It would behoove anybody with deep ties to Michigan to hear the Frontier Ruckus catalog. With a delicate quaver to his voice, Matt Milia dredges up imagery of the old Summit Place Mall, the Silverdome and I-75 to set the scenes upon which he reflects.
I’ve never been to Michigan. But I do have my very own dead mall to think back on, my very own landmark stadium and my very own highway that I know so well I could almost do it with my eyes closed were it not for all the other cars to account for. Not to mention that Milia’s poetry is boundless; to anyone who’s ever had a youth, who’s ever experienced the bitter cold of winter, who’s ever had a soul, Frontier Ruckus will touch you.
It’s hard to believe I’ve only known of this band for two years, because it’s one of my favorites. It’s easy to find music to love, but not often you find music that blows everything else away, and that’s what Frontier Ruckus does, in such an unobtrusive way, like the gentle breath it takes to extinguish a candle’s flame.
The band’s folk style is in a class of its own, mostly due to its lyrical brilliance. It’s hard to say you’ve ever heard anything quite like it, and it will take you to a place you’ve never been, even if you have been there before. Milia’s vocals drape over guitar strums, banjo picks, horns and singing saw, the most beautiful thing this side of a desolate field under a blanket of snow. And just like that field of snow, it’s tempting to dive into Frontier Ruckus and get lost somewhere inside. I can’t say I haven’t.
Hear the band on New Year’s Eve during Mittenfest V. They take the stage at 1:05 a.m. (yes, after the ball drops) at Woodruff’s. Festival tickets are $7 a day or $25 for all four days, and proceeds benefit 826Michigan. A small price to pay, really, to be amazed.