Holistic Healing: The Prog-Rockers in Cat Lung Find Slivers of Hope and Connection on “Fragments” Album
After feeling torn apart during the pandemic, Cat Lung assembled a holistic approach to healing on Fragments.
The Ann Arbor prog-rock quartet replaced shards of disillusionment and loss with slivers of hope and connection on its sophomore album.
“I was doing a lot of the lyric writing over the pandemic, and there was a lot of stuff that was going on—societal unrest, oppression, violence, climate change—you name it,” said Diane “Impi P.” Crang, one of the band’s vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist. “There’s so much nastiness in the news, and that’s where the lyric ‘what a world’ came from.’”
That lyric repeatedly appears in Cat Lung’s insightful title track, which features guitarist Pamela “Pammy Whammy” Benetti, bassist Steven “Even Steven” Crang, and drummer-percussionist/vocalist David “Dr. David” Beauchesne with Diane “Impi P.” Crang trying to process a divisive world alongside chaotic instrumentation.
Crang sings, “What a world, what a world / What a world we’re living in / When does sanity begin? / Patience gradually wearing thin / Graciousness can be found within.”
“The music for this track was initially written by Pam about 30 years ago, and we dusted it off, polished it up, and I wrote lyrics for it. The song is an observation, as well as a plea for us all to do better—for ourselves and for each other,” said Crang, who joined the band after husband Steven Crang, Benetti, and Beauchesne met through two different craigslist ads in 2016. “The four of us are all pretty done with the ugliness in the world and hope for better days ahead. In the end, Fragments being the title of the album was one on which we could all agree.”
A Field Guild to Hannah Burr: The Ann Arbor artist creates abstract works that conjure contemplation
Hannah Burr's art seeks to foster connections, not only between the viewer and the work but also between the viewer and the universe. The Ann Arbor artist works in everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and books, but no matter the medium, Burr's art acts as a prompt for observers to consider how they relate to the world around them and beyond.
Burr's dedication to contemplative matters is perhaps best shown in her series of books, such as Contemporary Prayers to * [whatever works] and Elements: a love letter to all things everywhere, which marry aphorisms or scientific facts with abstract paintings and ask readers to observer how they feel when taking in the words, colors, and shapes on the page. Her forthcoming book, Field Guide to Ambiguity, is currently in its Kickstarter phase, and like Elements, is coming out via Fifth Avenue Press, the Ann Arbor District Library's publishing imprint. This follows a 2021 expanded and completely reworked version of Contemporary Prayers, which was published by Simon & Schuster.
Burr is one of more than 80 artists who will display her works at the West Side Art Hop, held annually in Ann Arbor's historic Old West Side. This year's Art Hop runs June 10 and 11; a map of the home/garage/yard venues can be found here, but Burr will be at 701 5th Street.
I caught up with Burr ahead of the West Side Art Hop as she preps Field Guide to Ambiguity and other projects, many of which she documents in her well-maintained blog, Good Bonfire.
Encore Theatre's "42nd Street" brings excellent energy to a classic backstage story
The Encore Theatre’s production of 42nd Street is a great burst of energy, a thunderous display of tap dancing and a funny, charming, nostalgic return to another place and time.
When the curtain rises, the intimate Encore stage is full of rigorously syncopated dancers rehearsing in a frenzy. The bright colors, lights, and energetic tap dancing that open the show display the special mix of Depression-era anxiety and the joy of putting on a musical.
In 1980, Broadway producer David Merrick gambled that the 1933 hit movie musical 42nd Street would find a new audience on Broadway. Under the direction and choreography of Gower Champion, the show struck gold.
The 1933 movie had been a big hit, coming as it did in the midst of the Great Depression, and it acknowledged the hard times while promoting the idea that things will get better—and in the meantime, let’s have some fun. Based on a novel, the musical introduced the classic story of the chorus girl who becomes a star.
Friday Five: Project 206, Sean Curtis Patrick, Takumi Ogata, slapslap, Margo Halsted
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features metal-jazz by Project 206, ambient by Sean Curtis Patrick, soundtrack vibes by Takumi Ogata, electric-bassoon jams by slapslap, and an illustrated talk by former Univerity of Michigan carillon educator Margo Halsted.
Dr. Janet Gilsdorf's novel "Fever" charts a mysterious illness and a researcher's race to discover the bacteria causing it
On a getaway with a colleague to visit family in Brazil, Dr. Sidonie Royal instead finds herself in a race to save children falling ill with a mysterious disease—and she experiences grief when they do not make it. Janet Gilsdorf's novel Fever tracks Sid’s subsequent research attempts back in Michigan to find out what is causing the deaths.
As a professor emerita of epidemiology and pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Gilsdorf is the right person to write a novel on this topic. Her work involves studying pathogenic factors, molecular genetics, and the epidemiology of Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium that causes invasive and respiratory infections in children and adults. It is this bacterium that Sid, the character in her novel, is trying to understand.
Many hurdles appear along the way for Sid. One problem consists of her belligerent lab mate, Eliot, who always seems ready with criticism. At one point, he informs Sid:
Timothy Monger cleaned out his songwriting notebook for a new album recorded at home
Long known as one of the leading talents on the local music scene, Timothy Monger has always had a distinctive songwriting voice. The names of two of the bands he’s led—the late, lamented Great Lakes Myth Society and the current Timothy Monger State Park—give some clues to the subjects of his songs, which often look to the outdoors, history, and other rootsy pursuits.
Those sorts of themes show up again on Monger’s new album, his fourth as a solo artist, which is simply titled Timothy Monger. Yet as he always manages to do, he finds fresh perspectives and new approaches, and the result stands out from his previous body of work.
The album is literally the result of Monger returning to his notebooks and fleshing out ideas found there, recording the songs entirely at his home in a style he describes as “homespun psych-folk.” A few of the songs are snippets of less than 30 seconds, but that’s all they require to tell their particular story. Others bring characters to life, such as a fictional “Cub Reporter” or the real-life theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, who Monger memorably describes as “the one who finally gave the ghosts a voice.”
“Shadow of the Weka” is a charming instrumental with Celtic overtones. And there are several nods to Michigan, including “Cranberry Bog,” “Luna Pier,” and “Sa-Wa-Quato.”
Monger recently answered a few questions about the new recording, which comes out on June 2, the same day as his album release show at The Ark.
Friday Five: GVMMY, Pattengill Pumas, Dimitra, Sigidy/Le Dawg/Flwr.Chld, Minus 9
Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels.
This week features electronica/rap by GVMMY, schoolyard rhymes by the Pattengill Pumas, a dance mix by Dimitra, a summer disco-rap jam by Sigidy, Le Dawg, and Flwr.Chld, and a slew of punk videos by Minus9.
Music in Motion: The Carolyn Striho Group brings Detroit energy to AADL June 1
Carolyn Striho takes a fearless approach to life both onstage and off.
The singer-songwriter has had a storied career in various Southeast Michigan creative scenes: She’s been a member of early Detroit punk quartet The Cubes; a frontperson for the longtime rock ‘n’ roll collective Detroit Energy Asylum; a DJ for WDET 101.9-FM’s “Radios in Motion” punk, new wave, and underground music show; a touring musician with Patti Smith and an onstage performer with Don Was; and a solo artist and poet.
“I do know it’s showed me that you must keep going and work on your craft,” said Striho, whose latest release includes a 2019 collection of poems and lyrics called Detroit (Maiden Energy). “Your music, your art, and your work are what make you unique, yourself, and original.
“But I think with new music coming out with my former band Detroit Energy Asylum and the new Hit Girls: Women in Punk book, and other books I’ve been in, my music past is being documented more and more.”
Striho brings that musical past and present to life for a June 1 show at the Downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library with her bandmates, which include her husband/guitarist Scott Dailey, bassist Christopher Spooner, and drummer Lauren Johnson.
“And as much as I loved being on stage for so many years, the energy-first stage thing has changed, but I never know what I might end up doing onstage,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m grateful for my big past, and that I now love recording, too.”
In advance of her upcoming show, we recently spoke to Striho about what inspires her creatively, her Detroit (Maiden Energy) collection and potential plans for another volume, a new single with Erin Zindle, her show setlist, and new material with Dailey.
Going Platinum: Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library Reflects on 70 Years of Supporting AADL Patrons and Programs
In May 1953, the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL) shared a historical moment alongside Ernest Hemingway.
The library’s volunteer organization officially became a nonprofit the same month Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for The Old Man and the Sea.
Seven decades later, Hemingway’s novella still graces the library’s shelves as FAADL celebrates its 70th anniversary of supporting Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) patrons and programs through used book sales. From library locations to summer bookmobiles to online bookstores, the group has played a pivotal role in AADL’s evolution.
“[FAADL] was really instrumental in the location of where the downtown library sits, and it was instrumental in the branches,” said Rachel Pastiva, FAADL’s director, while reflecting on the group’s platinum anniversary.
That same year, FAADL advocated for a separate and central location for the library since it was attached to an old high school at State and Huron streets. By 1957, the new location ended up being the current downtown site at Fifth Avenue and William Street.
Fruitful Experiment: Chris Bathgate explores thematic writing on his new album, “The Significance of Peaches”
This story originally ran on June 2, 2022. We're featuring it again because Chris Bathgate plays AADL's Downtown Library on May 26.
Chris Bathgate sees his first album in five years, The Significance of Peaches as "an experiment in thematic writing and recording with limitations … the significance of peaches is not necessarily the thread or some keystone idea. It is like a loose fishing net that I can cast into my life and see what I harvest."
Throughout The Significance of Peaches, released on Ann Arbor's Quite Scientific Records, Bathgate searches for a holistic sense of self while fostering a spiritual connection to the outside world using pithy lyrics and nature-rich imagery set atop a pump-organ-drenched landscape.
“The peach thing is from my total adoration for the stone fruit itself as the corporeal experience of physically eating a peach," said the Ann Arbor indie-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. "But I’m also interested in the peach as a metaphor throughout history. The thing I became most obsessed with was its use as a way to describe the ephemeral nature of life, time and joy, moments, and carpe diem.