Friday, November 9, 2012

An Acoustic "Journey" Through Downtown Kalamazoo's ArtHop

"Hey!  It's the Elixir Fixer!" - I hear that statement come from many mouths these days.  This is quite often shrieked with delight that accompanies a big smile and a hug.  No one seems to ask how I chose that name, probably understanding I am a slinging elixir fixer and an elixir mixer that "cures what ails ya" with a fine crafted cocktail, a huge smile, and good karma.  Did you know I'm also an Elixir Picker?  Yep, I play acoustic guitar and banjo.  I moved to Chicago years ago to pursue a music career and I was lucky enough to have one of my compositions appear in the soundtrack of an independent film out of Detroit.  I chose my alter-ego name, Elixir Fixer, for two reasons, sometimes I tell the story.  Other times I don't.  I'm going to tell it now.

I chose this name a few years ago while living in Chicago.  I was a Freelance Mixologist for many years, working for distillers and distributors in the greater Chicago area and not necessarily behind a bar on a regular basis, hence, the first word:  "Traveling."  The second word, "Elixir" comes from two different meanings.  Growing up in Kalamazoo, home of The Upjohn Company Pharmaceuticals, it was only fitting I tip my hat to one of my hometown's major industries.  The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines elixir as, "a medicinal concoction, a sweetened liquid usually containing alcohol that is used in medication either for its medicinal ingredients or as a flavoring.  A perfect word, in my opinion, for my chosen career and one of Kalamazoo's industries.  I chose it for another reason as well.  I also use Elixir strings on my beautiful instruments.  Another tip of the hat to what I am very passionate about.  

I am constantly impressed by the phenomenal talent that is the heart, soul and passion of Kalamazoo and SW Michigan's live performances.  I have felt more alive and vibrant with the music scene in the last six months than I have for many years in the Chicago area.  I understand why as I have been revitalized by some of the most talented bands and singer/songwriters during their live performances.  I am one to go out on a regular basis and feast and feed on their magical talents.  They touch my heart and soul with every note played and sung like no other.  I feed on their creativity and like good karma, I always like to give it back in some way.  Lately I have been developing signature cocktails for the talented and passionate artists I feed energy from.  November's Art Hop and "AfterHop" events were no exception.

The artistic musical cocktail journey began at Webster's Prime Tasting Room in the Radisson Plaza Hotel located in Downtown Kalamazoo.  Yes, I am an Elixir Fixer, and I also wear several other hats.  I am the Michigan Brand Ambassador for Journeyman Distillery (Three Oaks, MI) and Webster's is a large supporter of Journeyman and all Michigan spirits, beer and wine.  Webster's is also a large supporter of local live musicians playing in their tasting room on a regular basis.  Webster's entertainment for November Art Hop included the Traveling Elixir Fixer featuring Journeyman Distillery and one of the most talented singer/songwriters I have ever crossed paths with that I am lucky to call, "dear friend", Megan Dooley.

Megan Dooley, lead singer and acoustic guitar player for the band, Top Heavy, was solo and acoustic.  The first time I met Megan was back in January 2012 during a "spirited" visit to Kalamazoo, preaching and teaching the gospel of fine crafted cocktails.  Megan had read a few of my blog postings on Eat, Drink and BE MICHIGAN and reached out to me on Facebook.  I happened to be in town during one of her performances to introduce myself and we hit it off on our first meeting.  We shared many of the same interests:  fine crafted cocktails, fabulous food (she also happens to be an accomplished chef and cooks for me regularly) and great music.  Her show was at O'Duffy's Pub, Kalamazoo's quintessential little Irish Pub gem tucked away in the Historic Vine Street Neighborhood.  I was blown away by her strong and sultry vocal talents, not to mention her accomplished guitar playing and songwriting talents.  The Dooley Deconstructed Top Heavy Highball has many different flavor components and whether constructed into a traditional highball style cocktail or whether it is enjoyed in its deconstructed form, it is a force to be reckoned with.  Megan is quite the performer and comfortable in different settings whether it be a solo acoustic evening or a live, action packed performance as a member of her amazingly talented band, Top Heavy.  Like Megan's music, the Dooley Deconstructed Top Heavy Highball cocktail includes full-bodied flavors of Journeyman Distillery's 4-grain Silver Cross Whiskey, the savory and spicy flavor of rosemary ginger ale and the hot, sweet and smoky flavors of a grilled smoked pineapple garnish.  Anyone who has seen Top Heavy or Megan's solo acoustic performances knows this pretty much sums up her musical style and talents in a cocktail nutshell.  

Megan's video for "Fair Weathered Friend" was captured by our mutual friend, Mary Quasarano, at a recent performance at O'Duffy's Pub.  This was her first live performance of this song she wrote in approximately ten minutes, something a songwriter knows deep down inside their hearts, is a great accomplishment.  This song is no exception to the "great song" rule.  Take a listen and understand what I'm talking about.  I was lucky enough to be present during this performance and I am lucky enough to call Megan a "dear friend."

I first met Carrie McFerrin in June of 2012 during a live theater performance at Fire Historic Arts Venue in the Washington Square neighborhood of Kalamazoo, and founded by Michelle Johnson and Denise Miller, two strong pillars in Kalamazoo's vibrant and strong authentic expression art scenes. Carrie performed as the opening act for Fire's "eLLe", a comedy/drama project series inspired by "The L Word"about romance, family, friends and hardships.

Carrie's songwriting and vocal talents are truly a work of art and Kalamazoo is very lucky to have this wonderful gal in their talented community. Carrie recently transplanted to the area from Warsaw, Indiana and came with her suitcase filled with country twang with an indie twist. Her signature cocktail, the McFerrin Margarita, has just what Carrie is all about, a twist of freshness in the form of lime juice that is delicately balanced with the earthy indie flavors of agave nectar, in sweet and spirit form, and the calming sense of country lavender wrapped in a warm welcoming blanket of blueberry, one of Michigan's famous fruits. Take a listen to Carrie's song, "Liquid Nitrogen" and you will understand what I'm talking about. 

Desi Taylor is one of the sweetest artists I've met.  She's young and vibrant, with everlasting beauty, just like a daisy.  A good reason why I chose the pre-prohibition classic style "Daisy" cocktail to represent her music and personality. 

Her percussive style of guitar playing coupled with her strong and smooth vocal talents was best shown in her cocktail, the Desi Daisy.  The cocktail has a sweet, powerful punch with the organic molasses based colonial-style Road's End Rum from Journeyman Distillery, appropriately balanced with the sweetened flavor profiles of pineapple juice and house made pomegranate grenadine that is cut with the right amount of fresh lime juice and topped with the sweet effervescent bubbles of Sprite.  Listen and watch Desi's video and you will understand my signature creation tribute to a rising performer, the Desi Daisy.  

Bryan Warren is a singer/songwriter coming to Kalamazoo from Northern Indiana. A self-described musician, artist, vocalist, free spirit, creator, lover and performer, Bryan is all of that and then some. An accomplished performer, Bryan lights up the stage with a bit of rugged determination that is filled with artistic passion and performance. Daring, bold, different and walks on the wild side, the "BW Long Arm of the Scofflaw" cocktail is a perfect pairing with Bryan's music style. Beginning with Journeyman Distillery's W.R. White Rye Whiskey, a touch of Amaretto, Fresh Lemon Juice, Ginger Honey Syrup and garnished with a lemon twist and poached pear slice that is poached in pear brandy, hazelnut liqueur, cinnamon and allspice. This cocktail has layers of dimension and shine and dances on the wild side, just like Bryan's performance. 

Bryan Warren

Kzoo Music Scene, LLC was created and founded in April 2011 by Chris Falk. Kzoo Music Scene as a musician support company, that provides the musicians and music venues of Kalamazoo a substantial resource to gain recognition, gain exposure, collaborate and promote their music and events. They strive to support the music community and continue to see that music thrives in Kalamazoo promotion, sponsoring, and creation of musician opportunities. 

Chris Falk was born and raised in the birthplace of Jazz: New Orleans. From an early age he was interested in music and the arts. Growing up in New Orleans he was exposed to all sorts of music and attended many music events such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival which brings in hundreds of music artists every year. Chris works tirelessly at his passion to elevate the music scene in Kalamazoo. The Kzoo Music Scene Sling is a perfect example of how hard Chris works. Beginning with the Americana heavily wheated organic corn backbone of Journeyman Distillery's Featherbone Bourbon (a tribute to Chris's passionate love for whiskey), an orchard filled spiced apple simple syrup is added and is appropriately balanced with fresh and tangy fresh lemon juice. This cocktail has a little punch and pizzazz with a healthy splash of ginger ale. It is just like what Chris does for the Kalamazoo live music scene with Kzoo Music Scene.

This was one enchanting evening filled with acoustic performances from some of Kalamazoo's top singer/songwriters that was brought to you by Kzoo Music Scene and complimented with Kalamazoo's own Elixir Fixer/Mixer/Picker's elixir creations.  There was magic in the air that fateful night and I look forward to the next.  CHEERS!
The Traveling Elixir Fixer at Old Dog Tavern's Elixir Bar