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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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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Change & Growth: "Violet" at U-M's Arthur Miller Theatre


Violet at U-M's Arthur Miller Theater

U-M's production of Violet doesn't shy away from looking at the play's themes of racism and acceptance in the context of today's socio-political troubles.

Violet is a musical that’s known both for its soaring gospel- and blues-infused score and for its social commentary about race relations. Originally written for Off-Broadway back in 1997, the show follows a young, facially disfigured Caucasian woman in 1964 who travels across the United States in the hopes of having her outward scars healed by a TV evangelist. Over the course of her journey, she meets and falls in love with an African-American man.

“It’s about finding out who you are, accepting who you are, appreciating who you, and loving who you are. And then being able to navigate this world,” says Mark Madama, who is directing a production of Violet this weekend through the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance department.

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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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Craft Services: A peek at Winter Art Tour 2017


Winter Art Tour 2017

The second annual Winter Art Tour spans 10 locations across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

For the past few years in Washtenaw County, the second weekend of December has been the time to shop for wonderful handcrafted goods from local artists at pop-ups, craft fairs, and studio shows.

An easy way to find out what’s happening where is to check out the stops on the second annual Winter Art Tour, which takes you to 10 venues across Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti where you can shop handmade goods from over 300 artists during the weekend of Dec. 8-10. There's a passport to get stamped as you visit each of the tour's locations, and if you hit at least four spots, you have a chance to win beautiful handcrafted prizes.

The event features two large craft fairs and several smaller studio sales across Washtenaw County:

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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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U-M’s "Merry Wives of Windsor" brings Falstaffian wit to the holiday season


University of Michigan's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor

Left to right: Mallory Avnet (Mistress Page), Liam Loomer (Sir John Falstaff), and Christiana Moyle (Mistress Ford) in the University of Michigan Dept. of Theatre & Drama’s production of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor. Photo by Peter Smith Photography.

The story is that Queen Elizabeth I was so delighted by William Shakespeare’s raffish Sir John Falstaff in the historical plays Henry IV, Part 1 and 2, that she asked the playwright to give the rotund knight a play of his own, a love story for an aging rogue.

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare’s only farce, has been a hit ever since. The University of Michigan’s Department of Theatre hopes to brighten the holiday season with its production of the play, Dec. 7-10 at the Power Center, under the direction of John Neville-Andrews, a professor of theatre at UM.

“I looked at the season and it’s a very serious and somewhat political season, so I thought around Christmas time we needed something humorous, funny, and enjoyable; hopefully a broad comedy for the public to come see at Power Center,” Neville-Andrews said.

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Mash-Up 'Mime: Theatre Nova's "The Year Without a Panto Clause"

Theatre Nova's The Year Without a Panto Clause

Theatre Nova's The Year Without a Panto Clause is an original play based on the English theatrical tradition that began in the 18th century.

Around the holidays, theater troupes often feature classic Christmas plays familiar to Americans. But for the past two years, Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova has presented an American twist on a British Christmas tradition. A panto, short for pantomime, is a variety show that developed in England in the 18th century that employs song, dance, comedy, and much more to tell a Christmas-related story.

This year’s panto, The Year Without a Panto Clause, is written by Theatre Nova artistic director Carla Milarch and features original songs by the show’s music director, R. MacKenzie Lewis, who has composed music for Nova's previous two pantos as well as for last year’s hit musical Irrational.

I spoke with Milarch about the inspiration for her pantos and what makes this show unique.

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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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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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