Joshua Davis showcased new songs and old favorites at Sonic Lunch


Joshua Davis at Sonic Lunch

Photo by Leisa Thompson, courtesy of the Bank of Ann Arbor and Sonic Lunch. See the full gallery here.

Joshua Davis keeps getting better.

Thursday’s Sonic Lunch show by the longtime Michigan singer-songwriter mixed some old favorites, some cool covers, and some songs from his upcoming album, The Way Back Home. And while the music was great throughout, the new songs were the ones that really stood out.

The musicianship was impeccable. Davis’ guitar playing has become more ambitious over the years, and he handled several intricate solos with aplomb. And, following his successful run on The Voice a couple years back, his singing seems deeper and richer.

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May Erlewine & The Motivations brought a soulful groove to Sonic Lunch


May Erlewine & the Motivations at Sonic Lunch

Photo by Leisa Thompson, courtesy of the Bank of Ann Arbor and Sonic Lunch.

Michigan singer-songwriter May Erlewine is well known for her moving songwriting and expressive voice, generally showcased in a folk-country style with a slight pop edge. In recent months, though, she’s been working with more of a retro-soul sound -- and as everyone at Thursday’s Sonic Lunch saw and heard, the shift in style suits her very well.

“This winter, things got so bad I decided I had to have some dance parties to get through it,” she told the crowd. And that’s what she did Thursday, with her sharp six-piece band, The Motivations, playing an hour and a quarter of irresistible, infectious grooves in a mix of Erlewine originals and soul classics.

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New leader in place, UMS raises the baton for a new season


Ragmala Dance Company, Matthew VanBesien

Ragmala Dance Company's Written in Water sways into town Oct. 20. But new UMS president Matthew VanBesien is already in A2.

When the curtain rises on the new University Musical Society (UMS) season next month, for the first time in 30 years the venerable performing-arts presenting organization will do so with a new president. Matthew VanBesien comes to Ann Arbor from the presidency of the New York Philharmonic, but that’s not as big a leap as it might appear.

“I was born in the Midwest,” he explains during a recent interview. “I was definitely a product of good midwestern public school music education. I went to school at (Indiana University) for music. ... The times that I’ve been back in this part of the country, it always feels like home.

“Ann Arbor, of course, is a very special place. It’s hard to think of very many small cities in America that have the complete package the way this place does,” he adds. “I really value what’s here -- the environment, the spirit, the intellectual curiosity -- it’s terrific.”

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Livin' Large: Lyle Lovett & His Large Band at The Michigan Theater


Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at The Michigan Theater

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band filled up The Michigan Theater -- both on stage and with a sold-out house.

Fans of Lyle Lovett know a solo concert by the great Texas troubadour will be a reliably good time. But a show by Lovett with his Large Band, a 12-member ensemble of brilliant musicians -- well, that’s a real occasion, an event not to be missed.

The reasons for that were on full display Friday night at the Michigan Theater, as Lovett and his Large Band entertained a sold-out house for two and a half hours, exploring any number of different musical styles and evoking a full range of emotions.

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The Record Company lifted Sonic Lunch "Off the Ground"


The Record Company at Sonic Lunch

The Record Company doesn't need a guitar to rock Sonic Lunch. Photograph by Christopher Porter.

“We’re The Record Company, and we play rock-n-roll,” frontman Chris Vos said in opening and closing Thursday’s Sonic Lunch concert. He didn’t really need to say it, since any doubts about that would have been wiped out by the raucous and energetic hour of music in between.

Thursday’s show marked the public return of Martin Bandyke, popular local DJ for WQKL (107.1-FM) and longtime Sonic Lunch MC, who is recovering from recent heart surgery. Vos dedicated the show to him before the trio launched full force into the blues rocker “On the Move” -- one of the highlights of last year’s acclaimed and Grammy-nominated debut album, Give It Back to You -- with Vos punctuating his intense vocals with some equally intense harmonica lines. That led into their latest single, “Baby I’m Broken,” which if anything ramped up the energy level even further.

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Michigan Chamber Folk: Chris DuPont is “Live in A2" (and Ypsilanti)


Chris Dupont

Chris Dupont's new CD is a love letter to his loyal fans.

While building a reputation as a talented performer and songwriter, Ypsilanti’s Chris DuPont has kept up a schedule of releasing an album every couple of years. After three well-received studio outings, this year’s release is called Live in A2 -- and it developed as something of an accident.

“I honestly don’t really like live albums very much,” DuPont says with a smile. “There are a couple I love, but it’s not something I really imagined doing.”

But a soundboard recording was made of his show last year at The Ark. Listening to the results, he was struck by how good it sounded. So he decided to do a low-key release, with the first half of the album drawn from The Ark show and the second half featuring some concert favorites recorded “live in studio” at Ann Arbor’s Solid Sound Recording Co.

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Local Artists Reflect on Ann Arbor Art Fair


Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017

The poster for 2017's Ann Arbor Art Fair by Debo Groover.

The Ann Arbor Art Fair showcases the work of artists from around the country, but it’s also an important outlet for many local artists as well. Here, some working artists from the greater Ann Arbor area who are exhibiting this year share some thoughts on the event. The fair takes place July 20-23; for more information, see the Pulp preview article.

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Making the Most of the Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017


Ann Arbor Art Fair 2017

Looking down at the 1970 Art Fair from a cherry picker. Photo from artfair.aadl.org.

Whether you’ve never been to the Ann Arbor Art Fair before or you’re a veteran fairgoer, there’s always something new to learn that can improve your experience.

The top piece of advice from Karen Delhey, one of the event’s organizers: “Do your research. It’s really important to go on our website before you come out and make your plan of attack.”

Everyone’s interests and tastes are different, so Delhey suggests you figure out your own must-dos and must-sees ahead of time. Check out the list of artists to find your favorites or seek out potential new discoveries. And you might want to map your route before you head out as well.

The 2017 edition of the Ann Arbor Art Fair runs Thursday-Sunday, July 20-23, throughout the downtown and campus areas of Ann Arbor. One of the largest and most prestigious events of its kind, the fair showcases the works of more than 1,000 artists in individual artist booths. Other attractions include live music, artist demonstrations, and activities for kids.

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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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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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