The Front Man was a title given to Michele Ari by a guy in the audience at a show. More specifically it was The Front Man is a GIRL! who was “just like cool punk bands from the 70s.” By no means her first rodeo, that night Michele had brought out her band to a high-profile songwriter night in Nashville, TN. reserved solely for the hush of an acoustic guitar. True to form she woke up the audience through a mix of welcome jolts and a bit of “who does she think she is? Hence, her new title. Chicago music press agreed with that fan’s sentiments: The front man is the center-piece, the attention getter, and the hook and Michele is all of those things and more (Gaper’s Block.)
To date Michele has been playing across the US in high-profile venues and tucked away dive bars alike for more than a decade promoting three independent and critically acclaimed EPs to a world-wide audience. In a front page feature interview with London based Subba-Cultcha, Michele was christened the unsigned champion of DIY’s singer/songwriter dischord whose jarring post-punk edginess brings an urban rock fanzine kind of shimmer to the very aesthetics of all she stands for as a nod to Michele’s ability to hold her own, stay away from trends and to persist in a musical landscape that constantly tests one’s strength, integrity and commitment to the very passion that drives her.
Her debut release 85th and Nowhere (2005) turned her into an indie darling and femme fatale overnight whose vocals grab the ears and refuse to part with them and who isn't seducing the listener as much as putting them in a trance (Whisperin and Hollerin UK) and an alternative to the alternative (Ink 19, UK.) 85th also found her filling a void in today’s top ten, infusing it with some much needed sophistication and thoughtful song crafting (IndieMusic.com)
Prior to that release, she quickly moved up the ranks as a formidable live act. Her first gig was on a Friday night. By that Sunday she was being interviewed on local radio. Her second gig was in front of a thousand people as an invitee to WMNF 88.5 community radio’s high-profile fundraisers which lead to more performances in their popular series and a lifelong friendship with the station. In the blink of an eye she was in the local papers as a “Critics Choice” and “Best Bet” alongside the area’s cream of the crop. Nobody leaves NYC to begin a life as a musician elsewhere but that is what she did (twice as her story unfolds) and counts her time in Florida as vital to all that followed and the birthplace of the rest of her life.
Simultaneously, she joined MySpace and surprisingly found herself in the loving arms of The UK where press and fans alike took to her and brought her in as one of their own. The bond became everlasting and just as vital to her efforts at home. Mere months after her first release, Michele was invited to play The London International Festival of Poetry and Song alongside Patti Smith and other luminaries at London’s Royal Albert Hall (which was, sadly, canceled,) she was being played on UK’s AM/FM and university airwaves as well as on some of the first indie internet radio stations and being reviewed in some of the UK’s most sought-after music publications . She was now keeping cyber-company with some of London’s VIPs of punk, whom, without hesitation, were talking her up. Christopher Dawes (aka Push, former Zig Zag, Melody Maker and author of Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail) pointed out I can't remember how I first landed on Michele's MySpace page, but it took me an eternity to get off it again. There is a bewitching, almost mesmeric quality to her voice...I get the feeling Miss Ari might be a bit dangerous, albeit in the nicest possible way. And from UK based Whisperin and Hollerin her vocals grab the ears and refuse to part with them. She isn't seducing the listener as much as putting them in a trance.
The stage was set yet it wasn’t just the UK taking to her. Swedish music press claimed her as gifted (Collected Sounds) and as far away as the Philippines she was boldly described as probably one of the most important artists you have not heard yet (The Manila Standard.)
Back home Michele continued to play live, played the The First Annual James Brown Music Festival in Augusta, GA. and reached across the States to Seattle where The Wig Fits All Head admonished Ari is not cut from the same cloth as most of today’s female rockers… Keep an eye out for this lady! She’s going places.
New fans were quick to sing both public and private praises sending Michele posting a string of comments and sending her heartfelt letters letting her know that her music made them “feel alive” and was something “new.”
Yet, something bigger tugged at her so in an effort to explore possible opportunities in the UK Michele made the decision to put things at home aside to take a little trip to London. What was to be the opening of new doors turned into a nightmare. Having been ill-advised to fly on a one way ticket (through a relative who worked at an airline) then buy her return ticket home when she knew the exact date was a fatal order to follow in a post-9/11 world where everyone is suspect. Despite the lack of intent to cause any harm or overstay her (legal) welcome, Michele could not convince those whose minds were made up (though they were eventually given due process in her song Little Wars.) Locked up and questioned for hours on end Michele was sent back to the States to fend for herself and reconstruct her dreams. But even during her darkest hours she continued to attract the attention of fans and press receiving airplay on Radio One in London with host Opal Bonfante and winning 100 percent of listener votes for her song My Sleeping Beauty on Moray Firth Radio, the UK’s farthest reaching broadcast station. It was only the second time in the show’s history an artist had done so. When the dust settled, after returning to live shows in Nashville almost immediately, she was nominated by Deli Magazine as "Artist of the Month," which she won by a landslide over many of Nashville’s more prominent bands. Juggling a new city and set of circumstances, Michele re-ignited her live shows visiting NY, Chicago, Atlanta and Cincinnati, to name a few, while making the circuit at some of Nashville's premiere venues. She made radio appearances in Nashville (WRVU) and Chicago (Fearless Radio) among others and was then able to release her follow up EP aptly titled mal a’ propos meaning "out of place.” Positive reviews from around the world resumed and requests for interviews both locally and abroad were fulfilled. In her first glossy feature (Rock N Reel UK) it was said that Michele was channeling the spirit of Debbie Harry.
Michele hasn’t seen everything but its not for the lack of trying wrote an early adherent in the music press. Looking for “more” Michele left a city she felt was too conservative her her tastes and returned back to NYC. Though she quickly fell into the arms of what remains of the NY underground, her efforts to grow were flanked when she soon walked into trap of a con man running an apartment scam destructive enough to leave her homeless in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Wild and dark events ensued testing her commitment to her art every direction she turned. Not one to be beaten down, even while bouncing from virtual crack den to crack den (not doing crack herself of course) where she was taking shelter, nursing “sudden” bad health and (secretly) scared out of her wits, she was yet determined to release her next EP as planned. A criminal stopping her was not an option so from the seeming depths of Hell she released the title track to Uncharted Territory. Facts being facts she decided she wasn’t willing to die and chose her next city through watery eyes. She made an appearance on the Rew and Who? show where punk legends and rising stars come together and the next day she boarded the train for Portland, OR, never having seen Portlandia. It just looked like a good place to go but it turned out to be a great place and home since 2012.
In Portland Michele took her first break since Day One. That “break” included some appearances, interviews abroad and the triumphant full release of her third EP Uncharted Territory. Reviewed by Indie Bands Blog (UK) it was clear she had lost no ground: Far more than just a framework for a voice... the listener is left in no doubt that this is a musician who has much to add to the world of music.
Anxious to get back on the stage, Michele put together a stellar band of some of Portland’s best. They made their debut on February 1st, 2014 at Dante's, a premiere venue in the Pacific Northwest, for their 14th Anniversary Party. Not bad for a girl who, just two years prior, lost everything which was evident as she stood on a street corner in the outskirts Bushwick with her belongings in a garbage bag looking for somewhere safe to sleep.
That introduction to the Portland music scene was soon followed by a headlining slot at Dante’s for their third show, then an opener for Frank Hannon (Tesla) and Ron Keel that lead to an invitation by the promoters to open up for 80's hit maker Eddie Money in front of 1200 people. That show was cancelled but the band carried on playing more local shows then spreading off into Tacoma, WA and Seattle. Radio appearances were made, her music was regularly played on Portland radio and her song Uncharted Territory was chosen to be included on KMUZ's Local Roots Compilation Part II which is out now.
By the end of 2014 Michele decided to amicably part ways with her band as she was unable to fulfill all the booking requests and opportunities coming her way and she knew as good as things were that she needed an even better plan.
And that she found.
With Michele Ari it’s her seamless changes of direction, the genuine desire for making music she was born to. That’s the moments that remind me just how accomplished she really is. Alan Baillie, Subba-Cultcha, London