Report Ranks Ann Arbor as One of the Nation’s 10 Most Arts-Vibrant Medium-Sized Cities
We’ve topped yet another list!
Ann Arbor always seems to lead the pack when it comes to being a Top 10 city—best college town, place to raise a family, city for retirement, most educated city—you name it.
And whether it’s livability, real estate, visitor bureau, college sports, or academic rankings, we love being told that where we live is the best.
We can add another gold star to the city’s list of accolades: a new report has named Ann Arbor as one of the 10 most arts-vibrant medium-sized cities in the nation.
Formula 734’s “Volume II” Album Documents Post-Pandemic Perseverance for Washtenaw County Men of Color
Formula 734’s Volume II chronicles the ongoing perseverance of Washtenaw County men of color in a post-pandemic world.
The hip-hop collective’s second community-based album features insightful tales of self-determination by lyricists confronting daily struggles and aspiring for future change.
“Coming out of COVID, we’ve had to appraise our value of everything. In listening to the young guys, they’re using music to appraise their thoughts about relationships, school, and mortality,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the album with Jamall “Buff1” Bufford.
“We always say that kids are a lot more resilient than adults are … but in the same token, when they look back and when we look back at this time, it was a time the entire world transitioned in a way. This music is them making sense of that transition.”
To ease that transition, Wallace and Bufford reassembled an intergenerational team of men to write and record 10 cathartic tracks for Formula 734’s Volume II.
They created the album in partnership with Washtenaw My Brother’s Keeper, the Ann Arbor Community Foundation, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, Project Plugin, and Creativity Fluidity Productions.
In Real Time: Chickenwire Canöe’s rock-opera concept album “Joey Wendt” tells the tale of a budding conspiracy theorist during the pandemic
Brian Delaney admires how Gordon Lightfoot documented the 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior.
The Chickenwire Canöe guitarist applauds the Canadian folk singer-songwriter with respectfully recounting the tragedy and remembering the 29 lives lost in his 1976 hit, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
“For somebody like Gordon Lightfoot to be able to write that story to song in a way that didn’t capitalize on somebody else’s calamity, that’s always stuck with me. That’s art in the moment … you’re looking at a situation and documenting it,” said Delaney, who’s from Dexter.
“When I thought about that calamity and then thought about the pandemic, I knew it would be a real crime not to have somebody document it in a somewhat well-rounded way.”
By summer 2020, he landed on a pandemic-themed album and contacted childhood friend Mike Gentry, now Chickenwire Canöe’s vocalist-guitarist.
“I just sat down and wrote a proposal to Mike, and I briefly outlined with bullet points what it could be as a concept,” Delaney said.
“The concept was a record of vignettes of what we were going through related to the pandemic. Some of the best art will take you back to a moment in time where you’re like, ‘This could have only happened then.’”
Immersion Therapy: Hannah Baiardi Unpacks Emotions on “Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation” Piano Instrumental Album
Hannah Baiardi immerses herself in a cathartic sonic experience on her new album, Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation.
The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and pianist delved into jazzy sophisti-pop on her last two records, Magic (2022) and Straight From the Soul (2021), but Ascend Your Vibe explores the restorative side of mellow instrumental music.
“I brought all my emotions to the piano bench and got to unpack them in real-time at the keys,” said Baiardi about her fourth album. “The longer strings of phrases are riding a feeling while the pauses are the reflection and the process. The feelings drive the ebb and flow and unfolding of each piece.”
Throughout Ascend Your Vibe: Music for Contemplation, Baiardi unfolds feelings of hope, gratitude, and wonder across eight spiritual tracks, including the magical opener, “Pensive,” and the otherworldly “Somewhere East of Here.” Glistening keys slowly strike and pause alongside tranquil samples featuring soothing birds and a ticking clock.
“As a listener, you can choose where to direct your attention. The clock can ground or distract you,” writes Baiardi on her Bandcamp page. “The anticipation before a chord can make you focus on the next chord or can help you be in the in-between spaces.”
To get inside her headspace, we recently talked with Baiardi about her musical beginnings, favorite artists, and latest album.
Things to Do: Pulp Event Roundup for November
To fill up your November calendar, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of arts-related events, exhibits, and more throughout Washtenaw County. Check out some local cool happenings in music, visual art, theater and dance, and written word and film.
Canterbury House, Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bill Edwards performs tracks from his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories. Throughout his latest release, Edwards pens sentimental stories from different perspectives, including a hall-of-fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, and a nostalgic boater. Read our preview and interview here.
Nervous But Excited
The Ark, Ann Arbor
Ten years after their sold-out finale at The Ark, the local folk duo of Kate Peterson and Sarah Cleaver reunite for one of their final Nervous But Excited performances. Their repertoire ranges from smart, introspective narratives to the tactfully political while interspersing songs of love and loss.
Olivia Van Goor
Blue Llama Jazz Club, Ann Arbor
The Milford jazz vocalist is influenced by swing and bebop jazz from the mid-20th century. Van Goor unearths and reshapes gems from the Great American Songbook and other jazz standards in a way that’s beyond replicating what has already been done before. Read our past interview with Van Goor here.
Folk Tales: Bill Edwards Channels Different Characters on “Thirteen Stories” Album
Bill Edwards prefers to keep his songwriting in perspective—though not necessarily his own.
The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist pens sentimental narratives from different viewpoints on his new Americana album, Thirteen Stories.
“Sometimes [people] listen to or see a singer, and they assume the song you’re singing is from your own perspective. It doesn’t always have to be; that’s very limiting I find,” Edwards said.
“You can use your imagination and sing from somebody else’s perspective. It’s all colored by my personal experience, and some of it’s very personal, but not all of it.”
Throughout Thirteen Stories, Edwards channels the mindset of a hall of fame baseball player, a seasoned songwriter, a nostalgic boater, a distraught wife, and other compelling characters.
“I want [listeners] to get outside themselves a little bit and experience emotion from somebody else’s point of view,” he said. “Can you identify with this even though it’s not necessarily my point of view or their point of view? Do the songs communicate well enough what somebody else might be going through?”
Everything’s All Right: Jonathan Crayne Finds the Way Forward on “Oknow” EP
Jonathan Crayne’s debut EP is like a self-pep talk the Adrian alt-rocker wrote to tell himself every little thing’s going to be all right.
The six-song Oknow chronicles Crayne’s emotional resilience and personal growth after experiencing previous challenges in life and love.
“I wanted it to be character pieces that depict going through different stages—whether it’s being a kid or trying to persevere—while ending things on a high note,” said Crayne, who’s also a guitar, bass, and percussion instructor at Ann Arbor’s School of Rock. “I write a lot of sad stuff, but I don’t want to leave anyone like that.”
He delivers on that promise across Oknow’s six insightful tracks, starting with the hopeful opener, “The Good Kids.” Alongside contemplative electric guitar, Crayne sings, “I think I finally found the meaning / Now it’s time to tell yourself / This will not end!”
To further explore his optimistic mindset, we recently chatted with Crayne about his musical journey and latest EP.
John Gutoskey’s vibrant “Cake & Flowers for My People” exhibit preserves ephemeral arrangements denied to LGBTQ+ marriages and events
John Gutoskey’s vibrant, kaleidoscopic Cake & Flowers for My People exhibit honors LGBTQ+ community members who have been denied these celebratory arrangements due to bakers and florists citing religious objections to same-sex marriages and queer events.
“I make a lot of work about queerness because a lot of stuff is happening around it in our country. You see the whole pushback now,” said the Ann Arbor artist-designer-printmaker, whose exhibit runs through October 30 at Ypsilanti’s 22 North gallery. “I just hope anybody who sees it … feels seen and knows they’re not alone.”
The welcoming aesthetics of Gutoskey’s exhibit run throughout the eight mixed-media cake sculptures and 39 floral bouquet monoprints. An electrifying spectrum of color elicits feelings of empowerment, unity, and hope for all who experience Cake & Flowers for My People.
“People are kind of overwhelmed with how hard the world has become, so I just wanted to do something that was fun,” he said. “There’s enough stuff to be down about. Let’s celebrate it, honestly, while it’s still legal for [us] to do so.”
Myths and Legends: Guild Showcases Local Artists Through Folklore Exhibit at Ann Arbor’s Gutman Gallery
Ann Arbor artist-photographer Marilynn Thomas interprets a migratory Baltimore oriole's transitory world in her layered watercolor painting called Oriole Unraveling the Universe.
She places the juvenile bird at the center of a tree while vivid red-orange hues and muted pastels color his mystical surroundings. Stenciled ferns and dragonflies provide momentary companionship as the oriole decides whether to stay or go.
Within his beak lies the familiar outline of the golden mean, which represents a magical portal that allows him to travel from one universe to the next.
“That’s his universe; that all belongs to him,” Thomas said. “I’ve done a lot of orioles simply because they only come through in spring and fall, and they’re kind of exciting. I like the migrant birds, and I’ve been painting birds for 20 years.”
Tasty Times: Mercury Salad Explores Delectable Life Experiences on “Volume 3” EP
Brooke Ratliff says she’s no good at writing traditional love songs because “they’re either really mushy, or they’re really sad”—so she doesn’t even try on Volume 3, Mercury Salad’s latest EP.
Instead, the Ypsilanti folk-rock trio of Ratliff (vocals, guitar, percussion), Kurt Bonnell (guitar, harmonica), and Kyle Kipp (bass) explores the uncertainties of a promising relationship on “Best Guess,” the EP’s spirited opener.
“To me, this song could go either way. It could be that it’s unexpected, or it could be that the person is being overly optimistic,” said Ratliff with a laugh. “I wanted to do something sweet-natured and slightly romantic, but I couldn’t go all the way there. That’s why it’s my ‘Best Guess’ this is gonna work out great.”