Live Review: Best Exes and Human Skull at Mittenfest


Human Skull and Best Exes

Human Skull (left) and Best Exes were two of 21 bands who helped raise money for 826Michigan last month at the three-day Mittenfest.

Dec. 29, 2016

It's cold outside, zero degrees, and snowflakes are falling fast, covering downtown Ypsilanti in powder. Everything is quiet and slow. Tonight is the first night of the three-day Mittenfest, the annual music-festival fundraiser for 826Michigan, an organization that supports literacy in children and teens primarily through tutoring and after-school programming.

When I reach Bona Sera, the Ypsilanti restaurant where Mittenfest is being held, I walk down a flight of stairs into a crowded basement. The audience is young, almost everyone is in their 20s or 30s, and most people are wearing flannel. There’s an energy of anticipation.

The fifth band of the evening, Best Exes -- Eric Allen (bass), Dina Bankole (drums), and Jim Cherewick and Linda Jordan (guitars and vocals) is setting up. People are starting to gather on the dance floor.

Jordan strikes a bright, loud chord and we are off.

Best Exes’ music has indie rock and punk undertones, and the content of most of their songs stays true to the band name. Lyrics discuss past relationships and failed encounters. My favorite of the band’s songs, “L.A.,” is about a man that dated one of the band member’s friends. After Best Exes’ set, Jordan tells me that the song is called L.A. because the man said he would move to L.A. but never did. Best Exes’ music is fresh and upbeat; as they continue their set the crowd sways and dances. 

Jordan’s fellow Best Exes guitarist and vocalist, Jim Cherewick, is also a visual artist. He designed the visual art for the Best Exes’ album, Cactus, as well as many of the band’s posters over the years. His work is being displayed at the Ferndale Library until Feb. 2, and he will be playing a show there that night.

Human Skull followed Best Exes and kept the energy flowing. Comprised of Brent Barrington  (bass), Stefan Krstovic (drums), and Joel Parkilla (guitar and vocals) play punk-influenced music that they describe as fast, loud, and fun. Parkilla says he writes songs that deal with personal and social issues, such as “Old Struggles,” which was written right after the presidential election. The song tackles issues like immigration, class struggles, and women’s rights:

Who needs a border it’d be more like a cage
Locked up with animals pumped full of hate
And I want out
Old, hatred, old money, old struggles that are still relevant now

What I love about Human Skull is that they play energetic and boisterous music, but the trio also exposes harsh truths about society and question the status quo. 

Human Skull is coming out with a new record and that will include material from the past four years. 

Nicole Holtzman is a desk clerk with the Ann Arbor District Library.

Check out more Best Exes on their Bandcamp and Facebook pages. More of Jim Cherewick's artwork can be found on his website and Instagram pages. His exhibition at the Ferndale Area District Library is on display through Feb. 2 and he'll be performing on the closing night at 8 pm along with fellow songwriters Anthony Retka and Emily Rose. Human Skull is playing a show at the Dreamland Theater, 26 N Washington St, Ypsilanti, on Feb. 24 with MC Kadence, King Milo, and DJ Cataclysmic. Visit the group's Bandcamp and Facebook pages for more info.