Black Jake and the Carnies – In Milan (September 6, 2019)

Some people like to indulge in a steak dinner every now and then, some people like to break out the good bourbon (or vodka, or gin, or moonshine) – or maybe binge watching all of the Police Academy movies is your idea of an “indulgence?” I won’t judge you for ANY of those things!

My husband and I both like to “indulge” in a Black Jake and the Carnies live show every so often! Which we did Friday – at Original Gravity in Milan, MI – where the show took over the bar’s outdoor beer garden.

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I was very excited to see they have a tuba player now! #onceabandnerdalwaysabandnerd

Black Jake and the Carnies are an Ypsilanti, MI based band which has been around since 2006. Their musical style is described as “crabgrass,” and is, for lack of a better description, kind of like a fusion of folk, punk and bluegrass. With just a touch of speed metal for good measure! Dark themes such as serial killers, werewolves and ex-girlfriends whom have crossed over to…the other side will all get sung about in a Black Jake show!

Black Jake, in his “day job,” is an exterminator, so it’s not surprising that one of his songs is about a farmer’s battle with rats (Farmer Had Him Rats) and it’s also not surprising that Jake grows poisonous plants – as a hobby! Several poisonous/toxic plants are mentioned by name in his song Last Ecstatic Liniment (which is hands-down my favorite Black Jake song). Here are some lyrics:

Was a sure fire way to rub your pains away, whether those without or those within
Was a pure and natural bunch of herbs oil saturated to rub thee upon the skin
Seeds of Thornapple and a dram and a dabble of the distilled sweet and sleepy Dwale
The Henbell leaf to come and surely thief away the cares and caution made the sale

Spoilers, the wretched old man in the song goes on a “magic carpet ride” courtesy of the hallucinogenic toxins and is ultimately found dead – and  naked – on the floor of his home.

Despite the darker themes of Black Jake and the Carnies’ music, the shows are still a big draw for families – and kids! Jake instructed the kids in the audience to take a bunch of inflated balloons out of two large bags. It was cute at first, with the kids batting the balloons back and forth, with adult patrons also getting in on the action in the low-speed volleyball game! But it wasn’t long until the kids were popping the balloons on purpose. Some of them were using buttons that the band had given out as door prizes to the kids (clever kids)!

Plus, there were balls! A leaf blower-like contraption was used to propel balls out in the beer garden, and the kids could use them to throw into the mouth of a target  with a Baba Yaga painted on it. Jake described Ms. Yaga as a Russian witch who has a “taste” for children!

The music (which a very young boy was steppin’ to – Jesus he was SO cute), balls and balloons definitely kept the kiddos occupied (it was quite entertaining)! One of the little girls parked herself at a table near the band and was positively MESMERIZED (I joked that she had become a “groupie.”)

One little boy tossed one of the balls into a drain hole near me – causing the ball to leave the beer garden. I said this to the boy, which might have scared him more than Baba Yaga herself:

I’ll bet you can’t fit your whole head into that hole.

He gave me the strangest look (deer in the headlights)…I had to assure him that I was only joking and to NOT try to shove his head into that hole! Needless to say, he didn’t wander near our table after that! Hey…I don’t hate children – but…why should kids have all of the fun? Jussayn…

All in all, it was a great show! I’d highly recommend trying to see them at least once…and bring the kids!

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