to boot.
During the show, Singer announced that he was on the sixth day of his spring tour for the release of Midland. Running through the EP, Michigander took things down a notch, even joking with the audience that the next one would be a “quiet song, so keep being quiet.” While the crowd chuckled, Michigander truly embodied Coldplay, one of its main influences, with the “ohing” chants and dreamy guitars of "Falling."
As a 40-minute set was wrapping up, Michigander whipped out its earliest track, “Nineties,” to much joy from the audience. The track, laced with eccentric, wavering reverb and poetic lines like “Cause everybody needs a place to hide/When they get scared in the middle of the night,” serves as a testimony for Michigander, that it isn’t reinventing rock ‘n’ roll; It’s bringing it back in a more condense, less intense fashion.
And it’s doing it by way of venues such as Rumba, a place where his intimate tunes should be shared at their peak.
This Midwest delight will soon become a nation-wide sensation, so don’t miss your next chance to see Michigander in Columbus. The band will return to the Capital City on June 22, this time at The Basement with Motherfolk. Tickets are available through this link.