Tonight, Ann Arbor’s own the Macpodz are “landing their dance-party mother ship” at the Blind Pig. Or at least that’s how they put it.
At the Blind Pig
Tonight, 9:30 p.m.
But is this going to be a dance-party mother ship worth riding?
The Macpodz formed in February of 2006 with bass player and vocalist Brennan Andes serving as the hub of the wheel, getting the band started by playing house parties at Black Elk co-op on Baldwin Ave. Since then, the Macpodz have released two psychedelic, dance friendly albums that have had middle-aged jazz fans grooving across the region.
As self-proclaimed “disco-beboppers,” The Macpodz’ live performances employ ’70s fusion and electric jazz in the supposed tradition of American Rock (“think Booker T. & the M.G.’s and Miles Davis” Ross Huff, University alum and Macpodz spiritual junkie boldly — and misleadingly — claims). It’s music that would make your parents nostalgic for the good ol’ days.
So what the hell is “disco-bebop” anyway? Huff, who sings and plays trumpet and flugelhorn for the band, chatted with the Daily to answer this burning question and to dish about how the band is musically influenced by everything from yoga to 2 a.m. treks to Fleetwood Diner.
“We’re influenced by so many types of music — everything we can get our hands on: jazz of course, salsa music, rock‘n’roll. We’re taking things from Motown and reggae — even elements of classical music,” Huff boasts in hopes of defining the band’s jumbled, “disco-bebop” sound.
Although the Macpodz’s sound is largely based on jazz and improvisation, rock‘n’roll was Huff’s strongest influence. Either way, it would be pointless to try to stick The Macpodz into one musical genre, as each track feels bogged down by a clunky disjointedness of Latin, rock, and jazz influences.
The seasonings of rock‘n’roll throughout the band’s tracks have surprisingly enabled the Macpodz to display their rock chops at rock-heavy fests like Rothbury. But it’s hard to imagine the Macpodz garnering the same types of fans who came to hear rock anthems performed by bands like the Black Crowes and the Hold Steady.
Still, according to Huff, going to diverse music fests like Rothbury “gives us a chance to get in front of audiences that may not have heard of us, but maybe were there to see Umphrey’s McGee. And being in front of music fans of that open-minded nature, that are excited about music and the community surrounding it is a really positive thing for us,” he says.
But The Macpodz are really about their small town roots. Just as Huff described his admiration of the spectrum of music displayed at Rothbury, he was quick to follow up with his fondness for more intimate, smaller Michigan festivals like Blissfest and Grand Marais Music Festival.
“It’s nice to be onstage at something that is not as big of a scope as Rothbury. Local-oriented festivals are great for building up a local network and getting to know people in different towns or areas that we’re in,” Huff says.
Keeping in line with his folksy values, the University alum has a ridiculously spiritual side. He was the second University student to get a degree in jazz comparative studies, which combines the basic jazz curriculum with the study of psychology as a creative process, yoga and spiritual development.
“A lot of it catered towards the understanding of how the mind and body work in a creative medium and that goes beyond just music or the fine arts. It prepared me for exactly what I wanted to do. I view what I do as a trumpet player and what the Macpodz do as more than just entertainment and the differing degrees of that,” he says.
“I think there is a more profound meaning. All of the current projects that I’m involved with branch one way or another from my connection with the university.”
Apparently, a degree from the University really does prepare you for the future.
Still, even if you’re not seeking a spiritual connection this Friday night, it’s bound to be an interesting endeavor.
“If a person wants to come to a show purely for the entertainment value, they can have that angle fulfilled. But sometimes if a person wants to come to a show in order to search for that connection with other human beings or searching for that connection with a higher being those things can be available too,” he says.
Huff seems to be hoping to reveal his deeper understanding of “someone you might call God,” he states. Dude, how profound.
When asked about his musical influences, Huff keeps it local. He claims that musicians and composers in the ever-growing Ann Arbor music community influence him.
“If you’re sitting, having coffee with somebody you can realize what the genesis behind their song was and really get inside each other’s work and understand it more deeply. When you’re a ticket holder the person on stage seems to be in a different world, they are very literally and clearly on another level,” he says.
But it’s not all about self-enlightenment. For Huff everything’s an influence: “The subway, the sound of the highway, or the restaurant you’re eating in — the Fleetwood! The Fleetwood is a main influence.”
And on Friday at the Pig, University students can experience the eclectically influenced sound for themselves.