Saline Enjoys Salty Summer Sounds Grand Finale

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Salty Summer Sounds finished out August with a riveting two part concert that started with a student band, Geezer, trained right here in the Saline area and ended with another band dressed up as pirates.

“It feels great to be back,” Geezer lead singer Alex Johnson said. “It looks great. We’re having a blast.”

Alex Johnson, performing with Geezer

Saline Main Street argued earlier this year that after the constant devastating blows to the restaurants and shops of the Four Corners from the recession that followed the Coronavirus called for out of the box thinking. That ultimately led to the block of Ann Arbor Street between Henry Street and Michigan Avenue being temporarily pedestrianized, filled with umbrellas and chairs and set up for live music to drive people from all over to come and spend money at downtown’s restaurants.

“This was critical. They [downtown’s businesses] definitely are still in recovery. But can you imagine how much better they feel now? They have hope,” Saline Main Street Director Holli Andrews said. Andrews asserted that Saline’s businesses spent part of the Coronavirus era “buried in fear” and often considering closure. “I feel like they’ve turned a corner. They still have a lot of work to do, but we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

The Salty Summer Sounds audiance, Thursday evening.

Umbrella Square, as the pedestrianized street has come to be known, certainly was packed throughout the whole of Thursday night, and the restaurants were bustling with happily munching clientele and busy but purposeful looking wait staff who only seemed to rest long enough to coordinate who would take care of which customers next.

“It’s been really busy since we had [Salty Summer Sounds]. It’s been really nice,” Tori Latta, a manager at Smokehouse 52, said. “I think the staff enjoys it too. Getting to listen to live music while you work is always a plus, right?”

This was the first time Johnson had played live for two years because of the Coronavirus. He owns the Ann Arbor Saline Music Center; which teaches students of all ages, and in virtually all instruments; then helps them get live music experience by performing with them at concerts like this one. His school had been around for 21 years before moving to 135 East Bennett Street in Saline, two years ago, Johnson said.

“I’ve lived in Ann Arbor since 1986 and have never ventured to downtown Saline. And it’s really cool. I’m gonna come back,” concertgoer Matt Engelbert said.

The square is roughly divided into two parts. The part by Michigan Avenue is dominated by tables and chairs, which were constantly full. On the other side were rows of folding chairs, which faced the stage. In the middle was Briarwood Ford, which for the finale brought out their 2021 Mustang GT.

Briarwood Ford's 2021 Mustang GT

“I love being here. It gives me a lot of opportunities to talk to my fellow community members. I also have the opportunities to talk to them about great cars and make a lot of friends,” Briarwood Ford’s David Collard said.

Briarwood Ford's 2021 Mustang GT

If there was any problem with the final concert of the season it was the stage. While the players were generally excellent, late summer brought a problem in that night came on much earlier in the evening than it did in the early concerts. And since there was no overhead stage lighting, it became a bit of a challenge to see the last performance.

The Queen’s Revenge made their debut during the second half of the concert series. Billing themselves as a pirate band, the groups nautical themed, witty songs kept people in their seats well past dark.

Captain Sugar Beard

“I’m glad to be welcome to the streets of Saline,” the lead singer, who insisted on being called by his stage name Captain Sugar Beard, said. He just moved to Saline. When asked why he moved here, other than saying that Saline was “a fine community. It has many excellent amenities and I get to live just five blocks from Alex’s music center, which is where we practice,” Sugar Beard said “Somebody had told us there was something to do with salt water to the south and we just sort of misunderstood. But we are very pleased to be here.”

Saline Main Street has every intention of bringing this concert series back next summer. But when it does, the actual music lineup will be procured by Johnson and his company, not Saline Main Street.

Johnson said that next year he will be providing an improved sound system and lighting for later in the season.

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