"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.

The Return of AADL's Fifth Avenue Press: Local authors celebrate the release of their books on May 22

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Fifth Avenue Press logo

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.

Fifth Avenue launches its fourth round of books on Sunday, May 22, with a book-release celebration from 1-3 pm in the lobby of AADL's downtown location, featuring author readings from many of the imprint's 10 new titles.

Click the book titles below to jump to interviews with the authors and illustrators:

In Real Life: Indie rocker Kelly Hoppenjans shares pandemic-era experiences on “Can’t Get the Dark Out”

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Kelly Hoppenjans photo by Autumn Dozier

Kelly Hoppenjans dissects past heartbreak, navigates newfound love, and weathers interstate moves on Can’t Get the Dark Out. Photo by Autumn Dozier

Kelly Hoppenjans prefers to view love and life through a realistic lens.

The Ann Arbor indie-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist shares a real-life account of pandemic-era relationships, life changes, and personal growth on her introspective new EP, Can’t Get the Dark Out.

“This pandemic has been a really tough time to be alone, and it’s made it difficult to navigate changing relationships, too.," she said. "I wrote ‘Love of My Life (In My Living Room)’ about my frustration with online dating, and a few months after writing it met the love of my life through a dating app.”

Hoppenjans, who relocated from Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, said, "By the time I met him, I’d already decided I was leaving town for my doctorate, and I wrote ‘Parallel Lines’ about the irony of meeting someone when I had one foot out the door, wanting to leave town but not him. He moved up here with me, so that worked out in the end.”

On Can’t Get the Dark Out, Hoppenjans dissects past heartbreak, navigates newfound love, and weathers interstate moves across five journal-entry-inspired tracks. The 20-minute EP seamlessly flows through alt-rock and folk-rock sensibilities with forthright lyrics.

“I feel like sometimes when we envision positive things, like love or marriage or children coming to us in the future, we think, ‘That will fix everything,’ like the struggles will evaporate once we achieve those goals. That’s just not how it works,” she said.

“Being in love has brought so much joy to my life, and it’s also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It doesn’t fix anything magically … all the baggage we bring with us … it haunts us in our relationships, and we work through it together.”

Hoppenjans will share her Can’t Get the Dark Out experiences and songs during a May 6 EP release show at The Bling Pig with special guests Ani Mari and Clay in the Woods.

Answer Me This: U-M lecturer Phil Christman explains it all in his new essay collection, “How to Be Normal” 

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Phil Christman photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Author photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography

Phil Christman takes on the problem of How to Be Normal in his new essay collection by interrogating broad categories of life. Like his earlier book, Midwest Futures, the essays are wide-ranging. For How to Be Normal, Christman tackles topics including “How to Be a Man,” “How to Be Religious,” and “How to Care.” Christman takes unexpected turns by bringing in references including Star Wars, Mark Fisher, and Marilynne Robinson. 

One of Christman’s essays, “How to Be Cultured (I): Bad Movies,” begins with a reflection on watching such films as a shared hobby his father. He analyzes Mystery Science Theater 3000, failings of adults seen through a child’s eyes, Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, among others. The issues in the films can be generalized, as Christman writes:

Time is punctuated by motherhood, the pandemic, and a family rupture in poet Carmen Bugan’s new collection, "Time Being"

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Poet Carmen Bugan and her book Time Being

Carmen Bugan’s new poetry collection, Time Being, shows how the coronavirus has meant many different things to many people and also that it put us into our own bubbles. Bugan’s isolation includes her children, garden, home in New York, connection to Michigan, and eventual divorce. Her poems chronicle the months of isolation, motherhood, the excessive losses to the virus, and the ways that the pandemic, despite upending everything, was nevertheless not the only thing happening in 2020 and 2021. 

Bugan turns her outlook inward in Time Being. Part I serves as foreshadowing with the poem “Water ways” when the outcome of making footsteps on sand is that “the ocean erases them impatiently” as a parallel to the later repetitive, near-daily baking during the pandemic. In Part II when the pandemic strikes, the poems question, “But who could have imagined our / new lives six months ago?” and “Who would have known we’d be staying home / Nearly a year, the house growing around us / Like a shell, shutting out the life we knew?” The situation could not have been anticipated, as “Water ways” alludes:

Transcontinental Travelogue: Country-pop singer-songwriter Katie Pederson recounts her solo journey on "Limitless"

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Singer-songwriter Katie Pederson balances on a fallen tree as she walks through a forest

Former Ann Arbor-ite Katie Pederson finds a sense of renewal within nature on Limitless. Photo by Sarah Schade.

In November 2019, Katie Pederson embarked on a solo, transcontinental road trip.

The monthlong expedition allowed the pop-country singer-songwriter and pianist to process past sorrows and reconnect with herself before relocating to Tennessee from Michigan.

“When I left Michigan, I knew I was gonna move to Nashville, but I didn’t quite know … so I just left,” said Pederson, who hails from Ann Arbor. 

“I wanted to go to the mountains to get some perspective, so I went out to Alberta, Canada, and stopped at hostels along the way in North America. I did a lot of hikes in different areas, read a lot of Mary Oliver’s poetry, and met a lot of really wonderful people.” 

Those therapeutic experiences provided the magical inspiration for Pederson’s new sophomore album, Limitless, and helped her explore a sense of renewal within a nature-rich landscape. 

Pederson will recount her Limitless journey during an April 24 album release show at The Ark with special guest Grace Theisen, a Kalamazoo blues-Americana singer-songwriter.

Patti F. Smith taps into the stories of brewpubs, brewers, and their beers in her new book, "Michigan Beer: A Heady History"

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Patti F. Smith and her book Michigan Beer: An Heady History 

Patti F. Smith's introduction in her new book, Michigan Beer: A Heady History, may activate your thirst to take a seat at one of the state's many current establishments:

Like the waves that crash in the magnificent Great Lakes that surround Michigan, beer and brewing has constantly moved and evolved in the state. […] Come along on a trip through the history of Michigan’s brewers and beer as we explore, region by region, the history of brewing in our great state. 

But Michigan Beer reports on mainly pre-World War II businesses and their beverages. Smith highlights the “first wave of brewers” who came to the U.S. from countries like Germany and Prussia. She also describes the “second wave” who endured or sprung up after Prohibition and also struggled during WWII. The “new wave” gets a dedicated chapter at the end of the book regarding breweries in the 1980s and onward. 

Michigan Beer is organized by regions of the state: the Upper Peninsula, Western Michigan, Mid-Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Southeast Lower Michigan, plus the “new wave” not divvied up by location. Each chapter spotlights numerous corners of the state from Copper County and Escanaba to Grand Rapids and Detroit, with many more cities showcased. Readers can look up their hometown, college town, or favorite vacation spot and see what breweries were once pouring there. 

Recovery Strategy: Chelsea singer-songwriter Scotty Karate finds catharsis on "Always Honey"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Scotty Karate sitting in a chair on stage, holding a guitar and singing. Photo by Darrin James.

Chelsea, Michigan's Scotty Karate performs live in Washtenaw County as a one-man band. Photo by Darrin James.

Scotty Karate’s therapeutic album Always Honey chronicles a path to personal growth and recovery.

The Chelsea alt-country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares his vulnerable experiences with addiction, loss, and heartbreak on his latest insightful album via Ann Arbor's Ravine Records

“It’s been some pretty heavy-duty times, and with my whole recovery the last four years," said Karate, aka Fredric Scott Leeman, who works at Washtenaw County’s Community Mental Health. "I’ve reflected a lot on past relationships and things like that."

Karate started reflecting on those relationships and experiences in January 2018 when he received treatment at a local rehabilitation center and resided in transitional housing for 15 months. At the time, he saw several friends get kicked out, then relapse, and later pass away.

“With my own experiences and how they worked out, I had to see this [trauma] … you couldn’t not see this living with these people. It was kinda the point,” Karate said. “Even if it wasn’t that, I felt like I was on this boat, and if you got on this side or that side of the boat, everybody fell off … so you had to stay in the middle of the boat. It’s so tricky, it’s not just kids having fun anymore, none of it is.”

Angeline Boulley’s YA Novel, "Firekeeper’s Daughter," Follows a Native Teen Who Discovers Intrigue and Betrayal in Her Upper Peninsula Community 

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Angeline Boulley and her book Firekeeper's Daughter

Angeline Boulley photo by Marcella Hadden

When author Angeline Boulley wrote her new young adult novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, she had a goal for the thriller. She writes about her main character, Daunis Fontaine, in her Author’s Note:

Growing up, none of the books I’d read featured a Native protagonist. With Daunis, I wanted to give Native teens a hero who looks like them, whose greatest strength is her Ojibwe culture and community.

Daunis fills that role with resilience as a narrator, woman, community member, and confidential informant. 

Ann Arbor District Library will host Boulley for an author event on Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Library. 

In Boulley’s novel, Daunis experiences multiple tragedies in her Ojibwe community in a short amount of time. She then discovers that there is a related, ongoing federal investigation about a drug ring. Firekeeper’s Daughter tracks the steps that Daunis takes to unearth what is going on in her hometown of Sault Ste. Marie in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At the same time, Daunis is entering her first year of college and grieving the deaths of loved ones.

As Daunis becomes embedded in the investigation, she must learn how to be a confidential informant and also reckon with the pressures and dangers of her role. FBI agent Ron Johnson tells her:

“If you as an agent of the law, obtain evidence illegally, then the information is inadmissible in court under the Fourth Amendment. It’s called fruit of the poisonous tree. It’s better for you to volunteer information and let us ask for clarification.”

Early on in the novel, she begins walking a tightrope of her role as a CI and relationships with her family and friends. The situation blurs as Daunis pretends to be dating one of the agents, Jamie Johnson, who has also joined the local hockey team to advance his undercover ruse.

Ojibwe teachings guide her actions, and Auntie, without knowing what Daunis is involved with, also advises her that:

“You need to be careful, Daunis, when you’re asking about the old ways.” She looks at me the way Seeney Nimkee does sometimes at the Elder Center. “There’s a saying about bad medicine: ‘Know and understand your brother but do not seek him.’”

Daunis continues exposing secrets and also learns about the further tragedy that, “Not everyone gets justice. Least of all Nish Kwewag.” As Boulley also highlights in her Author’s Note, Native women experience high rates of violence. 

Prior to her talk at AADL, I interviewed Boulley about her novel and plans.