Athletic Mic League returns after a 15-year hiatus to confirm its status as Ann Arbor's "Playground Legends"
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
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.
Friday Five: Violet Sol, Anna Grace Agrawal, Nature Meets Nurture, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Brave New Works
A lot of classics in this edition of the Friday Five. I'm not talking about the recordings themselves—that's up to you, dear listener—but four of the five Ann Arbor artists/ensembles featured below are classical musicians or have definitely studied classical music at some point, and the remaining musician strives for an orchestral majesty in his music. Check out new sounds from Violet Sol, Anna Grace Agrawal, University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Brave New Works, and Nature Meets Nurture.
Publisher Michelle Dotter details upcoming works from Ann Arbor's Dzanc Books
“If you had told me when I started in this business, that one day I would be working for a non-profit that published books based on their merit and not profit, I would not have believed it,” says Michelle Dotter, who serves as publisher and editor in chief of Dzanc Books (pronounced Duh-ZANK).
The nonprofit was co-founded in 2006 by Ann Arbor lawyer turned novelist and 826Michigan creator Steven Gillis and Emerging Writers Network creator Dan Wickett. They had an uncompromising vision for Dzanc.
“The biggest thing for Steve," Dotter says, "was that nothing be constrained by shareholder interest, so we would never sacrifice artistic quality or only support books that could make money … or end up like some presses, where commercial potential is such a factor they send book covers to retailers like Walmart or Costco, giving them the power to reject a cover if they think it won’t sell.”
Dotter took over as publisher and editor in chief of Dzanc in 2017 after working there since 2014.
“I loved what they were doing as far as experimental literature," she says, "taking chances on amazing authors and books that might have been rejected for commercial reasons at other publishers.”
One such book is In Our Midst by Nancy Jensen. Dotter will be in conversation with Jensen at a virtual event hosted by Literati on Monday, September 28 at 7 pm.
Astronomy at the Beach moves the sky (and sand) online for its 2020 edition
Astronomy at the Beach (AATB) is the Great Lakes Association of Astronomy Clubs (GLAAC)'s signature annual event. Held each year at Island Lake State Park near Brighton, Michigan, and attended by thousands, this year’s two-day event on Friday and Saturday, September 25-26 has been moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adrian Bradley is president of GLAAC and an avid amateur astronomer and photographer who especially loves nightscape photography. He is also a member of the University Lowbrow Astronomers, the local astronomy club partnering with AADL to provide and maintain the library's circulating telescope collection.
We chatted with Bradley about this year's Astronomy at the Beach lineup.
Rasa Festival shifts online but still offers a full month of arts and culture from India
It looked bleak in March and April for the fourth edition of Ann Arbor's Rasa Festival. Everything was being canceled, and the annual September celebration of arts and culture from India looked like it was not going to happen either.
"We canceled all our venue bookings at that time, although with a heavy heart," wrote Sreyashi Dey, the president and artistic director of Rasa, in an email to Pulp. "We had some fabulous concerts planned this year, with world-renowned touring artists from India, but had to cancel that as well. It was very depressing."
But as the months dragged on, Dey, who is also a dancer, couldn't contain her desire to create new works, and that spurred her on to reconsidering Rasa.
"As an artist/dancer myself, I was beginning to feel disheartened about my own creative impulses and motivation to create new work," Dey wrote. "So I started thinking about making some new dance works while still in lockdown, but with no real plan for what to do with it. Then I started thinking of doing a video recording to share. And that's how the idea of the festival going virtual was born, and once I started talking to the other artists, everyone was very eager and enthusiastic."
The performance part of the month-long virtual Rasa Festival runs October 3-25, with streams starting at 11 am each Saturday and Sunday throughout the month. The Mandali: India and the World art exhibition, presented in partnership with the Ann Arbor District Library, runs October1-November 12.
Rasa will present its usual assortment of dance, music, written word, film, fashion, travel, social change, and visual art, but there will be no culinary component this year, for obvious reasons—but we got you covered. I talked with Dey over email about the challenges—and opportunities—of presenting the Rasa Festival online and what she food she'd recommend for us to make or buy at home to accompany the 2020 virtual edition of the Rasa Festival.
Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra recasts fall season, partners with Kerrytown Concert House
The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra was supposed to launch its fall 2020 season with "Goodyear Plays Beethoven" at the Michigan Theater, in front of an audience, on September 10. [Insert section about Covid-19 ruining everything] [That's not an editing mistake; I'm just saving myself time since we all know what's going down in the world.]
Stewart Goodyear will still play Beethoven, and there will still be an audience; the crowd will just be at home and the concert will be broadcast from the Kerrytown Concert Hall on September 26.
The other fall 2020 A2SO programs that were affected are:
Friday Five: Music from Matthew Dear, Same Eyes, The Kelseys, Emilie Lin, and a MEMCO mix
We trawled the universe and found five Ann Arbor artists with new or recent singles, albums, and compilations that you need to hear right this instant. So, put down the welding torch, slide on your headphones, and slip off into a quiet space to listen to tunes by The Kelseys, Same Eyes, Emilie Lin, Matthew Dear, and a Spotify playlist from the Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO).
Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series' fall 2020 lineup will be livestreamed
The Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series has existed since 1998, presenting some of the world's greatest creatives and thinkers. Since 2013, the talks have been recorded and most of them posted to YouTube for those who couldn't attend the free events in person at the Michigan Theater.
But now that nobody can attend any events, the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series is cutting to the chase and broadcasting its events live in partnership with Detroit Public Television and PBS Books.
The fall 2020 series kicks off Friday, Sept. 18 and continues through Dec. 4. All the talks begin at 8 pm and can be viewed on dptv.org and Penny Stamps Series' Facebook page. The talks will continue to be put on YouTube as long as the speaker as given permission.
The fall 2020 season includes:
Ken Fischer makes the case for collaboration and connectivity in his book "Everybody In, Nobody Out"
This post contains two sections: a book review and a brief interview with Ken Fischer.
On June 1, 1987, Ken Fischer became the sixth president of the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan.
That date marks the beginning of 30 years of transformation, innovation, and collaboration.
Fischer’s Everybody In, Nobody Out: Inspiring Community at Michigan’s University Musical Society written with Robin Lea Pyle is a book of many parts. It is a memoir, an insider’s view of some of the leading performance artists who come each year to Ann Arbor and, perhaps most important, a guide on how to operate a non-profit by reaching out to and connecting with the community at large.
The title comes from Patrick Hayes, a mentor to Fischer and former head of the Washington Performing Arts Society. Hayes had developed a policy for art presentation that emphasized inclusion at every level. His policy was "Everybody In, Nobody Out" and it became Ken Fischer’s mantra.
“It was about making connections and forming partnerships for everyone’s enrichment,” Fischer writes. “The great thing about collaboration was that it could be the foundation of everything we needed to do as an organization: secure outside sources of funding, raise our visibility in the community, expand our audience, gain new insights, and build enthusiasm for working on new projects.”
Fischer’s book is a short history of those collaborations with the university, with world-class performers, with other local arts groups, and with local and national businesses and philanthropists.
But first a prelude.