“Golden anniversary” sounds tacky and “semicentennial” reads incomplete, so what does a musician call her slow-rolling, year-long celebration of 50 years on stage?
For Claudia Schmidt, you just go ahead and portmanteau it—hence Claudfest, and let the bells ring.
Schmidt’s career as a singer-songwriter spans time as well as genre, and she’ll perform selections from her accumulated repertoire on Saturday, October 7, at The Ark when she appears with Rachel Davis.
While she remained active through the COVID-19 shutdowns with a regular series of YouTube concerts, the stage is where Schmidt’s art truly breathes, her rapport with the audience an essential element. Her long-awaited return to A2 brings Claudfest to a city that bore witness to various stages of her musical evolution.
A native of New Baltimore, Michigan, Schmidt pulled the modern equivalent of running away with the circus as soon as she was able, joining a theater group after high school and traveling with them for a year. Another round of seasons given to the University of Michigan didn’t work out, so she relocated to Chicago, where an already vibrant folk music scene welcomed her and inspired a career that led to dozens of records and countless miles.
Ann Arbor would have been a regular stop for anyone playing the Midwestern folk circuit of the 1970s, and Schmidt had no shortage of gigs at the venue she’ll visit this weekend. “I’ve played at all of The Arks,” she said. “I played at the original one on Hill Street, then when it moved to South Main. I’ve followed them all around.”
History From the Margins: UMS is bringing Druid Theatre's productions of Sean O’Casey’s "Dublin Trilogy" to the Power Center
“The whole world’s in a terrible state of chassis!”
Juno and the Paycock
In 1916 a large part of the world was in chaos and crisis. World War I was tearing Europe apart, and in Ireland, the leaders of anti-British forces saw an opportunity to rise against a pre-occupied British government and attempt to finally drive the British government from Ireland.
The deadly events of what is remembered as the Easter Rising were the beginning of a violent eight-year period that would in time free Ireland from British rule but at a high cost. Following the Rising, a war of independence began, ending with a treaty to give Ireland Free State status while still bonded to Britain. That treaty led to a civil war pitting defenders of the treaty against those who believed the treaty was a betrayal.
Playwright Sean O’Casey grew up in the tenements of Dublin. He was a self-taught reader, a laborer, a railway worker, and eventually, a writer with a keen ear for the language of his native city. In the 1920s, he created three plays that covered the period from the Easter Rising to the Civil War. Each play centers on the lives of tenement dwellers in the Irish capital who become caught up in the frenzy and frustration of the long-running domestic war. O’Casey’s plays are both comic and tragic as well as deeply humane.
The University Musical Society (UMS) is presenting the Druid Theatre’s production of O’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy, under the direction of Druid founder and artistic director Garry Hynes, October 18-21. The Galway-based theater company is bringing the play to New York City and Ann Arbor only.
Hynes was artistic director for Druid Theatre from 1975 to 1991 and again from 1995 to the present. From 1991 to 1994, she was the artistic director of the famed Abbey Theatre, where many of O’Casey’s plays premiered.
In a telephone interview, Hynes said O’Casey’s trilogy is about the working people of Dublin living in the tenements.
The Ann Arbor District Library's Fifth Avenue Press, which started in 2017, helps local authors produce a print-ready book at no cost—from copyediting to cover design—and the writers retain all rights. In return, the library gets to distribute ebooks to its patrons without paying royalties, but authors can sell their books—print, digital, or audio—in whatever ways they choose and keep all the proceeds.
The Fifth Avenue Press event is part of the A2 Community Bookfest, which runs from 10 am to 5 pm at AADL Downtown, also on September 10, with a full schedule of renowned authors including J. Ryan Stradal, Sonali Dev, and Stephen Mack Jones.
Four new Fifth Avenue creators answered a questionnaire to help readers understand a bit more about the press process and their journey as authors. Also below is a list and descriptions of all the other Fifth Avenue books available on Sunday; click the titles to visit the books' web pages for more info on each. Many of the authors will be there to do readings and signings, too.
This story originally ran on May 30, 2023. We're featuring it again because Timothy Monger State Park plays an after-hours show at AADL’s Downtown Library on September 9.
Long known as one of the leading talents on the local music scene, Timothy Monger has always had a distinctive songwriting voice. The names of two of the bands he’s led—the late, lamented Great Lakes Myth Society and the current Timothy Monger State Park—give some clues to the subjects of his songs, which often look to the outdoors, history, and other rootsy pursuits.
Those sorts of themes show up again on Monger’s new album, his fourth as a solo artist, which is simply titled Timothy Monger. Yet as he always manages to do, he finds fresh perspectives and new approaches, and the result stands out from his previous body of work.
The album is literally the result of Monger returning to his notebooks and fleshing out ideas found there, recording the songs entirely at his home in a style he describes as “homespun psych-folk.” A few of the songs are snippets of less than 30 seconds, but that’s all they require to tell their particular story. Others bring characters to life, such as a fictional “Cub Reporter” or the real-life theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, who Monger memorably describes as “the one who finally gave the ghosts a voice.”
“Shadow of the Weka” is a charming instrumental with Celtic overtones. And there are several nods to Michigan, including “Cranberry Bog,” “Luna Pier,” and “Sa-Wa-Quato.”
Monger recently answered a few questions about the new recording, which comes out on June 2, the same day as his album release show at The Ark.
Literati Bookstore has a relatively small physical footprint. But what the space lacks in size, it makes up for in reputation and has become one of the most beloved independent bookstores in the literature world.
Scheduled to come out in 2024, the documentary tracks Engel—a self-described "struggling writer"—traveling to 50 states in 50 days to interview 50 authors about 50 books. His Literati / Ann Arbor stop includes an interview with author and University of Michigan professor Peter Ho Davies.
Some of the other authors who appear in Books Across America include James Patterson, David Baldacci, and Joyce Carol Oates.
The press release calls the film a "real-life version of the Great American novel," and says the "characters are all obsessed with books, and they’re all searching for a happily ever after."
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Engel explained the reason why he decided to make a film rather than write about his experience: "[T]he film is to introduce or to depict reading to people who typically don’t read in a way that makes them want to pick up a book. I’m trying to meet people, my target audience, where they are—which is not in a bookstore, but on Netflix, on public television, on anywhere you find movies and shows."
Watch the trailer below:
Jonathan Edwards recorded, produced, and performed the 13 songs on Wild Ghosts almost entirely by himself, playing everything from bass and drums to synthesizers and Wurlitzer organ.
But he could have just as easily performed the beautiful songs on Wild Ghost solely with his guitar, the instrument at the heart of the album, with Edwards displaying excellent fingerstyle playing throughout the record.
"Wild Ghosts is definitely more of a singer-songwriter album than anything I have done in the past and is something I have wanted to do for a long time," said Edwards, who studied music at Indiana University and Eastern Michigan. “Most of the songs on Wild Ghosts can be distilled down to more traditional folk tune-type influences, although there are still some more elaborate and dense arrangements with songs like ‘Paper Birds’ and ‘Mask of Bees.' Simplification is an art I am still learning."
I talked with Edwards about his musical upbringing, his influences, his writing process, Wild Ghosts, and more.
Heading East: Grand Rapids Outlaw-Country Band The Bootstrap Boys Perform July 22 at Saline's Acoustic Routes Concert Series
The Bootstrap Boys are driving their outlaw-country anthems eastward to Saline later this month.
The show serves as The Bootstrap Boys’ debut appearance at the decade-old Saline concert series. It’s also the only Washtenaw County stop on a current summer tour in support of their latest album, Hungry & Sober.
Throughout the album, vocalist-songwriter Jake Stilson (Big Jake Bootstrap), guitarist Nick Alexander (Nicky Bootstrap), bassist Jonny Bruha (Jonny “Bubba” Bootstrap), and drummer Jeff Knol (Jeff Bootstrap), share “cheerily nihilistic road tunes” and “sincere ruminations on family and queer identity” alongside hard-hitting, country-rock instrumentation.
“This album has more honest poetry to accompany the storytelling that’s always a part of my work,” notes Stilson on the band’s website, which credits Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Bob Wills among the band’s biggest influences. “I edited myself a lot less.”
Golden Years: Purple Rose Theatre's "Jukebox for the Algonquin" focuses on seniors living and loving
Billed as “a serious comedy about sex, drugs, and rocking chairs,” Paul Stroili’s Jukebox for the Algonquin transpires at Placid Pines, a senior living community in the Adirondack region of New York, circa 2003.
This Purple Rose Theatre Company world premiere, which runs July 7-September 2, features characters who hail from the boroughs of New York City. They now find themselves removed from their usual surroundings and the people they loved, but they are ready to accept new challenges—even to create them.
Audiences may recognize playwright Stroili from his first-rate performances on the Rose stage—God of Carnage, Welcome to Paradise, and Watson in David MacGregor’s Sherlock Holmes series—or from TV appearances on Empire, Chicago P.D., Undercover Bridesmaid, and more.
Stroili says his venture into playwriting was “born of adversity.” He was booking roles in Los Angeles only sporadically and decided to write something for himself. Straight Up With a Twist enjoyed more than 1,000 performances nationwide and culminated in a twice-extended Off-Broadway run.
Jason Guenzel has a passion for exploring the cosmos with his camera.
The Michigan-based astrophotographer will appear at the Ann Arbor District Library's Downtown location at 7 pm on June 29 to discuss his love of astrophotography. Guenzel will talk about his journey to the stars, the equipment he uses, and how you can get started in this discipline, which mixes science and art. He'll also present many of his fascinating photos of the cosmos, explaining the specialized techniques he used to capture these breathtaking images.
I spoke with Guenzel ahead of his AADL appearance.
Between the Lines: The City Lines use a mix of Americana, power-pop, and punk to explore emotional 'Memories' on second album
The City Lines’ vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Pat Deneau links personal stories as a father, husband, firefighter, and tribal member into a perceptive collection of songs on his band’s latest album, Analog Memories.
“Particularly, I like the idea that every song—kind of like city lines—butts up to each other … and continues some sort of throughline,” said Deneau, who is a firefighter with the Ann Arbor Fire Department and a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
“I like how the first tune ‘Different This Year’ opens up with this thought like, ‘OK, a fresh start,’ and I reference [our first album] Waiting on a Win in the second line. It’s this idea of ‘I’m tired of waiting on wins; I just gotta go out and get one.’
“That feeling is carried through to the end of the record on the final song [‘Finding a Way’] where I’m singing to my daughter. The notion there is I have to be better for her and how do you get there? You just have to find a way.”
While wrestling with existential ideas on Analog Memories’ seven tracks, Deneau finds his way forward through spirited choruses, propulsive power-pop-punk instrumentation, and a touch of classic Americana twang.
“There’s a line from ‘Far Enough’ that says ‘Looking back far enough / So I can move forward,’” said Bob Zammit, The City Lines’ drummer. “If you’re going to grab a lyric and be like, ‘Here’s the creative brief for what we’re doing here after the fact,’ I think it’s that.”
The City Lines will bring their Analog Memories tracks to life on June 21 outside the Downtown Library for Make Music Day, a free musical celebration with concerts by musicians across the city on the summer solstice.
Bandmates Skott Schoonover (bass), Jason Rhoades (lead guitar), and Megan Marcoux (acoustic guitar, backing vocals), will join Deneau and Zammit for the performance.
We recently spoke to Deneau and Zammit about their backgrounds, the band’s formation, the creative process for Analog Memories, select tracks from the album, their Make Music Day performance, and upcoming plans.