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The Ramblin' Mike

From Jackson to Ann Arbor
Victory Music's Newest Open Mic
By Michael Guthrie

Live Music

As many of you already know, Victory Music has a new open mic at the Alderwood Mall food court. One could say that this open mic started in Jackson, Michigan. Although Mike Fleckenstein moved to South Everett to take the job of Senior Director of Operations for the Alderwood Mall, his real mission was to discover Victory Music and start a new open mic—he just didn't know it at the time.
Mike's partner in hosting this new venue is Galena (Reiter) Thomson, who also performs with Mike in their folk duo Blue Eyes. They met in Jackson, Michigan at a music store with a 15-foot high plastic Elvis on the roof. She thought he was cute and played pretty good too. They began playing together and discovered they liked each other's company as well. Mike and Galena are real friendly folks with deep music roots and a love for community. They love the music scene they have fallen into and are eager to contribute to it.
One night in September 2004, Mike discovered the Victory open mic at the Crossroads Mall food court. He really liked the scene there, people hanging out listening to and playing music. A few days later he was in the Lark of the Morning music store, talking with the folks there who suggested he check out Victory Music. He picked up a Victory Review when suddenly a flyer fell out that was advertising a Victory Music picnic. His son Mark was with him at the time, and they decided to go to the picnic and meet some musicians. And they did—forty or so musicians, singing in the rain. I was one of them. They were invited to the song circle at the Wit's End bookstore, where one night he asked Alan Camhi if Victory Music would support a new open mic at the Alderwood Mall. I'm sure the host of the song circle (Jim Nason, Emergency Folk Singer) would have encouraged it as well. Not long after that first trip to Crossroads, Mike and Galena have successfully recreated the Crossroads scene at Alderwood, carrying on the tradition of Victory Music by fostering music in the Northwest.
They are creating this open mic from scratch, on the edge of a huge, cathedral-like space that houses the food court. There is a section with a great fireplace, you can sit on a large stone hearth or big, cozy overstuffed couches. I played the trial run on Jan. 24th and I think there is a lot of potential for this open mic. I understand the Grand Opening on Feb.6th went well, with several young players showing up. I'm sure they will need help, so feel free to contact them if you want to get involved.
Like true pioneers, Mike and Galena are breaking trail in the wilds of the Alderwood Mall. They see this open mic as an opportunity to show shoppers how much talent is in the region. It is a place where musicians will gather, exchange information and expose shoppers to live acoustic music, which is an important part of their culture.
Well, you're probably wondering what all this has to do with Ann Arbor, Michigan. The answer lies in this web of music we are all a part of. Jonathan Meyer regularly played Seattle's open mic scene until a while ago, when he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of you may know that Ann Arbor is home to The Ark, a famous folk music club. Since Jackson (where Mike and Galena are from) is close to Ann Arbor, I think it's an interesting exchange between open mics/musicians, and this story will in a roundabout way end up where it started.
I asked Jonathan to write a little about the open mic scene there, and he said, "I am back in Ann Arbor now and wanted to e-mail you about this university town's best acoustic music venue, The Ark, which was established in 1965 and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It is a non-profit organization operating as an acoustic music club. Currently, the open stage night is held every first and last Wednesday night of each month. I have performed there several times since moving here in June 2004 and cannot recall the name of the mild-mannered host who handles the lottery drawing for the 16 acts that get to play. The club itself is quite famous and features a lot of well-known and up-and-coming acoustic and roots music acts each month. It is also producing the Ann Arbor Folk Music Festival this weekend as a fundraiser for their organization. The headliners are the Blind Boys of Alabama, Keb Mo and the Indigo Girls. January saw performances at The Ark by the young blues artist Jonny Lang and the reunited legends of Chicago Blues, the Siegal-Schwall Band. You can get on their mailing list or contact them at The Ark, 316 South Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104, telephone 734 761-1800, or on the Web at www.theark.org." You can stop by on your next transcontinental trip.
Mike, Galena and Jonathan form a circle of music, from Jackson to Ann Arbor, with no beginning or end. I'm sure Jonathan will inspire those he meets in Ann Arbor much in the same way that Mike and Galena are inspirational—by hosting the Victory open mic at the Alderwood Mall, playing great old folk tunes, and keeping the spirit alive!
Michael Guthrie is a singer/songwriter who regularly plays venues in the Northwest and is a Victory Music sound volunteer. He has produced his own CD and run his own coffee house/cafe, The Village Green Cafe in Kaslo, BC from 1973-'79.
He studied sound engineering and recording at Sound Master Recording Studios in North Hollywood, CA in 1987. Contact him at moorafa@mindspring.com or www.moorafa.com.



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