The Ark's Ann Arbor Folk Festival goes virtual for its 44th edition

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Ark by Dwight Burdette, Creative Commons

Photo by Dwight Burdette.

Like any town, Ann Arbor has annual events that help define the place: Art Fair, University of Michigan's first home football game, the summer closings of nearly every road in downtown due to construction.

The Ark's annual Folk Festival is an important part of that list, too, but with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on traditions big and small, the venue was forced to take the fest virtual for the 44th edition. This year's Folk Festival happens on January 29 and 30, along with a bonus show on the 31st featuring several of the previous days' performers to celebrate the life and music of the late John Prine, an Ark regular.

Friday's lineup includes Raul Malo, Colin Hay (Men at Work), Alan Doyle, The War and Treaty, Kiefer Sutherland (yes, him), Joe Pug, Glen Phillps, Amythyst Kiah, Gina Chavez, Willie Watson, Ron Pope. All these acts' performances will be remote other than Michigan's The Accidentals with special guest Kim Richey who will play The Ark's stage.

Saturday's concert offers Bruce Cockburn, Dar Williams, David Bromberg, Todd Snider, George Winston, Vance Gilbert. Dom Flemons, Matt Andersen, Crys Matthews. Sierra Ferrell. and Andrea von Kampen performing remotely, with Ann Arbor's The RFD Boys playing at The Ark.

Jeff Daniels will be the MC both nights.

Sunday's Prine tribute will feature The Accidentals, Al Bettis, Annie and Rod Capps, Chris Buhalis, Dave Boutette and Kristi Lynn Davis, Dick Siegel, Erin Zindle, Jill Jack, Joshua Davis, Matt Watroba and Robert Jones, May Erlewine, Michigan Rattlers, The RFD Boys, Seth Bernard, and The War & Treaty.

"Remote performances have all been prerecorded by the artists," says The Ark's marketing director, Barb Chaffer Authier, "but specifically for the festival—no 'recycled' material—so only the opening set each night will be live in real time."

All performances will be viewable through February 7.

We talked with Authier about what it's been like for this historic music operation since the pandemic started and what it was like to book a virtual Folk Festival, the nonprofit's most important concert event every year.

Friday Five: Lily Talmers, Natura, Men in Dresses, content., Dire Wolf

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-22-2021

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features folky indie from Lily Talmers, Euro-pop from Natura, low-brass-Nintendo-wave from Men in Dresses, shoegaze from content., and hardcore from Dire Wolf.
 

Aw, Yeah: Ypsi-filmed YouTube show "Renting and Raving" offers silly humor and strong characters

FILM & VIDEO INTERVIEW

Renting and Raving

Bret (Eric Pullins), Basement Guy (Cameron Greig), and Evan (Evan Grieg) are the core characters of the Ypsi-filmed comedy series Renting and Raving.

The first time Basement Guy ate real cat food was the last time.

"Next few instances he was eating chili in a cat-food can," says Evan Greig, the director, co-writer, and co-star of Renting and Raving, a YouTube comedy show shot in Ypsilanti. "The fact that a lot of people find the cat-food scene to be gross is great. To me, it means we made it feel real—because it was."

"I remember we were shooting that night and the plan was to empty the can out and fill it with tuna," says Eric Pullins who co-stars as Bret and is a co-writer, prop master, and production designer for the show. "[B]efore we could do that Cameron just dove right in. Cameron is our star and he really commits. I would not have committed that hard."

The committable Basement Guy is played by the committed Cameron Greig, who is also a co-writer and key grip on the show.

This trio of characters comprises the core of Renting and Raving, which makes up with oodles of charm and smart-to-low-brow humor what it's missing in a budget and the occasional incongruity.

All 10 episodes of the first season, filmed before the pandemic, are now available on YouTube, and it's a labor of love for Greig, Pullins, and Greig, along with cinematographer Johannes Pardi, production manager Emily Weir, script supervisor Brent Bergeron, who also plays Evan's shady pal Tito on the show. Also, the brief but ear-worm-worthy theme song by Jeremiah Heiss will get stuck in your head and have you mumbling "Aw, yeah!" to no one in particular.

Together in Electric Dreams: Same Eyes keep feeling fascination with '80s synth-pop on their debut album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Same Eyes duo, Chad Pratt and Alex Hughes

There is a well-documented history of painters making music, from Miles Davis and Jean-Michel Basquiat (Gray) to Patti Smith and John Lurie (Lounge Lizards).

Less well-known is the history of house painters who make music, but Same Eyes is ready to join the story.

"Chad was painting my parent’s house right when I was graduating high school," says Alex Hughes of Chad Pratt, his partner in the Ann Arbor synth-pop duo. "He hired me and I have worked for him painting in the summers and on breaks since."

They started making music together as Same Eyes in summer 2019, with both members playing synths, Hughes on vocals and guitar, and Pratt programming the drums. The first fruits of the duo's efforts was the two-song single featuring "Cry for Us" and "Hawk," which came out March 20, 2020, a week after the world shut down for the pandemic. Those two songs plus six more are on Same Eyes' debut album, Parties to End

Friday Five: Isolation Daze, Crossover, Tanomura, Stormy Chromer, Shitty Sons

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-15-2020

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features funk-jazz-whatever by Isolation Daze, pop by Crossover, instrumental R&B by Tanomura, live jams by Stormy Chromer, and sax-drums duets by Shitty Sons.
 

IS/LAND's "In Isolation Pt.1 - SYNODIC" performance video explores the subtleties of change

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

IS/LANDS, still from In Isolation Pt. 1 - SYNODIC

It's fitting that J. Amber Kao is listed as "mover" in the website bio section of IS/LAND, a performance collaborative comprised of Asian Pacific Islander American and Asian artists. Yes, she's a dancer, but as shown in the performance video "In Isolation Pt. 1 - SYNODIC," it's movement that matters most, not a prescribed notion of dance. 

Recorded last year in Saginaw Forest before the leaves changed, Kao and fellow Ann Arborite Chien-An Yuan (aka Jienan Yuan) created this video and soundtrack as a "meditation reflecting on both the passage of time and the nature of change—embodied in the dancer’s movement between, around, and within the changing sunlight."

Accompanied by Yuan's ghostly soundtrack, Kao cuts a hypnotizing figure among the tall trees, her movements so slow and controlled that you might think it's a camera trick. While the choreography is for a solo performer, Kao's active dress makes it a duet. The billowy garment almost looks like a special effect, with its horizontal lines implying a landscape, or even a face, its colors syncing with the washed-out greens and blown-out backlighting. But even when Kao bounces the dress, it looks like she has perfect dominion over the fabric's movement, leading the raiment through the dance like a patient teacher.

Over the course of nearly five minutes, it's easy to be transfixed by Kao and ignore her surroundings, but on subsequent viewings, you'll see how the video's contrast subtly changes. While Kao's movements stay in a tight radius, time slides up the path toward her as the colors move from pale to saturated, the backlight dimming with time, the foreground becoming more and more vibrant. Yuan's quivering drone accompaniment is occasionally punctured by a treated piano chord, which introduces a sharp video edit that indicates the next stage of the forest's evolving hues. 

It's the perfect video for January, when we're huddling inside our homes, hiding away from the season's browns and grays, waiting to glide in tandem with the verdant world once again.

UPDATED: MC5 plays softball and Wayne Kramer re-records the band's "The American Ruse"

MUSIC

MC5 playing baseball in Ann Arbor

MC5 singer Rob Tyner demonstrates a very strong batting stance as, from the left, his comrades Fred "Sonic" Smith and Scott Morgan look on somewhere in West Park, Ann Arbor, 1970. Photo by Tom Wechsler.

UPDATED:

After asking where the above photo was located in my original post below from November 4, 2020, we received several suggestions in the comments and on social media.

But we got a definitive answer from one of the folks actually in the picture.

Scott Morgan—pictured second from left—of The Rationals, Sonic's Rendezvous Band, and numerous other rock 'n' roll ragers sent a message via his niece, Jennifer Compton, who works at AADL:

I saw your article on Pulp about The MC5 playing baseball, and if you're interested I believe I can confirm the location of the baseball diamond. Per my uncle Scott Morgan—he says it's West Park, and I can confirm with the photos attached, the house with the funny windows is in both shots.
 

Friday Five: Bradley Gurwin, Emilie Lin, Erik Miller Galow, Prol'e, Glockoma

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-08-2020

Friday Five highlights music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features ambient and minimalist electronica from Bradley Gurwin, new age piano channeled by Emilie Lin, electronic instrumental pop by Erik Miller Galow, and hip-hop via Prol'e and Glockoma.
 

Friday Five: The Kelseys, S.U.N., Prhyme Numbers, Lonely Hearts, JTC

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 01-01-2020

Friday Five is where we highlight music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features pop courtesy The Kelseys, hip-hop from S.U.N., jazz via Prhyme Numbers, indie rock by Lonely Hearts, and techno from JTC.

Friday Five: Buff1, Modern Lady Fitness, Sean Curtis Patrick, Jevon Alexander, Kawsaki

MUSIC FRIDAY FIVE

Friday Five 12-25-2020

Friday Five is where we celebrate new and recent music by Washtenaw County-associated artists.

This week features hip-hop from Buff1 and Jevon Alexander, ambient from Sean Curtis Patrick, indie from Modern Lady Fitness, and vaporwave from Kawsaki.