Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers: Endless Summer, Endless Wonder
Written by Eric Mitts. Photo: Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, courtesy of Jake Mulka.

When summer hits in Michigan, Joe Hertler can just feel the difference when he’s onstage.

Frontman for longtime Lansing band Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, he’s played countless outdoor festivals all across the country – from Electric Forest to Bonnaroo to South By Southwest – but he said there’s something about being near Lake Michigan that takes his band’s performances to the next level.

So kicking off a huge summer tour this year with a free show headlining Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ Jump Into Summer event on June 7 sounds perfect to him.

“We’re all from Michigan, we’re all water people,” Hertler told REVUE. “I get like bonus vocal abilities, like 5 percent more ability with my vocals when I’m close to the lake, like within like ten or 20 miles of it.”

Proclaiming their multi-genre sound as “Semi-spiritual, quasi-secular post-Motown folk-rock,” the Rainbow Seekers make every show a party, filled with oversized flowers and props, and lots and lots of grooves.

“We have a lot of music, five records, plus maybe two dozen covers,” Hertler said. “We have so much music to select from. A lot of different genres, different art created from different parts of our lives. There’s lots of ways for people to connect with our band, whether they’re young or old or whatever.”

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers started out back in 2011 when the band’s members were all in college. Hertler admits they began as more of a folk-band, tapping into the rich Michigan folk scene early in their career, trying to emulate regional legends in the community, and finding that foundation that they’ve used to build everything else upon.

Exploring everything from funk and soul, to disco and house music, to indie-pop, psychedelic jam, and hip-hop, the band has evolved as they’ve grown, and their lineup has shifted around some over the years.

“It sounds ridiculous,” Hertler said about his band’s musical evolultion. “We sound like the worst band ever on paper.”

But not only have they made it work, they haven’t lost their sense of wonder, or their commitment to each other and their craft, even after the pandemic completely changed the landscape for live bands.

“In the core of this band, there’s a deep, deep commitment, even stretching back to the guys that don’t play with us actively anymore,” Hertler said. “There’s some very old friendships, and we have been making music together for an enormously long time. And we know how to do it. We’re comfortable with it. We know how to talk through stuff. And the experience of the pandemic, made us a little bit more aware of, like, ‘Hey, there’s a lottery here to music, and maybe we don’t have a Grammy or something. We’re a small band, but we’ve won something. We’ve won our companionship with each other, and that’s a hard thing to find.”

When COVID first hit in 2020, the band was on tour in Colorado, and didn’t know what they would do when they had to head home and enter lockdown. Saxophonist Aaron Stinson stepped away to spend time with his growing family, leaving Hertler to mourn the future of the band after losing his co-frontman, and not knowing when they’d play live again.

Surprisingly he turned to “World of Warcraft,” the iconic massive multiplayer online role-playing game, joining up with a guild, and spending eight hours a day gaming. He matched that with eight hours a day of songwriting, and soon came up with 40 new songs.

As COVID restrictions loosened, he started working with keyboardist Micah Bracken and guitarist Ryan Hoger, and put together what would become the Rainbow Seekers’ latest album, Pursuit of Wonder, released last summer.

Describing the album as “imagine dancing at the apocalypse,” Pursuit of Wonder pushed the band’s sound in even more new directions, adding in Hertler’s growing skills as a beat-maker and producer.

Since the album’s release, Hertler has taken to teaching himself how to play piano, turning to the instrument as a source of inspiration to keep his songwriting flowing.

“I’ve been in a pretty serious creative spurt as of recently,” Hertler said. “I’ve probably written about a dozen songs over the last maybe two months. And that’s stuff I’ve recorded. I just have had a ton of ideas and a lot of that has come from my attempt at learning piano.”

This spring the band released the new song and video, “Turn This Train Around.” The band also recorded their first ever live album this past winter.

“We decided to do it at this place called 20 Front Street in Lake Orion,” Hertler said. “It’s the town where I grew up. I went to high school there, spent my childhood there. And there’s this little listening room that you can fit, like, 100 people in. And I’ve played four or five solo acoustic shows there. It’s this beautiful little space.

“I really wanted to try to do a live record there and, logistics and recording aside, it was not exactly ideal because it’s small,” he added. “But I sold everyone on it.  And I think it worked… The footage looks awesome.”

Hertler said the band is in the process of mixing the live album, and is aiming to release that as something of a greatest hits sometime this winter.

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers will spend the summer touring out west, before returning to West Michigan to close out Bell’s Beer Garden Summer Concert Series in Kalamazoo on Sept. 27. 

Saugatuck Center for the Arts: Jump Into Summer

Featuring Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers
Saugatuck Center for the Arts, 400 Culver St., Saugatuck
June 7, 5-10 p.m., Free admission,


Growing by leaps and bounds every year, Saugatuck Center for the Arts’ Jump Into Summer has only gotten bigger and better since starting in 2018.

With the exception of a brief hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic, Jump has brought together live music with summer exhibition artists, all in a creative space that’s fun for all ages.

“We’re proud to honestly say there’s something for everyone ages 2 -102 at Jump into Summer,” Megan Scheerhorn, Director of Marketing for the Saugatuck Center for the Arts said. “This year, the simple joys of summer will be turned up to volume 10. Our education team will be on-site in a creatively curated corner dubbed the "play-tio," where guests will enjoy engaging in hands-on activities like squirt bottle painting, water exploration, building block towers with found and repurposed materials, and artist-inspired abstract art making.”

Emphasizing this year’s theme of “Play,” the SCA will transform their outdoor plaza into a backyard party, complete with yard games, food, lounge areas, and lots of spaces to play.

“Imagine the best, brightest, and biggest barbeque you’ve ever been to, and then times it by 10,” Scheerhorn said.

With a belief that high-quality, professional, innovative experiences should be available to everyone regardless of age, economic status, or interests, SCA makes Jump into Summer a free celebration of all the things that make their little corner of the globe near the lakeshore so creatively intriguing.

“We hope that local families, visiting tourists, and everywhere in-between come to truly enjoy themselves and tap into their playful side while making life-long memories at the beautiful campus of the SCA, located in the heart of the Art Coast,” Scheerhorn said.

Michigan’s own Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers will headline the event’s live music, and they come in hotly anticipated by the SCA staff and community.

“Many of our staff members have experienced their live performances before and this year we knew it was the perfect fit,” Scheerhorn said. “We’re deeply connected to our friends and partners at WYCE 88.1 FM in Grand Rapids, and they helped build our bridge this year for this performance. It’s hard to pick what we’re most excited about having them play as every song is a banger, but any song off the Pursuit of Wonder album will get us on our feet.”