Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers
Feel-good funk with angsty undertones
by Patrick Dunn
From the March, 2017 issue
Even before a Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers show begins, you get the feeling that you've become part of something bigger than a concert. The band's rabidly passionate fans clown around with its signature prop, a giant inflatable rainbow, taking pictures with it. The heady energy in the room, suggests the imminent arrival of a superstar. The Lansing-based Rainbow Seekers have yet to become nationally known, but when they hit the stage they live up to all the adulation. The band is a sheer blast of groovy, genre-bending, danceable fun, with remarkable musicianship to boot.
Hertler began releasing solo music in 2009, his sophomore year at Central Michigan University, and met much of his band while still in college. Now in their mid- to late twenties, they still have a youthful irreverence, often appearing onstage draped in fur coats, capes, flags, or Halloween costumes--for an October gig at the Blind Pig, they all wore skeleton bodysuits and skull masks.
The Rainbow Seekers' audience is young, too--enough so that this reviewer, not yet out of his late twenties, was on the older side. But songcraft this strong is easily appreciated by listeners of any age. The band's sound is often described as folk, perhaps because of the rainbow-hippie vibe, or because Hertler writes mostly on an acoustic guitar, but it's closer to blue-eyed R&B. The warm nudge of Ryan Hoger's guitar licks, Aaron Stinson's jazzy sax lines, Rick Hale's adept syncopation on the drums, and Jason Combs' funky bass lines make a danceable groove. Hertler's soulful vocals, ranging from a passionate growl to a breathy higher range, harken back to Motown.
Hertler is an ebullient and goofy presence onstage, but his lyrics reveal more than just a good-times approach. There's a surprising amount of angst, nostalgia, and introspection in Hertler's songs, which can't be lost on the adoring fans belting out the words along with him. The intersection of millennial anxieties with the timeless appeal of well-crafted pop
hooks is potent, and the Rainbow Seekers' fans aren't the only ones responding with enthusiasm. Universal Music Group imprint Bad Mascot picked up the band's 2015 sophomore studio release, Terra Incognita, and the band scored a plum spot on the 2016 lineup for Tennessee's wildly popular Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. With a new studio album due at the end of this month and a steadily rising profile, the Rainbow Seekers may well be on the verge of making a major national breakthrough. If they do, it'll be well deserved.
Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers will return to the Blind Pig March 30 and 31.
[Originally published in March, 2017.]
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