I first saw Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers at the end of a long day at SXSW. It had rained off and on the whole day. The air was hot and sticky and I was trying to sit down for the first time since the last time I’d eaten, which was all probably around breakfast of the previous day. It was late and I was cranky. And then Joe Hertler happened to me.
These six Michigan-bred dudes can lift you up into funk-based joy like none other. I’d witnessed it, I’d felt it, and yet in the months of shows and cities between last March and last night, I’d forgotten just how good they really are. Joe was draped in a color namesake hybrid of quilt and angel wings (which based on his heartfelt stage banter, he’d totally deserve) and while we tried to describe what the sax player was wearing (“steampunk Tarzan”) pictures truly are worth a thousand words in this case. Their set was a solid bed of danceable tunes, and they absolutely know how to work a kick drum build. If Mumford and Sons could groove, they’d sound something like Joe Hertler. Their version of the Ghostbusters theme never fails to tremble the house. It’s also worth noting, they had one of the best light designs I’ve seen in a long time.
Royal Oak Music Theater is a beautiful venue. I’ve been there many times (somehow usually seeing The Decemberists) and yet it’s never felt quite as loyal as last night. Partly by virtue of a hometown-ish crowd (in the time it took you to get from Queens to Brooklyn, we can drive to any venue in lower Michigan) and partly because the band has nailed the apple pie crux of what it takes to be a great band: they kill it live. They’re young. They’re hustling. And they remind you of why we go to shows at all. I may be back in school now, but this isn’t a hard question to answer. We go see bands because it’s damn fun. Because obliterating joy is hard to come by. Because musicians that create button-popping energy in a room are always going to give the juice straight back to you. Seeing Joe Hertler always reminds me of being in New Orleans. It’s an unpretentious, unabashed exchange of enthusiasm.