Funky Flights: Chirp to welcome 2018 with a new album


"This is for all you strutters out there," announced Jay Frydenlund midway through Chirp’s headlining set at the Blind Pig on Saturday. On cue, the Ypsi-based quartet of fusion rockers launched into a swaggering, deep-pocket jam ("Dickerville") that sent an obvious ripple through the crowd as folks remembered what they came for and got their boogie on.

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Sonic Sculpture: Adam Shead's "Adiaphora Music," a master's recital


Adam Shead

Adam Shead's mix of punk, free jazz, and university-trained music gives his compositions a combination of raw grit and deep study.

As someone with a bachelor's of music in percussion performance from Columbia College Chicago and, soon, a master's degree in improvisation from the University of Michigan, drummer Adam Shead sounds like an academic.

But while growing up in South Bend, Indiana, it was hardcore punk that first informed Shead's attitude and artistic aesthetic.

That combination of academic rigor and raw energy is what makes Shead's drumming such a potent force, which he'll get demonstrate live on Friday, Dec. 8, at U-M's Duderstadt Video Studio when he presents his master's recital, Adiaphora Music. The seven-part suite features 11 musicians along with Shead exploring his influences, which run from Chicago visionaries AACM, Ken Vandermark, and Tim Daisy to South Africa's Dudu Pukwana, and contemporary classical giants Morton Feldman and John Luther Adams to H.R., lead singer of the groundbreaking punk band Bad Brains.

We talked to Shead about his philosophy, sound, and the meaning of Adiaphora Music.

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Ebird & Friends celebrate the holidays & A2’s musical diversity at The Ark


Erin Zindle, Ebird & Friends Holiday Show

Erin Zindle's annual Ebird & Friends Holiday Show is a December tradition.

Growing up, Erin Zindle -- leader of the Ann Arbor global-roots band The Ragbirds -- loved her extended family’s Christmas Eve gatherings. Her “very large and very musical family” would traditionally gather to perform Christmas songs together.

“It was my favorite thing all year round. Honestly, it was better than the presents,” she says. “I was known for making everyone sing all seven verses of everything. I didn’t want it to end.”

That’s the spirit she and her fellow musicians will re-create at the annual Ebird and Friends Holiday Show at The Ark Dec. 7-9. “It was just a real natural extension of that childhood experience,” Zindle says. And indeed, the holiday concert has become a tradition all its own, now marking its 10th year.

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Kick Out the Hams: Wild Savages' "Queen Bee" video


Do you remember the days before the smoking ban when you'd leave a concert smelling of stale cigarettes and cheap beer, and the stench would permeate your rusted-out car on the late-night ride home, lingering in your nose the next morning?

Wild Savages are the soundtrack for that drive.

The Ann Arbor trio plays bluesy proto-metal that would not have been out of place on WRIF in 1980. Think of Wild Savages as part of the 1970s Black Sabbath, Foghat, and Nazareth lineage that has produced contemporary bands like Red Fang, Saviours, and The Sword.

"Queen Bee" is the first single off the band's second album, Stagefright, which is being feted with a free record-release concert at The Blind Pig on Saturday, Dec. 16. Wild Savages goof around in the video by mugging for the camera like 1980s hair-metal bands, shotgunning beers, and playing bass on the toilet.

In other words, it's totally great.

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All in the Family: Saxophonist Peter Formanek's senior recital


Peter Formanek is a 22-year-old saxophonist who is about to graduate from the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

But he's been studying music with a Ph.D.-level teacher his whole life.

His father, Michael Formanek, toured with giants like Tony Williams and Joe Henderson when he was still a teen in the early 1970s, and he went on to play with Freddie Hubbard, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Tim Berne, and Fred Hersch, among many others. He also records as a leader for ECM Records, one of the greatest jazz and classical labels ever.

As the younger Formanek mentioned at Love Songs, his senior recital on Monday, Nov. 27, at Kerrytown Concert House, there were always great musicians coming over to his family's home in Baltimore, Md. As he said while introducing his father, who joined him for the evening's final song, "I'm going to call up my dad, who is not only the person responsible for getting me into music but also giving me so many musical opportunities and access to all these really, really amazing musicians that I've been able to be around my entire life."

Formanek live-streamed his recital, which is archived on YouTube. (There will also be a high-quality edited version with audio from the board.) Below you'll find the list of musicians who joined him and the set list, which includes songs by Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter, along with four Formanek originals -- three by Peter and the set closer by his dad.

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Synthesize Your Life: A wrap-up of Mini MoogFest 2017


Mini MoogFest 2017

MoogFest visitor jams on a Korg tinyPiano in an impromptu duet with Earth, Wind & Fire's Larry Dunn on the big screen. Photo by Christopher Porter.

If we Ann Arbor District Library staffers were excited synthesizers, we'd be whooping with pitch-bent, major-key oscillations from the joy Mini MoogFest 2017 brought us. Our third annual iteration of this event greatly expanded upon our two previous offerings, and we had a fully packed house at the Downtown Library on Saturday, Nov. 18.

Librarians on the scene estimated that over 350 people -- including around 75 kids -- made their way through Mini MoogFest, where they built synths using littleBits, played around with AADL's Music Tools, and enjoyed live performances from area electronica artists.

Below is a roundup of photos, videos, and social media posts covering Mini MoogFest 2017.

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Thanksgiving Tradition: Matt Watroba at The Ark


Matt Watroba

Matt Watroba's annual post-Turkey Day shows at The Ark have become an Ann Arbor institution.

Thanksgiving is all about traditions. And over the last couple of decades, one tradition that has taken root in Ann Arbor is Matt Watroba’s Day-After-Thanksgiving Concert at The Ark.

The well-known Michigan performer, songwriter, and radio host isn’t exactly sure how long he’s been doing the concert on the day after the holiday, but he estimates it’s been about 25 years. It’s become his most popular annual gig, and he knows some families incorporate it into their regular holiday plans.

“It has taken on a real community feel,” he says. “People are actually making it a tradition.”

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Orchestrated Mahavishnu: John McLaughlin & Co. at Michigan Theater


Sphinx Virtuosi by Kevin Kennedy

Jimmy Herring (left in both photos) played a set with his new band, The Invisible Whip, before joining John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension to fire up some Mahavishnu Orchestra burners. Photos by Kim Allegrezza/Mistry Grove Photography (left) and Ina McLaughlin (right).

John McLaughlin’s farewell tour bus pulled into Ann Arbor on Wednesday night and delivered the goods with a program titled Mahavishnu Revisited. McLaughlin was backed by The 4th Dimension for most of the show, with openers Jimmy Herring and The Invisible Whip joining them on stage at the Michigan Theater for a symphony of sound dedicated to exploring the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra.

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Mini MoogFest 2017: Sound Science


Mini MoogFest 2017

Mini MoogFest will give you a hands-on chance to dabble in bleeps and bloops, play with music gear, and see artists perform on vintage and home-built synthesizers.

Robert Moog had no musical talent. But his talents changed music.

At the age of 15, Moog built his first Theremin, the ghostly, no-touch instrument created by Leon Theremin in the 1920s that used the amplitude and voltage of radio waves to manipulate two oscillators controlling pitch and volume. Moog continued to use his engineering skills to fine-tune these instruments, and by age 19 he was selling Theremin kits to help fund his college studies.

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Mini MoogFest 2017: North Coast Modular Collective


The North Coast Modular Collective is like a modular synthesizer: made up of many parts to create a sonic whole. The group is a loose collection of Washtenaw County-area musicians and creators who teamed up earlier this year and pooled their talents to share gear, create new instruments, and trade ideas.

The trio of Joe Bauer, Dan Blades, and Bill Van Loo will represent the collective at Mini MoogFest, and we asked them their about plans for the event, the gear they'll be using, and their favorite synth-leaning recordings. (Also, here's a primer on Eurorack synths, which the collective mentions several times.)

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