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.

University of Michigan visiting professor Kelly Hoffer applies her poetry habit to grief in “Undershore”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Kelly Hoffer and her book Undershore.

“the day unthreads, and then the next / day unthreads,” writes poet and University of Michigan Helen Zell Visiting Professor in Poetry, Kelly Hoffer, in her collection, Undershore

The poems in Undershore find themselves submerged in grief, and later in the book, they explore the juxtaposition of loss with new life. During the “smoketrail/afterimage/premonition” in the poem called “Age of decadence/ /sericulture/ /summoning spell” (in this sentence, the slashes are part of the line and title, not indicating line breaks), we see both what is there and what has changed. The poet reflects on a silkworm’s effort to build a cocoon by noting that, “at the moments of greatest observational / pressure, desire seeps into perception.” Bereavement does not erase the persistent want.  

Another poem, “Sidelong: treatises,” points out that “the thing about a cliff is the cliffside, otherwise / it would remain a carpet unfurling in front of you, forever.” The drop-off defines it. They say that grief is an emotion that you must face to get through it, and Hoffer stands at the cliff’s edge and does just that. Hoffer includes two poems called “I want Abysses,” and at the end of the first one writes: 

Caitlin Cowan’s new poetry collection observes holidays and special moments alongside capitalism, the division of labor, and an impending divorce

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

A headshot of Caitlin Cowan and her book Happy Everything, which has a white background and a white women's long coat on it with colorful circles coming out of the top and bottom of the coat.

There are many ways for a marriage to go wrong, and Caitlin Cowan’s new poetry collection, Happy Everything, records a number of them. The poem “Instructions for Divorce” recommends to “Know that there’s no manual / for this.” One must make one’s own path and “weld yourself / to the world’s blue ache.”  

Happy Everything contains poems masquerading as holidays and special days, though these writings do not veil how everything is awry aside from the book’s title and the supposedly happy occasions. The multi-part poem “Happy Halloween” looks at the “awful mechanics” of “film after unrated film because Mama / thought unrated meant the same as safe” and asks:

Cultures collide in Theatre Nova’s production of "Death of a Driver"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Actors Jalen Wilson-Nelem and Sarah Stevens and chugging beer on stage.

Jalen Wilson-Nelem and Sarah Stevens do their best to communicate across the complicated landscape that is post-colonial Africa in the Michigan premiere of Will Snider's Death of a Driver. Photograph by Sean Carter Photography.

An ambitious, idealistic young American woman with an engineering degree comes to Kenya with a dream of building a four-lane highway and helping Kenyans move forward. She has financial support and encouragement from the Kenyan government but this is her first time in Africa and she has a lot to learn.

She’s hired a young Kenyan man to drive her and they quickly develop a friendship. She values his knowledge and he is offered a rare opportunity to be involved in the project.

This is the plot of Will Snider’s play Death of a Driver, an examination of just how complicated it is to communicate across the historic, cultural, and fiercely political landscape of post-colonial Africa. 

Theatre Nova is presenting the Michigan premiere of Snider’s one-act play through June 9. 

The engineer and her driver form a close bond. They like each other, they are attracted to each other but they are from two different worlds. Snider tells the story in a series for vignettes across 18 years from 2002 to 2020. 

Friday Five: Mazinga, Cedar Bend, Regenerate! Orchestra, Human Skull, kaito ian

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 punk 'n' roll by Mazinga and Human Skull, large-ensemble indie rock by Cedar Band, droning modern classical by Regenerate! Orchestra, and electronica by kaito ian.

Michigan Heritage: Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe celebrates 50 Years in music with show at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Kitty Donohoe wears a denim shirt and clasps her hands together.

Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe. Photo courtesy of Kitty Donohoe.

Kitty Donohoe is celebrating 50 years of writing and performing a timeless mix of original and traditional folk music, including Celtic, Maritime, Canadian, and other sounds from the British Isles.

“It’s almost crept up on me—50 years down the line from my beginning," said the Ann Arbor multi-instrumentalist. "It’s actually been 52 years, but I’m ignoring those two fruitless COVID years. I’ve performed in so many wonderful spots around the country.”

In the ‘80s, Donohoe ventured east to Cambridge, Massachusetts to perform at Club Passim and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. But one of her most memorable live shows occurred in Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2008.

“I sang ‘There Are No Words’ at the Pentagon for the dedication of their 9/11 Memorial,” said Donohoe, who penned the track on the day of the attacks.

“That was almost surreal to be surrounded by then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and others from the cabinet and to be looking out at a sea of regular people who were personally impacted by 9/11. That was a profound experience—I doubt I could top that.”

Another special night will be Donohoe’s May 19 show at The Ark, which will spotlight her professional milestone with a special performance featuring several friends and the acceptance of the 2024 Michigan Heritage Award. The honor recognizes her 30-plus years of entertaining audiences with her original songs about Michigan.

To learn more, I spoke to Donohoe about her music career ahead of her show at The Ark.

Friday Five: Ian Stirton, Bekka Madeleine, Geranium Red, John Beltran, Kirsten Carey & Aaron Edgcomb

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 pop by Ian Stirton, goth-tinged balladry by Bekka Madeleine, emo excellence by Geranium Red, downtempo grooves via John Beltran, and avant-garde duets by Kirsten Carey & Aaron Edgcomb.

PTD Productions takes the challenge With David Mamet's language-rich “Glengarry Glen Ross”

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Jacob Williams-Justin and Rick Sperling wear suits and sit at a table in PTD Productions' "Glengarry Glen Ross."

Jacob Williams-Justin and Rick Sperling perform as John Williamson and Shelley Levene in PTD Productions' Glengarry Glen Ross at Ypsilanti's Riverside Arts Center. Photo taken from PTD Productions' Facebook page.

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross is about double-dealing, backstabbing, power plays, American striving, and the rage of real estate salesmen in a heartless Chicago, circa 1980s. 

It’s also about language—Mamet’s sharp, snappy, multi-layered, and riveting symphony of words. They call it “Mamet-speak,” a mastery of street language, the language of the locker room, the real estate office, the street, and a perfect voice for the raging anger and dashed hopes of his characters.

It’s not an easy language to master. PTD Productions has taken the challenge in a lively production of Glengarry Glen Ross under the direction of Liz Greaves-Hoxsie. 

The first act is set in a Chinese restaurant near the real estate office. It’s a set of three one-sided dialogues each fueled by alcohol and grievance. 

Feral Songs: Kat Steih switches gears for a new rock record, "I Am Not My Self"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A black-and-white head shot of Kat Steih.

Kat Steih features honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation on I Am Not My Self. Photo by Hilary Nichols.

Kat Steih takes a bold look beneath the surface on I Am Not My Self.

That deep examination reveals the challenges people often face with presenting one persona externally while wrestling with another self internally.

“Each person has an outer persona and an inner world. Even if my persona is funny and easygoing, what’s really holding the strings is what’s on the inside,” said Steih about her new album out May 17. 

“The puppet master can be in pain while still conducting a pretty, whimsical dance—something nice or fun to amuse herself or to self-soothe. I use music to acknowledge things that I feel. Some may call it bold, and it empowers everybody.”

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter especially shares that courageous and empowering message on the title track, which features fearless electric guitar, bass, and drums. 

Steih sings, “I am the candle, and you are the flame / Fingertip to fingertip, your voice animates me / Tremors I detect in the seismic quake / The look on your face rearranges me.”

The title track also reflects the honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation that flows throughout I Am Not My Self’s six tracks.