Alex Anest, leader of the Ann Arbor Guitar Trio (A2G3), enjoys the puzzle of arranging for three axes. No rhythmic accompaniment. No additional instruments. Just 18 amplified strings.
"There are so many tunes that I want to arrange for this group," he said. "I could quit everything and just arrange for guitar trios and probably be a pretty happy person doing it."
The challenges, he said, are "figuring out how to blend and also how to get voices to stand out. I realize that those are opposite challenges but they both come up."
Adam Kahana and Evan Veasey are Anest's partners in Ann Arbor Guitar Trio, whose debut album, Tides, is out May 17, which is also the day the group plays Kerrytown Concert House.
There’s minimalist art and there’s art on the edge of being minimal. This distinction may seem paradoxical, but it is one way of describing the Burgeoning exhibit at Kerrytown Concert House by local artists Deborah Campbell and Lois Kane.
Deborah Campbell's art is minimal -- and it's bountiful for it. Where a less talented artist might overpower her work with excess, Campbell strategically stitches her fiber art with just enough effort to convey her articulation. Every stitch counts.
Lois Kane's draftsmanship functions in a similar fashion as Campbell's stitching. Where Campbell’s touch is serene, Kane’s line is vigorous, or memorably spare, and is always on point.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible began with a class in America history when Miller was a student at the University of Michigan. The class included a segment on the Salem witch trials and Miller saw rich material for a drama that combined political, religious, and deeply personal conflicts.
He returned to the subject in the early 1950s, using the witch trials as a way to comment on the anti-Communist hearings of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. It was also an opportunity to show his rage at his friend and director Elia Kazan, who volunteered to name names of those who had any association with the Communist Party.
It’s a complex play dealing with a particular place and time while also exploring the broader view that we are not so far removed from the fanatics of Salem. Every few years offers up new examples of intolerance and repression, and an opportunity for theater groups to bring back Miller’s eloquent warning.
Nellie McKay often seems like she’s at a loss for words.
During our phone conversation to promote the pianist-singer-songwriter’s show at The Ark on May 13, her answers were often preceded by a swarm of ums, uhs, I means, and various other utterances. And when McKay did get to the answers, it wasn’t necessarily in response to my questions, instead offering long vignettes about politics and the stark realities of being a full-time musician.
On stage, McKay has a similarly discursive way of speaking, mixing funny anecdotes, political pleas, and stammering self-effacement.
But once McKay strikes a piano key, everything flows. Words stream from her gorgeous voice with confidence and warmth. The quirkiness that defines her conversations gives way to sass and power, and listeners get invited into her world -- which is not of this era.
I found out about Something to Do Comedy Night at the Heidelberg's Club Above when its organizer, Tony Klee, bought me a shot of tequila last summer and I joked about doing the show one day.
Recently, Klee put out a call for comics, especially women comics, and when I asked him if I could go up, he said yes.
I had about five days to come up with a five-minute set.
I needed to write some jokes.
When the NASA spacecraft New Horizons did a Pluto driveby at 32,000 MPH on July 14, 2015, it was the first close-up view we had of our solar system’s most distant planet.
And yes, it's a full-blown planet, despite what you may have heard on Aug. 24, 2006, when Pluto was reclassified by astronomers as a “dwarf planet.”
Please do not try to tell planetary scientist Dr. Alan Stern otherwise.
“What the astronomers did was really a travesty; planetary scientists don’t buy that b.s.,” said Stern, whose new book, Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto, recounts the spacecraft mission he led, which provided unprecedented photos and information about the Milky Way's tiny trouper. (He will be at AADL’s downtown branch on Thursday, May 10, at 7 pm.)
“We know what planets are, and if you go to planetary science meetings, Pluto is called a planet every single day,” Stern said. “Don’t follow what the astronomers do any more than if I tried to classify black holes as a non-expert. But the journalists who lapped it up in 2006, if that would have happened in the ‘90s, there would have never been a mission.”
Sometimes when I’m standing in line at the drugstore feeling tired and angry that the cashier is a moron, I decide to get my revenge on life by impulse-buying a Baby Ruth bar. Mainly because it’s there and I don’t like Baby Ruth bars.
My decision to go to see Happy Birthday Dear Alice was exactly like that. I made up my mind to go 15 minutes before it started because I was feeling crabby and it was happening, and I figured maybe it wouldn’t be completely terrible. I arrived late. The audience was small. I assumed my revenge had succeeded -- this was clearly the Baby Ruth of theater.
Except that it isn’t. Happy Birthday Dear Alice is good.
It’s so good, if I can manage to find the time, I will go back to see it again. If I had the time (I won’t), I would go see it for a third round. It’s that good.
If you like theater at all, I strongly recommend that you go see this show.
Anyone who has worked in the customer service industry can agree that it’s a tough business. Everyone has a story about that one customer who is too outrageous to be believed, which may not be so funny in the moment but is hilarious when recounted later.
When a situation is difficult, you need comedy to help get you through, and Ypsilanti’s Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG) is closing its third season with Can I Help You?, a play that will help you laugh your way out of troubles.
“I've worked in customer service for over 15 years," said NTG cofounder and director Kristin Danko, "and I've been wanting to do a show about the service industry for a while. A sketch comedy show seemed like the perfect outlet.”
The quirky, punk-funk threesome Scissor Now! released its most recent album, Now That's What I Call Scissor Now!, nearly three years ago. But the Ann Arbor trio of Jessica Bratus (vocals/saxophone), Kevin Sanchez (drums), and Jef Porkins (bass/vocals) keeps mining treasure from its avant-grooves by producing music videos, including the brand new "Camelbak," the fifth vid made in support of the LP.
Scissor Now! describes the song on its Bandcamp page thusly: "A lot of people seem to move from Ann Arbor to Portland, OR. Thankfully, most of them move back."
But the video for "Camelbak" has nothing to do with The City of Roses. Instead, it follows TinyDoorsATL artist and former Ann Arbor-ite Karen Anderson, who places 6-inch-tall doors in creative places throughout Atlanta.
If you dig Scissor Now!'s brand of fried jazz, below are the band's other four videos from Now That's What I Call Scissor Now! as a well as a performance from the 2017 Water Hill Music Fest.
The internet shows us the good, the bad, and the horrific of human nature.
You can find every kind of hate group imaginable, people telling other people to kill themselves, tweets that destroy your soul. It can be easy to forget that most people are good; it sometimes makes you want to throw your computer into the Huron River, rip the router out of the cabinet, and live under a tinfoil hat.
But every now and then something phenomenal happens.
Something like the thing that happened to Ann Arbor's Common Language Bookstore this past month.