Backroads With Phyllis: Episode Six: Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers

JHTRS groupWritten by Mel Says and Nathan Ryall

If Gotham City has Batman, the state of Michigan has Joe Hertler and his band of Rainbow Seekers. No, they don’t fight crime or have an underground lair (I don’t think), but they do have the same passion and pride for the state they call home. Throughout their show at the Pike Room in Pontiac last Saturday, Hertler sported the Michigan state flag as a cape while singing a solid list of original songs, many of which have subtle or blatant nods to the mitten state.

Based on their colorful wardrobe, thrift stores all over Michigan can probably thank the five members of the band for keeping them in business. Bassist Kevin Pritchard started the set wearing a Liz Taylor fur coat over his bright yellow Hawaiian shirt while guitarist Ryan Hoger donned an equally impressive cheetah print jacket that was a size too small. The stage, as well as each instrument, was decorated with Christmas lights and silk flowers, bringing a cheerful vibe to the otherwise dark and drab room. Along with drummer Rick Hale and Mickey Soho on keyboards, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers are one of those bands that make you feel good about where you are and who you’re with in the moment.

On this rather cold January evening, JH + TRS took their time jamming through some fan favorites such as “Ego Loss on Grand River Avenue” as well as trying out some newbies like “Feel.” Fans sang along with each song and were especially loud during a cover of Macy Gray’s “I Try,” where Hertler showed off his background in Soul and hit some notes that even James Brown would be impressed with. A week prior, the band released The Russell Sessions, five-song live EP recorded at The Russell Industrial Center in Detroit. Each song is accompanied with a live video, recorded in one take, capturing the organic spirit of the guys and their music.

Hertler had a message for current and prospective fans, “You can get all of our music online for free. Keep coming out to shows. If you come to see us, we will play our damned hardest and make sure you have a good time.”

As a band that is constantly cranking out new music in such unique ways, The Rainbow Seekers are on the forefront for local bands striving to be heard in this oversaturated digital world we live in. Ultimately, these guys are just happy to play together and hope to be embraced by those who do keep coming to their shows.

It’s difficult to put The Rainbow Seekers in a box since they’re such a hodgepodge of folk, soul and funk, but that was exactly their plan. There are some songs you really need to sit down with and understand, while others make you want to get up and dance. They call Lansing home, yet none of the members actually reside there. With each of them living as spread out as Ferndale, Kalamazoo and Mount Pleasant, Michigan’s capitol is the home base for The Rainbow Seekers and where the band usually records. But wherever they call home, Joe Hertler and The Rainbow Seekers are true brand ambassadors for the state of Michigan, bringing harmonious happiness and optimism to willing ears.

 

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