Dream On: The Whiskey Charmers Explore Tales of Change on New “Streetlights” Album

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The Whiskey Charmers' Lawrence Daversa holds a white electric guitar, and Carrie Shepard wears a brown suede cowboy hat.

Lawrence Daversa and Carrie Shepard of The Whiskey Charmers. Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Charmers.

The Whiskey Charmers often find creative inspiration in a dream.

The Detroit duo of Carrie Shepard (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Lawrence Daversa (electric guitar, backing vocals) took that route while writing the title track for their new alt-country album, Streetlights.

“I had a dream that I was watching Chris Stapleton perform his new song,” Shepard said. “In my dream, it’s the chorus of the song, and I woke up, remembered it, and sang the chorus into my phone. It’s not a real song—it was just made up in my dream.”

Right after her dream, Shepard converted that imaginary song into “Streetlights,” which features exploratory lyrics and fiery electric-guitar solos.

She sings, “Was running under streetlights, in my dreams / Flying down the stairway, defying gravity / Then I felt lightning from the sky / Yeah, I felt a white light hit me / Right between the eyes.”

“I think of it as a weird, dream-like state that’s a little bit unsettling. I do have the one part of the [song] where I’m saying I fly down the stairway defying gravity, and I have dreams of people chasing me,” Shepard said.

“In my dream, if somebody’s chasing me, when I get to a stairway, I know I can just fly down. That’s where that came from. We tried our best to make the recording in that vibe to get that across.”

Long-Awaited Sequel: Cinetopia Film Festival returns to Ann Arbor

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

Cinetopia Ann Arbor 2024 logo

Five years after its final pre-COVID edition, the long-awaited return of the Cinetopia Film Festival is finally upon us courtesy of Marquee Arts, the new name for the Michigan Theater Foundation.

Gathering films from many of the world’s best festivals—including Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Toronto, and Venice—this new version of Cinetopia is a pared-down program of 30 films (plus a few special screenings and events), and the entire festival will be taking place solely in Ann Arbor. A fairly even mix of narrative and documentary features have been selected, with 16 films from the U.S. and the other 14 from all over the world.

You should check out the whole program, but here are nine films you really shouldn’t miss. 

Films are listed chronologically according to when they play during the festival, which runs from Thursday, June 13–Sunday, June 23. Click on the film titles for showtimes, tickets, and more info.

Michigan Heritage: Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe celebrates 50 Years in music with show at The Ark

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Kitty Donohoe wears a denim shirt and clasps her hands together.

Ann Arbor folk singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe. Photo courtesy of Kitty Donohoe.

Kitty Donohoe is celebrating 50 years of writing and performing a timeless mix of original and traditional folk music, including Celtic, Maritime, Canadian, and other sounds from the British Isles.

“It’s almost crept up on me—50 years down the line from my beginning," said the Ann Arbor multi-instrumentalist. "It’s actually been 52 years, but I’m ignoring those two fruitless COVID years. I’ve performed in so many wonderful spots around the country.”

In the ‘80s, Donohoe ventured east to Cambridge, Massachusetts to perform at Club Passim and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. But one of her most memorable live shows occurred in Arlington, Virginia on September 11, 2008.

“I sang ‘There Are No Words’ at the Pentagon for the dedication of their 9/11 Memorial,” said Donohoe, who penned the track on the day of the attacks.

“That was almost surreal to be surrounded by then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and others from the cabinet and to be looking out at a sea of regular people who were personally impacted by 9/11. That was a profound experience—I doubt I could top that.”

Another special night will be Donohoe’s May 19 show at The Ark, which will spotlight her professional milestone with a special performance featuring several friends and the acceptance of the 2024 Michigan Heritage Award. The honor recognizes her 30-plus years of entertaining audiences with her original songs about Michigan.

To learn more, I spoke to Donohoe about her music career ahead of her show at The Ark.

Feral Songs: Kat Steih switches gears for a new rock record, "I Am Not My Self"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A black-and-white head shot of Kat Steih.

Kat Steih features honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation on I Am Not My Self. Photo by Hilary Nichols.

Kat Steih takes a bold look beneath the surface on I Am Not My Self.

That deep examination reveals the challenges people often face with presenting one persona externally while wrestling with another self internally.

“Each person has an outer persona and an inner world. Even if my persona is funny and easygoing, what’s really holding the strings is what’s on the inside,” said Steih about her new album out May 17. 

“The puppet master can be in pain while still conducting a pretty, whimsical dance—something nice or fun to amuse herself or to self-soothe. I use music to acknowledge things that I feel. Some may call it bold, and it empowers everybody.”

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter especially shares that courageous and empowering message on the title track, which features fearless electric guitar, bass, and drums. 

Steih sings, “I am the candle, and you are the flame / Fingertip to fingertip, your voice animates me / Tremors I detect in the seismic quake / The look on your face rearranges me.”

The title track also reflects the honest lyrics and emotive new-wave, hard-rock, and pop-punk instrumentation that flows throughout I Am Not My Self’s six tracks.

U-M professor Petra Kuppers’ new poetry collection reaches into the soil to see murders, organisms, pollution, recycling, and fairy tales

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Petra Kuppers and her book Diver Beneath the Street

Author photo by Tamara Wade.

Petra Kuppers’ new poetry collection, Diver Beneath the Street, invites you to “Slide into the dive” and become the “lioness” in the “time river” where the “Acorn nut, un-hatted, veined, split, keeps the secret.” The poems navigate the soil and secrets and horrors of women who never made it home. 

Several events related to the book are upcoming. Kuppers will be at Booksweet on May 17 at 7 pm as part of the “True Crime Authors’ Night” with Christine Hume and Antoinette M. James. She'll also perform in Ann Arbor on June 15 at 3 pm in “Crip Drift by the Huron River” with Turtle Disco as part of Ann Arbor 200/Ann Arbor District Library Digital Projects. In the fall, Kuppers will read from Diver Beneath the Street and talk with Shelley Manis at AADL’s Downtown branch on September 25 at 6:30 pm.

Diver Beneath the Street begins with a preface in the form of a prose poem that shares all of the “ley lines” tying the collection together: murder, environmental pollution, fairy tales, the pandemic, and ecology. We learn that the fairy tales evolve from the 1960s Michigan Murder cases in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, from the Detroit serial killings in 2019, and from “access to space constricted during the COVID-19 lockdown.” They exist “Between horror and the soil’s plentitude.” The book goes on to Section I, which contains one poem named after the book, “Diver Beneath the Street,” which also references Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck.” The poet narrates: 

"Marvin’s Room" walks a thin line between comedy and drama at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's Marvin's Room

Bryan Shane (Dr. Wally) and Laura Chodoroff (Bessie) rehearse for Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's staging of Marvin's Room. Photo by Tom Steppe.

When the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre had to find a substitute for a previously announced play, Cassie Mann stepped in as director and suggested staging Scott McPherson’s Marvin’s Room, a play that walks that thin line between comedy and drama.

Two sisters have taken different paths in life. Bessie, now in her early 40s, left Ohio for Florida to be a caregiver for the last 20 years for her chronically ill father and an aunt confined to a wheelchair. She accepts her burden lightly but knows she’s missed a lot. Her sister Lee stayed in Ohio 20 years ago and never looked back. She is now the single mother of two teenage sons.

Bessie receives bad news from her doctor. She has leukemia and needs a bone marrow donor. Lee has to come to Florida to help her sister.

Sound heavy?

Cassie Mann calls it “one of the funniest plays about a serious subject I’ve encountered.”

Nick Shoulders & The Okay Crawdad Takes Country Music Back to Its Roots

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Nick Shoulders wears a white tank top and sits on a couch holding a violin.

Shoulders is a staple in the current “pseudo-new wave” of Americana/country music that’s been a dominant genre for years now. Photo by Nick Futch.

Nick Shoulders doesn't think the stereotypical images of country music are sexy. 

“We’re living in the same world as red scares, endless wars, pandemics, and bank failures that the origins of country music identified with,” said Shoulders, who's from Fayetteville, Arkansas. “The endless wars and the scary stuff that was forming early country music is far more of the reality I inhabit. That’s what I try to channel through in my craft. I’m not doing this because it's Civil War recreation stuff or because it’s mired in an experience that’s really far away. It’s still with us.”

After going viral during the pandemic with a performance of his track, “Snakes and Waterfalls,” Shoulders has become a beloved token of the best the country/Americana genre has to offer. Having now amassed over 3 million views, the video features Shoulders in his true nature: in the middle of the forest, singing (and yodeling) on a tree stump alongside his dog. 

In 2019, Shoulders released his first full-length album Okay, Crawdad after his 2018 EP, Lonely Like Me. And last year, Shoulder released his fourth record, All Bad, a live-recorded, 14-track showcase of Shoulders at his best. The record was released via Gar Hole Records, the label Shoulders founded and co-owns, and is the first album released with his former band, The Okay Crawdad, since their pandemic hiatus. 

Shoulders is a staple in the current “pseudo-new wave” of Americana/country music that’s been a dominant genre for years now. But with the help of platforms like TikTok, certain songs are lassoing in fans whose only prior exposure to country music might be to the sterile, strangely sexualized tunes that dominate the top charts. But with this success, Shoulders grapples with the cultural challenges the genre faces. 

Love, Grief, Class, and Cancer: A.H. Kim's “Relative Strangers" reimagines a Jane Austen plot set in modern-day California

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

A.H. Kim and her book Relative Strangers.

The details of who knows whom, and what happened in their pasts, result in drama in Ann Arbor author A.H. Kim’s retelling of Sense and Sensibility through her new novel, Relative Strangers, set in modern-day California. 

Kim was an attorney and worked at a Fortune 200 company before retiring to write full-time. She raised her family in San Francisco, is a cancer survivor, and now lives in Ann Arbor with her husband. Kim will be in conversation with Camille Pagán at Literati Bookstore on Tuesday, April 2, at 6:30 pm.

The parallels to Jane Austen’s novel are revealed in the premise of the book.

Locals Rule: Highlighting the Washtenaw County creatives in the 62nd Ann Arbor Film Festival

FILM & VIDEO PREVIEW

Ann Arbor Film Fest's A logo floating over an image of red theater seats and a black background.

Ann Arbor Film Festival logo added to a photo taken by Felix Mooneeram.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival (AAFF) draws experimental filmmakers from across the world, but ever since it began in 1963 it's also made room for local creators to show their works.

The 62nd edition of AAFF is running March 26-31, and the fest's website and YouTube page have a ton of info, interviews, and articles about the hundreds of films that will be screened this year alongside dozens of social events, panels, and exhibitions.

But it's a lot. Like, a lot a lot, which means you would have to comb through a ton of material to figure out the creatives with local connections.

So, being the hyperlocal fans that we are, we did that for you and collected the events, screenings, and installations created by Washtenaw County-associated artists, curators, and film lovers who will have a moment to shine at the 2024 Ann Arbor Film Festival.

 

A Devilish New Comedy: David MacGregor's "The Antichrist Cometh" debuts at The Purple Rose Theatre

THEATER & DANCE PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The cast of The Purple Rose's The Antichrist Cometh.

The cast of The Purple Rose's The Antichrist Cometh, clockwise from upper left: Ryan Carlson, Hope Shangle, Ryan Patrick Welsh, and Ashley Wickett. Photos courtesy of The Purple Rose.

David MacGregor's plays have been performed in 15 countries, including India, Israel, South Korea, and Tasmania. 

But the Michigan-born artist develops most of his world premieres right here at home.

Among the works the resident playwright for The Purple Rose Theatre Company debuted on the Chelsea stage are his Sherlock Holmes trilogy, Vino VeritasGravityConsider the Oyster, The Late Great Henry Boyle, and his latest play, the hilarious The Antichrist Cometh, which begins previews there on March 22 and opens March 29.

John, an advertising exec, hasn’t seen Duncan, his old college roommate, for years. John and his wife, Lili, have Duncan and his fiancée, Fiona, for dinner. Fiona is devoutly religious and notices things that bring her to a startling conclusion:

John is the Antichrist!  

“The basic idea for this play occurred to me a long time ago," MacGregor says. "I’m not personally religious, but I’ve read the Bible and Koran because they’re such important and influential texts. The Book of Revelations says the Antichrist will arrive on Earth."

MacGregor named his protagonist John, referencing the Book of John and the letters of John, but says, “John is a regular everyday guy who gradually realizes he might be the Antichrist.”