Music News & Reviews

Grammy-winner coming to Olympia for concert

Wanz, aka Michael Wansley, will perform Friday (July 22) at Olympia’s Artesian Commons Park. The concert supports Community Youth Services’ The Bridge program.
Wanz, aka Michael Wansley, will perform Friday (July 22) at Olympia’s Artesian Commons Park. The concert supports Community Youth Services’ The Bridge program. Courtesy

The youth hip-hop program The Bridge will host its second free concert by a Grammy winner Friday (July 22).

Last month, Kimya Dawson played, sharing a bill with South Sound youths from the Community Youth Services program, which teaches both hip-hop and self-expression.

Friday, the program’s summer concert series hosts Wanz, who sang on “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Lewis. The song won the 2014 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, and has sold more than 10 million copies.

The song was so big, in fact, that “Sesame Street” paid tribute to it in a scene where Macklemore, rechristened “Mucklemore,” teaches Oscar the Grouch and friends about recycling.

Wanz, aka Michael Wansley, was older than 50 when he reached this pinnacle of fame.

“Every dream that I had ever had has come true,” he said in a phone interview this week.

“I thought he would be a good inspiration for our youth,” said Bobby Williams, the leader of The Bridge and half of the hip-hop duo Double B & Laces, which will perform Friday. “If you keep working toward your dreams, you can achieve greatness.”

Williams sent an email to Wanz to ask the singer to headline a concert here, and Wanz agreed.

He will perform original music at the concert, including songs from his 2013 EP “Wander.” He sings not only hip-hop, but also jazz, pop, rock, blues and funk.

He’d long pursued music but had given up on his childhood dreams of stardom. “I knew there was no such thing as an old pop star,” he said.

Then, during the summer of 2012, he got a call. Macklemore — whom at the time he hadn’t heard of — was looking for a singer who sounded like the late hip-hop artist Nate Dogg, who’d worked with Warren G, Eminem and Tupac Shakur, among others.

“I had that reputation,” he said. He was offered the gig, went to a studio and spent about 45 minutes singing, and that was that — until the song became a hit.

“I don’t think they saw it coming,” he said. “I definitely didn’t see any of it coming. I didn’t realize any of this stuff was real until probably mid-October (2012).”

Wanz spent three years on tour with Macklemore and Lewis, giving up his job as a software testing engineer.

“We played at The Fillmore in San Francisco, which is a place I’d known about since I was a kid,” he said. “I used to listen to concerts from The Fillmore on AM radio on Saturday nights, and there I was ready to play a sold-out show there.”

But if Wanz was shocked to find himself a pop star in his 50s, his life is not all that different than it was before “Thrift Shop.” He’s once again working as a software engineer and continuing to work on his music.

He’s not performing much right now, and he’s excited to be sharing his talent with Olympia and helping young people.

In addition to raising awareness of The Bridge and what it does for the youths who participate, the concert series aims to bring awareness and attention to Artesian Commons Park and to bring people together.

“The concerts are something for the whole community,” Williams said. “They’re for the youth who are there at the park, and they’re also for the community at large.”

The series, in its second year, has more than achieved its aims this summer, he said.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We’ve had great crowds. There’s been a lot of positive energy, and the feedback has been really encouraging.”

Wanz concert

What: Wanz, who sang on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s Grammy-winning “Thrift Shop,” plays a free concert for The Bridge, a Community Youth Services program that teaches youths to write and perform hip-hop songs. Also on the lineup are Double B & Laces, the Old Growth Poetry Collective and youth performers from The Bridge and The Beat Box Studio.

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday (July 22).

Where: Artesian Commons Park, 415 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.

Tickets: Free.

Information: communityyouthservices.org/bridge.shtml, bwilliams@communityyouthservices.org, wanzmusic.com.

Watch: Check out the video for “Get Lucky,” off Wanz’s EP “Wander,” at youtube.com/watch?v=0LrTwsiVga4.

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