“I thought it was beautiful…I really did!” exclaimed William Randolph, from Nashville, Tennessee, while visiting Chicago’s LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier on Sunday, July 5th. “I am out enjoying the music!
“Today was the perfect day to see the surroundings and the different bands here!” stated Windell Williams. Williams and his family, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were in Chicago for the Fourth of July visiting his brother and found themselves at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier on Sunday, July 5th.
Randolph, the Williams family, and so many others were taking pleasure in a most picturesque and idyllic mid-summer afternoon in downtown Chicago on Navy Pier, with a refreshing breeze off of Lake Michigan, plenty of sunshine and terrific weather to revel in any and all Fourth of July weekend holiday celebrations and leisure activities. Visitors near and far found an overabundance of distractions to be plenty, most definitely, but the City of Big Shoulders offered up a truly special entertainment event…MER’s Music Showcase at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier on this day. MER’s Music Showcase is a music tradition and must attend event held monthly in some of Chicago’s foremost live concert venues and over the last five years has become an institution where the finest local musical artists participate in a “songwriters in the round” session; delivering their stories and music as they were originally contrived. “If you’ve never witnessed a ‘songwriters circle’ before, this is something that kind of originated in Nashville [Tennessee],” stated MER’s Music Showcase founder Edmer Abante (known as MER). “And, I’ve been lucky enough to be networking with some of the best up-and-coming and established musicians in Chicago.”
Some of the best up-and-coming and established musicians in Chicago…indeed. MER’s Music Showcase at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier featured Matthew Kysia of Kysia Live; Zoie Moser; Dean Schimmelpfennig and Brad DiCarlo of Shiny Penny; Phil Jacobson, Mark Jacobson and Andrew DeMuro of The Shades; and host, MER with Matt Hines. Each artist performed one song in a round robin style. Going through the lineup four times provided each artist the opportunity to perform four songs. And, participating artists stood together in the finale.
MER moved to center stage and welcomed everyone to MER’s Music Showcase at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier and with acclaimed guitarist Matt Hines at his side he began the first round of the showcase with his power pop/rock song, “Heart Attack“.
MER is a power pop/rock ‘n’ roll singer, songwriter, guitarist from Chicago, Illinois, whose passion, discipline, raw energy, and focused talent are what you’ll encompass when you experience his music. Some of MER’s musical career highlights include a showcase at SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas; a full band performance that aired nationally on WGN News at Noon; singing the National Anthem at US Cellular Field (MLB), Toyota Park (MLS), and Sears Center (WNBA); a profile on ABC7 Chicago for Asian Pacific Heritage Month; and making the cover of Choose Chicago (Fall 2012/Winter 2013).
MER had a solid day performing his original music and his inclusion of acclaimed guitarist Matt Hines (Guitar Center’s Blues Masters featuring Joe Bonamassa 2013 contest winner) as his sidekick on acoustic guitar and backing vocals offered some of the afternoon’s musical highlights. MER’s strong and tightly-crafted pop/rock song, “Heart Attack” (released September 1st, 2013), was the perfect first round number to warm-up the growing audience at LandShark Beer Garden and the passers-by on Navy Pier. For his second round song, MER explained, “The beauty of being a songwriter is that you can immortalize your ex-girlfriends. It’s the truth. My girlfriend made some poor decisions and I wrote a song about her.” Much crowd laughter could be heard after that remark. MER and Hines then proceeded into an intense dual acoustic guitar jam in a heavily influenced flamenco/Latin music style. The crowd at LandShark Beer Garden erupted with approval; toe-tapping and clapping. Even MER’s newest fan, William Randolph stated, “Those two guys were terrific!” “Save Yourself“, was a rock track performed in MER’s third round that provided a blistering, truly scorching acoustic guitar solo from Hines and received raucous applause. MER’s fourth round track, the rock/power pop song entitled, “Bulletproof“, was preceded by a quick shout out to his good friends Pete and Anita in the audience. MER met them at Navy Pier a few years back and have been huge supporters of his music. They have been helping him make his music come to life; especially his new EP with producer Sean O’Keefe (Fall Out Boys, Plain White T’s) and the drummer from the Smashing Pumpkins. According to MER, the EP will be out later this year.
Just a year after co-founding Detroit’s power pop/rock mainstay, Greenstreet, in 2000, blue-eyed soul and R&B singer, songwriter, guitarist Matthew Kysia of Kysia Live, left his studies in Medicine and hit the road. Kysia uprooted from a well spent lifetime in Detroit and moved to Chicago to further develop his sound.
Kysia’s first round song entitled, “Your Man“, was a feel-good track that interested the audience at LandShark Beer Garden and passers-by on Navy Pier. Little did they know that he was just warming up. His second round song entitled, “All She Wants To Do Is Dance,” was pure Matthew Kysia…smooth and soulful vocals that had the audience clapping along. There was a genuine buildup of excitement for Kysia by the audience the more he performed. His third round song was entitled, “I Get It” and was performed just as he was hitting his stride. His smooth voice painted a picture…visualize a singer playing an acoustic guitar performing on a much larger stage and in front of a much larger audience of thousands, all raising lighters in the air, moving in unison, back and forth. That was the feeling obtained from this number. Kysia saved his best though for his last number. “Only One” was Kysia’s fourth round track and definitely the best performed song of the day by any of the MER’s Music Showcase artists. Impeccable timing too as Kysia sang the following lyrics, “Oh no, don’t go…come back baby, come back to me”, Chicago’s Official Tall Ship named Windy sailed past and out into Lake Michigan. Again, impeccable timing.
Zoie Moser is a singer, songwriter, guitarist whose passion for the arts led her to Chicago where she received a Bachelor of Music from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. While receiving her Bachelor of Jazz and Contemporary Music Studies, she discovered her love for writing songs.
Moser, along with keyboardist, Julian Chin, did not need any warm-up as her incredibly strong and haunting vocals on her first round song “Oh My Love” had passers-by on Navy Pier stopping dead in their tracks and craning their heads to see where that voice was coming from and to whom it belonged. An instant positive and powerful reaction. And, with her lyric, “and when you first said fly away with me”…seagulls took flight overhead. “Who She Lets In” was Moser’s second round track and recently written. Again, her song and performance were well received by the audience. Her voice seemed to take flight…wafting in the soft cool breeze throughout LandShark Beer Garden and Navy Pier, carrying itself over Lake Michigan and into the various watercraft motoring by. Moser’s third round song showcased a strong falsetto voice and included a background chorus from the various birds in the trees overhead. Chin took a solo on keyboard/electric piano to a well-deserved ovation. Moser’s fourth round song was another haunting number, “Buried In These Walls“.
Dean Schimmelpfennig lead singer, keyboard/piano, guitar, co-songwriter and Brad DiCarlo, guitar, vocals and co-songwriter of the Kokomo, Indiana based band Shiny Penny are one of the best local musical acts to break out of Central Indiana in recent memory. Schimmelpfennig and DiCarlo bring a uniquely original personal sound to the music world by combining groovy, modern alternative/pop rock styles and funk/blues influences. These highly talented musicians look to connect with anyone willing to listen. Shiny Penny has shared the stage with many national acts, played in front of large concert crowds (Vans Warped Tour 2014 & 2012, Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival 2013), they’ve received radio play and were interviewed on the nationally syndicated Bob & Tom Show.
Schimmelpfennig and DiCarlo performed a powerful pop ditty entitled, “Insanity” as their first round song and instantly had the undivided attention of the crowd…heads turning, feet tapping, and hand clapping. Even Showcase musicians on the stage riser awaiting their turn to stand in front of the crowd were getting into the performance; toe tapping, head bopping and finger snapping. MER commented respectfully at the end of the song, “it’s so catchy, it sounds like it’s on the radio already doesn’t it?! Can I get an, Amen!” And, a loud and resounding “Amen” was returned from the crowd. MER continued his respect and admiration with his comment, “Alright, let’s bring up these guys writing these pop hits! They just write catchy stuff with a lot of energy!” With that, Schimmelpfennig and DiCarlo performed another powerful pop ditty entitled, “Lulla-BYE“. This second round song saw these musicians hit their stride. Schimmelpfennig’s amazing vocal calisthenics shined…from powerful vocal to intimate falsetto. Their third round song was “Laser Freedom” and elicited the largest audience response of the afternoon with hand clapping and toe tapping and even a bit of dancing. “So catchy it’s annoying actually” MER stated wryly. And, their fourth round song was another vocal and pop tour-de-force. “The band we just saw, Shiny Penny, REAL good and their vocals…[Schimmelpfennig] has a terrific voice and his partner Brad can really play the guitar…he’s very excellent!” explained new Shiny Penny fan Windell Williams.
Phil Jacobson – lead guitar, vocals; Mark Jacobson – rhythm guitar, vocals; and Andrew DeMuro – percussion, vocals, are The Shades, an acoustic pop group based in Chicago. Their popularity is due in large part to singing in close, three-part harmony providing a signature sound that blends pop, rock, folk, soul and R&B. All three members sing, play, and write their own music.
“These guys are honestly my favorite trio out of Chicago,” announced MER boldly as The Shades moved to take their position behind the microphones. “And, it helps that there’s two brothers in the band too. I’m excited for you to hear their harmonies.” Their first round number was “Some In Others“. Indeed, MER was correct. Their three-part harmonies were very strong and reminiscent of early country & western standards of the 70s; even three-part harmony vocals of the venerable Crosby, Stills and Nash. The Shades song entitled, “Only For A Moment” performed in the second round touched off hand-clapping from the crowd and was their best harmony vocal track. The Shades third round song entitled, “Mount Olympus” featured Mark Jacobson on an original rap he wrote and brother Phil Jacobson on vocals. The Shades band members met at the University of Miami where the song was written. MER sat in on guitar. Mark Jacobson received recognition for his rap with an ovation from the crowd. The Shades completed the fourth round with their song entitled, “I Really Don’t Know You.”
MER’s Music Showcase at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier presented singers, songwriters, and musicians who proved they have a sincere love of their profession and a complete dedication to and passion for their craft. Audience members in attendance were not only able to witness each artists remarkable talent in action but were able to feel the intense emotion from the songs as they were performed. MER skillfully brought together and showcased musicians who featured differing artistic make-ups: MER with Matt Hines (dual guitarists); Matthew Kysia (solo guitarist); Zoie Moser (solo female guitarist); Shiny Penny (dual guitarists with keyboard) and The Shades (guitarists with three part harmonies).
Even the beautiful outdoor venue of LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier served to enhance the overall local Chicago musical experience. LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier not only supplied breathtaking views of Chicago, Lake Michigan, and Navy Pier, but had extraordinary site lines to the artists performing on stage. With the added feature of the beautiful weather, each artist indeed had their moment in the sun!
“I am thankful to perform original music in one of the greatest cities in the world,” offered MER. “I extend my thanks to the city and to the music industry by allowing other grateful artists to share their talents. Music for me is the one thing that makes me feel unique and it’s the one thing that I feel I can share with anyone and everyone.”
MER’s Music Showcase truly set off musical fireworks at LandShark Beer Garden at Navy Pier on the 5th of July.