Playing Live (More Often), The Dangling Participles Find Their Groove

Thursday, August 15, 2019, 7:50 am
By: 
Christopher A. Wardell

The Dangling Participles (from left): Dan Moreno, Tamiko Rothhorn, Tim Patterson and Austin Kaufmann. Photo by Vincent Brady.

The members of The Dangling Participles are probably critiquing my grammar right now as you read this article. They might be looking at your grammar, too: when the band was founded, three of its members were English and language professors at Michigan State University. Only one band member remains as an English professor, but he’s keeping an eye on you.

While fine-tuning grammar is their main job, band members also do a fine job as a genre-hopping Americana blues group that makes music that won’t leave you hanging.

The Dangling Participles regularly consist of Austin Kaufmann on vocals and guitars, harmonica and mandolin; Tamiko Rothhorn on vocals, cornet and ukulele; Tim Patterson on vocals and bass; and Dan Moreno on vocals and percussion. Half of the band – Kaufman and Rothhorn – will perform as The Dang Ps at 7:30 p.m. this Friday (August 16) in an outdoors show at The Coffeehouse at All Saints, 800 Abbot Road, in East Lansing.

Rothhorn will also take the stage for her side project, “Mori and Mama Music,” which she performs alongside her high school-aged daughter, Mori (fiddle).

“Depending on schedules, or for smaller venues or venues that don’t have acoustics that work with drums and bass, Tamiko and I will play as a duo,” Kaufmann said. “We put on a pretty damn good show with just the two of us, but our set list turns a little jazzier and folkier when it's just the duo. We tend to do more up-tempo and dance tunes when we have our rhythm section of Patterson and Moreno with us.”

Side project evolves into more of a regular gig

The band has evolved to where it is today after a humble start in a basement, and as a way to unwind and make music that’s fun. The Participles have two releases to their name, having released their latest album, “Present,” in 2018, and the EP “Devotion” in 2015.

Kaufmann admits the group has come a long way.

“The original trio (the MSU instructors) were actually all part of a larger cover band called Gerund and The Infinitives, which was made up of a rotating cast of six or seven English instructors who all worked together at MSU’s English Language Center,” Kaufmann said. “But that band, Gerund and The Infinitives, was mostly an excuse to toss back a few beers, or a little whiskey, and rock out in someone’s basement, you know, for the camaraderie and to blow off steam. We played maybe one gig a year.”

Kaufmann went on to add, “In 2015, three of us Infinitives wanted to start writing our own music and performing live more often, so we created a side project. (And, yes, we thought about going with the name, ‘The Split Infinitives,’ but chose not to!) That was a fun trio, and we put out an EP in December 2015, but that group didn't last long because – as English teachers often do – one headed overseas to teach English. So, over the course of the next year or so, our lineup changed.”

Large or small, the live venue can’t be beat

The band has a hefty touring schedule that takes them all around the state, but for Kaufmann, there’s no place like home.

“We average about a show per week, so we gig very regularly,” Kaufmann. “We love doing live shows and it’s what feeds us. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who's been to one of our shows that we love performing. We’ve played bigger stages and we’ve performed at tiny, intimate events and house concerts – and they're all fun.”

The band has a strong following, and it’s easy to see why, as their music focuses on harmonies, songwriting and an enthusiastic stage presence. According to Kaufmann, no stage is too big, or too small.

“As long as there is an engaged audience, the size of the audience is less important to us,” Kaufmann said. “Our album release gig for a sold-out crowd at The Robin Theatre will always be a highlight for me, as it marked such an important turning point for our band. At that show, we had multiple guest performers, the house was packed with our closest friends and family, and the vibe was great.

“The Robin is just a treasure. Dylan and Dea (the owners of The Robin Theatre) have done a lot for music and the arts in this town. More recently, our show at ScrapFest 11 in Old Town was a ton of fun, as well.”

The Coffeehouse at All Saints is gaining a reputation as a fun place to perform. Joining The Dang Ps on the bill on August 16 will be up and coming singer-songwriter Monte Aaron Pride, The Stump Brothers from Dimondale, and East Lansing’s Susan Marie Rosser, along with Ellie Louson, Tamar Mikeladze, Bass Uprising with Mike Lawrence and Glenn Chambers, Jim Jersey and Two-Body Problem.

“The Coffeehouse at All Saints is amazing,” Kaufmann said. “I mentioned above that having an engaged audience is more important than having a large audience, and that's exactly what you get at All Saints. Steve (Findley) does a great job hosting and curating the artists who come, and the whole atmosphere is great. I love the down-home feel of it being a potluck. Love it. It’s really a chill, encouraging environment, and it really gives performers at a variety of proficiency levels a welcoming place to perform and grow musically.

“I’ve gotten to know some great musicians through The Coffeehouse, and I’m excited because (Friday’s show) brings a lot of them together all in one night. Very stoked to share the evening with Monte, the Stump Brothers, and all the rest.”

 

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