2023 Sonic Lunch Lineup. Image Credit: Perich DesignSonic Lunch is back! The Bank of Ann Arbor’s free concert series with 107.one will once again fill Liberty Plaza with a wide variety of music, bubbles, and a bustling but friendly atmosphere of hundreds of people every Thursday starting a week early on May 25.
“It’s time to announce the 2023 season of Sonic Lunch, the free downtown Ann Arbor concert series that just utterly rules this beautiful city during the summer months,” was the announcement of Ann Arbor’s 107one’s recently retired host and original Sonic Lunch host, Martin Bandyke when popped back into the studio along with guests from the bank at 8 a.m. on April 27. “And it is starting earlier than ever … before Memorial Day. This is really exciting, and it’s another full season of free concerts.”
This season is actually starting a weekly early, on the last Thursday of May, so they could get the New York City-based indie-soul band Melt to be the opening act.
People generally start filling onto the benches and concrete railings of the plaza in the late morning, to catch the opening act, starting at 11:30.
The temporary stage setup under the small corner plaza’s leafy foliage is always wide enough for a full band, but often only just. The laid back yet electrifying buzz of most of the concerts is often amplified by the shoulder-room-only popularity of the family friendly shows. But don’t worry, there’s usually enough room for a dozen or so people to dance freestyle in front of the stage.
Matthew Altruda, radio host of Tree Town Sound on Ann Arbor’s 107one and the curator of the Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch, said, “We’re doing what we do best, creating a great music festival for the community to enjoy for the summer in Ann Arbor.”
“Personally, it is my career. The fact that I work for a bank that sees music as an incredible community builder, bringing people together, creating happiness, getting people out of work for your lunch break … personally, for me is something that I hold so dear to my heart and love,” Altruda said, praising the vision of Bank of Ann Arbor CEO Tim Marshall. “I feel extremely fortunate where I can have a career that involves supporting artists and creating beautiful memories that people will have for the rest of their lives seeing live music in Ann Arbor.”
Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, who will be the main act on August 10, will have a new album out the same month.
“What I like about Sonic Lunch is that it’s one of those events that seems like it would only be able to exist in a place like Ann Arbor, where there’s this particular enthusiasm for live events, for art,” Hertler said. “There’s always been a lot of support for local music here, a very big Michigan music scene that spans a ton of different genres. And Sonic Lunch is one of those events that really brings great artists, especially in this area.”
Some of the acts are so big that they will be closing the block of Liberty Street between Fourth and Division to accommodate the stage necessary for the expected crowd. That will be on June 29 for the husband and wife soul, blues, country and rock fusion duo The War & Treaty, and on July 13 for Los Lobos.
The full lineup this year is:
- May 25 – Main Act: Melt – Opening Act: Dave Menzo
- June 1 – Main Act: The Heavy Heavy – Opening Act: Chloe Kimes
- June 8 – Main Act: Phillip-Michael Scales – Opening Act: Dave & Kristi
- June 15 – Main Act: Joe P. – Opening Act: Louie Lee
- June 22 – Main Act: Madison Cunningham – Opening Act: Anna Ash
- June 29 – Main Act: The War & Treaty – Opening Act: Antwaun Stanley (Vulfpeck)
- July 6 – Main act: Cafuné – Opening Act: Aut Gres
- July 13 – Main Act: Los Lobos – Opening Act: Camilla Cantu
- July 27 – Main Act: Devon Gilfillian – Opening Act: Jess Merritt
- August 3 – Main Act: Husbands – Opening Act: Katie Stanley
- August 10 – Main Act: Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers – Opening Act: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful
- August 17 – Main Act: Laith Al-Saadi – Opening Act: Jen Sygit
- August 24 – Main Act: May Erlewine – Opening Act: Kylee Phillips
- August 31 – Main Act: The Accidentals – Opening Act: Patty Pershayla
“I work really hard to have a diverse lineup because I think that’s vital,” Altruda said.
The opening acts always start the show on a good note as the audience begins to gather in front of the stage.
Kylee Phillips is one of the openers in late August. While Philips has played at Sonic Lunch before, she is in the same position that a lot of opening acts of the past were, on the verge of releasing a new EP this fall.
“One thing I’ve been thinking about in playing this gig in particular is just what it means to me as a part of this music community. It just feels really special,” Philips said. “It feels like a vote of confidence from my music community to get the opportunity to play this.”
The “lunch” part of Sonic Lunch is that food trucks are going to be lining up on Liberty Street; and of course, downtown has no shortage of restaurants serving food as varied as the music. You can also purchase memorabilia from a tent on the sidewalk.
There will be no Sonic Lunch on June 20, because of the Ann Arbor Art Fair.