By Kevin Alan Lamb
The pulsating heart of Michigan resides within its forests, freshwater, and free-spirited music-makers who instill in us a sense of home, no matter the distances the road takes us. From the Poconos Mountains I gaze into another forest which has gifted me a great sense of solitude, as I marinade in the love I am grateful to feel reciprocated, and the better days to come. Progress is difficult to measure within a snapshot of time, however, with patience, and attention to detail, it is revealed that yesterday’s dreams, are today’s realities. Just ask Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, who rocked Belle Isle Beach on a sunny afternoon for OABI Detroit, boarded a plane, and flew north by northwest to blow out the candles at Short’s annual birthday bash.
“The Michigan venues I feel like we’ve got,” says Joe Hertler. “I’d love to have a really great show at The Troubadour in LA, I think that would be awesome. And I’d really love to have a yearly night at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, where it was our show. Greensky (Bluegrass) has New Years Eve, Grant (Griz) has Christmas… Maybe like the day before Thanksgiving type thing. Get Michigan together in one spot. Plenty of bars where everyone wants to see their old friends. It would be great to throw a big party, I think we’re going to do that in Ferndale this year at The Loving Touch.”
For years, fellow Michiganiacs insisted that I experience the joy emitted from Joe Hertler’s voice, and the Rainbow Seekers wonder; and now I get it. What can I say, there’s something about a man in a rainbow cape, who appreciates the ones who got him there.
“Man these are tough. I’d be a little more reliable. When your buddies are in need, you have the power to help them out when it counts. I’d like to be a great problem solver, because I’m not very good at it. I’d like to be someone who comes into a situation and says ‘Here’s what’s going on, and here’s the best way to navigate ourselves through the situation’. I think that would be a pretty cool superpower.”
Never underestimate the ability to show up. In good times, and bad, consistency communicates a commitment to yourself and others. It is a handshake that means something; a voice you trust; and a rainbow you seek the end of, to dance upon and share its treasure together.
“A song to express my gratitude… I feel like the stereotypical thing would be to say is my parents, but honestly, my band. They’ve stuck by me through some shit, ya know. Those guys… Honestly, they’ve stuck by me.”
With August passing I smile as we reach the cusp of summer and fall, grateful to have had the pleasure of shakin’ my Lamb’s wool with Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers on two occasions, thrilled for the third time and its accompanied charm, this Saturday at Royal Oak Music Theatre, with The Woven Tangles, and Michigander. It will be a warm-welcoming home, and a magnificent evening of Michigan music.
“I’d love to come back to the Forest. I really would. Again, it’s a Michigan festival, we played two years ago. I think the likelihood is good. We played the Forest Stage. I’d like the same set time at the Forest Stage. I don’t want a late set or anything. I’d like a nice lazy afternoon set in the woods; we love it there. Michigan festivals are just a great thing to be a part of. From the folk festivals to some of the larger ones. And some of those Colorado festivals are pretty cool… Arise would be awesome. Some of those Western Festivals are pretty sweet.”
Joe Hertler is a fun, funky-white boy, and when he sings – I believe him; when he gets low – I get low with him. Whether he is belting beautiful-lyrics in a language I don’t understand, covering “Something Strange” from Ghostbusters, or reminding us that “You Only Get What You Give”, his energy is an undeniable force this world needs more of.
“Oh gosh this is a good question. I was going to say T.J. Duckett but he’s our friend. He’s more of a mentor to our band. He’s retired now too…That’s a tough question. Oh man… I feel like this is an important one. Ya know, I’m going to say T.J. Duckett, he’s a good friend, he’s from Michigan. We almost got to play in a charity football game he organized but couldn’t do it. I’d like to have that opportunity again. And Matt Stafford, I’d like to meet him too. I’m a big Lions fans. The only jersey I have right now is a Stafford Jersey.”
Collaboration is the name of the game for Michigan-musicians; so it should come as no surprise that Joe Hertler would choose fellow Michigan-music-makers to spend one month together, on a boat, making music.
“Probably Wilson. Those guys are crazy. I feel like it would be a really good time. Who else would I like to hang out with…. Scott from TYCO, a long, long time ago, I used to DJ, I got to open for him and I’m never seen a crew that respected… he really has so much respect for everyone and he’s such a nice guy, and he’s brilliant. I’d love to hang out with him for a little while, not just to pick his brain or anything, just because he seems like a really nice person.”
If Joe Hertler could only hear one song before he was buried in this earth, it would be “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve; if he’s singing, it’s likely with enthusiasm, a smile, and a cape; and if he could cover only one song by The Beatles, he’d strum “Getting Better”, getting better all the time.
“The live show is the purpose of the band. This is why we make music. Playing music is a symbiotic process, and without a crowd it is just a bunch of guys jamming,” says Hertler. “We believe that performance is not a High Art operation, and that you should do anything you can to ensure that the crowd is having a good time. From piñatas to confetti, to fog, to flowers, to drum solos, to strobe lights, to Thor, to sword battles—literally anything goes.”
Those who seek rainbows will be the first to tell you that it’s not about discovering the treasure beneath, rather reveling in the righteousness above, with those you love, while filling others with both energy and awe. Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers take the stage with a promise that the troubles of today will surely come to pass, a reminder to hold on to the visions of your heart, and the opportunity to believe in your ability to begin again.
“We are heroes with a thousand faces.”
Just in case you were looking for one, This is a Good Sign.