I am Steve Nardella’s Number One fan. Self-professed. And he gives me that, with a wink.
When I moved to Ann Arbor with my family in 1980, Steve was already an established figure on the local music scene. My dad and his friends would talk about how great he was. I was a teenager when I first saw him play—the perfect age to fall in love with him. I was already listening to my dad’s Chuck Berry records, and to see Steve Nardella play—holy moly!
I still get a fifteen-year-old’s thrill seeing Steve play. On a recent dreary Friday night, my friend Roz and I, needing a respite from the cold and our respective rough weeks, made our way to Mash to see Nardella and his band. We expected a laid-back scene–something dark, intimate, and bourbony–but the tiny dance floor was jam-packed with a diverse group of U-M students, bustin’ moves and being adorably playful with one another. Over the next few hours there were several waves of dancers, each as captivated as the next by the rollicking rock and blues grooves.
Another night at Mash, I was pulled into a pack of young women who treated me like a beloved house mom. They were thrilled with the experience of live, for-real rock ‘n’ roll.
I also saw him play at Guy Hollerin’s last summer. The crowd is made up of older rock ‘n’ roll devotees out for a good time. While out for a smoke between sets, I talked to a woman in her seventies who, unsolicited, shared some advice: “My mother told me to never marry a man who doesn’t dance.” (She was waiting for her fourth husband to get the car.) And “You should be single–that’s the only way to live.” (I’m not sure how husband Number Four would feel about that statement, but it works for me.) It seems like people who go to see Steve play let their whole selves show.
Nardella plays almost all covers, original interpretations of the best blues and rock ‘n’ roll out there, with some rockabilly thrown in. My favorite is his take on “Tryin’ to Get to You.” Steve is an amazing guitar player and singer, and he blows that song out of the park. I wouldn’t pick any other version above his.
He’s legit, and one of the best live acts you’ll ever be lucky enough to hear. Get yourself a babysitter, take a nap if needed, get an Uber–just go and see Steve Nardella. He plays at Guy Hollerin’s April 7 and at Mash April 27.