Vienna Teng at The Power Center

The Magazine

May 3, 2011

Music Lovers Warm to Barnstormer


Daytrotter’s Barnstormer Tour Brings Hot Bands to a Cold Barn

by Mary Simkins

The Dexter, Michigan leg of Daytrotter’s fourth annual Barnstormer concert series set a few records. It was the first time the five-day barn tour had come to Michigan, it was the first sold- out night of the tour, and, as Romeny Rye frontman Luke MacMaster informed the crowd, it was “the best night of the […] three that we’ve played so far.”

Twinkle lights, a hand-painted mural reproducing Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” and a meandering black and white sheep dog set the mood for an intimate and relaxed night of music and revelry, and, from the first set by Keegan DeWitt to the last by Sondre Lerche, the bands of Barnstormer IV provided a constant stream of energy, humor, and, of course, great music.

Each band was hand-selected by Daytrotter creator Sean Moeller, and his careful planning was apparent when five very different sounds and aesthetics came together to complement each other and captivate audience members.

Each band used the word “Daytrotter” with great reverence, and every performer used the word “honored” when describing their feelings about being included in the latest installment of Daytrotter’s Barnstormer.

Keegan DeWitt and his band kicked things off with a high level of energy to get the crowd warmed up. DeWitt started his set by informing the crowd that the band had been in a van for six straight hours, and their resultant release of pent-up energy was contagious with songs like “Say La La La” that had the audience not just dancing, but singing along.

Keegan DeWitt, previously a solo singer-songwriter out of Nashville, is enjoying his new role as lead singer for a band. “There’s definitely a different energy,” he said. “With those guys behind me, it takes some of the pressure off.”

After DeWitt’s danceable melodies, Guards captured our attention with green smoke and a mounted crow saying, “We’re gonna bring a little evil into the barn, eh?” Guards showcased songs with steady guitar rhythms, old-fashioned vocal stylings that would not have been out of place in a 50s doo-wop group, and percussion crescendos punctuating comfortable melodies.
Richie Follin proved an endearing front man, saying “Thank you very much!” after each song with a wave and a modest grin.

While Guards’ sound isn’t particularly danceable, the music was soothing and the lyrics catchy, and more than one person could be seen swaying back and forth with a smile on their face. In addition to their original songs, the band put its own spin on MIA’s “Born Free,” lending new gravity to the slowed-down lyrics.

The Romany Rye added a classic rock touch to the lineup, and Luke MacMaster’s cool, clear vocals captivated the audience as much as his lyrics. One particularly enthusiastic fan was astounded when he asked MacMaster, “Who wrote that?” and MacMaster dryly responded, “I did.” From “Holly” (“a song about being a total fuck-up,” according to MacMaster) to “Love
Song,” The Romany Rye had the audience in the palm of their hands.

MacMaster, formerly the guitarist for The Colour, commented on his role in the band, saying, “There is a different pressure as a lead singer, but it’s a healthy pressure. It gets me to go to bed earlier, and keeps my head in the right place.”

Hellogoodbye’s feel-good pop punk was warmly received, and the inhabitants of the chilly barn welcomed the opportunity to warm themselves along with the band by bobbing and jumping along to their upbeat vibe.

Sondre Leche closed out the night with a few favorites, such as “Heartbeat Radio,” and also shared a few new songs from his upcoming self-titled album, which is due in June 2011. Of his new album he said, “This one will be much more relaxed, stripped of frills, and straightforward. It’s just me and a few friends.”

In honor of Hellogoodbye’s last night on the Barnstormer tour before breaking off for a show in North Carolina, Lerche invited the guys onstage to help with his last song. This gesture was one of many that indicated the tour’s quickly formed friendships. In fact, the comradery among all of the bands was so apparent that one would not have been surprised if all five bands had converged onstage for a friendly (albeit crowded) jam sesh.

Overall, the concert was a crowd-pleaser as well as a great success. The relaxed and welcoming “spirit of the Barnstormer” was often invoked, and the response to any sound snafus or overly verbal fans was for artists to laugh and say (as Sondre Lerche did), “Well, that’s what happens when you perform in a barn.”

Photos by Bruno Postigo

Keegan DeWitt

Picture 1 of 30

About the Author

Tim Adkins
Tim Adkins
Tim is the publisher of iSPY and co-founder of Pakmode Media + Marketing. He's a social, vegetarian geek who recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into his family. For any questions or suggestions in regards to design, ad sales, web, content or anything at all related to iSPY, Tim's your guy.

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