Pages From the Past: Book of Love returns to Necto 30 years later


The last time Book of Love played Ann Arbor, the Necto was the Nectarine Ballroom and The Michigan Daily led its preview of the show with a Walkman reference.

That concert was March 3, 1987.

Now, 30 years later, the melody-driven synth-pop group is returning as part of an ongoing tour that kicked off last year with the release of MMXVI – Book of Love – The 30th Anniversary Collection.

“We call them anniversary shows,” said primary songwriter Ted Ottaviano who tours with singer Susan Ottaviano (no relation). “We’ve had reunion shows where we’ve had the (founding) four members, but that’s not easy to pull off. We’ve only done three of them and we specifically did them in the three major cities throughout our career.”

The other original members, Lauren Roselli (keyboards, vocals) and Jade Lee (keyboards, vocals), are still a part of Book of Love officially, but with busy lives outside the band, they can’t hit the road with the other two. “It essentially works because you have the lead vocalist and I’ve been the main songwriter, so the essence of the group is intact,” Ottaviano said.

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The Understorey will showcase its eclectic sound at Top of the Park, Ann Arbor Art Fair


Ann Arbor band The Understorey is a labor of more than one kind of love.

There’s the obvious care and attention the band puts into its music, an engaging blend of folk, rock, and soul. But there’s also the fact that the core of the band is a married couple, Matt and Jess McCumons, whose public debut as performers came at their own wedding.

Both of them had musical backgrounds, so the idea of performing together came naturally. Their wedding debut featured Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day,” and that smoothly led to the creation of The Understorey in its first incarnation as a duo, with Jess on vocals and Matt on guitar.

For the last several years, though, they’ve performed as a full band, and that’s the format that will be showcased at two iconic elements of summer in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park Rackham Stage, and The Ark stage at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.

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Mitten Music: Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour


Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour

Neil Woodward, Michigan's Troubadour.

Michigan's Troubadour will make a stop at The Ark on Sunday, June 11, at 7:30 pm. And, no, Michigan’s Troubadour is not a fanciful title, it’s Neil Woodward’s official designation, given to him several years ago by the Legislature of the State of Michigan in recognition of his more than four decades of presenting concerts of songs and stories of Michigan and the Great Lakes States in countless settings throughout the Midwest.

Woodward’s show at The Ark will celebrate the release of his 10th recording, My Huckleberry Friends. Woodward has long been the unofficial artist in residence at Flint’s Crossroads Village, a 19th-century historical town, and the songs on this CD celebrate the Village and one of its highlights, the Huckleberry Railroad. I asked him to tell us about his life in music, about this recording, and about the concert at The Ark.

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Diana Krall kicked off Ann Arbor Summer Festival with a night of sensuous songs


Diana Krall

Diana Krall had "the best seat in the house" on Tuesday at Hill.

Chart-topping jazz pianist/singer Diana Krall kicked off the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s main stage season on Tuesday night by making the nearly packed 3,500 seat Hill Auditorium feel as intimate and cozy as The Bird of Paradise.

That long-gone Main St. jazz club, which closed in 2004 after nearly 20 years in business, hosted performances from Krall early in her career (which she mentioned early in the evening); and I’m likely not the only one who had flashbacks of being in that smaller space again as Krall opened Tuesday night’s show with her fun, flirty take on “‘Deed I Do,” and then, shortly after, applied delicate, quiet keystrokes on the Nat King Cole hit “L.O.V.E.” – a song featured on Krall’s latest album, Turn Up the Quiet just released in May.

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Cry of Joy: The Sea The Sea at The Ark


The Sea The Sea

Sea-faring couple: Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa make beautiful music together.

Sometimes the best way to describe a band is to let the musicians do it themselves.

"Indie folk/pop duo band! Harmony-based, lyric-driven, simple and true," the married couple Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa wrote in an email about their duo, The Sea The Sea. "But the best way for us to describe it is to just say, come to a show! We’d love to sing for you."

You'll have a chance to be sung to by The Sea The Sea on Wednesday, June 7, when the duo returns to The Ark.

The ambiance and intimacy of the upstate New York couple's music evokes old-time folk, the mellow side of modern pop, and the technical precision of something not quite classical but not far from it. When you add in their thoughtful, intricate lyrics and their impeccably blended vocal harmonies, you’ve got music and musicians that are engaging on many levels.

I reached out to The Sea The Sea to ask them about the couple's union, the source of the band's name, and Stanley's time in Ann Arbor as a U-M student.

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Laith Al-Saadi kicks off Sonic Lunch 2017


Laith Al-Saadi kicks off Sonic Lunch

Laith Al-Saadi kicks off the 10th edition of the free Sonic Lunch concert series. Photo by Liz Grapentine.

Any Ann Arbor townie will tell you there’s one place to be at 12 noon on Thursdays in late spring through the end of August: at Liberty Plaza for Sonic Lunch

On June 1, Sonic Lunch kicked-off its 10th year of free, live music events, and it had one of its local stars opening the season: Laith Al-Saadi, an Ann Arbor “hometown blues-rock hero,” in the words of Martin Bandyke from local radio station 107.1.

When I made my way past some roadblock barriers and into Liberty Plaza, I’d shown up just 5 minutes before noon and the place was already packed. I should have predicted as much with the gorgeous weather that day, not a cloud in sight. What I didn’t predict was no open spots or shade in sight, either. This poor ginger didn’t even think to bring her sunblock as she stood in the midday rays for an hour, but the chance to hear Al-Saadi’s performance was worth the sunburn.

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Full STEAM Ahead: Intermitten highlights the intersection of art and tech

A lot of folks blame the influx of tech companies in Ann Arbor as a prime reason for the rising rents that have gradually pushed portions of the creative community out of downtown. The Intermitten conference returns June 8 and 9 to remind us that artistic adventure and modern business success don't need to be mutually exclusive or adversarial (even if there's no immediate solution to the rent situation).

Now in its second year, Intermitten brings together speakers to discuss how "how creativity in both art and technology helps us add value to our home, work, and global communities," as stated on intermitten.org. "We're technology people with creative prowess and artistic people powered by tech, and we unite to discover the many ways in which working together and thinking creatively can help us accomplish our goals."

Trevor Scott Mays, co-founder of Intermitten and director of support operations for Duo Security, walked us through the event's brief history, current focus, and bright future.

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String Things: Wire in the Wood goes on the record with "All Fall Apart"


Wire in the Wood

Wire in the Wood brings the strings to Taste of Ann Arbor (June 4) and ABC Microbrewery (June 5).

The Ann Arbor-based rootsy string band Wire in the Wood has been playing in various incarnations for around 10 years, building a reputation as a creative and skilled live act. But until this year, the group had never gotten around to releasing an album.

“At this point we probably have like 60 songs,” says frontman and guitarist Billy Kirst. “And maybe three years ago, I said, ‘I’m not booking any more shows until we record an album.’ So we didn’t play for a little over a year … and we recorded the album.”

Recorded at Jim Roll’s Backseat Productions and released earlier this year, the album, All Fall Apart, showcases Kirst’s songwriting and the virtuoso playing of all the band’s members, including Jordan Adema (violin), Ryan Shea (bass), and Michael Spaly (mandolin). The sound Wire in the Wood creates weaves together elements of bluegrass, swing, jam-band improvisation, and beyond.

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Distorted Joy: Fuzz Fest 4 at The Bling Pig


Fuzz Fest 4

Posters for Fuzz Fest 3 and 4 by Jeremy Wheeler.

When Chris "Box" Taylor says "fuzz" is a "feeling," he's not being emo. He means it quite literally.

Fortunately for music lovers, he's not selfish with the joyous sounds of distortion.

If you live in Ann Arbor and you're into rock 'n' roll, you've likely crossed paths with Taylor, either by attending his annual Fuzz Fest, the long-running dance party The Bang!, or having witnessed one of his many bands tear up the stage at Woodruff's, The Blind Pig, or the now-defunct Elbow Room in Ypsi. Whether opening the blast doors with longtime cosmic rockers Mazinga, transporting you to "Sleeping Mountain" with his band Blue Snaggletooth, or simply whipping up a guitar frenzy as a member of Scott Morgan's Powertrane, Taylor carries that fuzzy feeling with him everywhere he plays.

I distinctly remember walking into Woodruff's in Ypsilanti the opening night of the first Fuzz Fest in 2014. The moment I stepped over the threshold and into the bar, each throbbing bass note rattled my marrow, and each kick of the drum was like a blow to the chest. The music was alive, and neither the thick boots on my feet nor the sturdy jacket on my shoulders could shield me from the penetrating soundwaves.

Meanwhile, as the four members of Bison Machine blasted away at their instruments in a blur of sonic fury, the psychedelic light show above turned my gray matter every shade of the rainbow.

This was an all-out assault on the senses, and it was glorious.

On June 1-3, Fuzz Fest 4 will take over The Blind Pig. With 33 bands preparing to descend upon Ann Arbor, with The Overhead Army on psychedelic light duties, it's a damn shame the students will miss out on what promises to be the kick-off event of the summer.

Fortunately for Pulp readers, Taylor was kind enough to take some time out from organizing this massive undertaking to give us a sneak preview of what we can expect once the amps are stacked, and the bands hit the stage.

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From the Sludgy Banks of the Huron: Bubak at FuzzFest 4


Bubak

Ypsi doom-rock duo Bubak are not scarecrow-looking creatures from Czech folklore.

If you feel lured by some mysterious wailing over the next couple of weeks, be warned. Like the shadowy, mythic figure of its namesake, Ypsilanti-based stoner-metal duo Bubak are skilled in deception, masking sinister riffs and morbid tales within hook-filled earworms from which you may never escape.

"Bubak is from Czech folklore: pretty much their version of a Boogeyman," said drummer Justin O'Neill by email. This "scarecrow-looking creature, whose face is usually obscured by its hat," hides out by riverbanks and makes sounds like a baby crying, which lures unsuspecting victims to it. "Bubak then kills them, weaves their souls into garments, rides around in a cart pulled by black cats ... y'know, like a Bubak does."

Also featuring Jeff West on bass and vocals, the band is effectively the rhythm section of defunct psychedelic-metal band Zen Banditos, which split up when guitarist Andy Furda left town.

Bubak released its debut EP late last year online. CDs are now available, too, and the duo still plan to press it on vinyl. Like its fantastic comic-horror cover art by Tony Fero, the EP's four songs are as fun as they are menacing, heavy on fuzzed-out chromatic bass runs, swaggering shuffle beats, and West's awesome growl.

We traded emails with O'Neill and West in advance of their Thursday, June 1, show as part of FuzzFest 4 at the Blind Pig.

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