Remake, Remodel: The State Theatre rises once again


State Theatre, grand opening, March 1942

The State Theatre's grand opening, March 1942. Eck Stanger/Ann Arbor News photo from oldnews.aadl.org.

The March 17, 1942, edition of The Ann Arbor News was mental about the State.

The paper’s entire second section was dedicated to the first movie theater to open in Ann Arbor since the Michigan Theater flung open its doors Jan. 5, 1928. “ABLAZE WITH RADIANT BEAUTY” trumpeted the all-caps headline above a glowing black-and-white photo of the State Theatre’s gorgeous marquee. At least 18 stories were published about the State (“New Local Theater Most Modern Found in Michigan”), its owners (“Butterfield Theaters, Inc. Now Operating 114 Houses”), and other film-related tales, including “Opening Of New Theater Revives Memories Here Of Student Riot In 1908,” which destroyed Ann Arbor’s original movie house, The Star.

And the section was filled with congratulatory advertising, including one headlined “The New Pride of Ann Arbor,” purchased by the George W. Auch Co., the State Theatre’s general contractor, though 35 different firms worked on the build.

That edition of the newspaper was a full-on love letter to the State Theatre, and The Michigan Daily was similarly smitten, dedicating six pages to movie-house-related stories.

There’s akin ardor in today’s digital-media realm about the venerated movie house’s latest reinvention, which opens its doors to members on Friday, Dec. 8 and to the public on Saturday, Dec. 9.

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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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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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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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Mini MoogFest 2017: Mike Dykehouse


#modularsynth #eurorack #computer #rock #riot #manic #electromagneticpulse #mantra #speakingintongues #haunted #medical #equipment

A post shared by Michael Dykehouse (@michaeldykehouse) on

In addition to being a remarkable painter, Mike Dykehouse is an immensely creative musician. But after his Dynamic Obsolescence (2001) album on the influential British electronica Planet Mu and another on Ghostly International with the shoegaze-y Midrange (2004), Dykehouse mostly went underground.

Or rather, to Instagram.

Dykehouse's daily video clips of new synth jams -- ranging from straight-up techno and boogie-bass electro to hip-hop boom-bap and exploratory noise -- are often highlights of his followers' days. (Am I projecting?)

In a rare live appearance, Dykehouse will demonstrate the latest version of his ever-changing modular synth setup at Mini MoogFest, giving listeners a front-row seat to his daily sonic rituals.

We talked to Dykehouse about his Mini MoogFest plans, the gear he's bringing, and asked him to name his favorite synth-related recordings. But to evoke the immortal Joe Perry Project, Dykehouse mostly lets the music do the talking.

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