The Michigan Rattlers were delightfully decent

February 28, 2020

The Michigan Rattlers are the perfect definition of white mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, the band wasn’t bad. To certain midwestern tastes, the Rattlers probably have a pretty great sound, and they certainly know how to play. I was impressed to find that their live performance was similar in quality to the studio recordings, which can’t be said about many other bands. I also must admit that I had a good time at the concert itself, regardless of my reservations about the music. The Rattlers are a folk band from Michigan, and while they can clearly rock out on stage—and draw some very enthusiastic fans—I found much of the experience lackluster, especially after a strong opening act.

I had the chance to see the band on Feb. 9, in the upper level of the Middle East Restaurant in Cambridge. The venue seemed small at first, but the acoustics were great; the tiny room can hold a surprising amount of people. Even when the room was full of fans dancing and singing, the band felt like they were playing just for me. 

While the Rattlers themselves put on a good performance, I must talk about the incredible act that came on before. Opening for the Michigan Rattlers was Brent Cowles. When he stepped onto the stage with nothing but messy hair and a guitar, I was skeptical. However, he blew me away with his first song, and I only got more invested from there. His voice is strong and his range is incredible. My favorite track of his was “Cold Times.” He seemed particularly excited about this one, and the crowd was as well. By the time the second and third choruses rolled around, more and more of the crowd started joining in. Cowles has a very different sound from the Rattlers, making the decision for him to open a bit strange. His talent is undeniable regardless. Plus, he’s another boy from the Midwest. 

When Cowles left the stage, the crowd was in high spirits. I was ready for the Rattlers to come on stage. The Rattlers have some very different sounds on their discography, ranging from soft to intense, but it was clear they came to rock. Unfortunately, their rock and roll vibe just didn’t fit with all their tracks. It also didn’t fit with the mellow vibe that Cowles set. 

On stage, the Michigan Rattlers had a variety of instruments to help contribute to the sound: a keyboard, a cello, a drumset, a guitar and the setlist was full of self-written songs. In an email to The Brandeis Hoot, lead singer Graham Young wrote, “I write all the songs primarily on guitar and then bring them to the guys and they fill them in with their parts and we work on the arrangements together.”

The band members all grew up together in Michigan, but the band didn’t officially form until Adam Reed (upright bass) and Young (vocals and guitar) moved to L.A., according to the band’s bio on Spotify. In an email sent to The Hoot, the band wrote that Christian Wilder (piano) moved out west to join them later on. Eventually the three of them moved back to Michigan, where Tony Audia (drums) then joined the band, completing the sound. 

The boys have certainly figured out their sound since then. A particularly good moment was during their hit, “Evergreen.” This track is one of their biggest songs on Spotify and a clear fan favorite. The crowd screamed the words back to the band, a joyous moment for both parties. 

The Rattlers are definitely worth seeing in concert if you’re a fan of their music. Again, they sound the exact same live as they did when I was listening to it on Spotify. Brent Cowles, however, demands a listen right away. His chill vibes are fantastic for sad boi hours, studying and offers just a generally pleasant music experience.

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