Refuge and Isolation: Ypsi Alloy Studios' "Sanctuary" at Ann Arbor Art Center

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ann Arbor Art Center's app for Sanctuary

ICON Interactive's virtual reality app for Ann Arbor Art Center's Sanctuary exhibit.

Ann Arbor Art Center’s Sanctuary exhibition features some pieces that focus on the meditative aspect of the titular concept, but other works confront the “double-edged sword” of what "sanctuary" means, lending to the gallery’s successful interpretation of a broad theme. 

Featuring work from 15 artists from Ypsi Alloy Studios, the show is described by the gallery as:

Hungry Hearts: Michigan Rattlers at Sonic Lunch

MUSIC REVIEW

Michigan Rattlers at Sonic Lunch, July 5, 2018

A sort of homecoming: Michigan Rattlers returned to Ann Arbor, the birthplace of bassist Adam Reed. Photo by Christopher Porter.

Raccoons, foxes, and hawks prey upon the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

But the Michigan Rattlers are most susceptible to being consumed by broken hearts, Bell's Two-Hearted, and the eternal debate about where your heart truly belongs.

Comprised of Petoskey-raised childhood friends Graham Young (guitar) and Adam Reed (upright bass), along with more recent members Christian Wilder (keyboards) and Anthony Audia (drums), the Los Angeles-based Michigan Rattlers returned to the Sonic Lunch concert series on July 5 and played 13 originals plus a cover of Leonard Cohen's "On the Level."

Young and Reed performed as a duo at Sonic Lunch last year and their close-harmony Americana was immediately striking for its beauty and simplicity. But as a quartet, Michigan Rattlers brought a honky-tonk rock 'n' roll vibe to their acoustic-guitar-based compositions.

Dream Weavers: Chirp at Top of the Park

MUSIC REVIEW

Chirp at Top of the Park, June 30, 2018

Ann Arbor jammers Chirp helped Top of the Park close its final weekend of the summer. Photo from facebook.com/chirpmusic.

I remember it; if you were a kid who grew up in Ann Arbor you do, too. The nights you spent in the hot summer air with cold lemonade, and the smell of the food trucks, the times you sat in the grass looking up at the sky, listening to bands on the main stage. It felt like a dream.

Top of the Park has been around now for 35 years and I've gone to it almost every year that I've lived in Ann Arbor. But this was the first time that I went alone to review a band. It's funny how being alone can sharpen your thinking and make you a keener observer.

By the time Chirp took the stage on June 30, the park had filled out. People stood or sat in chairs in front of the stage, while others sat in the grass or under the beer tent. Bassist Brian Long, guitarist-vocalist Jay Frydenlund, guitarist Ken Ball, and drummer John Gorine mix styles freely, touching on rock in their guitar work, jazz with the drum and bass solos, and soul through Frydenlund's voice.

The Photography of Art: Donita Simpson’s "Context Is Everything" documents Detroit artists

VISUAL ART REVIEW INTERVIEW

Nancy Mitchnick by Donita Simpson

Picturing Art: Detroit painter Nancy Mitchnick, shown here next to her work in progress. Photo by Donita Simpson.

Donita Simpson is racing to record and archive images of the Detroit art scene’s most important and enduring artists as she writes the first draft of the city’s contemporary art history. A generous selection from the award-winning portrait photographer’s years-long project is on view in Context Is Everything at Connections gallery in the University of Michigan's North Campus Research Complex.

Lifting Every Voice: Jazzmeia Horn at the Power Center

MUSIC REVIEW

Jazzmeia Horn by Jacob Blickenstaff

Jazzmeia Horn Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.

After being introduced, Jazzmeia Horn came onto the Power Center stage on June 28 just as casual as she could be as she let us know she was new to town.

But the command performance of Betty Carter's "Tight" that followed showed Ann Arbor to be the only thing to which Horn was new.

World of Sound: Indian, zydeco & global-folk from Michigan danced off Summer Fest's final Friday

MUSIC REVIEW

K. Jones & the Benzie Playboys by Anthony Norkus

Caution, May Induce Dancing: K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys by Anthony Norkus Photography.

Even though Top of the Park was entering its final weekend on Friday, the stage was still filled with infectious summer energy thanks to the music of Sumkali, The Ragbirds, and K. Jones and the Benzie Playboys.

All of these bands are based in Michigan, but their sounds are drawn from around the world.

Found-Object Art, Found: "Materials on Hand: The Art of Ellen Wilt" at Stamps Gallery

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Ellen Witt's Urban Bridge, 1991

Ellen Witt and Ted Reyda's Urban Bridge, mixed media, 1991

The U-M Stamps Gallery’s exhibition Materials on Hand: The Art of Ellen Wilt brings together a remarkable variety of works executed over the Ann Arbor artist's long career.

Wilt originates from Pittsburgh, PA, but moved to Ann Arbor in 1949, where she has been active in the arts community since. She attended the University of Michigan, where she obtained both her BFA and MA from the Stamps School of Art & Design.

The Stamps gallery has gathered an impressive collection of Wilt’s work, highlighting her importance in the community. Collectors have loaned the gallery many of the works, allowing a rare glimpse into works that have been in private collections for decades. The gallery space itself is opened up, allowing for the inclusion of “over 50 carefully selected works from personal and private collections that highlight Wilt’s artistic contributions to Southeast Michigan.”

Dust Never Sleeps: The Dustbowl Revival threw a party at Top of the Park

MUSIC REVIEW

The Dustbowl Revival

Zach Lupetin fell in love with the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and its free, outdoor Top of the Park concerts during his time as a University of Michigan student. Wednesday evening, some 11 years after graduating, he returned as a performer, leading his LA-based acoustic band The Dustbowl Revival in a joyous, spirited set.

Recalling his U-M years, when he led an earlier local band called the The Midnight Special, he spoke of the community’s deep appreciation for live music. “People come together no matter what,” he said mid-show. “It’s an honor to play music here.”

The Dustbowl Revival made a name for itself more or less in the Americana genre, with some flavors of old-time jazz and western swing woven in. The band’s latest album expands its sound further, and Wednesday’s set started with a trio of songs -- the sexy “Call My Name,” the clever and danceable “Gonna Fix You,” and the intense “If You Could See Me Now -- that incorporated more elements of rock, soul, and funk.

Tadd Mullinix brings the boom-bap with his X-Altera & Dabrye personas

MUSIC INTERVIEW

X-Altera

When schizophrenic super-hero Moon Knight falls into one of many personalities, it's usually due to trauma or the intervention of Khonshu, the ancient Egyptian god of the moon, who also gave Marc Spector his powers.

When Ann Arbor's Tadd Mullinix creates or resurrects one of his numerous alter-egos, it's due to musical inspiration, not mental illness. 

Whether as hip-hop producer Dabrye, EBM-techno savant Charles Manier, acid-house auteur James T. Cotton, or drum 'n' bass fiends SK-1 and the new X-Altera, Mullinix immerses himself in the persona and electronic-music genres attached to those names.

Encore Theatre's production of "West Side Story" is unnervingly timely

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Encore Theatre's West Side Story

Not all that long ago, West Side Story seemed kind of quaint.

We’d all watch this classic, 1950s stage musical twist on Romeo and Juliet, built on the talent of four iconic artists (Jerome Robbins, concept; Arthur Laurents, book; Leonard Bernstein, music; Stephen Sondheim, lyrics), and think, “So many of the characters in this story are openly, unapologetically racist and anti-immigrant! I’m so glad we’ve evolved from this.”

Cut to the recent travel ban; and campaign promises about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico; and white supremacists proudly marching in Charlottesville last summer; and the U.S.’s short-lived, limited aid for American citizens living in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria last fall; and the children of detained migrant families being separated from their parents.

So “West Side Story” -- playing through August 12 at Dexter’s Encore Theatre -- which had always felt a little dated to me, seems almost unnervingly timely now.