Friday Five: Randy Napoleon, Date Nite, Mogi Grumbles, The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, Dastardly Kids

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

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

This week features jazz by Randy Napoleon, indie rock by Date Nite, modular electronics by Mogi Grumbles, space-age computer music by The Evil Doings of an Intergalactic Skeleton, and rap by Dastardly Kids.

U-M law professor Barbara McQuade fights against disinformation in her new book

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Barbar McQuade and her book Attack From Within

When Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and MSNBC legal analyst, prosecuted a doctor who “cured” cancer in patients who didn’t have cancer, some victims refused to believe they’d been duped. They had trusted their doctor, after all, and how could they have been so wrong?

In her new book, Attack From Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging Americawhich she will discuss at the Ann Arbor District Library on March 7, McQuade uses many examples from history, here and abroad, to show us just how disinformation works. 

In her comprehensive page-turner, McQuade also pulls theories from top political scientists, stories from FBI agents and other experts, and even Greek mythology, weaving them into a coherent argument that just may save our democracy. 

The Amplify Project and Spin Inc. Bring Detroit Electronic Music Conference to Washtenaw Community College on March 2

MUSIC INTERVIEW

The Detroit Electronic Music Conference logo shows the letters "DEMC" written in red with a gray and red cityscape outline above it.

Detroit Electronic Music Conference promotional poster detail.

After the Detroit Electronic Music Conference was put on hold last year due to a lack of venue, Rod Wallace and Ron “DJ Jungle” Johnson decided to bring the music production and DJ education event to Washtenaw County.

The heads of music nonprofits the Amplify Project and Spin Inc. will co-host the Detroit Electronic Music Conference (or “D Mack”) on March 2 at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Building.

“I first met DJ Jungle, who’s the executive director of Spin Inc., at a meeting with Grove [Studios], and they were looking for some opportunities to partner. Spin Inc. came and participated in our TAP IN event in 2023 and we talked about how we could collaborate,” said Wallace. about the free conference, which takes place March 2 and last occurred at the now-defunct Detroit Institute of Music Education in 2022.

“We had a conversation about his interest in bringing back the ‘D Mack,’ and I said, ‘Well, listen, we have a great partner in WCC … and [we can] tie it in with the arts management coursework that we’re teaching.’”

As part of D Mack’s preparations, the Amplify Project and Spin Inc. have enlisted WCC arts management students to help run the conference since their capstone class is built around event creation, collaboration, and execution.

Poet Zilka Joseph imparts memories, history, and culture of the Bene Israel people by way of food in “Sweet Malida”

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Zilka Joseph and her book cover for Sweet Matilda.

“From tumbled sands and shattered bark / blurred shadows dragged us,” writes Zilka Joseph in her new poetry collection, Sweet Malida: Memories of a Bene Israel Woman

These poems are immersed in the history, customs, and food of the Bene Israel people. The Ann Arbor poet shares about their shipwreck on the shores of India, worship of the prophet Elijah, and subsequent dispersing across the world. While Joseph imparts facts about the culture and community, she also makes the poems personal with her memories. 

This cultural and familial history informs Joseph’s poems, such as “Leaf Boat,” which is a longer poem that receives its own section of the book. Joseph describes “my body a leaf boat / lamp floated on water” in the context of the heritage of her ancestors, grandmother, parents, and herself who moved from place to place. Even her birth was during unsettled weather: “I was born Thursday in monsoon rain / night time East coast time / in Bombay a baby opens her eyes.” Water, especially oceans, flows through the lines, and “in my dream / the whales are singing.” 

Joseph focuses less on what is lost, though she does pay tribute to her parents, and focuses more on the richness that the traditions and foods of the Bene Israel pass along. One such food is “draksha-cha sharbath. Sherbet of raisins” for Shabbath, which Joseph writes about replicating on her own after moving to the United States. Earlier, she had prepared it with her grandmother and mother. As she writes in one of the short essays or prose poems that are interspersed throughout the book, making this recipe is like time traveling for Joseph:  

A Jill of All Trades: Julia Garlotte takes the helm of The Penny Seats Theatre Company

THEATER & DANCE INTERVIEW

A headshot of Julia Garlotte.

Photo courtesy of Julia Garlotte.

A theater's artistic director has to oversee everything on stage. She also has to check in with financial managers so the production stays on budget, and she has to understand acting, directing, and design—the whole deal.

Julia Garlotte, the new artistic director (AD) of The Penny Seats Theatre Company, is the whole deal.

Garlotte has acted for The Purple Rose in Chelsea, The Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, and Penny Seats in Ann Arbor as well as at some of the town's lost theaters: The Performance Network, The Blackbird, and The New Theatre Project. Audiences have seen her at other theaters throughout Southeast and Central Michigan, too. 

She has also designed sound for several theaters, recorded audiobooks, and recently she’s been directing.

Oh, and Garlotte managed the box office at The Purple Rose for 12 years.

The “sheer volume of her professional experiences” is one of the things that impresses Penny Seat’s outgoing AD, Joseph Zettelmaier. 

In addition to working with Penny Seats as an actor, she's also been a sound designer, sound engineer, assistant director, and director for the company.

Friday Five: Melody Korkmaz, Jess Merritt, Jim Cherewick, Michael Skib, Bekka Madeleine

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Cover art for the albums and singles featured in the Friday Five.

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

This week features R&B by Melody Korkmaz, soul-pop by Jess Merritt, indie-country-folk by Jim Cherewick, metallic shoegaze by Michael Skib, and folk-pop by Bekka Madeleine.

Clear and Present: Darrin James looks at marriage, family, and loss on “See Right Through”

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Darrin James wears sunglasses and holds an acoustic guitar while standing next to a river.

Darrin James explores a gamut of emotions on See Right Through. Photo by Doug Coombe.

When it comes to writing about love and loss, Darrin James believes in being crystal clear.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and producer shares honest and vulnerable stories about marriage, family, death, and uncertainty on his latest album, See Right Through.

“A lot of people say it’s heart-on-your-sleeve. I think that’s true and it’s always how I’ve kinda written. This album came from the more reflective side of things, and you have to embrace the vulnerability to write an honest song,” said James, who plays guitar, piano, organ, and synth on his fourth full-length release.

“Sometimes those tropes can express really true feelings … and sometimes when you’re being honest, a song is easier to write. It comes out more like a diary … and you’re staring at it thinking, ‘Now that it came out of me, that’s the song—it’s done.

On See Right Through, James reveals a gamut of emotions ranging from gratitude to joy to grief to hopelessness across seven tracks. Those raw feelings come to life through the album’s personal lyrics, heartfelt roots-rock instrumentation, and dreamy synth and horn textures.

“Those were personal songs that I waited until I had [them], and it made more sense after I had the love songs to counter the sad songs. I thought, ‘Now the whole album can have an arc of not just being a sad story,’” he said.

“Because [the songs] are more personal, they’re also more universal and timeless … Those themes I’m trying to deal with are ones that everyone [experiences].”

Encore Theatre's take on Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale mashup "Into the Woods" is filled with powerhouse vocals

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's Into the Woods

Photo by Michele Anliker Photography.

It’s fitting that I watched Encore Musical Theatre Company’s new production of Into the Woods with my 12-year-old daughter.

Not just because the girl can sing every word of the show’s patter song (“Your Fault”)—she used to fall asleep listening to the show’s cast recording each night—but also because she now lives in that interstitial, fog-laden forest known as middle school, where preteens blindly fumble their way out of childhood.

And frankly, if I had to name one show that’s about the terrifyingly fraught and difficult process of growing up, it would be Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

A fairy-tale mashup that premiered on Broadway in 1987—long before the word “mashup” became such a regular part of our lexicon—Woods interweaves the stories of Cinderella (Ash Moran), Rapunzel (Lucia Flowers), Little Red Riding Hood (Sienna Berkseth), and Jack (Tsumari Patterson) and the Beanstalk

How? By way of a cursed baker (Marcus Jordan) and his wife (Jessica Grové), who can’t have children until they gather the four items requested by the old witch next door (Jennifer Horne). But even when the couple succeeds, and everyone—fairy-tale protagonists included—gets what they want, in its darker second act Woods dares to venture beyond “happily ever after” and ask, “OK, now what?”

Monday Mix: WCBN's Local Music Show, Benjamin Miller, Immaculate Conception, The Boy Detective, Indie Pop Takeout, Sound and Silence

MUSIC MONDAY MIX

Illustration for Monday Mix featuring records, audio gear, and abstract shapes, mostly in teal blue and orange.

The Monday Mix is an occasional roundup of mixes, compilations, podcasts, videocasts, and more by Washtenaw County-associated artists, DJs, radio stations, and record labels. 

For this edition, we have studio gigs from WCBN's Local Music Show, an interview with Benjamin Miller, mixes from Immaculate Conception, an interview with The Boy Detective, and new episodes of Indie Pop Takeout and Sound and Silence.

 

All the Time: Frontier Ruckus Explores the past, present, and future on new album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Frontier Ruckus' David Jones, Matthew Milia, and Zachary Nichols stand outside on a wintry day with bare trees in the background.

David Jones, Matthew Milia, and Zachary Nichols of Frontier Ruckus. Photo by John Mark Hanson.

For Frontier Ruckus, aging represents a mixture of nostalgia, fear, and hope. 

The Detroit-Ypsilanti folk-rock trio of Matthew Milia, David Jones, and Zachary Nichols explores those feelings alongside the passage of time on its new album, On the Northline.

“The main soundbite that Matt has been saying about the record is that half of the songs were written before he met his wife, Lauren,” said Nichols, who plays trumpet, musical saw, melodica, and air organ on the album.

“He said half of the songs are angsty and half of them are happy. I hear a lot in the lyrics about getting older, looking back, and thinking about the future. I think we all feel a little bit middle-aged now.”

As part of that reflection, Frontier Ruckus engages in deep soul-searching across On the Northline’s dozen tracks. Contemplative lyrics, vivid suburban imagery, and wistful Americana, country, and jazz-inspired instrumentation encourage listeners to ponder their life trajectories.

“The feelings and the ruminations on aging and getting to the point that we’re at in our lives … they’re probably a little conflicted because it’s conflicting for all of us,” said Jones, the band’s banjoist-vocalist. “To a certain extent in Matt’s songs, there’s always a lot of nostalgia in a way that’s positive, but sad as well.”

Despite those conflicting thoughts, Frontier Ruckus forges ahead and finds some solace while revisiting hometown landmarks, adapting to everyday surroundings, and welcoming unexpected changes.

“There’s a certain amount of happiness to be where we are now and be past the turbulent days of our youth when we were in the van all the time,” Jones said. “There’s a level of contentment with being in this place that we’ve all settled in that feels good and more comfortable.”

I recently spoke with Jones and Nichols about waiting seven years between releases, dissecting the album’s introspective themes and tracks, writing and recording the album, preparing for two celebratory shows, and going back out on the road.