Monday, 26 August 2013 12:32

September Sink's Spins: Work horse Nathan Kalish tours with Deadstring Brothers

Written by  John Sinkevics
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For Grand Rapids songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Nathan Kalish, show No. 146 of 2013 at The State Room in Salt Lake City, Utah, came off as a rousing and satisfying affair amid a hectic year of touring the United States and Europe. After all, the drummer for the Deadstring Brothers got a chance to play an extended one-hour opening set for a sold-out crowd with frontman Kurtis Marschke and bassist J.D. Mack, both Detroit natives.

Concertgoers who came to see California's The White Buffalo were mostly unfamiliar with the Deadstring Brothers, an alt-country-fueled rock band. Still, they greeted the band warmly, and by the end of the trio's set, they treated the boys to a standing ovation and approving hoots.

The late summer Utah show was a bright spot in a dizzying-but-promising tour for the latest lineup in Marschke's 10-year-old project. It's clear that sets like the one in Salt Lake City help fuel the Deadstring Brothers as they tour behind their latest Bloodshot Records album.

"Every time we go back to a place, it gets better," said Kalish, better known in West Michigan for his work with his own band, The Wildfire, but who's toured with the Deadstring Brothers on and off since 2010. "It's totally working."

So is Kalish, who will crisscross the country with Marschke until December, when he takes two months off to return to Grand Rapids to play a series of Michigan dates with his own rootsy band. Kalish then heads overseas in January, before coming back to rejoin the Deadstring Brothers. He continues to work fervently on a new solo album, which is being mixed in Nashville.

"I'm still doing my own music," Kalish said. "I work on my record almost every day."

Calvin College student activities director and concert guru Ken Heffner celebrates an impressive milestone this month. When Americana/folk duo Over the Rhine – aka the college's "house band" – returns for a Sept. 21 concert at Covenant Fine Arts Center, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the band's first Calvin appearance.

"It was the first concert I booked in my new job," Heffner said, who estimates the college has booked about 600 concerts and sold 500,000 tickets in those 20 years.

The college even created a commemorative T-shirt containing 300 band names. The mission of the two-decade-old series is to provide students and the general public "an attentive way to engage with popular culture" and "fall in love with live performance," Heffner said, while giving artists an audience they'd "feel honored to perform before."

Meanwhile, Hope College in Holland is heading into the 10th year of its concert series which began with mostly local musicians in casual environments. Since then, the student organization-driven series has hosted national acts such as Ra Ra Riot, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Cloud Nothings and Mat Kearney, with Youth Lagoon playing the first concert in the 2013-14 series on Sept. 13 at the Knickerbocker Theater.



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Music critic and entertainment writer John Sinkevics comments on the local and national music scene at, spotlighting artists at 10 a.m. Wednesdays on Local Spins Live at News Talk 1340 AM.

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