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Getting the backstage treatment

Concert series provides platform for Michigan’s unknowns


If you’ve ever wanted the exclusive backstage experience, WKAR is offering a taste of it. The public television station’s annual BackStage Pass concert series, a showcase featuring primarily Michigan-based musicians, returns for its ninth year this weekend.

Concertgoers become the live studio audience and watch the band have their performance taped. These performances are later broadcast nationality, showing on PBS stations throughout the country.

“We have a really good lineup of artists. I’m proud of all these bands and I’m super excited to have them featured on the show,” Back- Stage Pass producer Nicole Zaremba said.

The list of bands announced for BackStage Pass includes Luke Winslow King, SIAS, Jack & the Bones, the Go Rounds, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, and Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band.

“They are really unrecognized musicians with a passion for music and I’m happy to put them on this platform. It’s new and fresh, something we haven’t seen before and I believe in them and stand behind them,” Zaremba said.

But Zaremba has also managed to attract nationally recognized talent via reality star musicians. Amelia Hammer Harris from American Idol and Taylor John Williams from the Voice are slated to come onto the show as a duo.

Having reached the crest of the social media age, finding talented artist with a following was not hard for Zaremba. She says she used the underground social media scene to capture bands that were up and coming, or previously signed with no real notoriety.

“I look at their followings, like what do they know that I don’t? And I look into that,” she said. “I get these bands before they go big to showcase the talent. Some of these bands have been doing this for so long without real acknowledgement.”

Ben Zito’s band the Crane Wives participated in last season’s edition of BackStage Pass. He believes the concert series provided a platform for his band to gain a stronger following.

“It provided us a platform to discuss our music and our music-making process. Given the story-telling nature of our music, it was nice to be able talk in depth about the meaning of some songs,” said Zito. “BackStage Pass as a platform adds to the awareness of Michigan’s unique music scene and deepens the meaning of the arts in the already thriving community. It elevates the music community, assigning importance at a broadcast level, reaffirming that which so many already hold dear.”

Michigan is notable for producing many heavyweights in the music industry, including the obvious standards from the Motown record label and in recent years, stars like Big Sean, Dej Loaf and Jack White. While many artists from Detroit sign with labels and become nationally known, others are only locally famous.

“It’s only natural we do this show, because Michigan has such a vibrant music history. We could be these bands’ outlet and elevate them to the next level and that’s really important,” said Zaremba.

Recalling her first concert, the now legendary White Stripes show at the MSU Union, Zaremba enjoyed being able to grow with local artists and their careers. Her work isn’t going unnoticed by musicians like Zito.

“It’s profoundly rewarding to connect with concertgoers through music, if for only for an hour at a time. Seeing lyrics tattooed on people’s bodies, kids singing or covering our songs, or artwork inspired by what we do, is proof that we’re reaching people on a deeper level,” Zito said. “Knowing that you’re creating an effective positive difference for people is all the reason I need to get up and get to work.”

Luke Winslow King Wednesday, April, 18 6:30 p.m.

Register online for free seating WKAR TV Studio A 404 Wilson Road, East Lansing http://wkar.org/programs/backstage-pass

Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine


Thursday, April 19, 6:30 p.m. Register online for free seating WKAR TV Studio A 404 Wilson Road, East Lansing http://wkar.org/programs/backstage-pass SIAS Friday, April 20, 6:30 p.m. Register online for free seating WKAR TV Studio A 404 Wilson Road, East Lansing http://wkar.org/programs/backstage-pass


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