Van Go Go Makes Magic At The Magic Bag

After a twelve-plus-year break and a pandemic, Detroit's Van Go Go returns to the Magic Bag in Ferndale for a long-awaited show.

Headlining band, Van Go Go, at the Magic Bag in Ferndale on May 20,2021. (Photo/ Scott Whiteman)

Ferndale, Michigan – If you missed the Van Go Go with special guests Visitor and Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters at the Magic Bag Friday night, well mister (or missy don’t want to miss anyone), I think there is something wrong with you. Van Go Go is one of those bands that has everything going for them…at least that is what I saw on the stage. Sound, attitude, and that special something that is hard to describe but everyone knows it when they see it and it was on display at the Music Bag stage on May 20, 2022. 

Included on the bill, at the Magic Bag, were some talented people that you should get to know (if you have not already heard of them). Visitor, an alt-rock foursome that includes Randy Gray (vocals/rhythm guitar), Steve Dombroski (guitar), Will Pierce (drums) and Dustin Buckley (bass). Plus Indiana’s own Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters which is scheduled to open the show.

Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters opening up for the Detroit Band Van Go Go at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. (Photo/ Scott Whiteman)

Van Go Go was formed after Nathan Mackinder and Jason Schaller band South Normal broke up in 2007. Wanting to keep going, Mackinder and Schaller auditioned some musicians to fill the empty slots of drummer and bassist. Soon Van Go Go was born. But unfortunately, the newly formed band didn’t last long. After nine months of forming the band, the two founding members decided they were burned out and called it quits.

Fast forward a few years later, in October of 2020, with a pandemic hitting the world, Van Go Go was reborn…you could say. The members of the band reconnected and decided it was time to “finish the story” of the music and the band that was originally started so many years ago. The current lineup for Van Go Go includes Nathan Mackinder (vocals/guitar), Jason Schaller (lead guitar/vocals) Paxton Olney (bass/vocals), and Jonah Brockman (drums/vocals).

After what I saw Friday night, it was a good decision.

As the show started to get rolling, Nick Dittmeier & the Sawdusters opened up to a receptive audience. They played some of their original music for the crowd, even one about an alien. They even played their newly released single, which was just released on Spotify on May 20, 2022, ‘I Suppose’.  The single was from the band’s album Heavy Denim. The band entertained the audience for approximately 45 minutes with their set of songs.

Visitor is one of the opening acts on the Van Go Go bill at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. L-R Steve Dombroski (guitar),Will Pierce (drums), Randy Gray (vocals/rhythm guitar), and Dustin Buckley (bass). (Photo/ Scott Whiteman)

The second opener (not sure if that is a thing, but we will go with it) was a local band from Michigan known as Visitor. A local DJ from one of the major radio stations introduced the band. At the beginning of the set, Pierce had a slight technical issue with the drum set. To fill time Gray, Dombroski, and Buckley played an extended intro to their song, just like professionals. Visitor was full of energy and great music. Towards the end of the set, the band did cover a Stone Temple Pilots song, ‘Plush’. Gray was able to get the audience to sing the chorus. Visitor set was approximately 46 minutes long. This is one band that will be going places in the future.

Members of the band Van Go Go give a check of 1,000 dollars to the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee representative. (Photo/ Scott Whiteman)

After a brief pause, for teardown and set up, it was time for the members of Van Go Go to hit the stage. But before the band started their set, there was a bit of a pause. The members came up on stage to give a check of 1,000 dollars to the Ukrainian-American Crisis Response Committee representative. Come to find out that portion of the events tickets, as shirt sales and particular drink profits were being donated to help with medical supplies. (If you are interested in donating, you can go to

Time for the main attraction.

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When the presentation finished the members got off the stage and it went to black. A slide show started on the screen behind the drums. The slides were telling the band’s backstory. Basically what was mentioned at the beginning of this article. The images contained city shots of Detroit as well as a variety of other images. Each slide told another piece of the history of the band. 

As the slides concluded, it was time for the music to start. You can say that this was a show that was more than just a concert. Back in 2021, Van Go Go released their self-titled album and last night was, in my opinion, an unofficial release party of that album. (They couldn’t do a release part back in 2021 because the world was still upside down.) Many of the songs that they played for the audience were from that self-titled album. The best way to describe their sound would be something from the Nineties, at least to me. It was a pleasant change for the ears.

Also included, in last night’s performance, was a guitar rendition of the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ done by guitarist Jason Schaller.  (Come on. You don’t see that at many concerts, do you?) Mixed in the set, outside of original cuts, the band played a few covers as well. Including songs from Bryan Adams, ‘Summer of ‘69’, and Fleetwood Mac, ‘Go Your Own Way’.

Nathan Mackinder and Jason Schaller, from the band Van Go Go. (Photo / Scott Whiteman)

The show was worth the twelve-year wait. It lasted approximately an hour and fifteen minutes and it was worth it. There was even an encore added to the show when the crowd started shouting or demanding another song from the band, which was their song ‘Big Mistake’. You can tell that the members appeared to be having fun as well as being appreciative of what they were doing. For me personally, that is rare to see in a band.

In closing, it is simple to say. If you get a chance to see Van Go Go live in concert, you should take the opportunity to do so. They will be playing in a few spots in Michigan as well as The Blue Ridge Rock Festival. If you have the tickets, go. You won’t be disappointed, I know I wasn’t.

Show Date: May 20, 2022