Feel Good Friday the 13th: UMMA's monthly series offered no bad luck, just great music

MUSIC REVIEW

A participant at UMMA's Feel Good Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by Marc-Grégor Campredon

Somebody feels good at UMMA's Feel Good Friday on May 13, 2022. Photo by Marc-Grégor Campredon

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) showed that Friday the 13th doesn’t have to be an unlucky day.

Every second Friday the museum presents a self-described "gathering of art and humans." The May 13 edition of Feel Good Friday featured Detroit- and Ann Arbor-based DJs and artists showcasing experimental film and Detroit techno, along with all the UMMA galleries being open for viewing.

Ann Arbor artists Mark Tucker (FestiFools) and Alvin Hill opened the evening by leading a hands-on workshop to celebrate the opening of FUN, UMMA's latest exhibit, which is in the Stenn gallery facing State Street. It's a space where visitors can contribute to a summer-long creation using materials provided in the gallery.

The up-and-coming Detroit-based DJ AK then took listeners through a musical history of Afrofuturism, spinning ghettotech, dubstep, and deep house in the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Apse. The crowd, whose ages ranged from young to old, all got to dancing, whether it was right in front of the speakers or as they took in the UMMA galleries. 

Five Minutes of Bravery: The Moth GrandSLAM returned to The Ark after a three-year break

PULP LIFE REVIEW

The Moth logo

Leaping out of indecision, or into a new love, or over a chicken coop—these were some of the jumps storytellers shared at The Moth’s GrandSLAM championship on May 12 at The Ark in Ann Arbor.

In the first Ann Arbor GrandSLAM since 2019, nine storytellers who were previous winners of the regular StorySLAM events each received five minutes to tell a true personal story, without any notes to guide them. Three groups of judges—naming themselves Quantum, The 229s, and The Bullfrogs—secretly rated each story, not even revealing the scores after a winner was determined. Amir Badghdadchi, a past GrandSLAM winner, was the host and kept the energy high. 

With this year's theme being "leaps," the GrandSLAM invited the audience to listen to "stories of springing into action, clearing hurdles, impulsive decisions or concentrating everything they have on a single bound. In short: busting a move."

U-M's Basement Arts theater troupe used "The Visit" to explore the dangers of group-think

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Graphic for the Basement Arts production of The Visit. It features an image of Lady Justice wearing an mask with dollars in the place where her eyes should be.

Image courtesy of Basement Arts

It doesn’t take a genius—or a grand performance on stage—to reveal how people will do anything for money.

On February 25 and 26, Basement Arts, a U-M student theater organization, gathered at the Newman Studio in the Walgreen Drama Center and performed Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit, which shows how far people will go.

First published in 1956, The Visit tells the tale of millionaire Claire Zachanassian who returns to Güllen, the small town where she grew up. Excited by her visit, the townspeople decide to take this opportunity to better their town and their lives as they’ve fallen on hard times. But Zachanassian has a different plan in mind: In exchange for a one billion dollar donation to Güllen, she wants the townspeople to kill Alfred, the man who she became pregnant with, then jilted her.

Singer-songwriter Allison Russell brought her "Outside Child" and open book to The Ark

MUSIC REVIEW

Allison Russell by Marc Baptiste

Photo by Marc Baptiste

Singer-songwriter Allison Russell seeks out what she calls the “hidden canon” of the oral tradition: the songs, stories, lore passed on through time, primarily from and for women. Ann Arbor's The Ark is one of those places where the hidden canon has been voiced frequently for a very long time, and Russell’s concert there on February 25 felt like the perfect place to carry on that tradition.

U-M's modern-leaning production of "Antigone" explores grief in the pandemic age

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

Sam White, founder of Shakespere in Detroit, guest directed the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance’s recent production of Antigone (February 17-20). She felt the weight of the pandemic while conceiving of the staging and decided that rather than putting on a play written in 441 BCE as some sort of separate escapism from our current world, the two can interact and help one another.

Because the "Layl" belongs to lovers in choreographer Ali Chahrour's musical play

THEATER & DANCE REVIEW

UMS's production of Layl. A couple is embracing in this black and white photo.

Photo courtesy of UMS

The curtains opened and revealed a dark stage. It was silent, and over the course of a few minutes, lights started to show the audience fragments of what was on stage while keeping the illumination dim enough that you had to squint to see there were people with instruments tucked in the left corner of the stage.

Eventually, the light, though still low, revealed everyone on stage: Sharif Sehnaou on guitar, Hala Omran with a microphone, Aya Metwalli with a guitar, Simona Abdallah on drums, and above them all, Ali Chahrour lay on top of the speakers, one arm dangling and the other with a bouquet of dead flowers in his hand.

This is the entry to Layl (Night) by Ali Chahrour, presented at the Power Center in Ann Arbor on February 12.

Empty Mug helps U-M student musicians find a sense of community

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Gravy Train band

Gravy Train photo by Lila Turner.

Despite the pandemic, music organizations on the University of Michigan’s campus are thriving. Students are yearning to hear music over loudspeakers, dance in sweaty houses, and produce their own songs, and organizations like Empty Mug are here to provide, whether through having concerts, recording live videos, or releasing music.

Fia Kaminski, one of the presidents of the organization, sat down with us to talk about Empty Mug's present, past, and future.

He Just Wants to "Fly": Ki5 ponders escape and possibilities in his new song and video

MUSIC INTERVIEW

A still from Ki5's video for his song Fly

Escape was on the mind of Kyler Wilkins when he wrote the lyrics for his new a capella single and music video, “Fly.” Using only his voice for the melody, harmonies, and beats, the Ypsilanti-based artist known as Ki5 croons the song's chorus, “Can we fly?” with the sort of passion that can make listeners' souls take flight.

Wilkins said the track makes him dream about traveling and the lyrics capture that sense of anticipation, possibility, and geographic movement. The song's lyrics were inspired by the feelings of isolation at the height of the pandemic, and Wilkins' descending vocals during the chorus are meant to mimic the sensation of freefalling in a dream.

The track was co-written and co-produced by Tom Valdez and Janet Cole Valdez, who Wilkins met last year at an online songwriting class. He says “Fly'' was one of the first songs written by the trio, which has written seven total tunes together.

“The funny part is that after the first scratch recording I made the day we wrote some lyrics, I forgot about the song for a few weeks,” Wilkins said. “It was only after coming back later that I was struck by how inviting and enchanting the original idea was. I really began to believe in its magic then.”

The music video for “Fly” features Wilkins' niece, Maxine Wilkins, who choreographed the video and recruited two dancers, Celia Embry and Vee Brzoznowski, to move alongside her. The dancers correlate with the gradual unfolding of the track: in the beginning, there's just one dancer, but as the song blossoms, all three are doing moves together.

You can find the song on Bandcamp and Spotify; catch the music video below:

Where We Land: Catching up with post-Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) projects in Ann Arbor and Abroad

MUSIC

MEMCO alumni update

The Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) started as a small community of techno-loving college students and has shifted and expanded throughout the years into a cultural force and community within the Ann Arbor and Detroit music scenes.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m the organization's current president.

Started in 2013 as Michigan Electronic Dance Association, or MEDMA, the now MEMCO allows University of Michigan students and the local community to learn about the Detroit origins of techno and creates safe spaces to listen to and dance to this music and teaches members how to DJ.

Even when MEMCO members leave Ann Arbor, there is a bond that connects them to the town forever, and these alumni take their experience and knowledge from the collective into their own new ventures. Over the past year, past MEMCO members have started labels, continued music projects, and involved themselves in their new communities while always remembering where they came from.

On November 20 at Club Above in Ann Arbor, the current MEMCO crew is throwing its annual Triple Threat party with Maize Collective and WCBN-FM featuring Shigeto, Paul Simpson, Miguel Cisne, and Kilala in the DJ booth. 

But first, here's another kind of triple-threat: an update on a trio of post-MEMCO projects: