Community Now: Mikey Mike and the Big Unit take WSAZ by storm!


By Andrew McManus



Last Friday (Feb 28th) a local talent was seen on WSAZ midday. I had seen them at various venues and felt this was a perfect time to highlight a real treasure in our town. I encourage you to look through WSAZ’s website as well as social media and check out the band. After seeing the outpour of support I reached out to Chelsea Watkins (lead vocals) for a Q and A on their group and how the WSAZ act came about. First, she told me that Eli Vestich reached out to Alan Brown at WSAZ. He had seen other acts (Creek Don’t Rise, Mothman, and Reverend Electric) playing so reached out to a contact who got in him touch with Alan Brown. Very cool.

Next Chelsea and I sat down for our Q and A and I’ll present it to you exactly how I interviewed her.

First, tell me about the members and what is their instrument/talent of choice?

Eli Vestich – Guitar/Vocals

Jacob Ankrom- Bass/Vocals

Nick Nichols- Drums/Vocals

Tony Mckrimmon- Saxophone

Don Smith- Keyboard/Vocals

Chelsea Watkins- Lead Vocals

Each member of the band has a profession separate from the Unit that they are passionate about. For example, Tony Mckrimmon is the Band Director for Portsmouth High school.

Next, how did the band come together?

It started out with Eli, Jacob, Nick, and I. I had known Eli and Jacob from another band they were in, Uncle Eli and the Poets of Woo. I was an honorary member of the Poets of Woo. One day Eli messages me and asks if I would be interested in starting a blues band and I couldn’t resist!! We picked up people along the way such as Don and Tony and the rest is history

Your biggest and smallest venues?

We do various gigs from bar gigs to festivals, to fundraisers and weddings and birthday parties and everything in between. We think of WSAZ as our biggest Venue although we have the upcoming Lebanon Blues Festival which is pretty big. Our smallest was probably Franknsteins but we play at various venues.

What do you think makes your band special?

Each member of the band comes from different and diverse backgrounds and walks of life – bringing with us our own individual talents and influences that when combined, create the Big Unit sound you know today. Improv is one of our strongest suits and we have excelled at being quick on our feet. Also, everything we do, we always seek to be on the same page with each other. We share the same goals and vision for where we see us going and are willing to put in the same amount of blood, sweat, and tears to accomplish those goals.

Why was the WSAZ gig so important?

The biggest stage is always going to be on-screen and there’s no better way to, not only, show people that Portsmouth, Ohio still has a great music scene but that the blues genre is very much alive and well. The band agreed that it would be a great opportunity to reach a larger audience and our guitarist, Eli Vestich, talked to the lovely folks over at WSAZ and they hooked us up with a spot. We had an amazing time and we’d love to do it again, or something similar, in the future.

In closing tell me your hopes for the future?

We’re currently working on our original material and once everyone feels comfortable, we’d love to get into a studio and commit our sound to tape (or .wav, rather) and start hitting the road. The goal is to get out and play as much as possible so our hopes are set on touring, as well as writing and recording.

I want to congratulate the band and thank them for giving us yet another outlet to promote OUR town. They say The Beatles really took off after their act on the Ed Sullivan Show. Who knows?

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By Andrew McManus