Annual Bloom: A guide to the 2018 Water Hill Music Fest


The Water Hill Music Fest is the crocus flower of Ann Arbor street parties.

Whether the weather is warm or chilly, sunny or drizzly, crocuses emerge every spring. So does this neighborhood-centric celebration of creativity, which bursts to life annually the first Sunday in May.

More than 75 bands will perform between 2-6 pm on Sunday, May 6, on their own lawns, their neighbors' backyards, and porches across the Water Hill neighborhood -- which was only dubbed that name when the music festival began in 2012. (The Water Hill area is now an established part of mapping programs and a useful tool for real-estate agents).

Most of the music at Water Hill meets at the folk/roots/blues/country/Americana axis, but everything from jazz and punk rock to children's bands and DJs will take part. And it's all free.

You could just stroll around the lovely streets -- with or without a stroller; the whole event is family-friendly -- and stop at whatever house is presenting music that catches your ears. But if you'd like a semi-guided tour of Water Hill Music Fest, check out the interactive map above that lists 22 acts that caught my eye -- and not because I necessarily know what they all sound like; in some cases, it was simply because the description was interesting (or horrifying). (Check out the full lineup of performers here.)

In the map above, the bands playing in the 2-3 pm block are in yellow; 3-4 pm are in green; 4-5 pm in blue; and 5-6 pm in red. You can click on each marker above (or in a larger version of the map) to get the musical descriptions provided by, or check them out below with some video clips.

Whatever your musical tastes, Water Hill offers plenty of sonic crocus-flower grooves for everybody to enjoy.

Far out cosmic grooves.
Rich Wright, guitar; Mulugeta Alemseghed, percussion; Andy Petrovich, percussion.
Performing in the 600 block of Summit. Time 2-2:30 pm.

Southeast Michigan’s premier Velvet Underground ukulele trio.
Steve Christensen, ukulele; Todd Bardon, ukulele; Jack Simpson, extra ukulele.
Performing in the 1200 block of Bydding. Time 2-2:45 pm.

Kirtan devotional music.
Madhavi Mai, vocals, guitar; Arun Ganeshan, tabla drums; Matt Fillion, keyboard, vocals; Rasapriya, vocals.
Performing in the 600 block of Robin. Time 2-3 pm.

Patrick Patillo, tenor saxophone; Michael Wilson, guitar; Laina Martin, violin; Haydel Le Cense, drums; Josef Deas, bass.
Performing in the 700 block of Miller. Time 2-3 pm.

A group whose sounds are as diverse as the personalities that create them. Violinist and mandolinist Brandon Worder-Smith grew up in a rural bluegrass and Irish fiddle culture. Driven to explore beyond tradition, he hitchhiked America searching for musical kin, eventually stumbling upon guitarist Andrew Brown in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the band now hangs its hat. “Downtown Brown”, fast-talking son of a Motown session musician, had recently returned from New Orleans with a piece of Dixieland sound. He gifted a washboard to friend and drummer Vince Russo whose penchant for untamed showmanship was only enhanced. Thus the band was born. Later the boys were joined by bassist Eric O’Daly whose passion for Indian classical music and introspective yet fiery Irish nature would complete the genre-bending sound of The Appleseed Collective.
Andrew Brown, guitar and vocals; Brandon Worder, violin, mandolin and vocals; Vincent Russo, washboard, percussion and vocals; Eric O'Daly, bass and vocals.
Performing in the 700 block of Spring. Time 2-3 pm.

Live performance of the iO Megaji album Into Nature, a suite transforming the physical into rippled reflections with washy waves and one ringing melody. 
Kat Steih, electric guitar, pedals and vocals; Alex Anest, electric guitar, pedals and vocals; Erik Satie, reverbed strings.
Performing in the 500 block of Fountain. Time 3-3:30 pm.

Chris DuPont is a Michigan tunesmith re-imagining the indie/folk paradigm. With diverse guitar work, a reedy baritone and an ear for the cinematic, he steers the eloquence of 70’s Americana into the irridescent haze of dream pop. Violinist Katie Van Dusen has been lending her artistry to Chris’ songs for nearly a decade. Chris Dupont, guitar and vocals; Katie Van Dusen, violin and vocals.
Performing in the 500 block of Hiscock St. Time 3:15-3:45 pm.

Shiphead cruises into Water Hill Bay sounding a tribute to Motown founder Berry Gordy. Make your superstar dreams come true by singing a Motown hit backed up by this live karaoke band. 
Alex Johnson, guitar, vocals; Matt O'Brien, bass; Josh Meisler, keys, vocals; Craig Claunch, guitar; Trevor Staples, drums; Brian DiBlassio, percussion.
Performing in the 500 block of Fountain. Time 3:30-4:30 pm.

Dance party inspiring beats.
Nicole D Myint, turntables, mixer and microphone; Shelly Iaconelli, microphone; Sarie Andes, microphone.
Performing in the 500 block of Felch St. Time 3:30-4:30 pm.

Reggae Jamgrass.
Brant Losinski, guitar, vocals; Tim Sheldon, banjo, vocals; Paul Lippens, mandolin, vocals; Chad Sturdivant, drumkit; Justin Schoenfelder, bass.
Performing in the 1000 block of Gott. Time 3:30-4:30 pm.

Music of Schubert.
William Schafer and Simon Schafer-Klerkx, piano
Performing in the 600 block of Miner. Time 3:45-4:30 pm.

Your humble local punk band.
Stefan, drums; Brent, bass; Joel, guitar.
Performing in the 900 block of Fountain. Time 4-4:30 pm.

Ron Brooks, bass; Gayelynn McKinney, drums; Ellen Rowe, piano; Ingrid Racine, trumpet; Janelle Reichman, saxophone.
Performing in the 1100 block of Bydding. Time 4-5 pm.

Mostly indie covers.
Nikesh Dahal, guitar; Daniel Lyons, drums; Eric Gonazalez, accordion; Nicholas Medina, bass; Andrea Holther-Cruz, keyboard; Mark Hill, guitar.
Performing in the 800 block of Miller. Time 4:15-4:45 pm.

A collaboration between Andes and some of the friends and colleagues he has worked with over the years. 
Brennan Andes, bass, banjo and cowbell; Ross Huff, trumpet; Mulugeta Alemseghed, drums; Giancarlo Adversa, cowbell; Tim Haldeman, saxophone.
Performing in the 600 block of Summit. Time 4:30-5 pm.

Calling all fans of Star Wars, palindromes, and Rasputin. Come listen to 13-year-old Leo Nelson’s original arrangements of Star Wars music, ranging from serious tribute to good fun (celebrate Wookiee Life Day, anyone?). Plus a disco hit about Rasputin and a faux Dylan song made entirely of palindromes.
Leo Nelson, keyboard and harmonica; Bruno Hohn, vocals; Chris Nelson, French horn, guitar and voice, percussion; Amy Vail, bass, guitar, and percussion.
Performing in the 500 block of Cherry. Time 5-5:30 pm.

The Nintendoland Family Band is the Neiburgers: Deanne, Eli, Rocket, and Nemo, playing household arrangements of classic videogame music. This year’s set includes Zelda, Sonic, Banjo-Kazooie, Mario, and more.
Eli Neiburger, woodwinds; Deanne Neiburger, flute; Nemo Neiburger, tuba; Rocket Neiburger, trumpet; Juleen Ambrose, Oboe.
Performing in the 300 block of W. Summit. Time 5-5:45 pm.

Neighbor and Grammy nominee Joan Belgrave shines her elegant style and soulful power on Water Hill. Performing in the 1100 block of Gott. Time 5-6 pm.

Hot Latin jazz y salsa para bailadores.
Cary Kocher, vibraphone; Brian DiBlassio, piano; Owl DiBlassio, congas and sonero; Olman Piedra, timbales; Kurt Krahnke, bass.
Performing in the 700 block of Miner. Time 5-6 pm.

Fresh 70s, Hip Hop and R&B. Featuring African master drummers Abass Camara and Lamine Souma.
Bryan Campbell, electronics; Michelle Camilleri, vocals; Miko Fossum, vocals; Eric Fithian, bass guitar, rhythm guitar and vocals; Michael Joseph, synthesizer, flute and guitar; Gary Williamson, harmonica and vocals; David Hall, African drums; Paul Militello, African drums; Abass Camara, African drums; Lamine Souma, African drums.
Performing in the 200 block of Sunset. Time 5-6 pm.

New world polyrhythmic music. Hand drumming and song inspired by West Africa, Brazilian Samba, Afro-Cuban, and hometown Detroit funk
Sundance Didomenico, djembe, dunduns and vocals; Don Allen, congas and vocals; Matthew Bell congas, dun duns and djembe; Julie Barron, vocals.
Performing in the 400 block of Miller. Time 5-6 pm.

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

Water Hill Music Festival runs 2-6 pm on Sunday, May 6, in Ann Arbor between Sunset to Miller (N/S) and from the railroad tracks up to Brooks (E/W). The event is free. Park outside the neighborhood and walk in as the streets are full of people and difficult to pass through. Visit for more info. Check out our video feature on 2017's festival: "A Walk on the Wilder Side: Water Hill Music Fest 2017."