TRAVERSE CITY — The Crane Wives’ upward trajectory as one of Michigan’s most promising folk-rock acts during the past four years has been fueled by distinctive harmonies, exuberant performances, critically acclaimed studio recordings and ebullient, die-hard fans who faithfully follow the band on its musical travels.
The five-piece Grand Rapids band has won multiple local awards for its first two albums – 2011’s “Safe Ship, Harbored” and 2012’s “The Fool in Her Wedding Gown,” after they tapped into the roots revival that’s swept the country and heralded by Paste magazine in 2012 as one “12 Michigan acts you should listen to now.”
But few honors meant as much to The Crane Wives as selection to perform at the prestigious Ann Arbor Folk Festival earlier this year, joining celebrated national folk and Americana stars like Patty Griffin, Iron & Wine, Ingrid Michaelson and Jeff Daniels on stage in front of a sell-out crowd of more than 3,500 at Hill Auditorium.
“This is really big for us, as a local band given the opportunity to represent Grand Rapids,” said guitarist and singer Emilee Petersmark.
She spent much of the time making new friends with bands like New York’s Pigpen Theatre Co. alongside bandmates guitarist and singer Kate Pillsbury, drummer and singer Dan Rickabus, bassist Ben Zito and banjo player Tom Gunnels.
Pillsbury even gave Daniels a hug at one point and Petersmark told Michaelson how long she’d been a fan, making the singer “feel old” – something Michaelson recounted on stage during her set.
“Everyone was so supportive,” Zito said after the band’s adrenaline-pumping performance and weekend of musical camaraderie. “It was a real community-building thing.”
Indeed, the tale of The Crane Wives – who began playing together while students at Grand Valley State University and who named the band after a song by The Decemberists – is filled with camaraderie. The story starts with their own unique relationship as a band of good friends who write catchy songs and continue to polish their skills as professionals in the music business.