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Posted on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 : 5:46 a.m.

Frontier Ruckus looking forward to new CD release, homecoming show at the Blind Pig

By Roger LeLievre

Frontier Ruckus.jpg

Frontier Ruckus

Members of the Michigan band Frontier Ruckus are even more excited than usual to be playing at the Blind Pig on Saturday.

Maybe that’s because they’ve been doing shows on the West Coast for the last 2 months. Or maybe it’s because David Jones (banjo, dobro and vocals) and Ryan "Smalls" Etzcorn (drums) live in Ann Arbor when they’re not on the road.

“The Blind Pig is incredible for us; it’s awesome to go back there, it just feels like home. It always has,” Jones explained.

“We were based in Lansing for a long time; everyone went to school at MSU except for me — I went to the U-M,” Jones added. “So we got our start in Lansing, and then we got a chance to break into the Ann Arbor scene maybe 3-4 years ago when the band Canada asked us to open for them at the Blind Pig, and that was our first big Ann Arbor show. We’ve been playing a lot in Ann Arbor ever since.”


Frontier Ruckus

  • Who: Matthew Milia (vocals, guitar, harmonica, pedal steel), David Jones (banjo, dobro, vocals), Zachary Nichols (singing-saw, trumpet, alto horn, euphonium, melodica), Ryan "Smalls" Etzcorn (drums, percussion) and Brian Barnes (bass).With local indie-folk musicians Matt Jones and Alexander Silver opening.
  • What: Folk-Americana band with Ann Arbor roots.
  • Where: Blind Pig, 208 South First Street.
  • When: 9:30 p.m. (doors), Saturday, May 1.
  • How much: $8.

Frontier Ruckus was formed in 2003 by Matthew Milia and Jones, with the lineup quickly augmented with Eli Eisman, Zachary Nichols, Etzcorn and Anna Burch, who is no longer with the group.

“(Anna) decided that 6 months of touring was a little too much for her. …. We’re still all good friends and it’s totally cool,” Jones explained. “A good friend of ours, Brian Barnes, picked up Anna’s bass duties. I’ve been doing a lot more of the harmony as well. We feel as tight as we ever have and we’re having a great time with it. We do miss Anna but we are forging ahead full speed.”

The band released its debut full-length record, “The Orion Songbook,” recorded and engineered in Ann Arbor by Jim Roll, through local label Quite Scientific Records in November 2008. In February 2009, Frontier Ruckus joined larger profile North Carolina-based label Ramseur Records, which will release the band’s new CD, “Deadmalls and Nightfalls,” on July 20.

“It’s all done and mastered,” Jones said of the new album. “We kind of like to think it’s an evolution of what we did on ‘Orion Songbook,’ (but there are) definitely differences. … We recorded (the new album) in a more high-fidelity fashion. Last time, we recorded it all in one room, the drums were bleeding into everything. We loved the way that record sounded, but there were a lot of problems with that process.”

Asked how he defines the Frontier Ruckus sound when people inquire, Jones laughed.

“There’s always a bit of hesitation, then a bit of confusion. We’re never quite sure what to say. I guess we’ve been hearing a lot of people describe it as lyrical folk rock, however that applies. The songs are very focused on the lyrics.”

Frontier Ruckus performing live in East Lansing last fall:

Ann Arbor indie-folk musician Alexander Silver will help open the Blind Pig show, which Jones said is only fitting.

(Alexander) is a younger musician that I met when I was home this winter. I went to 1 of his shows at Crazy Wisdom Tea Room and I liked it. The whole reason we got our start in Ann Arbor was because a band we liked asked us to open for them and that was the best thing in the world,” said Jones. “I wanted to ask someone younger who’s starting out to play with us. Hopefully some people who are coming to the show will be into him and he can do better playing his music in Ann Arbor.”

Ypsilanti-based indie-folk artist Matt Jones will also perform.

After the show in Ann Arbor, Frontier Ruckus will head out on a European tour that will include a stop at the Wood Festival in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. On June 10, Frontier Ruckus will play the prestigious Bonaroo Music Festival in Tennessee.

Someday they may even find time to come back to Ann Arbor and stay a while.

“At this point I am in the van more than I am in Michigan,” Jones lamented. “I don’t know where I live now. If I ever come back in the future I will be in Ann Arbor most likely. I love that town. … We’re a little spread around, but we all call Michigan home.”

Roger LeLievre is a freelance writer who covers music for