Back Forty
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Back Forty

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Rock Jam


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Back Forty to perform New Year's Eve"

Back Forty to perform New Year's Eve
Thursday, December 28, 2006
By Tricia Woolfenden
The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- If hoity-toity champagne and black-tie events aren't your idea of a stellar New Year's Eve, perhaps Back Forty would strike a chord.
The rock-funk-bluegrass-reggae fusion five-piece will perform its unpretentious, down-home experimental tunes at Founders Brewing Company's equally unpretentious New Year's Eve bash. Back Forty's Dan Ripke is certain that with its cheap cover charge, great beer and foot-stomping tunes, Founders will be a great place to ring in 2007.
"There'll be music for a long time (that night) and good brews while you listen," said Ripke, who plays guitar and provides vocals for the band.
The band -- John Yax (drums/percussion), Colin Murphy (fiddle/vocals), Jeff Friesen (bass) and Andy Benes (mandolin/guitar/vocals) -- is based in Ann Arbor, but has family ties to Grand Rapids. The band was introduced to the local music scene by jazz outfit Organissimo. It plays in Grand Rapids frequently.
"It's been going like gang-busters," Ripke said, adding the band often plays at Billy's Lounge in Eastown, Founders and The Intersection. "The crowds have been so receptive."
Fans have lapped up the band's improv-laced performances and exceptionally varied sets. The band "is all over the place in one night" with Friesen plucking out funk-influenced basslines and Yax providing an experimental take on percussion. Benes and Ripke are informed mostly by jazz and blues artists, while expert fiddle-player Murphy grew up in a bluegrass household.
"It works really well," Ripke said of the band's diverse musical melange.
Back Forty committed its hard-to-rein-in sound to disc with the band's debut album, "Down Home Funkgrass." The 12-song CD was released earlier this year, with help from Dan Worley of Good Noise Studios in Ypsilanti and Jonas Dainius Berzanskis of Silver Tortoise Soundlab. The band spent eight months recording and mixing the CD, which features didgeridoo, cello and tabla drums.
"There were a lot of mixes. We'd listen to them and take notes," Ripke said.
"We were very methodical about it."
Though Back Forty has enough original material for two or three more albums, the band's next project is an album of live material to be recorded at several shows in Michigan. The album will be released in the spring.
- Grand Rapids Press

"Back Forty"

Billy's Lounge, Grand Rapids, MI
by Anna Gustafson

I arrived just before Back Forty was to take the stage for their second set of the night. This night was theirs only, and there was a good crowd to be had. Every seat was taken, not that it was standing room only, but the turnout was pretty impressive for this band that hails from Ann Arbor, MI.
Back Forty's style is a sort of bluegrass mix; you can feel the funk, the blues, the folk, and a few other influences. There were always at least a few couples happily dancing, whether the song was an instrumental, or had vocals to go along with the tempting rythyms and sounds.

It was a good, quality, night of music. The sort of music a person of any age or influence could enjoy. I urge you to go check these guys out no matter your genre of choice.
- Annex22

"Rubbles to host "Funkgrass" band"

By Ben LaMothe
Staff Reporter

This weekend is somewhat of a homecoming for Dan Ripke. In 1996, he graduated from CMU, where he studied English and Music. Now, this Friday, Ripke will be back in Mount Pleasant to play with his band at Rubble's "It'll be like coming home," Ripke said "I used to live 30 yards from Rubbles." Ripke's band, Back Forty is a down-home bluegrass band with funk and rock mixed heavily into the sound.
"It's one of the few jam bands touring today with an electric fiddle and electric mandolin," he said. Friday will be the first time Back Forty has played in Mount Pleasant since bassist Jeff Friesen joined the band nine monthes ago. "When Jeff came in, he filled the void in the rhythm section," Ripke said "Everything just came alive." The band has 65 songs it performs live with sets that include improvised songs never before rehearsed.
In recent months, Back Forty has received much attention from their unique sound. "We used to call people begging them to play," Friesen said, "but now we have to turn people down." Fans have described them in concert as a face melting groove tractor, Ripke said. Setting Back Forty apart from other bands is its fiddle player Colin Murphy. Every time we play a show, the audience' jaw drops when they hear him. He has all these distortion pedals set up - sort of like the Jimi Hendrix of the fiddle."
Back Forty performs at 9:30 PM on Friday at Rubble's, located at 112 W. Michigan St. - Cental Michigan Life - September 30, 2005

"Striking a Chord"

It was an all-day celebration dubbed the Harvest Festival starting at 4 p.m., but it didn't really start until the band arrived. This group from the Ann Arbor area has been working its way through the Michigan club and festival circuit attracting fans like some kind of giant funk magnet. As some of the folks came through the door and paid the cover they had no idea what they were about to be hit with. Many people who came through the door knew exactly what they were going to be hit with; they were the ones who went straight to the seats right in front of the band.
Back Forty is a real band, a serious band, a group of five individuals moving as one. The significant individual talents members bring to the band are exponentially fused into a unique driving sound that forces involuntary muscle movement. The first thing you feel when you hear them is the incredible rhythm section of John Yax on drums/percussion and Jeff Friesen on bass. They move you both emotionally and physically with tight interplay and combined backbeat that pushes the rhythm through your central nervous system. The two melodic anchors are Dan Ripke on guitar and Andy Benes on guitar/mandolin who slip in and out of leads and the supporting melodic foundation. In the center of the group is Colin Murphy on electric fiddle. Murphy is a force to be reckoned with, a pure musician who knows his instrument so well he can bend it to his will. All three of the front men sing and blend rich harmonies as they trade-off lead vocals throughout the set.
Back Forty is starting to gather that critical mass musicians need to jump to the next level. It works hard with mailing lists, merchandise, and booking, and on this Saturday night some of the wives of the band members drove to Grand Rapids to work the merchandise table. The band has had a lot of success on the festival circuit this summer and is booking regularly in Grand Rapids, metro Detroit, and Columbus, Ohio.
It is hard to pigeonhole the sound of Back Forty because it uses the elements of traditional bluegrass or soul or Irish folk or rock or whatever you thought you knew about a genre, and it blows it up, redefines it, and puts it back together in a way you have never heard. The stage presence is powerful, the musicianship is a wonder to watch, and there is no doubt it has a lot of fun.
It's 2:30 in the morning, the band is still playing, and everyone is bouncing up and down or moving-bartenders, doormen, the guys cleaning off tables, and the small dance floor in front of the band that has been full since it started five hours ago. The people who had never heard of this band and just wandered into Founders for a beer got one of those delightful serendipitous moments we all long for. The people who knew why they went there got one of those moments also, that's the way it is when you get to hear the real deal.

Article written by Robert Costa - On-The-Town Magazine of West Michigan


2004 - Back Forty
2006 - Down Home Funkgrass
2008 - Big Orange Tent
2011 - Play A Little Music, & Drink a Little Booze



Back Forty is a major staple of the Michigan music scene. They have played festivals for crowds of over 5000, and regularly pack clubs in Michigan. Starting as a sparse acoustic duet over 7 years ago, the sound has evolved into a full-on electric band, while still maintaining it's acoustic roots. With their unique blend of tradional intrumentation combined with wild improvisation, Back Forty can go from bluegrass to psychedelic rock in zero seconds flat. Their sound has been compared to fellow musicians Phish, Grateful Dead, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Railroad Earth, but Back Forty are no copy-cats. Priding themselves on strong original material, the band has 5 song writers, each with there own unique style. Recently, Back Forty has added the Funkbrass Horns to supplement many of their shows, expanding on their already full sound. Come join us out on the Back Forty, we guarantee a good time!