Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and Dexter Community Players' Halloween Drive aims to scare you with good theater


Halloween Drive

Skeleton dance photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and Dexter Community Players.

While most of us mourn the loss of traditional Halloween celebrations this year—scary movie marathons at home notwithstanding—the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and Dexter Community Players decided to do something about it.

The two troupes, who haven't been able to perform in front of audiences since the pandemic started, will have a slow-rolling crowd for their shows on October 30 and 31 at The Petting Farm at Domino's Farm.

Halloween Drive features three spooky plays written by Brodie H. Brockie and produced by Patty Mazzola that people can watch as they cruise along a path in their cars at the farm, including:

Friday Five: Prhyme Rhyme Boss, Lily Talmers, The Portingales, The DayNites, and JDSY


Friday Five, October 23, 2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists.

This week we feature rapper Prhyme Rhyme Boss, jazz-tinged singer-songwriter Lily Talmers, Celtic-y folk from The Portingales, neo-R&B by The DayNites, and electronic weirdness courtesy JDSY. 

The first release from Blind Pig Records was 1973's lone single by The Vipers


The Vipers' Buzzard Luck 7-inch single cover

The Blind Pig is a renown rock club these days—especially after the ad that went viral last weekend—but for a long time it was also known as home of a blues label that shares the name. Blind Pig Records was sold and is now based in California, but the label's about page wrongly lists when it started: "From our humble beginnings in the basement of an Ann Arbor, Michigan blues club in 1977, Blind Pig Records has grown into one of the premier blues labels in the world."

The basement part is right, but as you can see below in the ad from the December 14, 1973, edition of the Ann Arbor Sun, Blind Pig Records debuted four years prior with a 7-inch single by the short-lived jump-blues band The Vipers.

Bootleg Washtenaw: Wipers, July 7, 1987, at The Blind Pig



An occasional series highlighting live recordings made in Washtenaw County.

You may not know the music of cult group Wipers, but you've definitely heard songs by one of the group's biggest fans: Kurt Cobain.

In fact, you may even know two Wipers tunes through Nirvana covers: The 1992 tribute comp Eight Songs for Greg Sage and the Wipers (later expanded to Fourteen Songs ...) featured Cobain & Co. covering "Return of the Rat," while the Nirvana tour EP Hormoaning from the same year featured "D-7." Both songs come from Wipers' 1980 debut, Is This Real, which Sub Pop reissued in 1993.

The Wipers' tour that brought the trio to The Blind Pig on July 7, 1987, was for their fifth album, Follow Blind. The group would record one more record, 1988's The Circle, before calling it quits for six years. With the buzz created by Nirvana, Greg Sage reconvened the band for three more albums in the 1990s before stopping again—still a cult band.

Like Cobain, Sage was a left-handed guitarist who mixed distorted chords and dexterous lead lines. But where Cobain dealt with huge dynamics, Sage tended toward a nervy slow burn, with his hazy guitar sound—achieved through tube amps he built himself—providing a noise bed to support his wailing but distant vocals.

Wipers started in Portland, Oregon, but Sage has lived in Arizona for some time now, where he runs a recording studio and the Zeno Records label, which sells all the Wipers' albums plus two Sage solo LPs.

The Blind Pig recording sounds like an audience tape rather than from the soundboard, but it's pretty good quality.

Setlist and audio:

Bassist and Blue LLama Jazz Club booker Dave Sharp picks five albums that influenced him


Dave Sharp

When he's not playing bass in his Worlds band—or any number of other jazz and world-music groups in the Southeast Michigan area—Dave Sharp books the talent at Blue LLama Jazz Club on Main Street in Ann Arbor.

Based on his own music and the groups he has play Blue LLama, you can tell Sharp has big ears and catholic tastes. 

But if you ever wondered what records influenced his own musical journey, Sharp talked to the Analog Attack vlog out of Japan for its new series, Leaders and Sidemen.

In just under 35 minutes, Sharp picked out five albums from his collection that made a big impact on him and talked about why. But the twist with this process is that Analog Attack's host then has to find LPs from his own collection that feature sidemen from the records his guest picks:

U-M prof wins SMTD award and produces shortened, virtual version of Giacomo Puccini’s opera "La bohème"


Original 1896 poster of La boheme by Adolfo Hohenstein

Original 1896 poster of La bohème by Adolfo Hohenstein.

There's no doubt the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance's Stephen Lusmann loves opera in its original, unadulterated form.

After all, he's a voice professor who has taught for nearly 20 years at SMTD.

But Lusmann is also cognizant of the time-crunched—and, now, the sequestered, pandemic'd world—we live in. Those are two of the reasons why he created a shortened version of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La bohème, whose two-hour running time is cut in half.

Plus, the original has eight soloists whereas most young-artists programs only have four, and throwing a student singer—or even an audience member new to the genre—into a two- or three-hour opera performance might be overwhelming.

But the main reason why Lusmann made an abbreviated version of The Bohemians is that his SMTD colleagues gave him the 2020 Harold Haugh Award, which was founded in 1975 and named after the U-M professor and oratorio soloist. The honor is given to an SMTD professor to recognize his or her excellence in studio teaching. Recipients are awarded $5,000 and they're usually honored with a public event that includes a lecture and a performance. Lusmann had to make do with our current situation, so he and his SMTD students staged his version of The Bohemians sans audience and posted the performance to YouTube:

Friday Five: JTC, The Kelseys, Diesel Marine, Lily Milo, and DJ FLP


Friday Five 10-16-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County artists.

This week we start in the club, head down some dark country lanes, then head back to the dancefloor with new music by Tadd Mullinix's JTC, The Kelseys, Diesel Marine, Lily Milo, and DJ FLP. 

Bootleg Washtenaw: Nirvana, April 10, 1990, at The Blind Pig


Someone recently uploaded Nirvana's April 10, 1990, show at The Blind Pig to YouTube for the umpteenth time with the bad audio and wonky video.

Why bother when there's the version above, which has been online since 2012 and it sounds pretty good? It also boasts the following: "New Custom 2-Camera Mix/Deshaked with synced Audio (Aud1 JWB remaster)."

"Deshaked" is a shaky but accurate technical term, and for that alone, I'm entering this version of the video onto the record as the definitive edition of this bootleg.


Visual Arts Roundup: Catching up with UMMA, Stamps Gallery, Michigan Art Gallery, WSG Gallery, Ann Arbor Art Center, Gutman Gallery, Eat More Tea, Ann Arbor Women Artists, and Riverside Arts Center


Shang deinstall at UMMA

Images courtesy of UMMA.

For 12 years, going through UMMA's front entrance was the second thing you did when you arrived at the museum. The first thing was to swing on Shang, the giant metal sculpture by Mark di Suvero.  But a private collector bought the piece and it was deinstalled in early October. UMMA is encouraging folks to share photos of themselves on the swing with the hashtag #GoodbyeShang. Click here to read a great letter from an anonymous visitor who left a laminated letter attached to Shang with magnets; let's hope your experience on the swing has half as revelatory as it was for this fan.

WCBN's "The Local Show" honored the end of summer with a guest mix by Isaac Levine


WCBN - The Local Music Show

Since the pandemic forced WCBN's DJs out of the studio, the station has run a mix of previously aired shows and, as time has progressed, gradually added programs that the hosts record at home. Shelley Salant, who helms The Local Music Show, is one of those folks who has provided home-recorded shows the past few months, but she's also had some friends DJ from their pads. A few weeks ago, Ypsilanti's Isaac Levine—he of numerous bands and the Fish People Birds label—programmed a setlist dubbed "Summer Is Over and I Feel It" for The Local Music Show, and it's an excellent cross section of indie rock, hip-hop, electronica, and general weirdness from Washtenaw County artists.

Not every Local Music Show is posted to the archival Soundcloud page immediately, so the only other pandemic-era program on there right now is from July 22. But it's a prime example on how wide open The Local Music Show is to styles: the show features Dr. Pete Larson—a U-M epidemiologist by day; a nyatiti player and Dagoretti Records chief at night—along with Dr. Tiffany Ng's carillon concert in solidarity with Black Lives Matters.

I've embedded these two Local Music Shows below, but there's a weath of great shows going back years over on the Soundcloud.