(Crystal A. Proxmire, 10/11/2011)
Keith Billik has just moved to Ferndale from Lansing, and he’s bringing bluegrass with him. The 32 year old banjo player is part of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. On stage he is joined by vocalist Lindsay Lou (Lindsay Rachel Petroff), Spencer Cain on bass and Joshua Rilko on mandolin. They’ll be playing at AJ’s Café (240 W. 9 Mile) on Saturday, Nov 5 at 8pm.
“Of course, one of my first things to explore was possible venues for my bluegrass group,” Billik said of his new home town. “None of us have played AJ’s before, although I’ve played the Magic Bag many times with Echoes of Pink Floyd, a tribute band that I’m also involved in.
As for AJ’s, definitely “funky” would be the general vibe that I got. With me being a musician and my wife being an artist, it is definitely the kind of place (with the kind of staff) that we relate to much more than corporate this or that.”
Billik is a student at Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, and his wife recently got a job at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, making Ferndale the perfect central location. Before the move, Billik managed the world famous Elderly Instruments, a retailer known for their new and vintage guitars, banjos, mandolins and all sorts of other instruments. He is concentrating now on school and being a good parent to his four and seven year old children.
“What we really like about Ferndale in general is it’s much more of a cultural town but without a big-city attitude. Especially having just moved from a town that was 99% WASP, it’s refreshing to get a bit of diversity as far as lifestyles, ethnicity, restaurants, activities, etc. Those are things, along with education, that are really important for me to expose my kids to while they’re still young.”
As he and the family settle in to Ferndale life after just six weeks of living here, Billik is looking forward to his first show at AJs and showing his band mates around a bit. Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys has been performing together for about two years. “We were all based out of the Lansing area,” he said. “Like-minded musicians tend to find each other somehow, so we all were excited to start a group based on Lindsay’s singing and original songs. Although bluegrass is certainly the main influence, it is not really a strict adherence to the old-school traditional sound. We’re all fairly progressive-minded, so it sounded like fun! We’re having a great time with it.”
Many of Lindsay Lou’s songs tell stories and celebrate life. Ratko’s Waltz, for example, is based on her family’s coming to America. “It was inspired by the story my Great-Aunt Helen and Great-Uncle Art told to me about my Great-Grandpa’s immigration to the United States from Austria. A Bulgarian-born orphan and vegetable farmer, Ratko Petroff came through Ellis Island and made his way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As the song goes, he built a farm house in Iron River and worked until he had enough money to send for his wife, Mary. His story is one many of our immigrant ancestors share along with immigrants today,” Petroff wrote on the band’s website http://www.lindsayloumusic.com/lyrics.html.
Other songs include Noah’s Lullaby, Hey Little Birdie and Sycamore Tree. Check them out at AJs on Nov. 5 or follow them on Facebook to hear the latest dates.
Here is one of their You Tube videos: