Keeping it Funky and Fresh in Southwest Michigan

Digital Sweater (Turbo Suit and Digital Tape Machine) Play Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI

Over a few nights this past New Year’s Eve, at The Cotton Club, located in the lower level of famous music venue The Tabernacle in Atlanta, GA, I was introduced to a group of musicians known as Cosby Sweater. You can no longer see this group under that moniker, due to various allegations against a certain man whose penchant for funky outerwear helped birth the name that this band went by. I can only imagine how tough it would be to book gigs at respectable venues when your band name shares connotations with a man who may potentially have been a date rape fanatic. Unless that is the kind of crowd you aim to bring out, and then there’s all manner of liability and bullshit that would come along with it. But, I digress.

You can now find this group performing under the name Turbo Suit. When they were performing their last few shows as Cosby Sweater, it was in support of my and your favorite band, Umphrey’s McGee. Sweater was the act for the after-party on a couple of the nights during UM’s epic five-night NYE run at the Tab. After getting my face melted upstairs, we would then retire to the lower level, where drinking and dancing continued on for… well, to be honest, I can’t really remember how late. Time didn’t exist for me during those shows. I won’t say that I was under the influence of certain mood-altering chemicals, but I won’t say that I wasn’t. What I do remember, however, is how Cosby Sweater was quite adept in their ability to keep our groove going. And Ryan Stasik came down to party with us, too, jumping right into the middle of the crowd and twirling his Steelers Trouble Towel over his head. Good times.

Ryan Stasik and Brian Waite
Stasik and I at the afterparty in Atlanta, Nicholas Gerlach in the background

Often, when a band or musical act is the opener or after-party performer, they are on a lesser scale of musical ability or entertainment value. The purpose of an opener is to get the crowd going, but not outshine the bigger name band. The purpose of an after-party act is to help ease the crowd down from the show that they were just at, or keep the energy going at least a little, yet still not outshining the main act. Cosby Sweater fit into neither of those categories. Instead, they kept the crowd just as pumped up and rowdy as they were when they were upstairs watching Umphrey’s wreck shit. Different vibe, different style of music, but just as good.

But, Cosby Sweater is no more. The only thing I have to remember them by is the best beer coozie I’ve ever owned. And the memories of those nights in Atlanta.

Cosby Sweater Coozie
My Cosby Sweater Coozie

Turbo Suit, on the other hand, is just as awesome. I mean, it is the same exact three guys doing the same exact thing, just under a different name,  one that won’t be associated with drugging and molesting women against their will. The name change is a good thing, especially when they are playing to a packed house at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI, on the most amorous evening of the year, Valentine’s Day. Don’t want to send the wrong message. Don’t want a bunch of meathead frat boys thinking that the band endorses the use of GHB in their search for a Valentine’s Day conquest. Turbo Suit doesn’t really attract that kind of crowd anyway.

Along with their friends, Digital Tape Machine, the Turbo Suit boys gave a killer performance last night. I admittedly haven’t been to Bell’s that much, although I have certainly helped with their sales of many of their brews. But, I have never seen that place so packed as I did on Saturday. I found out afterward that, indeed, the venue was sold out. The energy was high. Everywhere I went, I didn’t see anybody who wasn’t dancing their asses off, or at least moving their bodies (I wouldn’t call what I do “dancing”). Turbo Suit was killing it. David Embry was playing off of Jeff Peterson’s drum beats seamlessly, and Nicholas Gerlach’s sax and EWI were adding the perfect mix of jazz fusion to the live electronica vibe that was beating my eardrums into submission. Highlights of their set included the beginning, middle and end. Mixing Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” sent the audience into a hyped frenzy, and closing the set with their take on Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” kept the energy flowing as they left the stage to make room for Digital Tape Machine.

Turbo Suit
Photo By Stormie Lantis

I had never seen DTM, even though, until recently, members of the group happened to be members of my and your favorite band, Umphrey’s. I had just never caught them, even at SummerCamp last year. The current incarnation of the DTM lineup was present and accounted for at Bell’s, and there was no intensity lost. Marcus Rezak’s guitar work melded perfectly into the prog-rock dance music vibe that Joe Hettinga and Bryan Doherty were laying down, with Bryan’s funky basslines that played off of the seemingly effortlessly produced electronic audio assault provided by Joe, all supported by their “drum samurai” Neal Wehman. All in all, I won’t make the mistake of missing them next time the opportunity arises.

The end of DTM’s set wasn’t even close to finishing the night out. We were treated to a prog-rock electronic dance music funky sexy party when the stage was filled with what I now know as Digital Sweater, where all seven musicians from both bands took their places to keep it going until Bell’s told them to cut it off. I regret to inform you that, due to my lovely special lady friend not feeling well (she had a fever earlier in the day, but stuck it out as long as she could), we had to exit before I could experience this musical marvel in all of its glory. But, if ever again this double billing occurs in my immediate area, you can bet your sweet white (or brown if that is the case) ass that I will be there.

Valentine’s is for lovers. Lovers of music. Thanks to Bell’s for always hosting such great performers for us  during the festival-barren cold winter months. Thanks to Turbo Suit, Digital Tape Machine and Digital Sweater for being awesome and bringing this funky sexy dance party to my neck of the woods. Thanks, especially, to the high energy crowd that made the night that much more enjoyable for all of us.

Oh, yeah, and thanks to the bartender who refused to let me clean up my own spilled beer.

Nicholas Gerlach
Photo by Stormie Lantis

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