The Deep Fried Pickle Project
The organizers of the free Top of the Park series at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival have generally favored local acts, but it's easy to see why they chose Kalamazoo's Deep Fried Pickle Project for this year's lineup: the group's music mirrors TOP's multigenerational target audience. They do songs for adults, songs for kids, and a large group of songs that fall somewhere in between. They've been featured on PBS Kids and played at Lollapalooza. Their fans are called gherkins, and anyone might find some charm in that.
The Deep Fried Pickle Project, one of whose members bears the name Daniel Boone Daniel, got started in Kalamazoo a decade ago as a jug band. Some of their songs still feature the combination of washboard and kazoo, ideal for cutting through the summer night air and getting people's attention; an added banjo is even better in that regard. But the DFPP soon expanded beyond jug band music. They call their style "jugabilly," but really, as with other acoustic bands that make a living on the summer fairs-and-festivals circuit it's a Prairie Home Companion-like mixture of many roots genres.
What sets the Deep Fried Pickle Project apart is the all-ages aspect. They've performed and recorded a good deal of flat-out kids' music like "Picklejuice" ("Don't drink the juice at the bottom of the pickle jar / You might grow green and bumpy, and forget just who you are"). Their stage presence in adult venues, they note, "is altogether spicier," with a "Centerfold"-type song for the Internet age and a willingness to take on the occasional serious or experimental lyric that gains interest from the clash with its songs-around-the-campfire musical setting.
Lots of other DFPP songs have the elusive knack of appealing to both kids and adults and minimizing the restlessness common to either group when sitting on folding chairs. Most of the group's songs are original (notable in itself), but they sometimes like to re-compose traditional numbers and keep aspects of their easy-to-remember refrains. "Poor Me Express" takes off from "This Train": "This train, it stops for blamers / Pity party hall of famers / This train, it stops for blamers / This train." You couldn't ask for a message better tailored to whole families listening as they eat their pizza and falafel.
The Deep Fried Pickle Project opens up the proceedings at Top of the Park on Sunday, June 19, in the family-friendly 5 p.m. slot.
[Originally published in June, 2011.]