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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Midwest Meditations: Cal Freeman, "Fight Songs" at Literati


Cal Freeman Fight Songs

The new Midwest: Cal Freeman's Fight Songs is full of Rust Belt ruminations. Photo by Shadia Amen.

“This is a lot of people for a poetry reading," said writer Cal Freeman. "I’ve read for three people before.” On Nov. 11, Michigan poet Freeman read from his new book, Fight Songs, at Literati bookstore. The crisp November evening seemed perfect for listening to regionally focused poetry as the temperature made its way downward.

Freeman is the kind of poet I would have spent a semester in a creative writing class peeking at over a copy of the latest student work being workshopped. He’s tall, though not quite lanky, and was dressed in mostly gray. I wouldn’t describe his look as rumpled, but the word crossed my mind. Very Midwestern.

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She's Picking Up Good Vibrations: Lynn Comella, "Vibrator Nation" at Literati


Lynn Comella, Vibrator Nation

Babes in toyland: Lynn Comella studied the feminist sex-toy industry for her new book, Vibrator Nation.

When it comes to other adults’ sexual choices, I’m very live and let live. And in my personal life, I’m very willing to make a joke or tell a story laden with sexual innuendo, and I’ve long ago accepted that I’m the person who will robustly fall face-first into a strange double-entendre, I found myself a bit shy at the bookstore when I purchased my copy of Lynn Comella’s Vibrator Nation in advance of attending her discussion of the book which took place on November 14th at Literati.

This book was based on more than 80 in-depth interviews with sex-toy shop owners, employees of said stores, and pornographers. Comella herself worked at Babeland in New York City, which provided her ethnographic access from both sides of the sales counter. Her book synthesizes this and examines the role of feminist sex-toy stores on the larger adult industry.

Why study sex-toy shops?

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Glowing Highlights: Laverne Cox at U-M's Center for the Education of Women symposium


Laverne Cox

Nailed it: Laverne Cox photo shoot for her collaboration with Orly nail polish.

When Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox walked out onto the Rackham stage, my immediate thought is that she is even more beautiful in person than on screen or in photos, and I don’t exactly understand how this is possible. She looks as though the sun is shining directly on her. I think maybe this is what actually mastering the art of highlighting looks like, but I’m also sure I could put on all the makeup in the world and I would still never look like that.

I’d like to say that as soon as she started speaking, all such frivolous thoughts left my head, but frankly, that would be a lie. I did settle in with the rest of the sold-out crowd that has come to see her as the keynote speaker on Nov. 15 for the 2017 CEW Spectrum of Advocacy & Activism Symposium put on by the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan, and for the next hour and a half, listened to a great (if slightly scattered) talk that encompassed gender and race theory, her life story, and how the Ann Arbor community should respond should white supremacist Richard Spencer come to campus.

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Cast gives strong performance in U-M’s "Blood at the Root"


High school is a tough time in anyone’s life. It’s a time when we invent ourselves several times over and never get it quite right. Throw some deep racial tension into the mix and things can become explosive.

In 2006, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, La., was beaten by six black students. The beating followed a racially charged week. A new black student at the high school dared to sit under a shade tree unofficially reserved for whites only. The next day, three nooses were hung from the tree. More incidents followed, including a damaging fire at the school. The six students were arrested and initially charged with attempted second-degree murder, later reduced to aggravated battery. The events led to a protest against what some thought were excessive and discriminatory treatment of the six students.

Playwright Dominique Morisseau uses these events for Blood at the Root, a fictional story that explores how the young students, black and white, react to these events and how they struggle to define themselves beyond the broad stereotypes they’ve been assigned. The play deals with the protests, but Morisseau, who is black, is more interested in the emotional impact of these events on young adults trying to find themselves.

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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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Mini MoogFest 2017: Sean Curtis Patrick


Sean Curtis Patrick gear, Mini Moog Fest 2017

Sean Curtis Patrick will work with the two setups shown here: one is a more playable unit and the other is more for texture.

Sean Curtis Patrick is a visual artist who also makes music, so it's not unreasonable to expect when he and fellow visual artisan Kendall Babl team up with Chuck Sipperley -- expert DJ and super-synther in Hydropark and [
https://uticasound.bandcamp.com|Utica] -- the trio will paint electronic aural sculptures in your mind, MAAAAAAAAAN.

We asked Patrick what the group's plans are for the festival, the gear he'll be using, and received recommendations for his favorite synth-leaning recordings.

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Mini MoogFest 2017: Alex Taam


Alex Taam, Mogi Grumbles

Alex Taam performing as Mogi Grumbles in AADL's Secret Lab on Febraury 28, 2017. See the two performances here.

Alex Taam is a recording-studio engineer, composer, and all around gearhead. His mastery of synths is one of the reasons why we asked him to write and record two songs using instruments from AADL's Music Tools collection, which he did in February. Taam's knowledge about all things electronica is also the reason why we asked him to help us host Mini MoogFest. He'll be on hand to demonstrate some instruments, including a modular synth, and guide you through many of the other instruments we'll have on display for hands-on play.

We talked to Taam about his Mini MoogFest plans, the gear he's bringing, and asked him to name his favorite synth-related recordings.

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