Tasty Times: Mercury Salad Explores Delectable Life Experiences on “Volume 3” EP

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Mercury Salad's Kurt Bonnell, Brooke Ratliff, and Kyle Kipp include folky and funky flavors on "Volume 3."

Mercury Salad's Kurt Bonnell, Brooke Ratliff, and Kyle Kipp include folky and funky flavors on "Volume 3." Photo courtesy of Mercury Salad.

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.”

Local skateboard lifestyle brand Drive Thru launches with a trick-filled short film

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A still from the film Drive Thru, which covers the Ann Arbor skateboarding scene. A group of skaters are sitting on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library on the University of Michigan campus.

Skaters take a break on the Diag in front of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan. A still from the film Drive Thru, which covers the Washtenaw County skateboarding scene.

Drive Thru is a new skateboard clothing, video, and lifestyle company run by friends Austin Roberts, Ramon Rogelio Fuentes, Kaito Osborn, and Luke Turowski. They are part of the passionate skate community in Washtenaw County, which officially counts Ypsilanti’s DIY skatepark in Prospect Park, the Ann Arbor Skatepark in Veterans Park, and the Olympia Skate Shop, with in both Ann Arbor and Ypsi, as gathering spots.

But skaters love to skate ... anywhere.

That’s the focus of this new skateboard lifestyle collective’s debut short film, also called Drive Thru, which captures skaters grinding and tricking throughout Washtenaw County, with a heavy focus on Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

The 25-minute-long Drive Thru premieres at The Blind Pig on Thursday, August 18, with a screening and performances by Michigan punk bands ​​Dad Caps and My Place or Yours.

We spoke with Drive Thru’s Austin Roberts and Ramon Rogelio Fuentes about their company, the film, and the skating scene in Washtenaw County.

For Stevie—with Love and Squalor: Ann Arbor’s Chirp honors late rodent companion on a funky new single

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Black and white photo of Chirp performing live taken by Austin S. Grinnell.

Chirp kicks out the jams, from left to right: bassist Brian Long, singer-guitarist Jay Frydenlund, and guitarist Sam Naples. Photo by Austin S. Grinnell.

After his pet rat passed away, Jay Frydenlund was at a loss for words.

Instead, the Chirp frontman decided to honor his late rodent companion, Stevie, with a spirited namesake instrumental.

“Stevie the Rat was the most fearless rat that has ever existed, so I wanted to write something about her that represented that,” said Frydenlund, Chirp’s lead vocalist and guitarist. “I started working on it a few days after she died.”

Alongside bandmates Brian Long (bass, vocals), Sam Naples (guitar, vocals), and Patrick Blommel (drums) in the Ann Arbor prog-funk-jazz jam quartet, Frydenlund penned the playful, ardent “Stevie.”

Buoyant electric guitar, soulful bass, and pulsating drums scurry throughout the melodic funk and psych-rock adventures of Stevie’s past. 

“I think the energy of the tune represents Stevie’s pretty well,” Frydenlund said. “Brian [Long] lights that song on fire with his bass solo. If Stevie were a bass-playing rat, that’s exactly what she would have done.”

Chirp will share “Stevie” and other fresh, funky tracks during an Aug. 13 show in Ann Arbor’s Liberty Plaza as part of the Concert to Shut Down Line 5. It will be the band's first hometown show since playing Ann Arbor Summer Festival: Top of the Park in June.

The Guild of Artists & Artisans with Gutman Gallery showcase up-and-coming artists in their annual "Emerge" exhibition

VISUAL ART PREVIEW

Phantom Barber by SHoNobi

ShoNobi, Phantom Barber

An exhibition featuring newer or less-established artists might conjure up thoughts of an elementary school art fair. 

But one peek at the new Emerge exhibit at Ann Arbor's Gutman Gallery will banish those incorrect thoughts right back into that giant box of unexamined fingerpaintings your kid did as a tot.

Like last year's inaugural edition, the Gutman Gallery and The Guild of Artists & Artisans have created another show worthy of excitement and praise for all the fresh talent highlighted in Emerge.

Check out the press release below and see some samples of the work featured in the exhibition.

Out of the "Shadows": Jazz vocalist Olivia Van Goor explores lesser-known songs on her debut EP and returns to Blue LLama

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A headshot of jazz singer Olivia Van Goor. She has brown-blonde bob-type hair and blue eyes and is wearing a blue dress.

Photo by Ryme Media

This story originally ran on February 7. 2002. We're featuring it again because Olivia Van Goor will play Blue LLama Jazz Club on July 30.

For her debut EP, When The Shadows Fall, Milford jazz vocalist Olivia Van Goor unearthed and reshaped five hidden gems from the Great American Songbook and beyond.

“None of them are any of the classic standards like ‘Fly Me to the Moon,'" Van Goor said. "I intentionally chose standards that most professional working jazz musicians know, but not all of them. The two that are standards are ‘Willow Weep for Me’ and ‘No Moon at All. ... I did the Detroit Jazz Workshop two years in a row, and the first time I sang ‘Willow Weep for Me,’ and the second time I did ‘No Moon at All.’ I picked my milestone moments with learning the music.”

Those milestone moments also serve as a timeless journey through a spectrum of emotions ranging from hope to heartbreak. Each When The Shadows Fall track waltzes, swings, and bops from one era to the next. 

“I was really inspired by Veronica Swift, and she’s one of the best jazz vocalists of the time right now," Van Goor said. "On her last album, she took some musical theater songs that haven’t been taken by any of the legends and turned into standards and did them in that format.

“If you listen to an old recording of ‘Shadow Waltz,’ you’ll notice the style is completely different (from my version). I arranged all of the songs, and that’s my biggest originality to it, except I wrote the lyrics to ‘Hershey Bar.’”

The Olivia Van Goor Quartet will return to Ann Arbor’s Blue LLama Jazz Club on Feb. 18 July 30 and will perform songs from When The Shadows Fall as well as some past and new tunes.

Emilio Rodriguez asks who gets to decide what’s offensive in his play "God Kinda Looks Like Tupac"

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A photo of Emilio Rodriguez, author of the play God Kinda Looks Like Tupac.

Emilio Rodriguez, author of the play God Kinda Looks Like Tupac. Photo via his Facebook page.

NOTE: "God Kinda Looks Like Tupac" has been pushed back from its original opening date to August 5 due to illness.

Emilio Rodriguez, whose play God Kinda Looks Like Tupac opens at Ann Arbor's Theatre Nova on July 29 August 5, says his theater career started early.

Very early.

Donning his mother’s high heels and appropriating her broom and a funnel, he performed “one-kid adaptations of The Wizard of Oz” in the family’s living room.

Perhaps one reason why a movie with the famous line "There's no place like home" resonated with Rodriguez is that he is a self-described “military brat” who grew up on the move. Rodriguez says he didn’t have a sense of hometown until he moved to Detroit in 2012 to teach high school English and drama for AmeriCorps. One thing that informs all his work, he says, is “a loose sense of the idea of home. The plays are not necessarily set in someone’s home [but ask] … how do people make a sense of home?”

When Rodriguez began teaching, he saw the classroom as “an extension of home. … In the younger grade levels, kids spend more time at school than with their families.” He also found that friendships with colleagues gave him a sense of connection, of a mock family, a home. 

Rodriguez set God Kinda Looks Like Tupac in a Detroit high school, where a white art teacher in the mostly Black school has been targeted as insensitive. A Latino teacher offers a suggestion to the art teacher that might help him keep his job: It’s Black History month, she tells him, and there’s a competition; if a student he enters can paint something in celebration of the month and win, chances are good he will be named Teacher of the Year.

And who would fire Teacher of the Year? 

Take Me to the "River": Former AADL staffer Shutta Crum discusses her latest book of poetry and her path from librarian to author

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Shutta Crum and her new book of poetry, The Way to the River

Shutta Crum worked for 24 years surrounded by books.

Now the former librarian at Ann Arbor District Library is adding to the stacks she used to stock, writing both children’s books and poetry.

When asked how librarianship connects with writing, Crum talked about how the job motivated her to become an author. “I knew I wanted a book of mine on those library shelves,” she said.

Crum's latest collection of poems, The Way to the River, navigates real and metaphorical waters, from looking for osprey where “Rainwater pelts river water” to recalling tumultuous moments when the poet asks someone terrorizing her, “what door you jimmied / to escape and machete through my memory.” The ever-present passage of time surges through these lines as Crum looks back and ahead. 

The Way to the River begins with the reflection “Why Poetry,” which shares a preface by Crum and her poems, “Aboutness” and “How Poetry Reframes the Moment.” Her depiction of poetry tells us, “Poems are mini stories, fleeting images, quick gestures of recognition and a lilt of music for the soul,” a statement that also aptly describes her poetry. The following poems in the book form the “colorful collage” that Crum sees in poetry. 

AADL's new exhibit, "Capturing an Era: The Progressive Lens of Doug Fulton," showcases nearly 30 years of pictures and prose by The Ann Arbor News staffer

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Doug Fulton out on assignment.

Doug Fulton circa 1970. Photo by Anna Fulton.

Before social media became the defacto visual archives of our times, newspapers employed a full complement of photographs to capture breaking news and everyday occurrences. It was through their lenses that history was recorded, from the significant to the mundane, with the photographers mixing a fine artist's attention to framing and detail along with a documentarian's eye and mentality toward preserving a fleeting moment for eternity.

Doug Fulton worked as a photographer and writer for The Ann Arbor News from 1954 to 1983. While he was a prolific photographic chronicler of our community—from Chrismas cookie making, neighborhood parades, and blues and rock concerts to structure fires, winter storms, and University of Michigan sporting events—he's also remembered for his column covering Michigan nature, parks, hunting, fishing, and the environment, which he illustrated with his photos.

The Ann Arbor District Library is the home for The Ann Arbor News' archives, and the Old News team at AADL culled through thousands of images to curate a new exhibit:

Capturing an Era: The Progressive Lens of Doug Fulton

The exhibition is displayed on the second floor of AADL's downtown location from June 10 to September 5, and it features numerous Fulton photos and articles from throughout his 29-year-career at The Ann Arbor News. Additionally, two walls in the exhibit feature blues and nature photos provided to the library by Fulton's daughter Andrea and son Bruce.

You can read more about the exhibit and Fulton's life here, and you can browse all the photos in AADL's Old News archives here.

Then come back to Pulp and read my interview below with Andrea Fulton-Higgins about her father's background, how he came to learn photography in the Air Force, and his love of music and nature.

"Last Night a Camera Saved My Life: The Photography of Doug Coombe" celebrates one of Washtenaw County's finest chroniclers of Michigan music

MUSIC VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Iggy and The Stooges at the Michigan Theater, April 19, 2011. Photo by Doug Coombe.

Iggy and The Stooges at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, April 19, 2011. Photo by Doug Coombe.

If you've been to a concert in Washtenaw County in the past 30 years, there's a good chance Doug Coombe was at one of them.

From Ypsilanti basement shows to Hill Auditorium and everywhere around Southeastern Michigan, the long-time Ann Arbor record-store clerk turned first-call photographer has documented local and touring artists of all genres with an exacting eye and an unrelenting passion for music.

The genial Coombe's dynamic concert photos are like energy traps, capturing the exact moment a performer has exploded with passion, while his promotional and journalistic musician photos present bands in creative environments that convey their sounds and attitudes through the images.

Coombe loves what he does and the musicians love him right back. You can actually tell the artists like to be photographed by Coombe just by looking at his pictures.

For real: Everybody likes Doug.

CultureVerse is a new-ish gallery space in downtown Ann Arbor and its latest exhibit, Last Night a Camera Saved My Life: The Photography of Doug Coombe, is a love letter not only to the Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan music scenes but also to the man who captured these small, fleeting moments for all of eternity. 

Fruitful Experiment: Chris Bathgate explores thematic writing on his new album, “The Significance of Peaches” 

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Chris Bathgate photo by Misty Lynn Bergeron

Ann Arbor singer-songwriter Chris Bathgate uses the pump organ as the sonic centerpiece on The Significance of Peaches. Photo by Misty Lyn Bergeron.

Chris Bathgate sees his first album in five years, The Significance of Peaches as "an experiment in thematic writing and recording with limitations … the significance of peaches is not necessarily the thread or some keystone idea. It is like a loose fishing net that I can cast into my life and see what I harvest."

Throughout The Significance of Peaches, released on Ann Arbor's Quite Scientific Records, Bathgate searches for a holistic sense of self while fostering a spiritual connection to the outside world using pithy lyrics and nature-rich imagery set atop a pump-organ-drenched landscape.

“The peach thing is from my total adoration for the stone fruit itself as the corporeal experience of physically eating a peach," said the Ann Arbor indie-folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. "But I’m also interested in the peach as a metaphor throughout history. The thing I became most obsessed with was its use as a way to describe the ephemeral nature of life, time and joy, moments, and carpe diem.