After the “Storm”: Ann Arbor Singer-Songwriter Annie Bacon explores grief on her new folk-rock album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Annie Bacon stands in the middle of a room and wears a black dress and veil in mourning.

Annie Bacon explores grief in all its forms on Storm. Photo by Cybelle Codish.

When it comes to grief, Annie Bacon doesn’t want people to feel alone.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and guitarist views it as a shared emotion that fosters connection and growth with others.

“Something that I’ve done with my art and that I feel like is important is to take on this role and say, ‘I don’t know if anybody understands me, but I’m going to explain what I’m going through in a way that hopefully other people can feel seen and understood,’” said Bacon, who performs under the moniker Annie Bacon & Her Oshen.

“I try to find the places where my experience might be universal and create these little bridges into my experience. That’s one of my philosophical approaches to songwriting: I want to as accurately as possible describe the experience I’m going through in the hopes that it creates a witness for somebody else.”

Bacon masters that honest songwriting approach and explores grief in all its forms on her new folk-rock album, Storm. The record’s 14 poignant tracks take listeners on an emotional odyssey through death, divorce, job changes, the pandemic, and a loss of identity.

Friday Five: Same Eyes, Maddy Ringo, Rosary, Mathew A. Jacqmin-Kramer, Sumeus, Anteomedroma

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This edition features synth-pop by Same Eyes, folk-pop by Maddy Ringo, retrowave by Rosary, video-game music by Mathew A. Jacqmin-Kramer, and black metal by Sumeus and Anteomedroma.

Dream On: The Whiskey Charmers Explore Tales of Change on New “Streetlights” Album

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Whiskey Charmers' Lawrence Daversa holds a white electric guitar, and Carrie Shepard wears a brown suede cowboy hat.

Lawrence Daversa and Carrie Shepard of The Whiskey Charmers. Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Charmers.

The Whiskey Charmers often find creative inspiration in a dream.

The Detroit duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric guitar, backing vocals) took that route while writing the title track for their new alt-country album, Streetlights.

“I had a dream that I was watching Chris Stapleton perform his new song,” Shepard said. “In my dream, it’s the chorus of the song, and I woke up, remembered it, and sang the chorus into my phone. It’s not a real song—it was just made up in my dream.”

Right after her dream, Shepard converted that imaginary song into “Streetlights,” which features exploratory lyrics and fiery electric-guitar solos.

She sings, “Was running under streetlights, in my dreams / Flying down the stairway, defying gravity / Then I felt lightning from the sky / Yeah, I felt a white light hit me / Right between the eyes.”

“I think of it as a weird, dream-like state that’s a little bit unsettling. I do have the one part of the [song] where I’m saying I fly down the stairway defying gravity, and I have dreams of people chasing me,” Shepard said.

“In my dream, if somebody’s chasing me, when I get to a stairway, I know I can just fly down. That’s where that came from. We tried our best to make the recording in that vibe to get that across.”

Oh, What a Beautiful Production: Encore Theatre gives "Oklahoma" a magical infusion of youth

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's production of Oklahoma.

Photo by Michele Anliker Photography.

The Encore Theatre’s artistic director and co-founder Daniel Cooney takes the helm of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s game-changing and beloved musical Oklahoma and has given it a youth infusion.

Just down the road from Dexter is the University of Michigan’s School of Music and Theatre with some of the most talented young performers anywhere, many of them bound for Broadway and Hollywood. The Encore has a group of excellent actors who perform at the highest level. Put them together and the result is magical.

From the moment a swaggering Curly greets Aunt Eller with the rousing declaration, "Oh, what beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day" we get the idea that we will be given a jolt of boundless energy. The electricity never flags.

Oklahoma opened on Broadway in 1943. It was the first of an unprecedented run of hit musicals. Rodgers' music and Hammerstein’s book and lyrics dominated Broadway for the next 20 years. Hammerstein stepped in to write the book and lyrics after Rodger’s long-time lyricist, the brilliant but troubled Lorenz Hart, declined to participate and suggested Hammerstein as a replacement. 

Friday Five: Mighty Clouds, Winged Wheel, Dr. Pete Larson, Great Arm, XiNNiW

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This edition features a trio of Fred Thomas-associated bands including indie-pop by Mighty Clouds, hypnotic jams by Winged Wheel, and even more hypnotic jams by Dr. Pete Larson and his Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band as well as indie-rock by Great Arm and electronica by XiNNiW.

 

Long-Awaited Sequel: Cinetopia Film Festival returns to Ann Arbor

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

Cinetopia Ann Arbor 2024 logo

Five years after its final pre-COVID edition, the long-awaited return of the Cinetopia Film Festival is finally upon us courtesy of Marquee Arts, the new name for the Michigan Theater Foundation.

Gathering films from many of the world’s best festivals—including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Toronto, and Venice—this new version of Cinetopia is a pared-down program of 30 films (plus a few special screenings and events), and the entire festival will be taking place solely in Ann Arbor. A fairly even mix of narrative and documentary features have been selected, with 16 films from the U.S. and the other 14 from all over the world.

You should check out the whole program, but here are nine films you really shouldn’t miss. 

Films are listed chronologically according to when they play during the festival, which runs from Thursday, June 13–Sunday, June 23. Click on the film titles for showtimes, tickets, and more info.

"Heavy" Rotation: Cece June's new EP paints an emotional self-portrait

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Cece June holds an electric guitar and looks away from the camera.

Cece June chronicles loss, acceptance, and growth on How Did This Get So Heavy? Photo by Gabby Mack.

For Cece June, life is filled with near-misses and unresolved emotions.

The New York City singer-songwriter processes a gamut of feelings—from heartbreak to frustration to hope—about unclosed chapters on her latest indie-folk EP, How Did This Get So Heavy?

“It's a feeling that emulates the void when something is no longer in your life. It’s that feeling of trying to grapple with not having people around anymore or accepting that you’re going to have to move on,” said June, a University of Michigan alumna from Barcelona, Spain.

“It’s also feeling displaced or feeling frustrated. For instance, on ‘Things Unsaid,’ you’re [ruminating] on why something could have gone wrong and thinking, ‘I could potentially have an idea of what went wrong, but if I wanted to talk to the person for them to tell me and for me to get closure I can’t because they’re no longer in my life.’ There’s no way to answer those questions to let you move forward and move on easier.”

Despite those challenges, June faces her emotions head-on and looks to the future on her sophomore release. She chronicles loss, acceptance, and growth across eight tracks, which feature cathartic lyrics and wistful stripped-down instrumentation.

“I found solace in seeing the songs evolve as I evolved as a person myself. This EP was written and recorded over two-and-a-half to three years,” June said.

“There were songs that would ebb and flow, and there were times when I was recording them in the thick of the pain or times when I was reminiscing … and no longer being in the depths of that feeling or the grief or the heartbreak.”

To learn more, I spoke with June about her EP and the inspiration behind it.

Friday Five: Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet, KUZbeats, The Biscuit Merchant, The Nuts, Carlos Taboada

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features modal jams from Dave Sharp Worlds Quartet, genre-defying sounds by KUZbeats, metal by The Biscuit Merchant, indie-gaze by The Nuts, and new music by Carlos Taboada.

Moving Forward: pia the band Re-evaluates Life Plans and Priorities on "Getting Better" EP

MUSIC INTERVIEW

pia the band lays on a bed wearing an orange sweatshirt and light blue jeans.

Pia-Allison Roa examines personal growth and self-expectations on Getting Better. Photo by Zach Nahshel.

Pia-Allison Roa makes an honest self-assessment on her Getting Better EP.

The Detroit singer-songwriter who performs as pia the band recognizes the importance of re-evaluating life plans and priorities and making changes along the way. 

“These are the four songs that I felt were most ready to be out,” said Roa about her debut EP. “Once we recorded all four and then put it all together, it popped out to me that these are all about overcoming things.” 

As part of that process, pia the band examines past situations and relationships through contemplative lyrics and ethereal indie-rock, dream-pop, and shoegaze-folk instrumentation. 

“It felt good to get all those out … but then it was even more special looking back at what the songs meant, what they could mean now, and how they can be interpreted by other people,” said Roa, who’s also a clinical pharmacist specialist at Wayne Health.

To learn more, I spoke with Roa about Getting Better ahead of her May 28 show at Ziggy’s in Ypsilanti.

Friday Five: Piotr Michalowski & Damon Smith, Candor, TJ Zindle, Optimystic, Mr. Demented/GrimeOne/MC Kadence

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.

This week features free jazz by Piotr Michalowski and Damon Smith, emo-ish power-pop by Candor, grungy pop by TJ Zindle, drum 'n' bass by Optimystic, and hip-hop by Mr. Demented and GrimeOne featuring MC Kadence.