Concert Review: Mike & Joe serve as grand finale to 2005's Waterfront City Stage

Noise from every direction filled the air as the On the Waterfront (OTW) festival came to a close Sunday night, Sept. 4. The streets were still overcrowded, and nobody seemed to want to go home.

Standing in front of the City Stage, everything seemed to stand still, and the only noise heard was the captivating sound of Mike & Joe as they made the song covers they were playing their own.

Some of the audience stared with what looked like wonder in their eyes. Perhaps they were wondering who this band was that hit every note perfectly and sounded identical to all of the artists they covered.

This highly popular, college-venue band is originally from Indiana, and started their careers with a random open mic session for which a friend had signed them up.

At the time, Mike Notaro and Joe Valentino, both acoustic and electric guitarists who sing, used to play together informally for the sheer amusement of their friends. It was at this time that one of those friends signed them up for an open mic night at a local Indiana University bar called Peanut Barrel.

The Peanut Barrel would, in turn, be the place where Mike and Joe got their start. After an amazing turnout to the open mic night, the boys were asked to play that following Friday as regular entertainment.

The night of that particular show, Mike and Joe began a real band, but still needed a name for their act. Thinking quickly, Joe suggested they just use their first names. At last, the Mike & Joe band was created.

Mike & Joe became regulars at the Peanut Barrel and would soon hold a strong fan base. They started to play at other college towns, including Purdue University and University of Illinois.

The duo started playing at bars wherever they could. Through their previous contacts, they started to get gigs in mainstream clubs in Chicago that would normally be reserved only for complete bands.

At this time, the boys started to discuss expanding to a full band and held auditions for two new members. Marc Blackwell (bass/vocals) and Aaron Streich (drums/vocals) auditioned and were chosen as the best to be part of the project.

During their breaks between shows, Joe was doing a lot of songwriting. This eventually led to their first original CD, This Dream.

With all of this going on, all four of them attempted to change the band’s name, but failed when they confused fans. They attempted to keep their duo act as Mike & Joe, but also have the full band act with the name Michelanjelo.

The band stuck with the name Mike & Joe, since so many fans preferred the name they were already used to. Even though the band dropped the other name, they still released an album under it titled Michelanjelo Live at the Bandstand.

This album of originals was recorded live at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in conjunction with Clark’s organization and Anheuser Busch.

Their next two CDs would be live “bootleg” CDs due to the demand of fans who wanted to record them live. By this time, they have expanded their touring area and have been playing in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Iowa at mostly colleges and universities.

Nowadays, the band is working on its third original song album, playing about 170 shows a year. The group is now called one of the most watched cover bands in the Midwest.

While playing at OTW, old fans and new listeners cheered, screamed and sang along with the familiar songs Mike & Joe played. Covers included songs by bands like U2 and the Dave Matthews Band. Their set-list contains a variety of oldies, New Age and classic music.

Mike & Joe’s next show will be Sept. 8 in Macomb, Ill. For an entire list of tour dates, pictures, biographies, lyrics, downloads, merchandise and booking information, visit

From the Sept. 7-13, 2005, issue

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