New concert series comes to the Farmington Civic Theater

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published February 13, 2017

 The Farmington Civic Theater is now home to a new concert series, Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater.

The Farmington Civic Theater is now home to a new concert series, Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater.

Photo provided by Scott Freeman

FARMINGTON — There’s a new show to see at the Farmington Civic Theater — and it’s already receiving rave reviews.

The historic theater — which has called downtown home at 33332 Grand River Ave. since opening in 1940 — now has a concert lineup, Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater.

The series, presented by St. Joe’s Medical Group, is co-produced by theater General Manager Scott Freeman and Tom Birchler, the producer of the Rhythmz in Riley Park concert series and a band member of The Paisley Fogg. 

“There is a need for an intimate and affordable concert experience during the winter months. Our upper theater is the right size and allows the audience and performers to connect,” Freeman said in a press release.

The series kicked off Jan. 27 with The Paisley Fogg, which presented a first-time, all-acoustic show to a nearly full house. 

Birchler, also of Go2Guy Productions, said it is all about performing in a unique way at the venue.

“(We’re) trying to do stuff that is a little different than what I bring into the park,” Birchler said of the summer concert series. “Things that are maybe a little more acoustic, singer-songwriter, original-type music … and we had a pretty good, successful first concert.”

The next show will be Feb. 24 and will feature Paco Higdon, 25, of Royal Oak, who writes music that includes comedy, hard rock, progressive, punk and funk, according to a press release.

His second album, “Sophomore Slump,” was released last year, according to the press release. 

“My music is absolutely all over the place,” he said. “I like to (call) myself quirky alternative, usually diverse (and) pretty funny … also musically proficient — something for everyone.” 

Higdon, who attended the show last month, said that he was “pretty blown away” by the cozy venue and that there is more music coming to Farmington.

“(I’m) enamored by the idea of being in a theater close to the audience getting to play my songs,” Higdon said.

Farmington Hills resident Sami Mei Lofman will open for Higdon with her original music.

The following show will be March 31 with the Motor City-Music City Songwriters Round, made up of three singer-songwriters who have Michigan roots and love country music, according to the press release. 

Lofman, 15, of the West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy, is no stranger to the stage.

The music artist — who has already written 50 songs, has performed at many venues and is managed by Higdon — said she mainly performs her own originals that are acoustic, songwriter songs.

“I’m trying to have a mix of my more upbeat ... songs and some more serious songs, and hopefully everyone will be able to enjoy the music,” Lofman said. “I’m just excited to be able to play one of my songs, and it seemed like it is going to be a really cool venue and really cool turnout.”

She added that she is also looking forward to performing with one of her producers.

“That should be fun,” she said.

Lofman’s mother, Elana, said her daughter started playing the piano at age 8, and it started after she saw Elton John on an episode of “The Muppet Show.”

“She became obsessed with Elton John. That was sort of her introduction to music,” Elana said, adding that at around 11 years old her daughter had her first big performance.

“This is her first time performing in a theater,” Elana said.

Freeman added that the series needs people who write and perform their own music.

“Good entertainers overall, not just singers,” he said.

Birchler said the idea for the series began when he met with Freeman in January to see if he was interested in doing a musical concert series outside of the summer months.

Birchler added that as the producer of the Rhythmz in Riley Park concert series, he tries to find acts for the park that are a little bigger because of a larger audience, which is naturally a different vibe than an indoor theater performance.

“When you’re onstage, you can see people in the back row. You can hear them whisper to each other,” Birchler said. “It makes for a really good interaction with the audience. That is something you can’t quite get, that level of intimacy, in the park.”

Freeman said they are on the hunt for bands that don’t mind cozying up to a crowd.

“What we are looking for this is for bands who can perform in a more intimate theater,” he said, adding that the theater is also nicely arranged acoustically. “As you can imagine with theater soundproofing, it is what they call a dead room, so you don’t have sound bouncing off all the rooms.”

Freeman added that if the music series is successful, he would like to see it become a spring and fall staple at the theater.

Birchler agreed.

“It would be nice to have something you can go to live music-wise in Farmington year-round, and I’d be very, very excited if Scott and I were able to be part of that,” he said. 

The concert series includes two-hour shows that begin at 8 p.m. People of all ages are welcome. 

Tickets cost $10 in advance at the box office after 2 p.m. daily or at the door, cash only.

More information is available at the Farmington Civic Theater’s Facebook page and by calling (248) 474-1951.

For more information on the series, email Birchler at tombirchler1@gmail.com or Freeman at sfreeman@farmgov.com.