"Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine" documents how the Detroit-born publication rose to the top
Creem magazine was the 1970s dirty rock 'n' roll branch of The New Journalism practiced in the 1960s by Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, and others. The magazine's salty, raunchy prose and passion-first stance helped crack the egg of music journalism, scrambling it into a form that had as much attitude as the music Creem was covering.
Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine is a new documentary by Scott Crawford -- director of the essential Salad Days chronicling the D.C. punk scene he grew up with -- that captures the mag's spirit of chaos, tracing Creem's rise and fall with open-eyed honesty.
Started in 1969 from Detroit's Cass Corridor, Creem spent 20 of its 30 years publishing out of Michigan and helped launch the careers of influential music journos Lester Bangs, Dave Marsh, documentary co-producer Jaan Uhelszki, and more. The Creem documentary treats Bangs, Marsh, and cantankerous publisher Barry Kramer as the heart of this dysfunctional band of misfits, many of whom not only covered rock 'n' roll but also lived the lifestyle. Kramer and his wife, Connie, were no exception, and the film's co-producer JJ Kramer deals with his parents' issues with grace during his on-camera interviews.
Before he became a documentary filmmaker, Crawford published numerous fanzines and magazines, including the well-known indie/roots/rock mag Harp, which was influenced by Creem and featured many of its writers. Crawford and I worked for the same company that took over publishing Harp for a few years, and I caught up with Crawford about his latest movie, which is currently available to stream at the Michigan Theater's virtual cinema. This chat was edited for length and clarity.
The Goose Lake International Music Festival was the Woodstock of the Midwest.
Between August 7-9, more than 200,000 people traveled from around the country to Jackson County's Leoni Township and set up shop at an otherwise unremarkable lake area where the got to hear some of the biggest name in rock 'n' roll including Jethro Tull, Chicago, Mountain, James Gang, then regional fave Bob Seger, and many more. Alice Cooper, Joe Cocker, and Savoy Brown were slated to play but did not, so the fest added The MC5 and Faces, whose singer Rod Stewart was having such a good time that the band canceled its next gig at the Fillmore East in New York and stayed in Michigan to party.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Goose Lake fest. It's had a lot of coverage over the years, some of which we've collected below, including two documentaries and a Nerd Nite talk on the festival. But the recent big news about Goose Lake is that Third Man Records unearthed audio from The Stooges' August 8 performance there, which was the last show by the band's original lineup, and have released it on vinyl and CD.
But despite their shared love for search-and-destroy guitar riffs, these two Michigan music giants have never recorded together until Two to One, an 11-track album that comes out September 18.
Tek (67) and Williamson (70) sound like young guns on the album's first single, "Stable."
Jesse Kramer's "Antinous as Osiris" interprets Roman passion and New York jazz through the lens of a Washtenaw County upbringing
This story originally ran June 12, 2019.
For roughly half a decade, the Roman emperor Hadrian was in love with a man who was not his spouse. Between 125 CE and 130 CE, the Greek youth Antinous became a favorite of Hadrian, and for the final two years of the latter's life they were side by side touring the Roman empire.
After Antinous' surprise death on the Nile, Hadrian was devastated and, in his grief, proclaimed his lover a deity, In turn, priests connected Antinous to the Egyptian god Osiris, lord of the underworld, afterworld, and rebirth.
Nearly 2,000 years later we have Antinous as Osiris, the latest album by Ann Arbor jazz drummer Jesse Kramer.
Summer camps, like the rest of society, were put in disarray due to the Covid crisis.
But some summer camps were able to recast their normal activities into virtual ones and stay open.
The University of Michigan's Girls in Music and Technology (GiMaT) runs August 17-28 is one of those camps, and because of its focus, GiMaT will likely be one of the more successful transitions to the virtual world. After all, who better to run a virtual tech and music camp than actual tech experts?
GiMaT is for students in grades 9-12, and the "camp is open to students of all gender identities, and is designed to encourage and support campers who wish to explore musical applications of technology."
U-M Faculty Director Dr. Zeynep Özcan, who makes brilliantly brainy electronic music, will guide students in understanding the musical applications if technology, with help from U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Department of Performing Arts Technology faculty. The program overview includes:
I am very sad to report that Herb David died last night. Herbie was one of a kind, unique in every way. He was a very important influence on me and my love for folk music. I feel strongly that, if not for Herb and Herb David Guitar Studios, The Ark would have come and gone in the late 1960s or early 70s. But more than anything, he was a dear friend and I'm going to miss him greatly.
Originally from Chicago, David learned his trade at age 25 from a Detroit shoemaker named Sarkis "Sam" Varjebedian, who also repaired stringed instruments in his shop. They met because David had taken his own guitar there for repair. When Varjebedian died, David bought his tools, some of which were more than 300 years old and passed down generations in the family. Remarkably, David grew up playing the trumpet and never touched a guitar until a fellow soldier gave him a few lessons in the Army, which he enlisted in after graduating from Michigan State University.
According to this 1963 "local man" article in The Ann Arbor News, David left his career as a research psychologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit at the age of 30 to begin his career as a luthier. David told the News:
Back in April, Saturday Looks Good to Me singer/songwriter/guitarist Fred Thomas was using some of his quarantine lockdown time to explore piles of cassettes he had featuring all manner of music from his various projects.
"I found this cassette that simply said 'Mar 11 2005' and was amazed to discover it was a show from one of Saturday's dreamier configurations during our peak touring times," Thomas wrote on the Bandcamp page featuring the live recording now titled March 11, 2005 • Champaign.
The "dreamier" Saturday sound on this tour -- compared to its more typically rollicking indie rock -- happened because Thomas didn't remember that drummer Steve Middlekauff couldn't come along for the tour until the night before. But rather than try to rope in a percussionist at the last minute, the group switched gears and adapted to the drummerless tour on the fly.
I had originally titled this post like I did the previous eight in this series: "New Washtenaw music in the time of quarantine."
That headline implied quarantine was for a limited period of time, but with the pandemic mishandled every step of the way by the federal government, there is no timeframe for the end of lockdown. <Insert 40,000-word diatribe>
The time of quarantine is now and for the foreseeable future.
It's how we have to live in order to stay alive.
Artists are resilient and they create because they have to, no matter the circumstances. So, this post is highlighting new music made by or released by Washtenaw County artists and labels -- the same as they did during normal times. Because our current time is our normal time even if it doesn't look like it did in the past.
Shoutout to the creators persevering through this mess.
Michigan natives Chris Erickson and Hadley Robinson have been friends since birth.
“Before birth, actually," Erickson says. "Our dads grew up together, our grandmothers went to college together and they lived on the same street in Midland.”
The two stayed in touch through adulthood as each became artists in different ways.
Robinson is a video producer based in Brooklyn: “My background is in journalism, I used to be a newspaper writer. I’ve worked in video full time for the past five years while dabbling in audio, which has been helpful with this endeavor.”
Erickson teaches in the IB program at Huron High School where he also serves as the creative activity service coordinator, guiding students to find and pursue their creative interests.
School of Music, Theater, Dance, and Jams: U-M SMTD faculty have been compiling mixtapes during quarantine
Late winter and early spring is usually a busy time for the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD). Students have started working on their final projects, music performances fill the auditoriums of the Earl V. Moore Building, and theater and dance events abound.
But since the coronavirus pandemic shut down all activity, the SMTD started engaging its audience by offering livestreams of discussions, archived performances, and even yoga classes.
My favorite SMTD offerings are the faculty-compiled mixtapes on Spotify.