Melodies, musicians, and meditation with Ypsi trio minihorse

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Minihorse

Ride on: John Fossum, Ben Collins, and Christian Anderson are minihorse.

The rock trio minihorse was featured in Detroit Metro Times' “12 Detroit Bands to Watch in 2018," with the qualifier that the trio is actually from Ypsi.

The band is comprised of Ben Collins on lead vocals and guitar, AADL’s own Christian Anderson on bass, and John Fossum on drums who create loud, fuzzy songs that are rich in melody. Collins' lyrics are reflected in minihorse’s responses to my questions: vacillating between insightful self-reflection and cheeky humor. Take the standout track “Blueblack” from last year's Big Lack five-song mini-LP: “The mailman’s dressing in all black / at least that’s who I think it is through the pinhole. / That’s him tilting his head back / I think I should let him into my VIP.”

Over tea and biscuits, we talked with minihorse about the band's forthcoming debut LP, inspiration, meditation, and mental health.

Jagged Paths: Morgan Jerkins at Literati

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing

I accidentally purchased two copies of Morgan Jerkins' This Will Be My Undoing. I bought one copy the day it came out and the second copy, a digital one when I mislaid the first, because I simply couldn’t wait to read more. She writes about things I have thought about but don’t think I’m brave enough to put on paper. It seems important to her that she writes openly. “Hey, I’m messy," she said at her Feb. 16 reading at Literati.

The Leon Loft concert series is Ann Arbor's intimate hideout for great music

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Spoon at The Leon Loft

Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel from Spoon played The Leon Loft on Aug. 1, 2017. Photo courtesy of The Leon Loft.

Although it's far more polished than your average basement club, The Leon Loft still boasts the same hush-hush cool that surrounds a good underground venue. You likely won't just buy a ticket to see a show at the venue on the second floor of Leon Speakers' custom audio business adjacent the Ann Arbor Municipal Airport. In addition to hosting various private events, the Loft's signature offering is its ongoing free concert series hosted by Acoustic Café's Rob Reinhart. The series has presented an eclectic mix of over 30 artists including Michael Franti, Fitz and the Tantrums, and City and Colour. The concerts are broadcast live on 107.1 FM and archived online in video form, but to catch one live you'll have to win tickets on 107.1. 

But once you get in, you're in for a treat.

Kickshaw Theatre's "Or," is a farce with sharp teeth

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Kickshaw Theatre's Or,

Plagued with laughs: Daniel Helmer and Vanessa Sawson star in the sharp-edged farce Or,. Photo by Sean Carter Photography.

Farce is tricky to pull off, but when it’s done well, there are few things funnier. The rest of the time, it’s either tedious or just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much mediocre farce.

A lot of what sets the sublime apart from the shabby is precision. Yes, all comedy relies on timing, but farce requires lightning-fast costume changes, flitting facial expressions, and meticulously calibrated entrances.

Thankfully, Or, the newest production from Kickshaw Theatre is an exquisite farce as performed by masters of their craft.

Life, Stories: U-M's 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture focused on trans lives

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

Janet Mock

Janet Mock was one of the headline speakers at the 4th annual W.M. Trotter Lecture.

I think that the first time I heard Janet Mock was on the Another Round podcast. She charmed me right away. I loved her passion and the way that she told her story. So, when I heard she was going to speak on Feb. 8 at the University of Michigan's Rackham Auditorium, I knew I wanted to be there at the 4th annual W. M. Trotter Lecture, “My Life. My Story! Centering the Voices of Trans Lives.”

I hadn’t taken a close look at the event when I reserved tickets for me and my son. I didn’t know I was going to spend an entire evening listening to seven trans people of color share their stories and then spend the entire weekend thinking about what I heard. On the other side of the event, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Causing Moments: WSG Gallery's “Lynda Cole: Recent Places and Themes”

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Lynda Cole, Two-2

Lynda Cole's Two-2; oil stick, cold wax on Terraskin, mounted on Gator Board.

Local artist Lynda Cole is back at the WSG Gallery with another adventure in abstraction that’s as much about her sense of self as it is an exploration of art itself.

The last time we saw her work was in November 2015 when she held North to be as much a state of mind as it is a navigational direction. As I wrote at that time, Cole’s North exhibition was a “fusing of time and space -- through a particular state of mind.”

Her Recent Places and Themes is more of the same. As Cole says in her gallery statement, “Months ago, when I began working on paintings for this show, I was exploring the simple way in which two colors would interact.”

UMMA's "Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation" ponders our relationship to disaster images

VISUAL ART REVIEW

Peter Turnley, New York, 9-11

Peter Turnley's New York, 9-11-01, 2001, archival pigment print; University of Michigan Museum of Art; gift of David and Jennifer Kieselstein, 2016/2.504.

Aftermath: Landscapes of Devastation is a small, excellently curated photo exhibition at UMMA that addresses the relationship between disasters, their images, and viewers. Chronicling an immense range of historical disasters, the exhibit is comprised of shots from the beginning days of photography that have captured remnants of destruction.

"Border Crossers" asks viewers to consider a boundaries-free world in the tech age

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Chico MacMurtrie's Border Crossers

Chico MacMurtrie holds a prototype for Border Crossers at the University of Michigan's Wilson Student Team Project Center. Photo by Robyn Han.

Border walls are only as strong as the robot overlords who can smash them to rubble allow them to be.

Sorry, that line was meant for my dystopian sci-fi novel. Chico MacMurtrie's Border Crossers project has a much more positive outlook.

Restored “Porgy and Bess” Score to Be Showcased at Hill Auditorium

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Porgy and Bess

Left: Todd Duncan (Porgy) and Anne Brown (Bess), 1935. Right: John Bubbles (Sportin’ Life) and Brown, 1935. Photos courtesy the Ira & Leonore Gershwin Trusts.

The version of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess that will be performed at Hill Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 17, won’t be tremendously different from other renditions familiar to audiences through the decades. But it will be the closest thing anyone’s heard in quite some time to the “folk opera” performed just the way its creators intended.

Saturday’s opera is part of the Gershwin Initiative -- a long-term partnership between the Gershwin family and the University of Michigan. Presented by the University Musical Society and the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the event will mark the public debut of a new, scholarly edition of the opera’s score. Morris Robinson as Porgy and Talise Trevigne as Bess lead the cast; the performance will also include the University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Kiesler; the UMSMTD Chamber Choir, directed by Jerry Blackstone; and the Our Own Thing Chorale, directed by Willis Patterson.

Homes and Homelands: Yaa Gyasi at Rackham Auditorium

WRITTEN WORD REVIEW

U-M professors Guarev Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6.

U-M professors Gaurav Desai and Aida Levy-Hussen joined author Yaa Gyasi (center) at Rackham Auditorium on Feb. 6. Photo by Lisa Powers.

I am a little afraid to read Yaa Gyasi’s novel, Homegoing, much for the same reason I’ve picked up but never finished reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I’m gun shy when it comes to fiction that portrays, in any fashion, chattel slavery. I’ve never even seen Roots. For me, there is something extremely uncomfortable about knowing my existence and all the opportunities that have come with it are a direct result of my ancestors’ suffering.

On Feb. 6, I had to face my fears to a certain degree at “Homegoing: A Conversation with Yaa Gyasi,” the 2018 Institute for the Humanities Jill S. Harris Memorial Lecture, which took place at Rackham Auditorium. Homegoing is also the 2018 Washtenaw Reads book, a title selected by a panel of community members from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline, and Ypsilanti. The Washtenaw Reads program aims to promote reading and dialogue through community members experiencing and discussing a common book.