From left to right: Scottie Green, Erik Friday, Rick Brandt, Brad Fritcher and Kyle Mayer
Photos by Karin O'Brien
Article by John Vasquez

Music and Saginaw walk hand-in-hand, providing the city with artists who are original and continually showing off a wide variety of styles. Every night of the week you can find a local show, in some nook or cranny bar, always real, always untouched: a city that is rundown, but remains the music stomping ground. The Bearinger Building was a small collective on the east side of Saginaw, full of artists and musicians alike, where you could feel at home, safe and productive, because of the amount of talent that ran rampant there over the span of a couple of years. Thick as Thieves is one of the groups that sprang from this building, with a thumping beat, old organ, collective lyrics, and a wide range of songs proving in their performances that they are one of the heavy hitters of Saginaw, Michigan.

The band created a buzz. Chatter was running through the city with a momentum that wouldn't stop. Plenty of people were raving over their live performances and asking questions, wondering where the album was, where they could find them next, and who was in this group. The evening I caught my first performance was at The Junction on Hamilton Street in Old Town. I was baffled, to say the least. Everything was full of warmth and made you feel comfortable--soul is one of the best words to describe it—and there was Kyle Mayer on the old organ flowing perfectly with the large rhythm section backing him up. As the evening progressed, Kyle would switch back and forth from the organ to electric guitar, and then rap artist Jacinto Herrera came up to perform. He was spitting some fire from nowhere as the rhythm section intensely grew. Something in Saginaw that I hadn't previously seen done successfully was done that night: the "real hip-hop" show finally came to town.

Engaging and dynamic, the ever-changing roster brings a new sound to every performance. Scottie G., Ricky Brandt, and the Friday Brothers are a flawless rhythm section who exhibit much ease and confidence. While they can usually be counted on to be a part of every performance, they are also always joined by special guests, from local rappers to trumpet players. This is something special; you don't know what to expect, only that it will be a great performance. Every city in Michigan has been getting a taste of these guys, showing everyone what Saginaw is about. They will be making appearances at Grand Central Station and the Hamilton Street Pub in Saginaw, but you could also catch them in Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids, and even Traverse City this summer, which is sure to be one of the parties to show up for in 2010.

Two songs from their bootleg album, recorded out of the Bearinger Building, "Smoking on Fly" and "Downtown" tell stories about life in the city, relationships and struggle. These songs really get the crowd moving, dancing, and singing along under the city lights. "Downtown" takes you for a ride. It's a straightforward rhythm and blues song, calm with a building chorus, "Smoke and drink, underneath the city lights," following into the verse: "Baby I've seen you before, but you don't recognize." The song speaks of the realness at the end of the day, that the struggle is always there. It counters with its upbeat melody undertones to keep your head bobbin'. "Smokin' on Fly" is a true diamond in the rough. Jacinto backs Kyle on this song, speaking the truth, saying no matter what, always have a good time because living is what everything is about. Jacinto also speaks of doubt, wondering if others think he lets life pass him by, but he hits back, "I do for myself; I don't do it for them, so when you see it in the wind, don't see it as a sin." The message is clear: haters will always hate, but we live another day. This song is by far the best live, and sometimes they will even do an encore if you ask them.

Saginaw is putting out some of the finest music in the Midwest, and Thick as Thieves is proving that with the right mix of different individuals, the group can produce an unstoppable sound that is cutting edge, and not like anything else being done in Michigan. They put on the only show you can find around with roots, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, jam, jazz, big band, pop, and ultimately, rhythm and blues, infused together, creating something straight up original. With people like Kyle Mayer, Jacinto Herrera, Scottie G. and The Earthtones, there's no need to travel far and wide to see an amazing band. These guys have been hanging out right under your nose the whole time, creating the real hip-hop show.

Thick as Thieves is playing at Grand Central Bar (3504 State Street, Saginaw) on Friday, February 26th, and Saturday February 27th. To find out more information and listen to a few tracks from their self-recorded album at the Bearinger Building, visit their myspace page at http://myspace.com/thickusthieves.

© John Vasquez, 2010