Bid adieu to 2015 and welcome 2016 in with Mittenfest X: the 10th annual installment of the five-day music festival that raises funds for local creative writing nonprofit 826Michigan. Starting December 29th and continuing through January 2nd—including shows on New Years Eve and New Years Day—Mittenfest X will be held for the first time this year at Ypsilanti’s Bona Sera café. The opening night lineup partially and purposefully mirrors the lineup of the first ever opening night of the original Mittenfest 10 years ago: Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful, the high-energy “stomp and holler” folk of Frontier Ruckus, and Fred Thomas are all back a decade later to kickoff the festival. All the performers are from Michigan, with most hailing from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, and a few coming across the state from Grand Rapids to play. With 7 acts each night, the first going on at 8:30 pm and the final act taking the stage at 1:00 am, Mittenfest is known for its fast pace and wide variety of music. What can attendees look forward to this year?
Detroit band Bonny Doon released their debut EP last winter under local label Salinas. The four band members, most of whom also play in one or more other Detroit-based bands, have described their music together as “subdued punk.” Sometimes even delving into a country rock sound, the band jams loosely on stage, experimenting with their songs and preventing things from getting too precise. The band often plays with Fred Thomas who, as mentioned above, will be one of the headliners on Mittenfest X’s opening night. They’ll play on the second night of the festival, December 30th, at 1:00 am.
2015 will come to a close to the sounds of sunny basement rock (yes, that can be a thing) duo Gordon Smith and Allison Young, better known as The Kickstand Band, who take the stage at 11:30 pm on December 31. They first got together in Detroit in 2011 and released their debut album Puppy Love. Since then, they’ve put out an EP and another full-length album is in the works. It remains to be seen if they’ll be bringing their homemade lightshow (!) along to Mittenfest X (it has come along to several outdoor music festivals in the past), but lightshow or no lightshow, The Kickstand Band's performance ought to open 2016 with a bang.
One of the bands making the trip across the state to play Mittenfest X is The Bootstrap Boys, who are currently just finishing up a tour playing at various Michigan breweries. They just banded together in early 2015 and have a rollicking repertoire of four-part-harmony country songs which, they claim, will have you asking: ‘Y’all like to shoot whiskey?’ Their EP, Country Songs for Sale, was released in October.
Indie folk singer and songwriter Chris Bathgate, a staple on the local music scene for over a decade now, will close Mittenfest X, taking the stage at 1 am on January 2nd. He’s released 5 studio albums, and has received national acclaim performing at SXSW and recording an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. His newest EP, Old Factory, is set to be released in early 2016. Bathgate is sometimes compared to folk musician Sufjan Stevens, who completed an entire album about Michigan. Somewhat similarly, Ann Arborites will want to listen for references to local sites in some of Bathgate’s songs.
You can view the whole Mittenfest X lineup here.
Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.
Mittenfest X runs Tuesday, December 29, 2015-Saturday, January 2, 2016 at Bona Sera Café, 200 W Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI, 41897. Performers play from approximately 8:30 pm-2 am every evening. $10 cover per night.
Fred Thomas & Mike Dykehouse were two of the DJs at this year's Elks Pratt Lodge Deep Freeze
The majestic Elks Pratt Lodge looms over Ann Arbor from its perch at the top of a grassy (or sometimes by the time of DEEP FREEZE, snowy!) hill on Sunset Road. Nestled in Water Hill neighborhood, the Elks members made the decision in the late 2000s to allow the community to book events there that are open to the public. Since then, various live music and DJed concerts and dance nights have been held over the years, as well as barbecues and social justice events. Minimal décor and a cash-only bar keep events there simple, but a typically eclectic crowd is unfailingly enthusiastic for whatever is going on.
On Saturday, December 12, Elk members and the public attended DEEP FREEZE, a winter dance night featuring prominent local DJs and other special guests. Fred Thomas, the frontman of indie pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me, was one of these DJs. He just released a new album this past year, All Are Saved, which fans loved and even Pitchfork reviewed favorably! Mike Dykehouse, another prominent local artist who achieved wide acclaim after playing at the first ever Detroit Electronic Music Festival, was also one of the DJs that performed at the Elks Lodge on the 12th. Dykehouse played on Ann Arbor-based Ghostly International’s summer 2002 tour, and even has ties to the Ann Arbor District Library; he DJed at our Mini-Moog fest this past July. His 2004 full-length debut album is titled Midrange. DJs Chuck Sipperley, who’s performed at Top of the Park, Mittenfest and many other local events in the past, and Jason Lymangrover, were also there for DEEP FREEZE.
One of those most fun things about events at the Elks Lodge is the way that the building is lit up. Strings of lights are hung on the porch and from the rooftop, making the mansion a sort of beacon as you approach it from any direction. Upon entering through the back of the lodge, guests are ushered downstairs to the bar, and nearby, the dance floor. A lot of the music was dance mixes of 80s and 90s tracks, which suited the crowd of twenty and thirty-somethings perfectly. The dance floor was fun, friendly and active for much of the night, and when people weren’t dancing, groups still enjoyed the music in the deep booths that surround the floor. With so many DJs, there was never a break in music and guests trickled in and out, enjoying the unseasonably warm night on the porch of the Lodge, and then wandering back in to dance more or grab another drink.
Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.
Let the music move you! If you enjoy meeting performers and interacting with them, this event is designed with you in mind. To kick off the Winter Dance Sharing, Christina Sears-Etter (Artistic Director for the People Dancing Company) will teach a sample SOMAdance class in a workshop format. SOMAdance helps dancers use their bodies to express imagery, which can be enhanced by increasing mind body integration. You do not need prior dance training to enjoy and benefit from this workshop. SOMAdance is designed for teenagers and older. On-site childcare will be provided during the workshop with advance reservations.
Following the SOMAdance workshop, you can enjoy live performances in the studio with works choreographed by Sears-Etter and Abigayle Cryderman.
Heide Otto Basinger is on the Board of People Dancing.
Winter Dance Sharing will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2015, from 4:30-7:30 pm at the Arts in Motion Dance Studio (6175 Jackson Rd., Suite B). The suggested donation is $8.
December is upon us and, like the giant rolling boulder in that one Indiana Jones movie, the holidays are rumbling ever closer.
If you need some tips to help you celebrate the season, here's a handy list of festive holiday things going on in the area:
Dickens: An A Capella Carol
Friday, November 27th - Sunday, December 20th
Performance Network Theater - Ann Arbor, MI
National Theatre of Scotland: A Christmas Carol
Thursday, December 17th - Sunday, January 3rd
Power Center for Performing Arts - Ann Arbor, MI
Ypsilanti Community Choir's Annual Holiday Concert
Thursday, December 17th
Washtenaw Community College - Ann Arbor, MI
Gifts of Art presents Holiday Harmonies with Counterpoint
Thursday, December 17th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI
Home for the Holidays! with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Friday, December 18th - Sunday, December 20th
Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Detroit, MI
The Corner Christmas! (Not Your Family's Christmas Party) at the Corner Brewery
Saturday, December 19th
Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery - Ypsilanti, MI
Krampus Costume Ball
Saturday, December 19th
The Dreamland Theater - Ypsilanti, MI
Scones and Shopping at the Eyrie
Saturday, December 19th
The Eyrie - Ypsilanti, MI
X'mas Explosion 4 feat. Archimime, Meridians, Scapegoat and The Path Of Exile
Saturday, December 19th
The Maidstone Theater - Ypsilanti, MI
Museum of Natural History Planetarium: Season of Light
December 19th-20th, 27-30th
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History - Ann Arbor, MI
Winter Solstice Celebration
Tuesday, December 22nd
Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse - Ypsilanti, MI
Gifts of Art presents Sweet Sounds of the Season with Wanda Degen
Thursday, December 24th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI
Black Christmas Feat. The Suicide Machines, The Black Dahlia Murder, BIGWIG, Mustard Plug, Koffin Kats
Saturday, December 26th
The Majestic - Detroit, MI
Tuesday, December 29th - Saturday, January 2nd
Bona Sera Cafe - Ypsilanti, MI
Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and she's been listening to Christmas music since July.
Every year, at this time, audiences can choose from countless stage and screen versions of A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim, Scrooge, and the Ghost of Christmas Past--characters created by Charles Dickens in 1843--are part of our shared holiday heritage. With so many professional and amateur productions each year, what new can be brought to this timeless and familiar classic?
With uniquely intimate staging, the National Theatre of Scotland brings its acclaimed version of A Christmas Carol to The University Music Society (UMS) for the holiday season. Using a mixture of puppets and actors, live music and a set that forces the audience into the action, director Graham McLaren mounted a theatrical experience that has Dicken’s original text at its core and will “challenge all notions of sentimental stage and screen adaptations.”
The Daily Telegraph raved that “every aspect of the piece contributes perfectly to its irresistibly magical atmosphere” and that the National Theatre of Scotland’s A Christmas Carol “deserves to be remembered as one of the classiest pieces of theatre to have been staged in Scotland, not only in the winter season, but at any time of year.”
Only 125 audience members will be seated at each staging, so it is best to get seats early.
Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.
Performances of A Christmas Carol will run from Thursday, December 17 through Sunday, January 3 at The Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor. For ticket information, visit ums.org.
Ann Arbor’s Young Actor’s Guild (YAG) presents The Three Musketeers, based on Alexandre Dumas’ classic historical novel chronicling the adventures of D’Artagnan and the Musketeers of the Guard in 17th century France. On the road to adventure, young D’Artagnan finds more than he bargains for with fellow swashbuckling musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as they slice their way through considerable court intrigue in an attempt to thwart the scheming and powerful Cardinal Richelieu.
YAG’s performance is teeming with fight choreography led by trainer Melissa Freilich, a teacher of the Alexander Technique and advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors.
Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.
Performances of The Three Musketeers are Friday, December 18, 7:30 pm; Saturday, December 19, 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, December 20, 2:30 pm, at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, University of Michigan campus, 911 N. University Ave. Tickets are $5.00 students, $10 adults ($15.00 for any two performances). Additional ticket information available at the YAG website.
If you’re growing weary of all the holly jolly happenings that this time of year has to offer, then it might be time to take a break to contemplate mortality. I mean really take some time, like four hours worth, and spend it observing a classically trained vocalist perform operatic death after operatic death.
In Let Me Die, Joseph Keckler ties together and performs hundreds of deaths from the history of tragic opera. The project also involves a series of videos, incorporating operatic fragments into stories and images of contemporary life, realized in conjunction with Holly Hughes' Interarts class. Performance and video will be shown, surrounded by an environmental installation that sparsely combines operatic set elements. Audience members are welcome to come and go as they please during the four hour performance. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. MOCAD galleries and Cafe 78 will be open during the performance.
Joseph Keckler has spent the last few months as Witt Artist in Residence at the University of Michigan working with students to create music videos and to delve deeply into the world of the tragic. He has spent endless hours researching operatic deaths and has expertly categorized them under such headings as “the Stabbies,” "the Sickies,” and “the Poison People.” You can read more about his process in this great interview by M. Starkey.
Still not convinced? Then watch this video as a preview of the greatness that you will witness. Keckler sings Schubert to a cat. Need I say more?
Death is, quite simply, what gives meaning to life. Shakespeare understood this well as he wrote in King Richard II,
“O, but they say the tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony.” Go to MOCAD this Saturday and face your mortal anxieties straight on.
Anne Drozd is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and is mortal.
Joseph Keckler performs Let Me Die Saturday, December 12, from 1 – 5 pm at MOCAD, 4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201. In partnership with the Penny Stamps Speaker Series , the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and the Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence Program. This event is free of charge and open to the public.
It's that time of year when it seems like there's a cool craft fair to attend every weekend. It’s especially going to seem that way during the weekend of December 12-13, when no fewer than four events will be hopping with handmade shopping in both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
Saturday, December 12 marks the sixth annual Tiny Expo Indie Holiday Art & Craft Fair. The fair will be held at the Downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library again this year. This is the second year that the show will be hosted at AADL, after bouncing around to different locations in its early years, and Tiny Expo is now happy to call AADL home.
The juried craft fair has grown a bit: this year it will feature 45 artists and crafters offering handmade wonders of all kinds. The event will also include a kid-friendly snow globe making workshop, a letterpress demo, and AADL’s new Secret Lab will be open and unveiling secrets.
Just down the road in Ypsilanti, the DIYpsi Holiday Market will take place on December 12-13 at the Riverside Arts Center. DIYpsi will feature 80 artists, and in addition will offer artisan food and beverages for sale. This is also the 6th year for the DIYpsi Holiday Market, which came into being after Ypsilanti’s Shadow Art Fair decided to no longer host a holiday fair.
A group of artists in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti independently desired to fill the gap and offer an opportunity for artists to sell their work and for shoppers to buy local and handmade. From this came Tiny Expo and DIYpsi and a MEGA craft fair weekend! Many shoppers make a weekend of it and hit up both fairs to browse an assortment of unique, quality handmade goods and have a good time.
To make the weekend even merrier, there are a few more events happening in Ypsilanti both Saturday and Sunday, just a hop, skip, and a jump from DIYpsi. Wares on Washington is in pop-up store format and is a community fundraiser for 826Michigan.
There is also Ypsi Alloy Studios, hosting their first annual Open Studio & Holiday Market. Visitors can check out the studio space where visual artists can make, create, and collaborate. The market will feature fine art and handmade gifts by a small group of artists, as well as a cash bar and a gift wrapping station.
More and more indie craft fairs pop up across Michigan each year, giving shoppers opportunities to shop local and buy handmade. It’s a great way to support local artists, keep the cash in our local economy, and have a unique, fun shopping experience outside the big box stores. And let’s face it, craft fairs usually have a better soundtrack and tastier drinks.
So if you’re looking for the coziest scarf ever, soap that smells like raspberry s’mores, a uterus-shaped brooch, a necklace made from graffiti found in Ann Arbor and Detroit, a piece of art to frame, or your new favorite ceramic mug, these creativity-filled craft fairs have you covered.
Amanda Schott is a Library Technician at AADL and readily admits to her craft fair addiction.
Tiny Expo takes place at the Downtown Ann Arbor District Library Saturday, December 12 from 11 am-5:30 pm. Free admission.
DIYpsi takes place at the Riverside Arts Center Saturday December 12 from 11 am-7 pm and Sunday, December 13 from Noon-6 pm. Admission is $1.
Wares on Washington takes place at Chin-Azzaro Studio Saturday December 12 from 10 am-6 pm and Sunday, December 13 from 11 am-4 pm. Free admission.
Ypsi Alloy Studios Open Studio & Holiday Market takes place at Ypsi Alloy Studios Saturday December 12 and Sunday December 13 from Noon-6 pm both days. Free admission.
The annual Ebird and Friends Holiday Show may not have quite the legacy of the University Musical Society’s annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah. But in its eighth year the revue-style concert has quickly joined the ranks of Ann Arbor’s holiday traditions. The show’s moniker originates from the nickname of its creator, Ann Arbor musician Erin Zindle, best known as the front woman of folk group the Ragbirds. Zindle organized the first Ebird and Friends show in 2008 at Hartland Music Hall, and she has fronted the show’s backing band in each subsequent year. The show’s lineup features a diverse range of local artists presenting unique takes on classic Christmas songs, as well as original holiday tunes. This year local audiences will have three opportunities to see the show: Dec. 11 and 12 at the Ark, and Dec. 13 at Hartland High School’s auditorium. Pulp chatted with Zindle about the origins of Ebird and Friends, why Christmas music is so special to her and what we should be looking forward to at this year’s show.
Q: How did the first Ebird and Friends show come together?
A: My dad has lots of brothers and sisters, so the only time of year the whole family would gather consistently was on Christmas Eve. And my favorite part of that gathering was singing. We would do food and gifts and I would kind of rush through that stuff because I really, honestly, even just as a young child, just was so excited about singing in harmony together with my family. It was such a special thing to me growing up, and as I got older we just stopped doing that. I realized how much that impacted me as a young musician. It was the first time I acknowledged music as a community experience–as a community-building experience, even, and I just really longed for that. I live far away from my family now, but I have this wonderful musical family in Michigan, in Ann Arbor. It was a pretty natural extension of that to try to start that here. The first year I just called all my musician friends and just was like, “We all love each other and all say how much we want to band together. Well, let’s make it happen.”
Q: How do you select the artists for the show? Do you try to balance various genres or musical styles, or is it mostly just based on bringing in as many folks as are available?
A: It’s a really selective process. There are so many amazing artists that I honestly call friends and just love and respect so much in this area that there’s too many to pick from. I always have a way bigger list to start with than who I can actually involve in the show. It’s a really hard choice. But I usually don’t have the same artists more than two years in the show, just to keep changing it up. I try to find somebody who can hold down the funk and somebody who’s got old-timey-style folk and somebody who’s a little more jazzy and somebody who’s just a local dynamo that can blow everybody away. So I’ve got certain spots I’m trying to fill, in a way.
Q: How do you go about rehearsing for something like this? Do you make time when you can to rehearse with each act individually, or do you usually pull the whole group together to run through it?
A: We have a horn sectional and a string sectional. The harmony girls will get together and work out their parts individually. We’ll do one rehearsal with just the house band, and then we all get together just once. So many of the musicians have just that one rehearsal, where we’re just jumping in and trying to get through everything in one night. It’s a marathon rehearsal and it’s a big party and it’s awesome.
Q: Christmas music can get kind of a bad rap, but such a diverse range of artists from around our community seem to really embrace it in this show. What do you enjoy about performing Christmas music and why do you think it holds such an appeal for your fellow performers in this show?
A: I think that many of the songs have a message of getting together and peace on earth and celebrating joy and light and happiness. There’s a positive message to most Christmas songs, even though some are totally cheesy about that. There’s something about having a body of work in our collective culture that we all know. We can all sing “Jingle Bells” together. We all know it, no matter where we grew up or how we were raised or what our culture is, even our religion. We all know it. And I just think it’s a good starting place as far as getting artists to come together and be creative around a theme. It’s really a perfect choice in that way.
Q: What are you particularly excited about with regards to this year’s show?
A: The Accidentals have a brand-new original tune they’re going to be debuting. Olivia Millerschin is a really cool, fresh, young artist on the scene. She was one of my songwriting students up at Interlochen and she’s really been making waves with her career. I’m excited to have her as part of the show this year, also doing an original song. I could go on and on because there’s a lot of cool things in store, but I don’t want to give it away.
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer whose work appears regularly in the Detroit News, the Ann Arbor Observer, and other local publications. He can be heard most Friday mornings at 8:40 am on the Martin Bandyke morning program on Ann Arbor's 107one.
Ebird and Friends will be at the Ark on Friday, December 11th and Saturday, December 12th – Doors 7:30 pm, Show at 8:00 pm. Sunday, December 13th at the Hartland High School Auditorium – Doors 3:30 pm, Show at 4:00 pm. Tickets are $20. Information about where to purchase tickets can be found on the Ragbird's site.
On Tuesday, December 8th, indie rock band Sleater-Kinney will be coming to the Royal Oak Music Theatre and sending riot grrrls everywhere into ecstatic dance-fits. The band was born in the heart of the Pacific Northwest’s 90’s indie rock scene, but this will be their first tour together since they announced their indefinite hiatus back in June of 2006.
The fact that I, a Sleater-Kinney novice, have heard the eager buzz about this event from all different directions really says something. And mainly that something is, “This is a really big deal.”
For those who, like myself, have little knowledge of the actual band (to the point of mumbling their name in conversation on the off-chance that I am pronouncing it wrong), the post-hiatus antics of the band members themselves might ring more bells:
Drummer Janet Weiss joined the band Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and produced two albums with them before leaving and joining the short-lived band Wild Flag, alongside Sleater-Kinney guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein.
And, perhaps most recognizable, guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein went on to wear hilarious wigs and vaguely creepy mustaches alongside Fred Armisen on the satirical TV show Portlandia.
That’s right! Feminist bookstore, anyone?
That fact alone has made me a Sleater-Kinney fan-in-training.
Carrie Brownstein also just published a memoir in October, titled Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl.
Sleater-Kinney reunited in 2014 and released their first studio album in ten years, No Cities to Love, in late January of 2015.
Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and often asks if anyone wants to see her Master's degree at sporting events.
Sleater-Kinney plays the Royal Oak Music Theatre Tuesday, December 8, doors at 7:30 pm. Tickets are available online from the theater.