Preview: The Stellars Album Release at the Blind Pig

PREVIEW MUSIC

The Stellars — Band Shot

Starstruck

The Stellars say one of their biggest problems is convincing their friends that they’re a “real band,” but their new record Interthestellars should put those concerns to rest once and for all.

The duo is comprised of University of Michigan Juniors Erez Levin and Dan Sagher, both 21. The two met at a rock summer camp in the summer of 2004, and they became best friends through middle and high school. They formally became a musical duo in summer of 2015 after their previous band, The Euphorics, broke up. Their first full-length release as The Stellars, which will debut at midnight before the band’s upcoming CD release show this Friday at the Blind Pig, is a well earned payoff to years of friendship, enthusiasm, and hard work.

The band cites a diverse range of influences, from classic rock to funk. Their first band, Soul Transit, blended their shared love Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix with Michael Jackson and James Brown. More recently, The Stellars say they’ve been listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, The 1975, The Strokes, Weezer, Green Day, and John Mayer. The Stellars also have a lovably snotty, confessional punk streak, ala The Replacements. That mode is best exemplified in the lyric, “I wrote a song in 17/8, but if it’s not 4/4 then I’m not getting laid” from “Interthestellars” charging lead-off track “Don’t Wanna Sit Around.”

Last week we chatted on the phone with Levin and Sagher about how they got their new record made, what makes their live shows stand out, and trying to break into the Detroit scene.

Q: You guys play with a full band live, but you’re essentially a duo in the studio. What’s the division of labor on the new record?

Erez: About half the songs I wrote pretty much on my own, and then Dan and I arranged together. The other half we wrote from scratch sitting in my parents' basement or on the porch. We recorded the album, I played the drums and sang and played my guitar parts from what we do live, and Dan played all the lead lines.

Dan: Our friend Sam Collins played bass. He was in The Euphorics.

Q: Who rounds out the live band?

Dan: We've been playing with a bunch of different music school musicians, but it's basically show-by-show. We see who can do what, when. We have our obvious favorites, but we take it on a show-by-show basis: Who can play with us? Usually it's a pretty consistent crew, but sometimes our favorite drummer will be busy, so we find another really talented drummer, or same with the bassists.

Q: I was struck with how clean the production is on the album, especially for a debut. Where did you record these tracks?

Dan: We recorded at the U of M studios. Duderstadt Center has a really nice couple of studios.

Erez: We also did a bit of it in the attic of my house.

Dan: Erez's house he's living in has a bunch of PAT students, which is the Performing Arts Technology program within the music school. They built their own studio in their attic. We recorded some there, but the bulk of it was recorded in the Duderstadt Center. We also have a wonderful PAT student who's been by our side since the days of The Euphorics. His name is Ben Factor. He engineered, mixed and produced our entire album.

Erez: I actually met [Factor] at my freshman orientation in 2013. We found that we have really similar taste in rock music, and he mixed our high school band. We had a recording that was as-yet unmixed, and he then went and mixed it just because we became homies. He did such good work on it. With the Euphorics we hit him up for all of it, and we still do because we just love working with him. Honestly, he's the third member of the band.

Q: He’s involved with setting up your live gigs as well, right?

Dan: He takes care of all the lights and sound at our shows. He's really into elaborate light shows.

Erez: He's inspired by the light show that the jam band Umphrey's McGee has, and he's gone and had the chance to meet the guy that does lights for Umphrey's. We're lucky to have him for that, because we know that even when we play co-op shows and house parties we can give people something a bit unique, because not every band has a professional light show behind them.

Q: What formats are you releasing the album on? And is there any plan for a tour once the record is out?

Erez: We have a CD release party at the Blind Pig on September 23, which is the release date. So that will be popping up on Spotify, Apple Music, and whatever other big internet entities for streaming there are on midnight that day. And we've got CDs, we've got some shirts, stickers. We've been going all out on the merch.

Dan: Once we get music out we're going to try to play as many shows in Southeast Michigan as we can to create a local following.

Q: How supportive has the Ann Arbor scene been to you? Do you feel you’ve built enough momentum here to move on to other cities in the region?

Erez: The Ann Arbor music scene is super important to us because we're from here. We went to Community High together. We grew up playing shows at the B-Side at the Neutral Zone, which was incredibly important to our development as musicians. As professionals we know how to carry out a live show because all through high school we were practicing at this amazing all ages venue, which we're amazingly lucky to have. We love the scene here, we're really grateful for it, and we're really excited to contribute to it.

Dan: Recently we hooked up with a business dude who's really interested in music management, and I think that's what he wants to be doing. His name is Ben Schechter He's the one who's putting on our CD release show. He's the founder of the music blog What The Sound. He wanted to reach out to bands outside of the city, outside of the state, to open for us to create relationships with bands in nearby Midwestern places.

Detroit is probably the next frontier in terms of our outreach. We know a fair amount of people in Detroit, we know some bands in Detroit. The same reason we didn't play shows last year is the same reason we haven't played in Detroit. We don't want to do a cool show in Detroit and then when people say, "Hey, can I buy an album?" it's like, "Sorry, we don't have anything for you."

Q: Let’s talk more about “Interthestellars.” You’ve been working on some of these songs for quite a while. How do you feel about the final product? Are there any tracks you’re particularly proud to finally have out there?

Dan: The thing about this album is there are so many songs that are so different than the last. I'm mostly excited for a large amount of people to get their fix from this album, because it has a little bit of something for a lot of people. It's not a one-sound album. There's no song I'm particularly excited for, in that I'm excited for all of them to be released.

Erez: I'm excited to have finally released a good version of this song "Start This Over." I wrote it in high school, and this is the third time it's been recorded, and I feel like we finally got it right with this recording. And I love that song just as much as all the others on the album, but for me that one's been around for so long and I'm finally glad that we finally get to say, "We did it. Here's the song. I can write another song now," [laughs].


Steven Sonoras is a writer living in Ypsilanti.


The Stellars perform with The Kickstand Band and Andrew Solway ft. San Cristobal on Friday, September 23 at the Blind Pig, 208. S First St. Tickets are $7 18 and up and $10 21 and over. Call (734) 896-8555 or visit the Blind Pig’s website for more info.

Review: Falling Up and Getting Down, UMS Season-Opening Live Skateboarding + Music Celebration

REVIEW MUSIC

Pro

Pro skateboarder Jordyn Barratt and UMS President Ken Fischer / Photo by Katie Alexis Photography

The professional skateboarders at Falling Up and Getting Down, University Musical Society’s (UMS) season-opening event on Sunday, September 11, at Ann Arbor Skatepark, riveting as they were, were just part of the event's attraction. Jazz trio Jason Moran and the Bandwagon, joined by saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, were improvising on a stage behind the bowl. Instruments were in conversation with each other, and the conversation included the skaters too.

The skaters’ own improvisations didn’t respond to individual musical statements, at least not that I could perceive; rather, the feel of the music infused all the skating with its particular energy. The edge of the stage proved a highly permeable boundary between music and skateboards; skater Chuck Treece joined the Bandwagon on guitar and skater Ron Allen took the mike to layer rhyme over the music. Early on, Tom Remillard launched himself up and over the lip of the pool to briefly plant a foot on the edge of the stage before hurling himself back down the steep face of the pool like a wheeled stage diver, a maneuver that other skaters riffed on later.

The skaters were the main attraction for me. Having surfed but never been on a skateboard, I imagined their ride to be like catching one constant wave. What a rush it must be, plunging down into the trough of the concrete “bowl” and then decelerating as they ride up its concave side. Sometimes they immediately cut down again, sometimes they skated along the crest, sometimes they hit a divine moment of suspension at the top—airborne, or upside-down balanced on one hand, the other hand fixing the board to the soles of their feet. There was wow-inducing virtuosity (and good-natured rebounds out of the failed attempts at that virtuosity), but what I found most hypnotic was the fact of the ride: that ongoing forward propulsion, and the pendulum energy of their recurring drops into and ascents out of the bowl.

Hot skateboarders and hot music together: that’s a lot going on. But there was still more, something about the people assembled in the park. “Community” comes to mind, but I rush to justify that worn-out word and provide examples of what I have in mind. My twelve-year-old daughter attended a girls-only skateboard session in the morning and got personal instruction from 17-year-old pro Jordyn Barratt. At the event, Barratt mugged for a photographer as she rode her board in an arc over the head of Ken Fischer, UMS President, who was seated at the bottom of the bowl. My daughter was star-struck (over Barratt, not Fischer!), telling me how cool Jordyn is and, I think, hoping to catch her eye. Meanwhile, local skaters weaved among the pros.

There was a sociable, we’re-all-here-together vibe, and that must be at least partially attributed to UMS’s desire to “give back to the community” with this event. “Community” often means connecting with audiences outside the older, wealthier population usually associated with concert halls, and if that’s the definition in operation here, certain elements of Falling Up and Getting Down were particularly effective. It was free and in a public park. The “free” part is not to be underestimated, especially given the often-prohibitive price tag on concerts in theaters. The “public park” part is also powerful; this was not just any public park with lawns and swing-sets, but a skatepark with cement hills and paths and loops.

There were also a fair number of teenagers, and tattoos, punk rock t-shirts, Chuck Taylor sneakers, and dreadlocks, alongside people with grey hair, tailored clothing, and sensible shoes. I acknowledge how odious generalizations based on appearances are, but admit that I surmised that this older set came for the jazz more than the skateboarding. The fact remains, though, that there were assembled people who looked really different from one another, and their difference was made more striking by the fact that they were side by side at the skatepark. We were all listening to the Bandwagon, and regardless of who considers themselves jazz connoisseurs or knows Jason Moran’s reputation, the sounds they conjured were bewitching. We were all watching the skateboarders fly, and regardless of whether you’ve ever heard of Tom Remillard, it was inspiring and gladdening.

Skatepark

Skater (left) / Photo by Kimberley Mortson // Pro Andy Macdonald with local skater Stan Baker.

My husband, impressed with the scene, commented how cool it is that our town has a skatepark, that when he was a teenager, skateboarding was on par with doing drugs, wearing black leather jackets, and generally getting in trouble. Skateboarding was not just teenagers, it was bad teenagers; any business with a promisingly inclined stretch of sidewalk posted a prominent “no skateboards” sign. Some of that has obviously changed, either with the time or the place; witness the number of people of all ages on skateboards and the family-friendly vibe at Ann Arbor Skatepark. However, skateboarding still has a reputation and often a feel of angry rebellion and intimidating cool; pro-skateboarder Andy Macdonald’s clean-cut image is an exception that the press makes much of, and I feel instantly old, dowdy, lame, and conservative when I encounter skateboarders on the street.

And the skateboarders didn’t seem off-puttingly cool; they offered one another encouraging high-fives and praise, and shared the limelight with respectful turn-taking. If the situation were reversed, I hope that the clothing and attitudes of the concert hall that might be intimidating to outsiders would be similarly mitigated by friendly and polite interaction.

Anyway, it was a situation in which people of apparent difference found common ground—a true and apt definition of community, compelling me to remove the cynical quotation marks from around that word. While the unusual combination of jazz improvisation and skateboarding—both of the highest quality—was the attraction that drew these people, I think the secret ingredient that enabled this particular instance of community was the setting: the shared public space. And so, I’m impressed with my new home, not just for bringing Jason Moran and Andy Macdonald here, but for bringing them together and for making this happen free of charge in a public venue.


From 1993-2004, Veronica Dittman Stanich danced in New York and co-produced The Industrial Valley Celebrity Hour in Brooklyn. Now, PhD in hand, she writes about dance and other important matters.


Preview: Falling Up and Getting Down, UMS Season-Opening Live Skateboarding + Music Celebration

PREVIEW MUSIC

Andy

Andy MacDonald at Ann Arbor Skatepark. / Photograph by Morgan Andrew Somers.

Both athletes and musicians must be able to improvise, but they rarely do so in tandem.

That will change on Sunday, when the University Musical Society and Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, in collaboration with City of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation, present a free-style show that combines professional skateboarding with live jazz music.

“Falling Up and Getting Down” takes a concept originated by jazz pianist/composer and MacArthur “Genius” Grant winner Jason Moran – who kicked off the UMS season in 2013 with a Fats Waller Dance Party at Downtown Home & Garden – and brings it to Ann Arbor.

Previously, Moran helped put together a similar event at the Kennedy Center and at the San Francisco Jazz Center, but Ann Arbor’s show will be the first to take place at an in-ground, permanent skatepark.

“The Ann Arbor Skatepark is such a special place,” said UMS senior programming manager Mark Jacobson. “Kids can go there and be safe and hang out and stay out of trouble. The phrase ‘skateboarding saves lives’ is something I truly believe in, just like I believe that music saves lives. Young adults go to the skate park to find themselves, and to find a community. … I’d been at the skatepark’s grand opening, in June of 2014, and I had this thought: how ridiculous would it be if UMS had a season-opening celebration at the skate park?”

Perhaps not so ridiculous, but there has been a lot of work involved over the course of the last year; and although the event costs tens of thousands of dollars to produce, UMS is absorbing the cost into its budget so that anyone can attend for free (though pre-registration is required at ums.org).

“We’re giving back to the community that we love, and that we live in,” said Jacobson. “ … I think right now we have 1,400 registrations, but I think we’ll see 2,000 or 2,500 people out on Sunday. … Roughly the first 90 minutes will be exhibition skaters, from 2:30 to 4, with live DJs providing the music, and then we’ll have the pro skate demo with live music and professional skateboarders.”

Those skaters include X game legend Andy Macdonald; “old schoolers” Ron Allen and Chuck Treece (who’s an accomplished musician himself); young “vert” skating star Tom Remillard; and pro lady skaters Jordyn Barratt and Natalie Krishna Das. Tadd Mullinix and Alvin Hill will DJ the first portion of the event, while Moran and his band, The Bandwagon, featuring saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, will provide “Falling Up”’s live, free-style jazz.

There will also be food trucks on site, including Ricewood BBQ, Bigalora Wood Fired Pizza, Cheese Street, and Reilly Craft Creamery.

Jason

Jason Moran and the Bandwagon. / Photograph by Clay Patrick McBride.

The event promises to be different from anything UMS has presented before – but that’s part of its appeal.

“Over and over again, when we survey our audiences about what they’re looking for, and what they’re excited by, they consistently tell us they want new and unusual and innovative presentations. They want to engage with art in unique and unusual ways, and this checks all the boxes.”

So Jacobson believes that a sizable portion of UMS’ established audience base are willing to give “Falling Up” a chance; but he’s also excited that the show offers those normally beyond UMS’ – and jazz’s – typical reach with a fun point of entry.

“Jason Moran’s brilliant,” said Jacobson. “In addition to his playing, which is phenomenal, … he has such rich ideas and concepts. … For many of these kids who will be listening to his music on Sunday, many of them will have never listened to live jazz before in their lifetime. They’ll be exposed to this artform, this amazing American art form, that they otherwise wouldn’t be.”

“Falling Up” is a rain-or-shine event, though “the safety of the athletes is prioritized,” said Jacobson. “They can’t skate if the surface is wet, but if we find ourselves in that situation, we’d hope that the party could still go on in some way.”

The main hope, of course, is that the crowd will get to see skaters and music artists collaborating in exciting and unconventional ways.

“This whole notion of improvisation between musicians and athletes – they really feed off each other, with the musicians pushing the skaters to try different things, and the skaters prodding the musicians to jam harder. It’s very reciprocal, with a lot of give and take in terms of energy.”


Jenn McKee is a former staff arts reporter for The Ann Arbor News, where she primarily covered theater and film events, and also wrote general features and occasional articles on books and music.


Falling Up and Getting Down takes place at the Ann Arbor Skatepark, Sunday, September 11. Free, with advance registration required. Exhibition begins at 2:30 pm. For more information and to RSVP, visit http://www.UMS.org/skatepark.

Review: Local Author Bob Sweet Chronicles Creative Music Studio

REVIEW WRITTEN WORD MUSIC

Review: Local Author Bob Sweet Chronicles Creative Music Studio

Bob's sweet new book takes a look at the history of the Creative Music Studio.

Of the many skilled authors and writers in our area, it’s unlikely many have traveled across the country not only to do research on their subject, but been so personally involved preserving a legacy they firmly believe in.

Robert E. Sweet is a musician who occasionally performs jazz with his trio at the Ann Arbor District Library. He is a drummer, an original member of the Sun Messengers, has worked with fellow drummer R.J. Spangler, and works his day job in the library of U.M.T.R.I. - the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute on North Campus.

Not so much a sidebar as a passion, Sweet has been pivotal archiving the artifacts of the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y. where he attended as a student in the mid-1970s. A school, think tank, and communal living situation in the Catskill Mountains some 90 miles north of New York City, C.M.S. was a proving ground for improvised music, the burgeoning world music movement, dance, poetry, meditation, healthy living and other forms of non-pop expressionism.

Founded by Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, and especially Karl Berger and his wife Ingrid, C.M.S. and the supporting Creative Music Foundation also established workshops, intensive sessions, and other educational satellite posts around the world.

Sweet has just published a second volume of the C.M.S. story All Kinds Of Time – The Enduring Spirit Of The Creative Music Studio (Arborville Publishing Inc.), a follow-up to Creative Music, Creative Mind – Revisiting The Creative Music Studio, based on oral history interviews, bringing the entire archives back to Ann Arbor, cataloging the items, preserving audio recordings, and turning them over to where they currently are housed at Columbia University.

More so, the book emphasizes that C.M.S. is still alive, updated and morphed into different forms, including internet courses, continuing live performances and workshops, and, above all, a mindset that there is more to music than reading notes on a page or improvising on random timbres and tones. It is a feeling shared by many thousands of musicians and listeners around the globe, including several individuals living in Ann Arbor such as Bob Sweet.

The book begins with the physical collapse of C.M.S. in 1984, its revival in recent years, and how the scope of the concept has expanded due to technology, not to mention the interest in artists who are still alive, those no longer alive such as the late Coleman, Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Collin Walcott, Nana Vasconcelos, and lesser knowns such as Turkish saxophonist Ismet Siral. Even drummer Levon Helm (The Band,) reggae legends Sly & Robbie, or John Medeski (Medeski, Martin & Wood) had a role at C.M.S. Larry Chernicoff is a musician who also contributed the cover photo design.

Of course there are those whose vast influence is felt among millions of musicians and listeners. There are big names who conducted workshops like Anthony Braxton and Jack DeJohnette, as well as pioneering trombonist and live electronics music maker George Lewis, There were two week intensives led by Cecil Taylor or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Former students Marilyn Crispell and Tom Cora benefitted greatly as students, and one who was student turned instructor John Zorn. Much of this was covered in the previous book, but refreshed and revisited here.

These individuals founded the idea and ideals of world music, and not necessarily popular music from other countries. Instead, world music is folk music from other countries infused with American jazz, especially improvisation and blues feeling, making for a new music form that is unique unto itself.

What is most evident in reading All Kinds Of Time is the painstaking, infinite possibilities and details of the musical spirit infused in Karl Berger and Ingrid Sertso, and their insistence in keeping the history, tradition, and future of this music alive. Sweet knows the intimate ins and outs of how Berger and Sertso have prevailed through musical, financial and health barriers to insist their contribution is very alive and well.

There were an amazing array of artists involved in C.M.S. beyond big names like Coleman and Cherry. Bassists John Lindberg and Bill Laswell (both formerly from Metro-Detroit,) drummer Tani Tabbal from the legendary Detroit ensemble Griot Galaxy, Ann Arbor’s Ed Sarath and former Ann Arborite James Ilgenfritz (student of Lindberg) are all important exponents of C.M.S.

Sweet weaves through post-1984 with the story of how the Studio went dormant, and rose like a Phoenix on sheer willpower. The author went to Woodstock, N.Y., received and preserved recordings, materials and artifacts, catalogued them, made certain of their authenticity, and over a period of three decades, forwarded them to Columbia University where they now are housed.

The recorded musics, through no small amount of wrangling, have made it to the marketplace in the form of two triple CD sets for the Innova and Planet Arts labels respectively (the story about sessions originally being on Douglas Records is a good one), with more possibly on the way.

The first third of the book revisits the precepts of C.M.S. - basic practice, spirituality, discipline, and what creative music actually entails. It is a fascinating read in the discovery of how this music was conceived, realized, and collectively made without being produced like popular music. Yet there is a universal appeal to their sounds. It is in the main thoughtful, very tuneful, and enjoyable, rarely noisy or jarring, but in fact quite refined within the realm of spontaneous and thematic composition.

Sweet moves on to how C.M.S.’s broad minded ideals have always been valid and remain intact. There’s a major chapter on the Turkish connection via saxophonist Ismet Siral. With Turkey a centrally located Middle Eastern country subject to many influences from African, European to Asian, Karl Berger sees Turkish folk music as a basis for many other tangents to spring from.

The enduring and increasing importance of trumpeter, sage and spiritual counselor, pocket trumpeter/keyboardist/poet Don Cherry also has a chapter devoted to his insight. Born in Oklahoma City, living in the mean streets of Watts, L.A., forming a legendary group with Ornette Coleman, either drummer Billy Higgins or Ed Blackwell, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman and bassist Charlie Haden, then emigrating to Sweden, Cherry's original post-bop influenced style changed, his personal sound driven by playing the melodica, and African instruments like various wood flutes, and especially the hunter’s guitar/doussin’gouni.

Then there’s the follow through of Columbia University via George Lewis, organizing and celebrating the recent fortieth anniversary of C.M.S., and providing hope that current students have access to the materials Sweet assured would be preserved. Concluding chapters add a great deal of information on the recruitment of current COO Rob Saffer.

Beyond the physical music and historical documents, Sweet tells a lot about how the Studio reinvented itself away from their Woodstock base, and also returned to upstate New York thanks to Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, their family members, and Saffer.

The book is an easy read, especially for those who are attuned to this music. All others will learn a lot. If critiques be made, the book re-repeats the self-implied importance in keeping the C.M.S. spirit alive. Also there is no index, and the Table of Contents is incorrectly numbered.

Otherwise, it gives notice to the notion that diversity in infinite ways and means is a good, powerful, and effective method for bringing peace to the world by showing us that we have many more similarities than differences. For the Creative Music Studio, there is indeed all kinds of time for their vision to continue and extend itself.


Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.


Preview: A2 Jazz Fest Lives Up To Past Musical And Historic Legacies

PREVIEW MUSIC

Jazz Fest collage.

Some of the performers at the upcoming A2 Jazz Fest: Bassist, band leader, and festival organizer Dave Sharp (top left), saxophonist Tim Haldeman (bottom left, photo courtesy Mark Bialek), and bassist and vocalist Gwenyth Hayes (right).

The tradition of Ann Arbor jazz festivals is storied and resplendent, with a history that spans generations like few events ever have. There is great precedent in building foundations and interest, then following through with sustainable, creative ideas to make these events successful models for the many other festivals that have followed in their wake.

The inaugural A2 Jazz Fest starts yet another tradition with new ideas, a modern promotional approach, and an emphasis on local, younger performers who play jazz their own way while remaining true to what makes the music our great American artistic treasure.

In the late 1960s - early 1970s, the original Ann Arbor Blues Festival morphed into the legendary Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival held at Otis Spann Memorial Field next to Huron High School, and then concluded in Windsor. It was revived at Gallup Park, the Michigan Theater, the Bird of Paradise, the Firefly Club, and downtown Ann Arbor from 1992-2007. In between, Eclipse Jazz presented three memorable Ann Arbor Jazz Festivals indoors at Hill Auditorium from 1978-1980.

Now the A2 Jazz Fest extends these events with a one-day, two-stage, continuous music presentation at the near side West Park Band Shell, a location that has over the decades hosted concerts ranging from civic bands to the Count Basie Orchestra, to the Grateful Dead.

Jazz Fest collage.

Organizer and bassist Dave Sharp is taking the reins as an extension of his work booking weekday jazz club dates at the Old Town Tavern. The endless logistics, financial details, and working with various players have not fazed cool customer Sharp in bringing this dream to realization.

In a recent interview, Sharp said he realizes all of the issues the site has presented. “I feel it’s an underutilized resource. I thought, why not do a jazz club type festival with primarily trios and quartets – not Latin-jazz, big bands, blues and loud bands. My aim is to use the engineering of the band shell to project the sound.”

A small side stage at West Park will bring school bands to the festival to perform between sets on the Band Shell. Groups of students will come from the Ann Arbor Music Center (where Sharp teaches), Community High School, Ann Arbor Academy, and the Community Music School.

In thirty-minute sets, the Main Stage will showcase up-and-comers, including Max Brown & The Cosmonauts, drummers Sam Genson and Jesse Kramer leading trios, saxophonist Tim Haldeman, vocalist Gwenyth Hayes, veteran bassist Kurt Krahnke, trumpeter Ingrid Racine’s quartet, Sharp’s Three Worlds Trio, and saxophonist/U-Michigan professor Andrew Bishop and his creative jazz quartet.

Sharp has secured a unique partnership with Art Train to accept and funnel tax-deductible donations as a 501(c)(3)non-profit. A Kickstarter campaign has been completed to help defray production, park rental, insurance, artists fees, hospitality, and promotional expenses.

Though it's been time consuming as he played the waiting game, Sharp says, "The main logistic was applying for the permit and waiting for it to clear City Hall and the Parks & Rec Department. It wasn’t necessarily difficult, but everything is locked up and all set.”

There have been a few pre-festival activities, including jam sessions at the Old Town and the Ann Arbor District Library. An A2JF jam session showcase will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, in-store at festival associate sponsor Encore Records at 417 E. Liberty St.

While anticipating a successful event, Sharp envisions it as a smallish festival with room to grow: “I don’t want it to be with a large beer tent with BBQ. Instead, take a subset of groups from the Old Town, have a rhythm section back line with a piano and not a lot to move around, a small P.A. for horns and announcements, and a moderate volume - that’s what it is.”

Complete A2 Jazz Fest Line-Up

12:00 noon: Blueprints: Ann Arbor Music Center Youth Jazz Band

12:30 pm: Ann Arbor Guitar Trio

12:45 pm: Ingrid Racine Quartet feat. Rob Avsharian, Ben Rolston, Chuck Newsome

1:15 pm: Student Jazz Ensemble TBA

1:45 pm: Max Brown & The Cosmonauts

2:00 pm: Student Jazz Ensemble TBA

2:15 pm: Kurt Krahnke Trio feat. Tad Weed & Pete Siers

2:45 pm: Student Jazz Ensemble TBA

3:15 pm: Sam Genson Trio

4:00 pm: Jesse Kramer Trio feat. Kris Kurzawa & Damon Warmack

4:45 pm: Tim Haldeman Quartet feat. Ben Rolston & Nick Collins

5:35 pm: Three Worlds Trio feat. Dave Sharp, Gayelynn McKinney, Elden Kelly

6:25 pm: Gwenyth Hayes Trio feat. Jake Reichbart

7:15 pm: Andrew Bishop Quartet


Michael G. Nastos is known as a veteran radio broadcaster, local music journalist, and event promoter/producer. He is a former music director and current super sub on 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, founding member of SEMJA, the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Board of Directors member of the Michigan Jazz Festival, votes in the annual Detroit Music Awards and Down Beat Magazine, NPR Music and El Intruso Critics Polls, and writes monthly for Hot House Magazine in New York City.


The inaugural A2 Jazz Fest takes place from 12 noon to 8 pm on Saturday, September 10, at West Park, 215 Chapin St. Admission is free. Food vendors will be on site. In case of rain, an alternate date and venue is secured. For more information go to http://a2jazzfest.org.

Preview: Dancing in the Streets on 9/4

PREVIEW THEATER & DANCE MUSIC

They're dancin' in Ann Arbor.

They're dancin' in Ann Arbor. / Photo from The Grand River Folk Arts Society

As a kid, I flunked jazz, tap, and ballet. I could never quite get the hang of a shuffle or a step-ball-change. And forget the ballet positions. As an adult, I tried taking ballroom dancing, and while I didn’t flunk out, I still wasn’t able to master the one-two-three rhythm without stepping on my partner’s feet.

So I figured that dancing just wasn’t in the cards for me, until a few years ago when I happened to be in downtown Ann Arbor on the Sunday before Labor Day. The streets were blocked off and people were dancing in them. But these weren’t any dances I had ever seen before: someone was calling out the steps, minimal hopping around, and there certainly weren’t any chassés with jazz hands.

While I was standing there, someone asked if I wanted to do the dance. Immediately I told him that I couldn’t dance. He asked if I could walk. Um, yeah. “Then you can do this,” said my new friend. “Come on!”

And dance friend was right—if you can walk, you can do these dances! I later found out that the style of dance I was doing was called an English Country Dance. In this type of dance, the caller tells you to do things like take hands with your partner, turn all the way around, or skip up four steps. I followed the caller’s directions and sure enough, I was dancing! When I asked my dance partner what this wondrous event was, he told me it was called Dancing in the Streets because, well, that is literally what everyone was doing.

Lucky for all of us wannabe dancers, this event takes place every Sunday before Labor Day—September 4th this year!

If the English dance doesn’t get your toes tapping, there are many other fun things to do! There will be three Maypole dances, several swing dance lessons, and concerts from local acts including Annie and Rod Capps, Blue Caledonia, and Commonwealth Collective.

The North Main stage features the international dances where dancers can receive lessons in the dances of North Africa and the Middle East, belly dancing, flamenco dancing, and international folk dance; performances will follow the instruction.

The stage on East Washington showcases Anglo-American dances such as the Scottish dances, contras, and English Country.

With this much variety, there is something for everyone! Even for those of us who still can’t do a plié.


Patti Smith is a special education teacher who lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and cats. She is the author of two books about Ann Arbor, the most recent is a history of the People’s Food Co-op. Visit her at www.PattiFSmith.com or @TeacherPatti on Twitter.



Dancing in the Streets will take place in downtown Ann Arbor on Sunday, September 4 from 1:30-6:30 pm.

Preview: The University of Michigan Museum of Art's "Nights at the Museum"

UMMA's Nights at the Museum

Settling in for a Night at the Museum / Photo by Leisa Thompson

Nights at the Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art's exterior media arts initiative, will illuminate the museum's facade with artwork, performances, and family-friendly movies from September 2 - 9.

Events are open to the public and will run each night from 8:30 pm to dawn along its State Street-side facade, on the west side of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing.

A digital art installation by Quayola titled "Pleasant Places" will be projected overnight, from dusk to dawn, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From Tuesday through Thursday, UMMA will collaborate with U-M arts partners, including the University Musical Society, Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, and School of Music, Theatre & Dance, with each organization showcasing a related video performance or art installation.

Here's the full schedule:

Friday, Sept. 2
7 - 10 pm: Artscapade!,/a> a Welcome Week events for students
10 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Saturday, Sept. 3
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Sunday, Sept. 4
8:30 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Monday, Sept. 5:
8:30 - 10 pm: Family-friendly movie night with a screening of Toy Story
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Tuesday, Sept. 6
8:30 - 10 pm: Performances by U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance students and faculty, including the Men's Glee Club, University Symphony Band, University Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Love, Life & Loss, a 30-minute film featuring the Michigan Men's Glee Club performing "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed," will kick off the performances.

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Wednesday, Sept. 7
8:30 - 10 pm: Short art films created by U-M Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design faculty and students, including:

Zoe Anderson (BFA 2007): "Little Luminaries"
Ashley Bock (BFA 2018): "Fission"
Alexa Borromeo (BFA 2016): "Stay Out of the Sun"
Shane Darwent (MFA 2018): "Orquesta de las Calles"
Niki Horowitz (BFA 2016): "Personal Projections"
Carol Jacobsen (Stamps professor): "Prison Diary"
Andy Kirshner (Stamps associate professor): "Liberty's Secret" (segment)
Rebekah Modrak (Stamps associate professor): "Re Made Best Made Echo"
Zoe Brendan Widmer (BFA 2016): "Does My Undercut Make Me Look Queer?"
Niki Williams (BFA 2016): "Grimestone"

10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Thursday, Sept. 8
8:30 - 10 pm: Screening of Snarky Puppy's Family Dinner-Volume Two in collaboration with UMS. (Snarky Puppy is a Grammy Award-winning "quasi-collective" that will perform at Hill Auditorium March 17, 2017.)
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Friday, Sept. 9
7 - 10 pm: UMMA After Hours
10:15 pm - 7 am: "Pleasant Places" installation by artist Quayola

Preview: The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Returns for its 38th Year!

MUSIC PULP PREVIEW

The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Returns for its 38th Year!

Scenes from last year's Ypsilanti Heritage Festival. Photos from Ypsi Real.

The tents are going up, the buzz is in the air, and it’s easy to tell that a long-running local celebration is back for another year! This weekend the annual Ypsilanti Heritage Festival returns to Riverside Park with live music, entertainment, food, vendors, and countless other activities. This year marks the 38th annual celebration of this community festival, which started as the Ypsilanti Yesteryear Heritage Festival back in 1978 and has been honoring the city of Ypsi, its quirky culture, and its rich history every year since.

Highlights for this year include a community food tent, a magic show, a rubber ducky race, bounce houses, a touch-a-truck event, free access to many of Ypsi’s local historical buildings and museums, and a presentation by local historian Matt Seigfried on the incredible tale of local legend HP Jacobs. This year also features the triumphant return of Noise Permit, a musical event showcasing Ypsi’s talented teens in Frog Island Park.

The festival will once again sprawl between Riverside Park, Frog Island Park, and Depot Town. Entry to the festival and many of its events are free, but some events will require tickets or payment. If you’re the plan-ahead type, a full schedule of the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival’s events can be found on their website.

The Parkridge Summer Festival and DIYpsi craft fair will both take place over the next couple of days as well, so there will be no shortage of noise, fun, and sights to see in Ypsi this weekend!


The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival will take place on August 26, 27, and 28, 2016. For more information and a full schedule of events, visit YHF's website.

Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival

REVIEW MUSIC

Review: 10th Annual Kerrytown Nashbash Music Festival.

Musicians keeping it country at Nashbash.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place in Kerrytown this past Thursday evening. Put on by the Kerrytown District Association in conjunction with the Kerrytown Concert House, the festival is a rare celebration of country music in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful night for the event, which takes place each year in the Farmers’ Market space between Fifth and Fourth Avenues. Wolverine Brewing Company and Aut Bar slung cocktails and barbecue, and attendees could grab dinner or dessert from various food carts, including Hello Ice Cream, Petey’s Donuts and Pilar’s Tamales. Overall, the atmosphere of the festival was, as usual, relaxed and cheerful, with a wide variety of attendees. Children played and danced in the cleared parking lot, millennials busted out their cowboy boots for the occasion and sat in the sun sipping beer (this Pulp writer is upset that she forget to wear her favorite bright red cowboy boots), and older folks eagerly claimed chairs right in front of the stage to sing and clap along to the music.

Nashville singer/songwriter Sally Barris headlined this year’s festival. She’s written songs that have been recorded by a number of famous country singers including Trisha Yearwood, Keith Urban and Martina McBride, and is an extremely talented musician in her own right, currently touring with her latest album “The Road In Me.” Festival attendees were delighted with her performance last night. She played plenty of lighthearted, almost comical songs, like the one she wrote dedicated to a man who wrote his own obituary that she read about in Yahoo! News and a “Halloween love song” co-written with Don Henley. “I know what you’re thinking,” Barris joked. “Another Halloween love song?” But it wasn’t all kidding around; Barris also sang a song (later recorded by Trisha Yearwood) that she described as “deeply personal,” titled “Let the Wind Chase You. “I don’t want to work for your love/I don’t want to try to be/Something that you’re looking for/You’re never gonna find in me,” Barris sang in her clear soprano. Her set concluded with a song about a girl living in Nashville who wants to fall in love with a real cowboy, not just a guy who throws on a belt with a big buckle and some boots and believes he’s the real deal. “If I said let’s ride off into the sunset/Would you know what I mean?” Barris ended the song with a smile and a wink.

Local band Hoodang also played Nashbash. Always a delight to watch, their music is a toe-tapping blend of blues, country and rock’n’roll. Lyrics focus on, as they describe it, “people tarnished by bad blood and bad luck who still find a way to make it through to the next town, day, marriage, con or battle.” Frontman David Rossiter founded the band in 2003, and has been playing locally ever since, with various backing musicians. The current iteration has been together for several years now, though, and it seems to be working extremely well. Along with Rossiter, who plays guitar and sings, Dave Keeney plays electric guitar, Ralph McKee plays bass, John Crawford plays drums and Sophia Hanifi offers her vocal talents to round out the quintet. Hoodang isn’t particularly showy on stage, but they’re a joy to watch, simply because they seem to be having so much fun and are so comfortable together. They dedicated their song “You Don’t Tell the Truth” to presidential hopeful Donald Trump, which got laughs and cheers from the crowd. Hoodang is exactly the kind of band that one hopes to see when walking into a Nashville honky-tonk, but fortunately for Ann Arbor residents, we didn’t have to make the 9 hour drive south to see such a performance last night.

Whit Hill and the Postcards were the final performance of the evening. Hill, a longtime Ann Arborite, moved to Nashville 8 years ago and is one of the founding members of Nashbash. She scopes out acts in Nashville and selects one to bring to the festival each year. After a bit of sound trouble, Hill and the band kicked off their set with “Lotta Yer Love,” off their 2006 album Farsighted. “Don’t give me lots of money/ I don’t need your money/Just need a lotta your love,” went the rocking chorus (“She doesn’t want money, just love,” a man next to me helpfully pointed out when he saw me taking notes on the performance). The band mainly focused on songs from their 2014 album, I Dug It Up, and played a rousing version of the title track, which was a crowd favorite.

Earlier in the evening, The Bill Edwards Band, The Judy Banker Band and The Whiskey Charmers performed.

Ann Arbor is not traditionally a country music loving town, and it’s a testament to the organization of Nashbash and the talent that performs that the festival has been so successful for a decade. Even those who think they can’t bear to hear a single note of a country song would do well to check out the 11th annual Nashbash in 2017.

The 10th annual Nashbash Music Festival took place Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-9:00. The festival happens every year in mid-August and is free and open to the public.


Elizabeth Pearce is a library technician at the Ann Arbor District Library. She would also like to fall in love with a real cowboy.

Preview: DIYpsi Summer Festival

PREVIEW VISUAL ART MUSIC PULP

DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

DIY at the DIYpsi Summer Festival

As summer winds down and the nights grow shorter we find ourselves seeking out great outdoor events to attend to soak up as much summertime as we can. One such event to help send the month of August out with a bang is the DIYpsi Summer Festival, which takes place at ABC Microbrewery in Ypsilanti. This twice-a-year craft fair pulls out all the stops during its summer shows, as it continues to grow in size and amazingness each year. This not-to-be-missed show not only boosts the local economy and supports the arts, it combines so many elements to enjoy in one location, and this year they are going all out.

You’ll find over 80 top notch craft vendors from the Midwest selling superb handmade goods, as well as delicious foods on board, specialty craft brews, and a plethora of live music featuring local musicians that will be jamming out all weekend enhancing the already chill vibe. The organizers have some special treats in store this summer that include Theatre Bizarre working carnival games as well as a petting zoo at this indoor/outdoor extravaganza.

Between the crafts, food, beer, and a mini donkey, what more could you ask for in a summer weekend?!


Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library and is a super mega ultra fan of craft fairs.


DIYpsi takes place at ABC Microbrewery (Corner) in Ypsilanti on Saturday, August 27 from 11 am- 8 pm (bands play until 11 pm) and Sunday, August 28 from 12 pm- 6 pm. Admission is a $1 suggested donation. The event is 21+ unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.