No Slowing Down: Ann Arbor cartoonist Dave Coverly celebrates the 25th anniversary of "Speed Bump"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Davy Coverly, Speed Bump

The easy part of compiling a book that celebrates a comic strip’s silver anniversary is, well, you’ve got lots of options.

“I’ll get reviews and comments that say, ‘Not a clunker in the bunch!’—but, you know, I had 10,000 to choose from,” said Ann Arbor-based cartoon artist Dave Coverly, whose book Speed Bump: A 25th Anniversary Collection debuted in September. “If anyone wants to visit my house, you could see a big plastic tub of cartoons that are terrible.” 

Perhaps that’s inevitable when your job’s required you to hatch and execute seven new ideas every week throughout two and a half decades. “You can’t wait for the muse to strike when you’re on deadline,” Coverly noted.

But having the National Cartoonists Society award your work with Best in Newspaper Panels (’95, ’03, ’14) in addition to its highest honor, the Reuben Award (’09), might suggest that you’re getting it right far more often than not.

And for Coverly, one of the most appealing things about a single-panel cartoon is its unfettered flexibility.

“I do a lot of cartoons that use aliens and animals, but they’re always really about people and the things we all have in common,” said Coverly. “My daughter, who’s a painter, had a professor who told her, ‘Don’t ask yourself what you’re going to paint. Ask yourself why you’re going to paint it.’ And I love that quote because I’m someone who—I don’t like jokes for the sake of jokes. … I’d rather try for something that’s driven by an idea. Something that’s more subtle.”

Friday Five: Fred Thomas, Isaac Levine, Briaa Dupree, Jib Kidder, Aye Hawk

MUSIC

Friday Five 10-08-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists. This week we feature Fred Thomas, Isaac Levine, Briaa Dupree, Jib Kidder, and Aye Hawk. 

WSG Gallery offers virtual exhibitions and one in-person show at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART

WSG exhibit at Ann Arbor Art Center

Ann Arbor Art Center is hosting an exhibition of WSG Gallery artists through Dec. 31. Photo courtesy A2AC.

WSG Gallery's transformation from a Main Street attraction to an online art house continues apace—with some timely dips into physical spaces, too.

The collective created a small pop-up gallery at 401 N. Ann Arbor St. in Saline (Sept. 25- Oct. 2), which was a warm-up to taking over the second floor of the Ann Arbor Art Center from Oct. 6- Dec. 31. This a multi-artist show and the featured works will rotate at Thanksgiving.

But WSG's two most recent virtual exhibitions focus on single artists.

Painter Sara Adlerstein's Not for Sale: My Private Collection exhibition officially ran Aug. 18 to Sept. 28, but WSG is doing the smart thing and keeping all its virtual exhibitions online permanently. The current exhibition is sculptor Francesc Burgos' Recent Work (Sept. 29 to Nov. 7).

Jazz on the Small Screen: Concerts by Danielle Gonzalez, Beartrap, and various sets at Blue LLama Jazz Club & Kerrytown Concert House

MUSIC

Live jazz

Back in April or so, I got overwhelmed with the number of music livestreams popping up on my radar. Anybody with an instrument and a cell phone was broadcasting from their bedroom stages, and I pretty much shut down on trying to follow livestreams. But as the pandemic wore on and venues figured out how to safely present music, I started to peek at livestreams every now and again because curation helped narrow down the list of things I might want to watch rather than me remaining forever frozen by decision paralysis.

Ann Arbor has a small but vibrant jazz scene thanks to the University of Michigan's robust music school, so I thought it was time to give a nod to that genre's artists and the host venues whose livestreams have caught my eye. (In many of these cases, you can tip the artists for the shows you've just watched, too.)

If you really want to keep up on the neverending supply of improvised music livestreams, check out the Facebook group LiftingUpA2Jazz, which is a comprehensive source for events in Washtenaw County.

I Want My Music TV: Dre Dav, The Kelseys, Towner, Hi Potent C & Dyelow, and DruziBaby734

MUSIC

Music videos

A collection of recent-ish music videos from Washtenaw County artists Dre Dav, The Kelseys, Towner, Hi Potent C & Dyelow, and DruziBaby734.

Alison Swan's poetry collection "A Fine Canopy" celebrates the natural world

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Poet Alison Swan and her book A Fine Canopy

The natural world and the built environment sometimes seem so enmeshed that the borders between them blur. We walk into the fluorescent lighting of a store and then back out into the day’s weather. We go to the beach and some sand trails, then back inside vehicles and homes. 

Poet Alison Swan explores this complexity in the lives that we live both with nature and in our manmade world in her new collection, A Fine Canopy (Wayne State University Press). One poem called “Lake Effect” considers how the environment coexists and contends with human life: 

[…] We don’t ask,

where’s the sea? We can walk to it,

 

and to acres of scrub, pasture, crop,

asphalt draining to it, and the reactor

it cools. 

Signs of human change to the environment appear to be inescapable. 

Yet, the splendor of the natural world heartily persists in Swan’s poems, and many lines admire this place where we reside, as the poem “Aubade” declares near the end of the collection:

It is good to […] 

[…] 

look out into 

the lemon light of morning and

call it beautiful […]

Swan will read and be in conversation with poet and teaching artist Holly Wren Spaulding in a virtual event Tuesday, October 6, at 7 pm through Literati Bookstore. I interviewed Swan, a teacher at Western Michigan University, about ecopoetry, the Bentley Historical Library, and what she's reading.

Friday Five: Speak Mahogany, The DayNites, Mogi Grumbles, X-Altera, and John Beltran

MUSIC

Friday Five 10-02-2020

Jazzy hip-hop, neo-soul, '80s synth sounds via a modular setup, drum 'n' bass, and trance techno are all on tap for this week's Friday Five spotlighting Washtenaw County artists. But also know that this is Bandcamp Friday, so any purchases made through that site will benefit the artists immensely since they'll get 100% of the revenue. Only two of the five selections below are on Bandcamp right now, but peruse the last six months of Pulp's Music section and you'll find plenty of Washtenaw County artists you can support via that site.

Now, go listen to Speak Mahogany, The DayNites, Mogi Grumbles, X-Altera, and John Beltran.

Burnout Society Film Club's 8 Ball Movie Night and Introvert Movie Night offer group viewings of cult flicks

FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Burnout Society Film Club

Burnout Society Film Club's Samir Asfahani (left) and Colum Slevin (right) flank Spencer Nuzum, a member of the project's FB group.

One day in 2017, Samir Asfahani was surfing Facebook during his lunch break. The guitarist in Ann Arbor stoner-metal band Wizard Union, Asfahani belonged to a music enthusiasts’ group and a member started a thread about peoples’ favorite cult movies.

“I was immediately interested because I've always been fond of those types of films, so I started name dropping all of the movies I liked,” he said. 

A fellow member of the Facebook group suggested they start another group for cult movies, from old psychotronic stuff to modern horror films.

“Right away, I said ‘I’m on that!’ and within 10 minutes I came up with the name," Asfahani said of the Burnout Society Film Club (BSFC). "The joke is that it would read as BS Film Club without actually calling ourselves the Bullshit Film Club.” 

What began as a place for chatting about movies blossomed into a Facebook page in addition to the group, a blog with movie reviews, Instagram live chats and streaming, and shared movie experiences including 8 Ball Movie Night and the Introvert Movie Night.

Athletic Mic League returns after a 15-year hiatus to confirm its status as Ann Arbor's "Playground Legends"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Athletic Mic League

The Ann Arbor hip-hop collective Athletic Mic League was on hiatus for more than 15 years as its members pursued solo projects—and life.

The group formed in 1995 at Huron High School and released three albums during its 10-year run—The Thrill of Victory...The Agony of Defeat (1998), Sweats and Kicks (2002), Jungle Gym Jungle (2004)—and two EPs: Feel Good (2001) and Isolation (2005).

But right before the pandemic started, Athletic Mic League reunited for a four-day studio retreat and recorded the majority of Playground Legends there, a seven-song mini-album that will come out soon. But the group has released three singles from the sessions: "Hold My Hand," "Finish Line," and "Complications." The current lineup of the collective includes Grand Cee, Buff1, Trés Styles, 14KT, Wes Taylor, VaughanTego, and Mayer Hawthorne (not shown in the photo above). 

Athletic Mic League (AML) takes inspiration from Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan, and Hieroglyphics Crew, as well as soul and jazz music. AML's songs showcase sharp lyrical content and instrumentals decorated with soul-music loops. "Hold My Hand" and "Complications" feature retro-soul vocals over laid-back beats. In contrast, "Finish Line" is a nice uptempo track that opens and closes with a sample from motivational speaking guru Eric Thomas.

Below, AML dishes on the stories behind its new singles, the reunion, and what’s next for them. 

Grove Studios and Leon Speakers partner on the Amplify Fellowship

MUSIC

During its three-year existence, Ypsilanti's Grove Studios has become a creative hub for Washtenaw County musicians. Beginning as an affordable rehearsal space—with a lot of high-end musical instruments and gear—Grove has since added a podcast studio and has produced numerous concerts, interviews, and livestreams. Even the pandemic couldn't stop Grove's roll: In the past five months, the studio has added more than 60 performances and podcasts featuring a ton of regional talents on its YouTube channel.

Grove's latest nod to the community of creators who support the studio comes in the form of the Amplify Fellowship. Created in partnership with Ann Arbor's high-end audio company Leon Speakers, the Amplify Fellowship will give three recipients 40 hours of studio time at Grove along with production and engineering support. 

The Amplify Fellowship is for African-American residents of Washtenaw County who are at least 18 years old. The fellowship's application is on amplify-fellowship.com and the deadline is October 19.

The Grove crew talks about the Amplify Fellowship in the podcast video at the top of this post. Below are a few selections from Grove's ever-growing collection of performance videos from Washtenaw County musicians.