Live music returns to Brighton’s Mill Pond amphitheater

It’s been more than a year-and-a-half since Brighton’s Amphitheater on Mill Pond has been host to live music on a regular basis, but that’s about to change with Turn Up The AMP! – a series of monthly concerts presented by Lake Trust Credit Union that kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 9, with the The Orbitsuns.

The series runs June through September with all concerts on the second Wednesday of the month, including the Jill Jack Band (July 14); REVIVAL – A Tribute to the Allman Brothers Band (Aug. 11); and Kari Holmes (Sept. 8).

The family-friendly concerts are free and open to the public. Attendees can use The AMP’s seating or bring lawn chairs, an umbrella for shade, and blankets for lawn seating across the pond. The Brighton Coffeehouse & Theater (306 W. Main) will be the rain venue for the first concert and possibly others, but visit www.2StonesEvents.com for any changes.

Because these are free concerts, funding must come via sponsorships – and soliciting those in the current economy is a challenge. In previous years, the series received support of donations from a dozen or so downtown Brighton restaurants and one or two larger sponsors (Caretel Inns of Brighton, Financial Architects, and Lake Trust Credit Union).

“There’s just no way we could ask restaurants to donate after what they’ve been through. No way,” said series organizer Whitney McClellan-Stone who, along with husband Cal Stone, runs 2 Stones Events. “Restaurants helped us over the years, and we’re encouraging concert attendees to support our Brighton restaurants by getting dinner, dessert or a drink before or after the show. We’ve got some fabulous restaurants here, and we’re just praying they all survive and thrive.”

Once the pandemic restrictions began lifting, 2 Stones Events realized they could pull off a live music series this summer, but it would take help. Lots of help. Enter Lake Trust Credit Union.

Several key sponsors would normally be needed to offset the four concerts’ costs — musicians, promotion, sound support, music licensing, insurance, management, etc. Again, the impact of COVID-19 on many businesses made that a tough ask.

Stone reached out to David Snodgrass, CEO of Lake Trust, which was the main sponsor for the 2019 series.

“He hooked us up with his amazing team, and they really embraced it – so much so that Lake Trust is our ONLY sponsor. They truly understand the positive impact cultural events like this have on our community.”

A key component to the series is a food drive for the Livingston County Hunger Council, an organization that both 2 Stones Events and Lake Trust Credit Union have supported in the past. Attendees are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item — especially canned vegetables — to donate, and monetary donations will be gladly accepted as well.

“Lake Trust strives to be an engine of community wellbeing. Part of this mission includes supporting area events and initiatives that build stronger local connections,” said David Snodgrass, president/CEO of Lake Trust Credit Union. “The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased the issue of food insecurity in Michigan. By sponsoring ‘Turn Up The AMP!’, we can continue to raise awareness of this issue and work together to make a positive impact.”

2 Stones has been doing this live music series since 2013, said McClellan-Stone, with the exceptions of 2018, when the venue was being completely renovated, and, of course, the pandemic last summer.
Previous series were named Jazz @ The Pond and then Jazz @ The AMP, but the husband-and-wife team decided to open it up to more genres this year.

“Jazz is near and dear to our hearts, but it can be an acquired taste,” said Stone, whose company has been booking the acts for Brighton’s Smokin’ Jazz & Barbecue Blues Festival since 2010. “The four bands we have booked for this new series will flat out bring it for 90 minutes. And, with our go-to sound company, Heslip Audio, on board, the sound will be outstanding. When The Orbitsuns hit, it’ll be what downtown Brighton has been missing for too long. You will see it, hear it, and feel it.”

The Orbitsuns put their twist on Americana, focusing more on the rock and country aspects – outlaw country meets punk. Band leader Vinnie Dombroski is also known as the front man for Sponge, rock giants from the Motor City who smashed the charts in the ‘90s with “Plowed” and “Molly (16 Candles)”. Coincidentally, Sponge played the May 2019 grand opening of The AMP, drawing nearly 4,000 fans.

“The Orbitsuns are a party,” said McClellan-Stone. “They pull the crowd in with the first song and keep hold until the last. Not only are they great musicians, they’re also entertainers, and that’s what separates this level band from many others.”

Jill Jack is the winner of more than 45 Detroit Music Awards over the course of a career that began in 1997. She has released 12 albums, headlined festivals and opened for the likes of Bob Seger, Loretta Lynn, Chris Isaak and Emmy Lou Harris. Her sound is a mix of folk, rock, country, pop and blues.
Likewise, Detroit hotshot guitarists Brett Lucas and Kris Kurzawa teamed up a few years ago and formed their Allman Brothers tribute band, REVIVAL, and their rare concerts seem to always be sold out.

“We don’t normally book tribute bands or even strictly cover bands, but REVIVAL is an exception,” said Stone. “Separately, these guys are first-call musicians in Detroit, and that itself is impressive. But, together playing classic Allman Brothers tunes that everybody loves, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. I never saw the Allman Brothers Band, but I can’t imagine the energy level was any higher than REVIVAL’s.”

Livingston County’s Kari Holmes will wrap up the season in September, bringing her country originals that she’s been busy recording in Nashville’s famed Hilltop Studios with country legend David Frizell and a slew of Music City’s A-list musicians.

“We’ve been unleashing Kari on crowds for a number of years now,” said McClellan. “She can play guitar, sings like an angel, writes her own songs, and she owns the stage when she’s on it. That’s as good as it gets.”

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