Five Minutes of Bravery: The Moth GrandSLAM returned to The Ark after a three-year break

PULP LIFE REVIEW

The Moth logo

Leaping out of indecision, or into a new love, or over a chicken coop—these were some of the jumps storytellers shared at The Moth’s GrandSLAM championship on May 12 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.

In the first Ann Arbor GrandSLAM since 2019, nine storytellers who were previous winners of the regular StorySLAM events each received five minutes to tell a true personal story, without any notes to guide them. Three groups of judges—naming themselves Quantum, The 229s, and The Bullfrogs—secretly rated each story, not even revealing the scores after a winner was determined. Amir Badghdadchi, a past GrandSLAM winner, was the host and kept the energy high. 

With this year's theme being "leaps," the GrandSLAM invited the audience to listen to "stories of springing into action, clearing hurdles, impulsive decisions or concentrating everything they have on a single bound. In short: busting a move."

Friday Five: The Olllam, Hannah Baiardi, Matthew Dear, Mark Zhu, Nickie P. & Duke Newcomb, Sean Curtis Patrick, Tom Smith, Danger Room, The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, Thomas Gun

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 05-13-2022

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

We're doing this again? Doubling the size of Friday Five for the second time in two weeks?

If area musicians keep this up, I'm going to have to change the column name to Tuesday Ten, which will be really confusing when I run the post on Fridays, the day all new music comes out. (Back in the olden days, release day used to be on Tuesday, which would be a strange day to run a column called Friday Five, but I digress so hard.)

This week features:

- Irish fusion by The Olllam
- sophisti-pop by Hannah Baiardi
- electronic pop by Matthew Dear
- ukulele-driven pop by Mark Zhu
- hip-hop by Nickie P. & Duke Newcomb
- a moon-landing soundtrack by Sean Curtis Patrick
- parodies by Tom Smith
- noise by Danger Room
- metal-tronica by The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
- rockabilly-tinged punk by Thomas Gun

 

Friday Five: ​​​​​​​Towner, Warren & Flick, Hannah Baiardi, Mirror Monster, 1473 label live compilation

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 05-06-2022

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

This week features the fuzzy Midwestern power-pop of Towner, country-tinged instrumental duets by Warren & Flick, R&B pop by Hannah Baiardi, new wavy electronica by Mirror Monster, and a compilation of live ambient performances on the 1473 label.

 

In Real Life: Indie rocker Kelly Hoppenjans shares pandemic-era experiences on “Can’t Get the Dark Out”

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Kelly Hoppenjans photo by Autumn Dozier

Kelly Hoppenjans dissects past heartbreak, navigates newfound love, and weathers interstate moves on Can’t Get the Dark Out. Photo by Autumn Dozier

Kelly Hoppenjans prefers to view love and life through a realistic lens.

The Ann Arbor indie-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist shares a real-life account of pandemic-era relationships, life changes, and personal growth on her introspective new EP, Can’t Get the Dark Out.

“This pandemic has been a really tough time to be alone, and it’s made it difficult to navigate changing relationships, too.," she said. "I wrote ‘Love of My Life (In My Living Room)’ about my frustration with online dating, and a few months after writing it met the love of my life through a dating app.”

Hoppenjans, who relocated from Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, said, "By the time I met him, I’d already decided I was leaving town for my doctorate, and I wrote ‘Parallel Lines’ about the irony of meeting someone when I had one foot out the door, wanting to leave town but not him. He moved up here with me, so that worked out in the end.”

On Can’t Get the Dark Out, Hoppenjans dissects past heartbreak, navigates newfound love, and weathers interstate moves across five journal-entry-inspired tracks. The 20-minute EP seamlessly flows through alt-rock and folk-rock sensibilities with forthright lyrics.

“I feel like sometimes when we envision positive things, like love or marriage or children coming to us in the future, we think, ‘That will fix everything,’ like the struggles will evaporate once we achieve those goals. That’s just not how it works,” she said.

“Being in love has brought so much joy to my life, and it’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It doesn’t fix anything magically … all the baggage we bring with us … it haunts us in our relationships, and we work through it together.”

Hoppenjans will share her Can’t Get the Dark Out experiences and songs during a May 6 EP release show at The Bling Pig with special guests Ani Mari and Clay in the Woods.

Friday Five: Double-length premium super-deluxe bonus edition

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 04-29-2022

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

Normally I just feature five artists in the Friday Five. It says so right in the column title. No lies told here.

But what if Washtenaw County-associated artists and labels don't respect the arbitrary limit I place on the number of releases I feature in this column every week, and instead they just keep putting out so much high-quality music that I gotta run a double-length column just to keep up? 

I respect your right to disrespect my artificial ceiling, Washtenaw County creatives, and I offer up this double-length premium super-deluxe bonus edition of the Friday Five.

This week features:

- the brilliant art-jazz-funk of Miles Okazaki
- techno by JTC
- metalcore by ONI featuring Iggy Pop and Randy Blythe
- jazz-drone by Colin Stetson, Elliott Sharp, Billy Martin, and Payton MacDonald
- Kenyan folk by Makadem and some Ann Arbor all-stars
- sound sculptures by Kikù Hibino
- video-game songs by mathew
- ghettotech by zagc
- Kraftwerk-ian pop by Telesonic 9000
- and emo-y pop by Premium Rat

 

Answer Me This: U-M lecturer Phil Christman explains it all in his new essay collection, “How to Be Normal” 

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Phil Christman photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Author photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Phil Christman takes on the problem of How to Be Normal in his new essay collection by interrogating broad categories of life. Like his earlier book, Midwest Futures, the essays are wide-ranging. For How to Be Normal, Christman tackles topics including “How to Be a Man,” “How to Be Religious,” and “How to Care.” Christman takes unexpected turns by bringing in references including Star Wars, Mark Fisher, and Marilynne Robinson. 

One of Christman’s essays, “How to Be Cultured (I): Bad Movies,” begins with a reflection on watching such films as a shared hobby his father. He analyzes Mystery Science Theater 3000, failings of adults seen through a child’s eyes, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, among others. The issues in the films can be generalized, as Christman writes:

Wherever You Are: Geoff Sobelle’s experimental theater piece explores what it means to be "Home"

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Full stage of actors on stage in a production of Home

Photo courtesy of UMS

Among the many, many things that have changed over the last two years is our sense of “home.” 

While traditionally associated with comfort and family and love, our homes became claustrophobic prisons of a kind during the pandemic as we holed up to protect ourselves and each other; and though home provided many of us with some semblance of safety, we were nonetheless terrified of being with others and of this dangerous thing that was out in the world that we didn’t yet understand.

So although the UMS presentation of Geoff Sobelle’s Home—a genre-defying hybrid of theater, dance, and interactive performance art that often has the feel of a live silent film—had been originally scheduled for April 2020, seeing it instead this past weekend during its two-day run at the Power Center inevitably meant the audience watched it with COVID-era eyes.

That’s not to say we collectively arrived at the venue with a jaundiced, wary perception filter firmly in place. But for many of us, the abstract idea of “home” as an emotional palette has expanded to include some darker hues, right alongside the more conventionally bright, cozy, warm ones.

Time is punctuated by motherhood, the pandemic, and a family rupture in poet Carmen Bugan’s new collection, "Time Being"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Poet Carmen Bugan and her book Time Being

Carmen Bugan’s new poetry collection, Time Being, shows how the coronavirus has meant many different things to many people and also that it put us into our own bubbles. Bugan’s isolation includes her children, garden, home in New York, connection to Michigan, and eventual divorce. Her poems chronicle the months of isolation, motherhood, the excessive losses to the virus, and the ways that the pandemic, despite upending everything, was nevertheless not the only thing happening in 2020 and 2021. 

Bugan turns her outlook inward in Time Being. Part I serves as foreshadowing with the poem “Water ways” when the outcome of making footsteps on sand is that “the ocean erases them impatiently” as a parallel to the later repetitive, near-daily baking during the pandemic. In Part II when the pandemic strikes, the poems question, “But who could have imagined our / new lives six months ago?” and “Who would have known we’d be staying home / Nearly a year, the house growing around us / Like a shell, shutting out the life we knew?” The situation could not have been anticipated, as “Water ways” alludes:

(Not Quite) A MoodSwing Reunion: Jazz all-stars electrify Hill Auditorium despite missing a key member

MUSIC REVIEW

Brian Blade, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, and Brad Mehldau by Michael Wilson

Brian Blade, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, and Brad Mehldau—a MoodSwing reunion. Photo by Michael Wilson.

Joshua Redman comes across as surprisingly shy for one of the best saxophonists in the world. Instrument held slightly off to the side, he addressed the immense crowd at Hill Auditorium on Thursday night from behind his reading glasses and with an endearing timidity, almost apologetically searching for the right words as he gave titles for the night’s first two pieces and introduced his band. Never once did he betray even a hint of the fact that a minute before he’d delivered the kind of virtuosic performance only a handful of people in the world could give. 

The saxophonist and composer was joined onstage by talents no less ferocious than his own, almost a full reunion of the Joshua Redman Quartet lineup from the ‘90s. Bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade—Grammy winners both—grounded the ensemble as its rhythm section throughout the night, occasionally breaking out for breathtaking solos, and the only absence from the old days was pianist Brad Mehldau, who was originally slated to appear but called in sick at the last minute.

Friday Five: Kat Steih, The Biscuit Merchant, Evan Starr, Chirp, Good Mother

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five album covers for 04-22-2022

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

This week features jazzy electro-pop from Kat Steih, melodic death metal by The Biscuit Merchant, hip-hop pop by Evan Starr, a funk-prog mashup by Chirp, and a mega-funk mix by Good Mother.