West Michigan bands that ‘folking’ rock

Multi-instrumentalist, South Haven native and Renaissance man Andru Bemis has spent the past decade or so making his way across the country carrying his instruments on his back, spreading folk songs like apple seeds as he goes. Bemis is a churched-up version of the hobo you imagine in the back of a railcar, picking on a stringed instrument, coasting off into the sunset. But Bemis is much more than just a picker in a bowler hat: this is a folk musician’s folk musician, singing his own lyrics alongside traditional songs in his signature bluegrass-y warble; swapping between banjo, guitar, fiddle and ukulele onstage; and nodding to folk styles from Celtic and Cajun to more modern styles and back to pure Americana. — Recoil Magazine [Grand Rapids, MI]

The Womacks, Andru Bemis rock local venue

… “Andru Bemis, hailing from South Haven, Mich., opened the evening at 7 p.m. and thrilled the audience for about an hour.

Bemis’ songs were story-like. He had great stage presence and a good sense of humor.

To top that, Bemis was a wizard on the acoustic guitar, fiddle and banjo.

Bemis, 35, travels from show to show via public transportation, most often using buses, trains or even hitchhiking.

I had the chance to interview him Sunday.

Bemis had high praise for the Dirtsandwich Music Co.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “And what really sets it part [sic] is it’s about music. It’s not about beer or food, with music in the background. What they are selling is music. It’s really rare to find that.”

In the early to mid-2000s, Bemis would play 150-200 shows per year.

From 2007 to 2011, he concentrated mainly on a venue (Foundry Hall) in South Haven, which is a non-profit, all-ages community center and performance venue.

Now, he’s back to playing at least 150 concerts annually.

Bemis said he’s been playing violin since he was 3 or 4 years old. He added the acoustic guitar to his repertoire about 1995 and then picked up the banjo in 2003.

Bemis had a great time playing Sunday for the Norwalk audience.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “It was a good time and that’s what it is all about.”

Bemis will return to Dirtsandwich on May 9.” …. – Scott Seitz, Entertainment, Norwalk County Reflector [Norwalk, OH]

Continue reading The Womacks, Andru Bemis rock local venue

Concert review from Phyllis’ Musical Inn

… Andru Bemis, on the other hand, lives just as much on the road as in southwest Michigan, where he coordinates the music at Foundry Hall in South Haven. Sometimes you can just tell by looking at someone that they’re full of stories- and you could tell from Bemis’ old suit and derby hat that he had at least a story or two. In fact, he has biked, hitchhiked, and ridden Amtrak trains across the country for many years to share his colorful and old timey songs. During the tense final moments of the Blackhawks playoff victory, he sat alone on stage reading an Elizabeth Brautigan novel, but early in his set he explained his stance on the game in a way that exemplified his colorful and gentle personality: “I hate rooting for the Blackhawks because I feel like I’m being mean to Philadelphia. I hate rooting for Philadelphia because I feel like I’m being mean to the Blackhawks. I’m not rooting for anyone, let’s just say the best team won.” One of the highlights of Bemis’ set was “Huck Finn,” a tune recounting Bemis’ lifelong admiration of Mark Twain’s creation (“I used to smoke a corncob pipe/I would smoke it late at night/I never got in trouble cause I turned out the light/just like Huck Finn”) … — Rob Reid; Gapers Block [Chicago, IL]