By Jesse Jester
Images by Jess Laicy
It’s always nice to escape the mid-week blah and make your way down to a local show.
On Tuesday, I was treated to Envirofest 2017 at Skully’s Music-Diner, which featured an eclectic mix of Ohio artists in an effort to raise awareness for local issues around Columbus. Proceeds from the evening also went to the Granville Land Lab and the Soil and Water Conservation District. The bill featured alternative rockers, a rapper and an EDM artist, as well as the Jocef Michael Band.
Ed. – read Jester’s interview with Jocef Michael Band HERE
The evening opened with the comedic styling and storytelling of Adam Lofreso. Slowly but surely, bodies filed into the iconic diner/concert hall, and soon it was time for the first musical act. I was unsure of what to expect, as Michael himself had been cryptically hinting towards changing things up for the set. Of course, I knew that he was always looking to keep things fresh with his live show, so I figured that any changes made to the arsenal would be carefully calculated for success.
As the band started setting up, I noticed that there were only three members getting their gear ready. Guitarist Josh Valdez and JMB’s original drummer Edward Avery Jr. filled out the trio for the evening, with Michael manning the microphone and keyboard.
Michael requested everyone in the room to come forward, stating that he wanted to feed off of our energy to make the show even better. A consummate professional, he also wanted to shake the hands of the fans who came out to see him during this mid-week festival.
Michael started the set with his intro track which segues perfectly into one of his more upbeat jams, Entertainers. Everyone at Skully’s started bobbing and nodding right from the get go and we were treated to an early solo from Valdez, solidifying the notion that things were indeed going to be different tonight. Sure enough, at the end of the song the trio incorporated a piece of Nirvana’s massive hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
The next song, Voyage, opened with Michael spitting a hot beatbox and imploring the crowd to put their hands up and bounce with him. The addition of an electric guitar really brought new life to the song as Michael dug deep with the lyric, “And what I figured out is, we only got so much time. Why are we in this life? Might as well enjoy the ride. And what I figured out is, if you only got half the truth, you will have to prove what you’re made of when it’s time to let loose.”
Michael got behind the keys for 2B, a song which best highlighted Avery’s snappy snare. Michael states, “I’m not sure who you want me to be…” while referencing that he “…should’ve dropped out of college like Kanye…”, which I felt was especially poignant, as Michael has a similar flow and voice to the world-famous rapper.
It’s worth noting that Michael is not simply a solid rapper, but a great singer as well. The track My Door opened slowly but highlighted Michael’s ability to mix the two styles together with hot rhymes on the verses and a passionately sung chorus. Midway through the song took a solid 180 degree turn and went from a high-note love ballad to an EDM-tinged bouncer, with Michael calling out “Let the beat rock!”
The next song was one that Michael wrote with his friend Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots, titled Be Concerned. The song honestly sounds great with just Jocef on vocals, but knowing that both contributed to the song shows the depth that both of them possess from a songwriting standpoint.
It’s another solid upbeat number that kept everyone on their toes, and once again showed off the work of Avery on the kick and snare. You wouldn’t know that the three men on stage, despite their familiarity with each other, had only participated in one practice session together.
Michael took to the keys again for Dead Man Walking, a song that he has worked hard to promote online. The song features the absolute tightest rap of the entire night, as he stood up on his chair and threw down the bars. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to hit it that hard, but the song meshed the rap and R&B styles so perfectly that if you weren’t paying attention, you might have thought there were two different people on the mic.
Things were definitely getting hot in Skully’s Music-Diner, which made a perfect setting for Flow Like Water, which as Michael stated was “cool as a breeze”. The biggest mix-up of the night was Flow interpolating The Luniz “I Got 5 On It” and using it to amplify the song to new heights. That just happens to be one of my all-time favorite beats, and it mixed perfectly with Michael’s soulful singing. If you didn’t see it live, you really missed something unique.
You could tell the trio were having a great time as Michael flashed a huge smile looking around the crowd for his final jam, Song We Know. It may have been a newer song, but I’m pretty sure everyone in there got the message when Michael proclaimed “Let’s all sing a song we know,” It was the funkiest number of the night, and once again everyone around me had their heads nodding to the beat.
A lot of people who showed up for Envirofest 2017 might have only been there to support the cause or a singular artist, but I’m pretty sure everyone who came early and caught the Jocef Michael Band left with lasting memories of the awesome performance. I know that was definitely the most energy and fun I’ve felt in a show this year, and I look forward to his future offerings.
- Entertainers (with Nirvana outro)
- My Door
- Be Concerned
- Dead Man Walking
- Flow Like Water
- Song We Know – (new song)
Jocef Michael Band – Dead Man Walking