In Pitchfork's review of Fred Thomas' new song and video, "Good Times Are Gone Again," Contributing Editor Jayson Greene notes the tune is "a little less agonizingly specific than Thomas’ usual fare."
That's true of the song's lyrics, but if you know Ann Arbor, the music video is filled with scenes that are very specific.
The promo clip is for Thomas' new album, Aftering, which comes out September 14 on Polyvinyl Records. The video features Thomas interacting with friends and strangers -- who immediately fall ill as if he passed on an instant plague, echoing the song's lyrics: "Bad things are happening now / Sharp days are wrapping around us."
It's the song of the bummer summer.
Ann Arbor is featured throughout the video: Thomas spends time walking alone through Buhr Park and strumming his guitar behind the long-running punk joint Far House; and he spreads his illness at Encore Records, The Hosting art space, Lab Cafe, a recording studio in Ellsworth Commerce Park, his bandmate Chuck Sipperley's home, and his own apartment where his wife, spoken-word artist Emily Roll, starts foaming toothpaste at the mouth.
When I came across a blog post recently that referenced rare Neil Young tapes from Canterbury House, I assumed it was an old story related to the Sugar Mountain – Live at Canterbury House 1968 album that came out 10 years ago.
But it turns out there might be another tape from the Nov. 8-10 stand Young had at Canterbury House's 330 Maynard St. location. (It's now at 721 E. Huron St.)
Sugar Mountain is made up of recordings from Nov. 9 and 10, so it's possible the Nov. 8 performance was found. But Young also played Canterbury House on Oct. 16, 1969 -- the final time he played the venue -- so perhaps it's that show.
Kathy Asheton’s voice was cracking.
“It’s all very sensitive,” she said, the sentence trailing off to silence.
She’s recalling her brothers, Ron and Scott, the guitarist (and later bassist) and drummer for The Stooges.
Ron died in 2009 at 60 and Scott in 2014 at 64, and their younger sister still struggles with their loss.
The Facebook page Kathy runs for the Ron Asheton Foundation is filled with personal remembrances and family photos taken in their West Ann Arbor home near Weber’s Restaurant. Her mom bought the house from Herman Weber in 1964, and it's still owned by Kathy.
The modest 1,400 square foot structure, with its brick facade on the lower half and siding on top, doesn’t look like the sort of place that would launch a musical revolution. But the band that helped plant the roots for punk rock, The Stooges, began its life here, all with the blessing of mother Ann Asheton.
“She was not only accommodating by letting my brothers practice -- that’s where the band literally started, in the family home,” Kathy said. “But she could also rip and say, ‘Don’t drink out of the milk cartons!’ and let us have it. She was a mom in the true sense. She yelled at them like she yelled at us.”
“Them” includes the MC5 and other bands who passed through the Asheton home, and it was Iggy who Ann yelled at for drinking out of the milk carton. Momma Asheton’s support was repaid in song.
Some people seem destined to be stars.
Sunflower Bean is fronted by a supernova.
The New York-based Julia Cumming (bass, vocals), Nick Kivlen (guitar, vocals), and Jacob Faber (drums) flew to Ann Arbor specifically to play Sonic Lunch on July 12, and their 13-song spirited performance under sunny skies turned Liberty Plaza into a rock 'n' roll club.
"Are you guys here for a good time?" Cumming said. "Just because it's noon it doesn't mean we can't rock." She then taught the crowd to sing along with the "no, no, no" part of the chorus for "Crisis Fest."
The Ravens Club loves seasonal cocktails. Right now you can get the Donga Punch, As You Wish, Judge Holden, and The Filby Cocktail.
But come fall, the drinks will change with the leaves.
For the past year, though, at least one thing’s been constant at the club on 207 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor -- and I’m not talking about the 150 whiskeys on the menu. Every Monday night from 9 pm-12 am you can find the Rick Roe (keyboards), Rob Bickley (bass), and Jesse Kramer (drums) trio performing a mix of originals, jazz standards, and a whole lotta Thelonious Monk.
But the most intriguing part of the trio is its dedication to exploring Disney’s music.
Five of the songs on the group’s new CD, Heliosphere, are Disney tunes, with the other six coming from Roe. The trio will celebrate its release with a gig at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, July 14.
Ken Vandermark is a method musician.
The Chicago-based saxophonist/clarinetist likes to construct scenarios and systems for his various bands and then write material that fits whatever methods he's devised. It's rigorous work that forces Vandermark and his musicians out of their comfort zones, but it has led to a voluminous and varied body of work that is among the most impressive in modern jazz and composition.
Vandermark's latest creation, Maker, came to Kerrytown Concert House on July 9 and ripped through a four-song, 75-minute set that touched on avant-garde jazz, funk, drones, minimalism, and Afrobeat.
Raccoons, foxes, and hawks prey upon the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.
But the Michigan Rattlers are most susceptible to being consumed by broken hearts, Bell's Two-Hearted, and the eternal debate about where your heart truly belongs.
Comprised of Petoskey-raised childhood friends Graham Young (guitar) and Adam Reed (upright bass), along with more recent members Christian Wilder (keyboards) and Anthony Audia (drums), the Los Angeles-based Michigan Rattlers returned to the Sonic Lunch concert series on July 5 and played 13 originals plus a cover of Leonard Cohen's "On the Level."
Young and Reed performed as a duo at Sonic Lunch last year and their close-harmony Americana was immediately striking for its beauty and simplicity. But as a quartet, Michigan Rattlers brought a honky-tonk rock 'n' roll vibe to their acoustic-guitar-based compositions.
When schizophrenic super-hero Moon Knight falls into one of many personalities, it's usually due to trauma or the intervention of Khonshu, the ancient Egyptian god of the moon, who also gave Marc Spector his powers.
When Ann Arbor's Tadd Mullinix creates or resurrects one of his numerous alter-egos, it's due to musical inspiration, not mental illness.
Whether as hip-hop producer Dabrye, EBM-techno savant Charles Manier, acid-house auteur James T. Cotton, or drum 'n' bass fiends SK-1 and the new X-Altera, Mullinix immerses himself in the persona and electronic-music genres attached to those names.
Whether it's with food, art, or music, fusion depends on a natural blending to be successful. Adding cayenne peppers to cherry ice cream just ain't gonna work.
But the music of Sumkali works perfectly, an expert blend of East and West, the ancient and the futuristic.
The Ann Arbor band's fourth album, Dha Re Dha, is a particularly good fusion of sounds and working methods. Recorded over a three-year period, the band says the LP falls into three categories:
1). arrangements of traditional Indian folk melodies, 2) Improvised studio sessions with minimal editing, and 3) Fully composed 'hyper-realistic' original studio creations that were built from the ground up in the studio track by track.
In addition to Sumkali's core members -- John Churchville (tabla), Bidisha Ghosh (vocals), Dan Ripke (guitar), Rich Rickman (bass), Anoop Gopal (violin), and Will Ciccola (sax/flute) -- Dha Re Dha features 15 guest musicians, including tabla giant Pandit Samar Saha and local legend Peter "Madcat" Ruth on harmonica.
Sumkali has honed it sound through monthly gigs at Indian Music Night in Crazy Wisdom's tea room, but those shows focus more on traditional materials. Dha Re Dha extends the band's sound by adding studio manipulation to the mix, allowing Sumkali to turn traditional Indian music into a modern mash-up without ever killing the original roots of inspiration.
It's a legit tasty fusion.
I emailed with Churchville to discuss Dha Re Dha.
The first book about pouring hot water over cured leaves, The Classic of Tea, was written in 780 A.D. by Lu Yu. While it's ostensibly a how-to guide for cultivating and brewing the best teas, Yu couldn't resist waxing poetic over his shrubby beverage:
Tea can look like a mushroom in whirling flight just as clouds floating from behind a mountain peak. Its leaves can swell and leap as if they were lighting tossed on wind-disturbed water. Still others twist and turn like rivulets carved out be a violent rain in newly tilled fields.
Many writers have feted tea since then, from Lu Tung and Marcel Proust to Henrik Ibsen and Alexander McCall Smith, so Arbor Teas dipping its leaves into literature with its Summer Reading Series feels like a natural fit.
Since 2016, Arbor Teas has serialized fiction on its website each summer, beginning with Lauren Doyle Owens' lighthearted marriage drama The Wintree Waltz, continuing with David Erik Nelson's "till death do we part" sci-fi story Expiration Date, and this summer's historical novella An Exchange of Two Flowers by Sarah Zettel, who reads from her work on Monday, June 25 from 7-8:30 pm at AADL's downtown branch.
To find out how a family-owned organic tea company decided to start publishing fiction, I emailed with Arbor Teas' Lea Abbott.