Preview: Dancing in the Streets on 9/4


They're dancin' in Ann Arbor.

They're dancin' in Ann Arbor. / Photo from The Grand River Folk Arts Society

As a kid, I flunked jazz, tap, and ballet. I could never quite get the hang of a shuffle or a step-ball-change. And forget the ballet positions. As an adult, I tried taking ballroom dancing, and while I didn’t flunk out, I still wasn’t able to master the one-two-three rhythm without stepping on my partner’s feet.

So I figured that dancing just wasn’t in the cards for me, until a few years ago when I happened to be in downtown Ann Arbor on the Sunday before Labor Day. The streets were blocked off and people were dancing in them. But these weren’t any dances I had ever seen before: someone was calling out the steps, minimal hopping around, and there certainly weren’t any chassés with jazz hands.

While I was standing there, someone asked if I wanted to do the dance. Immediately I told him that I couldn’t dance. He asked if I could walk. Um, yeah. “Then you can do this,” said my new friend. “Come on!”

And dance friend was right—if you can walk, you can do these dances! I later found out that the style of dance I was doing was called an English Country Dance. In this type of dance, the caller tells you to do things like take hands with your partner, turn all the way around, or skip up four steps. I followed the caller’s directions and sure enough, I was dancing! When I asked my dance partner what this wondrous event was, he told me it was called Dancing in the Streets because, well, that is literally what everyone was doing.

Lucky for all of us wannabe dancers, this event takes place every Sunday before Labor Day—September 4th this year!

If the English dance doesn’t get your toes tapping, there are many other fun things to do! There will be three Maypole dances, several swing dance lessons, and concerts from local acts including Annie and Rod Capps, Blue Caledonia, and Commonwealth Collective.

The North Main stage features the international dances where dancers can receive lessons in the dances of North Africa and the Middle East, belly dancing, flamenco dancing, and international folk dance; performances will follow the instruction.

The stage on East Washington showcases Anglo-American dances such as the Scottish dances, contras, and English Country.

With this much variety, there is something for everyone! Even for those of us who still can’t do a plié.

Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her at or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.

Dancing in the Streets will take place in downtown Ann Arbor on Sunday, September 4 from 1:30-6:30 pm.

Review: Ann Arbor Summer Festival's presentation of "L'Homme Cirque"



Lord of the Wire, David Dmitri.

On Saturday evening, I sat inside a white tent in Burns Park and watched veteran performer David Dimitri’s one-man-show, “L’Homme Cirque” (presented by Ann Arbor Summer Festival), under what might be ideal circumstances – which is to say, I had a five-year-old on my lap.

This wasn’t “ideal” because of comfort – five-year-olds rarely stop wiggling, and the weather was post-storm muggy besides – but rather because, as Dimitri performed his wordless, hour-long circus show for a capacity crowd (220), my daughter repeatedly voiced questions like, “How’s he going to get down?” “What’s he going to do with that?” “What’s he going to do next?”

Neve’s stream-of-consciousness curiosity underscored Dimitri’s playfulness and demonstrated to me how the show is ultimately built on a kind of repeating pattern: stoke anticipation, tease the audience, and finish with a moment or two of joyous wonder.

With bleachers surrounding the small performance space in the tent, Dimitri began the show by changing his shoes.

This may sound painfully banal, but as is true for all the show’s transitions, Dimitri finds a way to make even the most ordinary moments whimsical and fun. And soon enough, Dimitri uncovered a treadmill that launched him into a routine – set to recorded music that could easily accompany a Woody Allen comedy’s opening credits – that involved him gradually dialing up the machine’s speed, as well as his feats’ level of difficulty, until you wondered how on earth he was going to get on, let alone how he’d pull off a cartwheel or a walking handstand.

Dimitri then incorporated a small pommel horse – decked out with a mane, a painted face, a tail, and legs – and propped it alongside the treadmill, so as to give the crowd the experience of watching a trick rider without a ring to run around. This bit of physical comedy was pure fun, yet you never lost awareness regarding the skill necessary to achieve these stunts.

While he is certainly a man of multiple circus talents, including playing the accordion (proven when he provided a hilariously suspenseful soundtrack for himself while he performed a backflip off a seesaw), Dimitri’s calling card has always been his work on the high wire. Inside the small tent at Burns Park, the crowd got to watch as he pulled himself up without a ladder, played trumpet while lying on the wire (offering a more laid back musical backdrop this time), and jumped rope.

Then, finally, Dimitri pulled a large cannon from the sidelines, made an amusing show of dressing in a flight suit and helmet, got the cannon properly positioned, pulled himself up inside it and lit a fuse.

At this point, my notoriously skittish five-year-old covered her ears and burrowed into me, but she ultimately couldn’t look away, either – which shows exactly how much she’d connected with Dimitri. This is one moment when the intimacy of “L’Homme Cirque” really pays a dividend. Every second of the show happens in close-up, so that Dimitri’s warm, witty personality shines through, and we quickly feel like friends more than an audience.


David Dmitri walks on air. / Photo by Jenn McKee.

Even so, precision within each of Dimitri’s set pieces must be crucial for their successful execution, and while he clearly takes pains to get each object into the correct position, the fact that he does so so quickly and cleanly, by himself, is almost as astonishing as the feats themselves. And he never seems rushed, either. During one transition, he pretended to give a little girl in the audience a handful of feed, and as she walked over to feed the horse, at Dimitri’s urging, we all briefly believed in this flight of fancy as much as she did.

The show’s big finish, though, was far more broadly dramatic, as Dimitri pulled himself up onto another high wire, opened a flap on the tent, and waved for the audience to follow him outdoors. We tumbled out of the tent to watch him climb 150 feet into the air on a wire, toward the blue sky and clouds of the evening.

I’m pretty sure this magical sight is one that my inquisitive 5-year-old, as well as my 8-year-old, won’t soon forget.

But the same could be said of their parents, too.

Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.

L’homme Cirque ran through August 28 at Burns Park.

Preview: The University of Michigan Museum of Art's "Nights at the Museum"

UMMA's Nights at the Museum

Settling in for a Night at the Museum / Photo by Leisa Thompson

Nights at the Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art's exterior media arts initiative, will illuminate the museum's facade with artwork, performances, and family-friendly movies from September 2 - 9.

Events are open to the public and will run each night from 8:30 pm to dawn along its State Street-side facade, on the west side of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing.

A digital art installation by Quayola titled "Pleasant Places" will be projected overnight, from dusk to dawn, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From Tuesday through Thursday, UMMA will collaborate with U-M arts partners, including the University Musical Society, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and School of Music, Theatre & Dance, with each organization showcasing a related video performance or art installation.

Here's the full schedule:

Friday, Sept. 2
7 - 10 pm: Artscapade!,/a> a Welcome Week events for students
10 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Saturday, Sept. 3
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Sunday, Sept. 4
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Monday, Sept. 5:
8:30 - 10 pm: Family-friendly movie night with a screening of Toy Story
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Tuesday, Sept. 6
8:30 - 10 pm: Performances by U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance students and faculty, including the Men's Glee Club, University Symphony Band, University Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Love, Life & Loss, a 30-minute film featuring the Michigan Men's Glee Club performing "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," will kick off the performances.

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Wednesday, Sept. 7
8:30 - 10 pm: Short art films created by U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design faculty and students, including:

Zoe Anderson (BFA 2007): "Little Luminaries"
Ashley Bock (BFA 2018): "Fission"
Alexa Borromeo (BFA 2016): "Stay Out of the Sun"
Shane Darwent (MFA 2018): "Orquesta de las Calles"
Niki Horowitz (BFA 2016): "Personal Projections"
Carol Jacobsen (Stamps professor): "Prison Diary"
Andy Kirshner (Stamps associate professor): "Liberty's Secret" (segment)
Rebekah Modrak (Stamps associate professor): "Re Made Best Made Echo"
Zoe Brendan Widmer (BFA 2016): "Does My Undercut Make Me Look Queer?"
Niki Williams (BFA 2016): "Grimestone"

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Thursday, Sept. 8
8:30 - 10 pm: Screening of Snarky Puppy's Family Dinner-Volume Two in collaboration with UMS. (Snarky Puppy is a Grammy Award-winning "quasi-collective" that will perform at Hill Auditorium March 17, 2017.)
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Friday, Sept. 9
7 - 10 pm: UMMA After Hours
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Preview: Jenn McKee's Most Anticipated Theater Events for 2016-2017



TEAM's RoosevElvis, courtesy of UMS

September isn’t just back-to-school season; it’s also the moment when most theater companies (and universities’ performing arts departments) launch into a brand new year of programming.

It’s enough to make a dramaphile downright giddy.

But because we’re blessed with a perennially rich, vibrant arts scene here in Ann Arbor, it can be challenging to keep track of all the good stuff on the horizon – so I’ve compiled a list of theater offerings that I’m most excited about for the coming year. The list is organized by date, so mark your calendars!

Theatre Nova’s Dear Elizabeth, playing Sept. 2-25 at the Yellow Barn, 410 W. Huron in Ann Arbor.

Hearing about a play that’s built from the decades-long correspondence between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop may not, at first blush, get your blood pumping (unless you’re a writer-nerd like me), but you should also keep in mind that Dear Elizabeth playwright Sarah Ruhl is the mastermind behind fantastical, witty works like The Clean House and In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. I’m excited to take a more personalized dive into these poets’ lives, by way of Ruhl’s proven skills as a dramatist.

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, playing September 8-11 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor.

A2CT often stages big musicals, but Spelling Bee is a smaller, more intimate look at a group of driven, misfit kids (played by adults) who gather together to see where they fit into the spelling bee world’s pecking order. Sweet, heartbreaking, and hilarious, the Tony-winning Spelling Bee will likely charm your socks off. (Even though the show’s about kids, though, please be advised to leave kids younger than 12-14 at home.) Plus, one of my favorite parts of William Finn’s winning score is a love song about a dictionary – which may just say a little too much about me. Ahem.

The TEAM’s RoosevElvis, presented by UMS, playing September 29-October 1, Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor.

I’m super-excited to see this show, which sounds trippy and fun and fascinating. (The UMS website calls it “a halluncinatory road trip from the Badlands to Graceland.”) In the show, the spirits of Elvis Presley and Theodore Roosevelt, played by women, battle over the soul of Ann, a shy meat-processing plant worker. This surreal mash-up of the past and the present, icons and “regular people,” history and mythology, and gender definitions promises to be a memorable night of theater, courtesy of UMS and the Brooklyn-based company, The TEAM.

U-M Musical Theater Department’s The Drowsy Chaperone, playing October 13-23, Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor.

U-M’s musical theater program is one of the best in the country, so this goofy, Tony-winning show promises to be a blast. In Chaperone, an anti-social musical theater buff puts the score of a beloved, over-the-top, 1928 show on his record player, and the show comes to life on stage, with hysterical asides and commentary from the narrator. Get your tickets now, folks.

U-M Theatre and Drama Department’s Peter and the Starcatcher, playing December 8-11, Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor.

Inspired by a 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Starcatcher sketches out Peter Pan’s backstory, acting as a kind of prequel to the story we all know and love. Plus, this will be the first time local audiences will get the chance to see the magical, award-winning show, which made its Broadway debut in 2012.

EMU Theatre’s A Raisin in the Sun at EMU, playing February 8-12, Sponberg Theatre, 124 Quirk Hall on EMU’s campus in Ypsilanti.

I’ve studied the play, I’ve seen the movie, but I’ve never in my life seen a live production of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play about a poor black family in Chicago who struggle to decide what to do with the patriarch’s life insurance payout check when it arrives. Each person wants the family to have a better life, but how to get there is the subject of an impassioned debate that reflects ideas about race, class, generational conflict, and familial love.

U-M’s Theatre and Drama Department’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, playing February 16-19, Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor.

Anne Washburn’s 2012 play is where pop culture and edgy theater meet. In Mr. Burns, a group of post-apocalyptic survivors gather to recount an episode of “The Simpsons”; seven years later, we see these same characters as a theater troupe that specializes in re-enacting episodes of “The Simpsons”; and 75 years beyond that, we see how this story has been altered and interpreted by a culture still reeling from near-extinction.


The Million Dollar Quartet graces Encore's stage.

Druid Theatre Company’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, presented by UMS, playing March 9-11, Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor.

Druid, based in Galway, Ireland, last came to Ann Arbor via UMS in 2011 to present a fantastic production of The Cripple of Inishmaan, so color me excited to see yet another Druid production of a Martin McDonagh drama. “Beauty Queen” chronicles a battle of wills between an aging, manipulative mother, Mag, and her plain and lonely 40 year old daughter, Maureen, who’s been playing the thankless role of caregiver in an economically depressed Irish village in the 1990s. Marie Mullen, who won a Tony Award playing the daughter, plays Mag in Druid’s production. A can’t miss in my book.

Purple Rose Theatre’s Vino Veritas, playing March 23-May 27, 137 Park St. in Chelsea.

David MacGregor’s comic drama had its world premiere at the Purple Rose in 2008, and it became one of my all-time Rose favorites. In the play, on Halloween night, two suburban couples agree to drink an exotic Peruvian wine – made from the skins of blue dart tree frogs – that acts as a truth serum. They soon learn, though, that while the truth can set you free, it can also make your closest relationships profoundly tricky.

Complicite’s The Encounter, presented by UMS, playing March 30-April 1, Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor.

Complicite has become one of my favorite theater companies in the world, thanks to UMS repeatedly bringing it to Ann Arbor to present mesmerizing, technically innovative past productions like The Elephant Vanishes, A Disappearing Number (my favorite), and Shun-Kin. This time, we get to see The Encounter, inspired by a National Geographic photographer’s experience, in 1969, of getting lost among the people of Brazil’s Javari Valley. The audience will wear headphones for the show, which makes use of “3D Audio” to more fully submerge audience members into the Amazon rainforest experience.

Encore Theatre’s Million Dollar Quartet, playing April 13-May 7, The Encore Theatre, 3126 Broad St. in Dexter.

Though this musical has toured in recent years, I’ve never had the chance to catch it, so I’m excited to see it at Encore, which has really upped its game, in terms of production quality, in the past year. Quartet dramatizes a December 4th, 1956 recording session with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis, with all the actors playing live music on stage. Given the huge success Encore had earlier this year with Always … Patsy Cline, I have high really hopes for Quartet.

U-M Musical Theater Department’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid, playing April 13-16 Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor.

I know, I know. But I’ve got young kids who love going with me to shows, and not only will this stage production of Mermaid probably be top notch – simply because it’s Michigan’s musical theater program putting it on – but it will make them happy to sing along to Menken and Ashman’s still-infectious score (“Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World,” etc.). Yes, we will likely have a post-show discussion about whether Ariel should be willing to give away a significant part of her identity to chase after a guy (sigh), but even so, the potential for stage magic is pretty high with Mermaid, so I assure you we’ll be there.

Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.

Preview: The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Returns for its 38th Year!


The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Returns for its 38th Year!

Scenes from last year's Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. Photos from Ypsi Real.

The tents are going up, the buzz is in the air, and it’s easy to tell that a long-running local celebration is back for another year! This weekend the annual Ypsilanti Heritage Festival returns to Riverside Park with live music, entertainment, food, vendors, and countless other activities. This year marks the 38th annual celebration of this community festival, which started as the Ypsilanti Yesteryear Heritage Festival back in 1978 and has been honoring the city of Ypsi, its quirky culture, and its rich history every year since.

Highlights for this year include a community food tent, a magic show, a rubber ducky race, bounce houses, a touch-a-truck event, free access to many of Ypsi’s local historical buildings and museums, and a presentation by local historian Matt Seigfried on the incredible tale of local legend HP Jacobs. This year also features the triumphant return of Noise Permit, a musical event showcasing Ypsi’s talented teens in Frog Island Park.

The festival will once again sprawl between Riverside Park, Frog Island Park, and Depot Town. Entry to the festival and many of its events are free, but some events will require tickets or payment. If you’re the plan-ahead type, a full schedule of the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival’s events can be found on their website.

The Parkridge Summer Festival and DIYpsi craft fair will both take place over the next couple of days as well, so there will be no shortage of noise, fun, and sights to see in Ypsi this weekend!

The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival will take place on August 26, 27, and 28, 2016. For more information and a full schedule of events, visit YHF's website.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #610


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #610

One of Bon Appetit's 8 New Food Novels to Read This Year - The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is a debut novel by Boston pastry chef Louise Miller.

Running away is what thirtysomething Livvy (Olivia) Rawlings does best. After her Baked Alaska sets fire to Boston's exclusive Emerson Club, she packs up and heads north to Guthrie, Vermont where her childhood (and only) friend Hannah lives. Luck would have it, the Sugar Maple Inn needs a pastry chef, a job that comes with a charming little cottage - the Sugarhouse.

Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous and demanding inn owner puts Livvy through her paces but is soon won over by Livvy's creations, along with the guests and the town-folks. Before long, Livvy finds herself immersed in small town life and intense scrutiny when she gets involved with Martin McCracken, a prodigal son who has returned to tend his ailing father.

After a Rockwell-worthy Thanksgiving, a funeral, and a surprise visitor shake things up, Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee--or stay and finally discover what it means to belong.

This August Indie Next and LibraryReads pick, will appeal fo fans of Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan Stradal; South of Superior by Ellen Airgood; novels by Erica Bauermesiter and the Little Beach Street Bakery series by Jenny Colgan.

Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival


Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival.

Musicians keeping it country at Nashbash.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place in Kerrytown this past Thursday evening. Put on by the Kerrytown District Association in conjunction with the Kerrytown Concert House, the festival is a rare celebration of country music in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful night for the event, which takes place each year in the Farmers’ Market space between Fifth and Fourth Avenues. Wolverine Brewing Company and Aut Bar slung cocktails and barbecue, and attendees could grab dinner or dessert from various food carts, including Hello Ice Cream, Petey’s Donuts and Pilar’s Tamales. Overall, the atmosphere of the festival was, as usual, relaxed and cheerful, with a wide variety of attendees. Children played and danced in the cleared parking lot, millennials busted out their cowboy boots for the occasion and sat in the sun sipping beer (this Pulp writer is upset that she forget to wear her favorite bright red cowboy boots), and older folks eagerly claimed chairs right in front of the stage to sing and clap along to the music.

Nashville singer/songwriter Sally Barris headlined this year’s festival. She’s written songs that have been recorded by a number of famous country singers including Trisha Yearwood, Keith Urban and Martina McBride, and is an extremely talented musician in her own right, currently touring with her latest album “The Road In Me.” Festival attendees were delighted with her performance last night. She played plenty of lighthearted, almost comical songs, like the one she wrote dedicated to a man who wrote his own obituary that she read about in Yahoo! News and a “Halloween love song” co-written with Don Henley. “I know what you’re thinking,” Barris joked. “Another Halloween love song?” But it wasn’t all kidding around; Barris also sang a song (later recorded by Trisha Yearwood) that she described as “deeply personal,” titled “Let the Wind Chase You. “I don’t want to work for your love/I don’t want to try to be/Something that you’re looking for/You’re never gonna find in me,” Barris sang in her clear soprano. Her set concluded with a song about a girl living in Nashville who wants to fall in love with a real cowboy, not just a guy who throws on a belt with a big buckle and some boots and believes he’s the real deal. “If I said let’s ride off into the sunset/Would you know what I mean?” Barris ended the song with a smile and a wink.

Local band Hoodang also played Nashbash. Always a delight to watch, their music is a toe-tapping blend of blues, country and rock’n’roll. Lyrics focus on, as they describe it, “people tarnished by bad blood and bad luck who still find a way to make it through to the next town, day, marriage, con or battle.” Frontman David Rossiter founded the band in 2003, and has been playing locally ever since, with various backing musicians. The current iteration has been together for several years now, though, and it seems to be working extremely well. Along with Rossiter, who plays guitar and sings, Dave Keeney plays electric guitar, Ralph McKee plays bass, John Crawford plays drums and Sophia Hanifi offers her vocal talents to round out the quintet. Hoodang isn’t particularly showy on stage, but they’re a joy to watch, simply because they seem to be having so much fun and are so comfortable together. They dedicated their song “You Don’t Tell the Truth” to presidential hopeful Donald Trump, which got laughs and cheers from the crowd. Hoodang is exactly the kind of band that one hopes to see when walking into a Nashville honky-tonk, but fortunately for Ann Arbor residents, we didn’t have to make the 9 hour drive south to see such a performance last night.

Whit Hill and the Postcards were the final performance of the evening. Hill, a longtime Ann Arborite, moved to Nashville 8 years ago and is one of the founding members of Nashbash. She scopes out acts in Nashville and selects one to bring to the festival each year. After a bit of sound trouble, Hill and the band kicked off their set with “Lotta Yer Love,” off their 2006 album Farsighted. “Don’t give me lots of money/ I don’t need your money/Just need a lotta your love,” went the rocking chorus (“She doesn’t want money, just love,” a man next to me helpfully pointed out when he saw me taking notes on the performance). The band mainly focused on songs from their 2014 album, I Dug It Up, and played a rousing version of the title track, which was a crowd favorite.

Earlier in the evening, The Bill Edwards Band, The Judy Banker Band and The Whiskey Charmers performed.

Ann Arbor is not traditionally a country music loving town, and it’s a testament to the organization of Nashbash and the talent that performs that the festival has been so successful for a decade. Even those who think they can’t bear to hear a single note of a country song would do well to check out the 11th annual Nashbash in 2017.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-9:00. The festival happens every year in mid-August and is free and open to the public.

Elizabeth Pearce is a library technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She would also like to fall in love with a real cowboy.

Preview: DIYpsi Summer Festival


DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

As summer winds down and the nights grow shorter we find ourselves seeking out great outdoor events to attend to soak up as much summertime as we can. One such event to help send the month of August out with a bang is the DIYpsi Summer Festival, which takes place at ABC Microbrewery in Ypsilanti. This twice-a-year craft fair pulls out all the stops during its summer shows, as it continues to grow in size and amazingness each year. This not-to-be-missed show not only boosts the local economy and supports the arts, it combines so many elements to enjoy in one location, and this year they are going all out.

You’ll find over 80 top notch craft vendors from the Midwest selling superb handmade goods, as well as delicious foods on board, specialty craft brews, and a plethora of live music featuring local musicians that will be jamming out all weekend enhancing the already chill vibe. The organizers have some special treats in store this summer that include Theatre Bizarre working carnival games as well as a petting zoo at this indoor/outdoor extravaganza.

Between the crafts, food, beer, and a mini donkey, what more could you ask for in a summer weekend?!

Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library and is a super mega ultra fan of craft fairs.

DIYpsi takes place at ABC Microbrewery (Corner) in Ypsilanti on Saturday, August 27 from 11 am- 8 pm (bands play until 11 pm) and Sunday, August 28 from 12 pm- 6 pm. Admission is a $1 suggested donation. The event is 21+ unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Preview: George Bedard & Mr. B Lead The Blues Pack Together


George Bedard brings Match Box Blues to the Ark on August 27.

George Bedard brings Match Box Blues to the Ark on August 27.

Ann Arbor is fortunate to have housed some world class blues musicians with national and international credentials, Peter “Madcat” Ruth, Steve Nardella, and recently Laith Al-Saadi among them.

Guitarist George Bedard and pianist Mark "Mr. B" Braun are at the top of this short but powerhouse list. Though they have infrequently collaborated in other bands as sidemen, they will work front and center for a show at The Ark that should be a blockbuster showcase.

Where Bedard specializes in rockabilly and Mr. B’s expertise lies in boogie woogie, they are directly an offshoot of the historic blues which leads to rock music. Bedard has been presenting a chain of American roots music presentations, of which this concert is the fourth in the annual series.

The title of this show “Match Box Blues,” after the song written by Blind Lemon Jefferson in the 1920s, speaks of the early years of country blues, and the Mississippi musicians who stayed down south or migrated to Chicago, picked up electric amplified instruments, and changed the face of music forever.

There is also the importance of New Orleans and Memphis, along with Detroit, becoming hubs for African-American musicians and giving the blues its different flavors. From the Sun Records stable and Elvis Presley in Tennessee to the urbanized style in the Windy City and combinations of rural and city street diversity in the Motor City, Bedard and Mr. B have taken into account what came before them, inspired by storied train rides to each city telling the tales in days of old.

Carrying on in the boogie woogie tradition of Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, and Meade Lux Lewis, Mark “Mr. B” Braun came up in the ranks, moving from Flint and attending regular “Blue Monday” shows with Boogie Woogie Red in the basement of the old Blind Pig. Other figures like Little Brother Montgomery, Big Maceo, Leroy Carr, Otis Spann, and local legend Bob Seeley were also figures that loomed large in Mr. B’s development.

Mr. B stands for boogie woogie

Mr. B stands for boogie woogie.

George Bedard also convened in the basement of the Blind Pig, falling for Boogie Woogie Red’s style and substance. The guitarist enjoyed what Braun aspired to be with boogie piano, but also gravitated toward guitarists Robert Johnson, Tampa Red, Scrapper Blackwell, Robert Lockwood, Lonnie Johnson, and T-Bone Walker.

Going beyond roots, Mr. B has collaborated with jazz drummers Roy Brooks and J.C. Heard, bassist Paul Keller and his big bands, drummer Pete Siers, and singer/songwriter Dick Siegel.

Bedard also worked with Siegel, as well as gigging with bands the Vipers, the Bonnevilles, and the Silvertones in the 1970s. Later on, he teamed up with legends like harmonica players Kim Wilson and Big Walter Horton, singer Big Joe Turner, Eddie Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt, and he continues leading his popular veteran band The Kingpins going on four decades plus.

In an e-mail, Bedard spoke of his early days. “It was Steve Nardella who brought us together. I was inspired by Mark’s energy and his love of craft and we bounced off each other very well. Many of our early gigs were at the Blind Pig and it was playing there that we found out we each had spent time scoping out their featured blues artists.”

Mr. B, also via e-mail, chimed in. “Sure enough, I first met George through Steve Nardella. I was a little in awe of him at that time, as I used to hear him play with Steve in the Silvertones as often as possible. George was way ahead of me in terms of the spectrum of styles that he could play with authority. He put in a lot of time when he was young to learn a whole lotta guitar.”

Bedard says the first set will feature Braun in a display of his piano wizardry for famed guitar/piano duets, followed by drummer Rich Dishman (from The Kingpins) and jazz bassist Patrick Prouty joining them to revive tunes from their collective repertoire.

David Roof, master of the slap bass popularized by Slam Stewart, will be featured in the second set playing classic rockabilly material, including the icon Carl Perkins’ version of “Match Box.”

“Mark and I have been talking about doing a blues guitar/piano tribute for more years than we can remember,” said Bedard, “but never had the time. When we discovered we were both going to be in town in August we decided to sit down and actually work on this project.”

“Playing with him now is fun as can be,” Braun added. “We don't do it enough. If you want an opportunity to play an array of blues, jazz, swing and rockabilly material, it doesn't matter how far you go, you're not going to find a guitarist that can work it any better than George. I'm eating my Wheaties!”

"I can feel it already," Bedard concluded, with feeling. "We're going to have one hell of a fine time pulling it off”.

Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.

George Bedard & Mr. B perform at 8 pm on Saturday, August 27 at The Ark, 316 S. Main Street. Call (761) 1800 or (734) 761-1818, or visit The Ark's website for more information.

North Washington Street Porch Shows


Washington Street Porch Shows

Musicians on a Washington Street porch think and perform outside the box. Photo from YpsiReal.

In a town as rich in creative energy as Ypsilanti, musical performances can happen pretty much anywhere, and the Washington Street porch shows are proof. The spacious porch of 201 N. Washington Street in Ypsi has become the perfect DIY venue for local musical talent and casual community gatherings, put together almost entirely by Washington Street resident J.T. Garfield.

The magic of these shows comes from their completely laid-back, free-form atmosphere. Usually artists perform from the porch while the audience relaxes on folding chairs or plunks down right on the lawn. And if the musician doesn’t feel like playing up on the porch, well, he or she might just sit in the grass too and play from there. During one rainy Sunday show, Washington Street residents threw together a covering that was part zip-tie, part tarp-fort, part tent to cover the entire porch and the audience. Even the line-up is changeable, with some improvisational music acts jumping up on stage as the spirit moves them.

While the shows’ schedules are often packed with local musicians, there is always an effort to keep things interesting by including comedians, dancers, spoken word artists, and other diverse types of performance art. Past acts include Matt Jones, Misty Lyn, Fred Thomas, and J.T. himself, who belongs to the band Truman.

There’s no real schedule for these shows, but that’s no surprise when everything about this event speaks to its easygoing, yard-barbecue atmosphere. As of now, there’s only one future porch show with a date, on September 4th, so if you happen to be just cruising down Washington around 6pm and in the mood for music, it’ll be your lucky day.

For an excellent interview with J.T. Garfield on the origins and vision of the porch shows, check out this article from Ypsi Real by Michael Moriarty.

The next Washington Street porch show will be on September 4th at 6pm outside 201 N. Washington St. This free event is open to the public.