Story:: Liam among the muses on the Lake Muskegon Shore
Photography:: Dave Johnson
The Red Lotus Gallery discovers a community of chanteuses to present for the Muses in Muskegon concert.
Ron Schaafsma and his son, Michael Schaafsma, have dreamed the Red Lotus Gallery into existence, and the pair backed that dream with sweat equity and tenacious fundraising efforts. Headquartered in an industrial space that incubated Muskegon Yoga, the pair have built the membership gallery into a home for almost 40 artists, including Amy Hofacker, Skye Gentle and Colette Gee. The Schaafsma have an interesting skill set for leading an fledgling art center, located on the Lake Muskegon waterfront since April 2010. The two own Aenias Elemental Design, which makes custom wrought iron furniture in an adjacent workshop, where the pair beat and bend iron and steel into fluid shapes and structures. The elder Schaafsma has made his living as a hunting guide in North America, so it is not unexpected that his son, Michael, could find five exciting, versatile musicians, female muses who light up the lakeshore with their song and talents. The Five Muses performed as volunteers to support the Red Lotus Gallery and the Muskegon Area Arts Council.
The Red Lotus Gallery set up a simple platform stage against an interior wall surmonted by beautiful celestory windows. Honoring a long relationship with the painter Skye Gentle, that gallery wall was decked with her many layered encaustic paintings that take Gentle weeks to complete. Though the bank of windows, the audience seated upon forty office chairs could watch migrating birds flying with nesting material in their beaks.
Dressed in a white tee shirt and a signature black knit wool cap, the evening began with the most inexperienced musician, Angelica Singleton, who has played for open mike at Red Lotus Gallery. Singleton brought an entourage of fans to support her performance, including her mother and father. Singing in a voice that reminded some of Bob Dylan, she sang from her repertoire of song lyrics, including her emotive anthems, “I’m Damaged”, “And This is Why the T-Rex Died” and “Butterflies Have A Short Life”. Singleton has just begun to record her work and performs mostly for open mikes and house parties.
Clearly the most experienced of the muses, Reaiah True Ellsworth took the stage to sing acoustic versions of Reggae classics, completing her set with a nuanced version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. Arrayed in long dreadlocks, the musician has her roots in the Dominican Republic. Reaiah leads the five musician act, Reaiah and Mystic Dub, a touring group that is promoting its first album, “Have No Fear”. Mentored by musical giants Donald Kinsey and William Henderickson, Mystic Dub has a full schedule of concerts through the summer months, including regular performances at Exodus II in Chicago, Illinois. During the workday, Reaiah manages the dining room at the popular breakfast spot in Grand Haven’s Centertown district, Morning Star Cafe.
Following Reaiah, Krystal Gardner took the stage, a muse who is learning her way to leadership in the lakeshore’s small concert circuit. In March, Gardner debuted as an event producer at Seven Steps Up in Spring Lake, Michigan, fielding local favorites including the Michael Boxer Band and Andrea Mathews. The listening room at Seven Steps Up has become known for hosting top flight indie talent, including Alice Peacock, Tony Furtado, Jonathan Edwards and Chris Knight. Gardner has an unbelievable ability to take a pop tune with a driving rhythm and slow it down. Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance becomes a reflective, pensive ballad when delivered by Gardner. Gardner draws with Sharpie pens, and one of her creations earned third prize at the ArtWalk in Grand Haven last October.
Andrea Mathews took the stage with her band, Three Way Street, with Jeffrey Baldus on electric bass guitar and Bradley Rose on African drum. Mathews began her set with a song in honor of Mother’s Day; later the gifted songwriter sang a lyric to honor her daughter, who sat quietly in her seat and journaled in a small notebook. A crew from the Grand Haven open mike circuit arrived to take in the band’s set, the night’s rowdiest, with Andrea Mathews dancing frenetically in a pair of flip flops. She also performed favorites from Jesse J and the Avett Brothers, showing her ability to play fingerstyle and then pluck a guitar pick hidden in her hair to play with furious abandon. Mathews has long been a favorite of directors preparing plays for the Howmet Theater Summer Festival, and she expressed her vivacious spirit through her command of the actor’s craft. Baldus had a performance to make, so Mathews stayed and her entourage motored off into the famous Muskegon sunset, Rose roaring away on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Tarah Rhenae countered the manic energy of Three Way Street with a quiet set, a songbird warbling at sundown. Following Gardner’s suit, she transformed Toxic by Britney Springs into a meditation. Her style had a similar effect on Regina Spektor’s, “Summer in the City”, making the lyrics palpable and lucid. A songwriter of note, Rhenae shared from her song bag, performing on her guitar and singing with her eyes closed. Like all her sister muses, Tarah Renae has a life beyond her music, teaching hula hoop classes for Merri Davis, director of the company Hoop Happy, Hoop Healthy. Discovered by Michael Schaafsma at a Lakeshore Tavern performance, Tarah Rhenae had dusted off her guitar for the performance Saturday night, returning to her career after a lull. More than a year ago, she was featured on eightWest, Take Five and featured at Rockstock 2010 in Muskegon’s Hackley Park.
Attending as a representative from the Muskegon Area Arts Council, Hahana Bear made certain the event ran smoothly. A Lakota artist in her own right, the Muskegon activist paints under the name of Morning Bear, her work in acrylic displayed as part of the Free Spirits art exhibit that closed Sunday. Bear’s work often uses hand made pigments, composing paintings prized by Native American collectors, displayed inside casinos owned by American Indian tribal corporations. Music has been transforming the lakeside district where Shaw-Walker once manufactured filing cabinets. Watermark 920 has hosted major Michigan bands at its monthly Inside The Mitten Series. The Fricano Event Center has hosted a Thursday jazz series and the March observance of St. Patrick’s Day for the Michigan Irish Music Festival, featuring The Kreellers and Gasta. North on Beidler, the West Side Inn serves as the summer home of Truth in Jazz Orchestra, the Wednesday night home of Mux Rec’s Temple House Jam and the permanent home of the West Side Soul Surfers. Muskegon music fans await news to learn who will perform at the nearby Heritage Landing stage at the four major music festivals during warm weather. Hope springs eternal for the Summer Celebration concerts.