Between the Lines: The City Lines use a mix of Americana, power-pop, and punk to explore emotional 'Memories' on second album

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

The City Lines' Skott Schoonover, Bob Zammit, Pat Deneau, Megan Marcoux, and Jason Rhoades perform at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor.

The City Lines' Skott Schoonover, Bob Zammit, Pat Deneau, Megan Marcoux, and Jason Rhoades perform at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Photo by Sam Harms Photography.

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.

Ice Capades & Identity: Caroline Huntoon’s “Skating on Mars” follows a nonbinary middle schooler trying to find their place in the world

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Skating on Mars book on the left; author Caroline Huntoon on the right.

Author photo by Hannah Holland.

In the new middle-grade novel Skating on Mars by Ypsilanti writer and educator Caroline Huntoon, Mars is a nonbinary figure skater who is not only navigating how to be who they are but also grieving their father and experiencing the tumult of middle school friendships.

One of Mars’ challenges is to figure out how to express themselves in different aspects of their life, from revealing their preferred name and pronouns to their mom and sister to dealing with critical peers. Even though skating has always been a refuge for them, one of their coaches pushes them to bring their own style to their skating program. After demonstrating, Dmitri clarifies his request, which Mars questions: 

“See, that’s not you,” Dmitri says.

“What?” I ask.

“It was the same steps, but not what you did before. And not what you should do in your own program.”

“Okay…” I’m still not sure what he expects from me. 

“You have to find yourself. And the rest will come.”

“Yeah,” I say, my voice flat and low. In my head, I’m screaming, JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO! And somewhere else altogether, I feel this horrible uncertainty about what Dmitri is telling me to do. Find myself? I’m not lost. That’s not the problem. Not really. 

This issue is one for which Mars must live their way into an answer. The book chronicles their journey in first-person narration by Mars, including their perspective on their sport, friends’ betrayals, a first crush, and emotional processing. 

Mars’ competitive nature sets the scene for a showdown with another skater and for pushing the gender boundaries on the ice. Whether they can manage the pressure, shift their family and friend’s understanding of who they are, and continue doing what they love become ongoing questions through the book. One thing is clear: Mars cannot chart their own path solely by themself. 

AADL’s Downtown Library is hosting Huntoon for a reading, Q&A, and signing Thursday, June 15, at 2 pm.

I caught up with Huntoon for an interview. 

Holistic Healing: The Prog-Rockers in Cat Lung Find Slivers of Hope and Connection on “Fragments” Album

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang stand outside near two tree stumps with a group of trees behind them.

Cat Lung's Pamela Benetti, David Beauchesne, Diane Crang, and Steven Crang make a plea for healing on Fragments. Photo courtesy of Cat Lung.

After feeling torn apart during the pandemic, Cat Lung assembled a holistic approach to healing on Fragments.

The Ann Arbor prog-rock quartet replaced shards of disillusionment and loss with slivers of hope and connection on its sophomore album.

“I was doing a lot of the lyric writing over the pandemic, and there was a lot of stuff that was going on—societal unrest, oppression, violence, climate change—you name it,” said Diane “Impi P.” Crang, one of the band’s vocalists and a multi-instrumentalist. “There’s so much nastiness in the news, and that’s where the lyric ‘what a world’ came from.’”

That lyric repeatedly appears in Cat Lung’s insightful title track, which features guitarist Pamela “Pammy Whammy” Benetti, bassist Steven “Even Steven” Crang, and drummer-percussionist/vocalist David “Dr. David” Beauchesne with Diane “Impi P.” Crang trying to process a divisive world alongside chaotic instrumentation.

Crang sings, “What a world, what a world / What a world we’re living in / When does sanity begin? / Patience gradually wearing thin / Graciousness can be found within.”

“The music for this track was initially written by Pam about 30 years ago, and we dusted it off, polished it up, and I wrote lyrics for it. The song is an observation, as well as a plea for us all to do better—for ourselves and for each other,” said Crang, who joined the band after husband Steven Crang, Benetti, and Beauchesne met through two different craigslist ads in 2016. “The four of us are all pretty done with the ugliness in the world and hope for better days ahead. In the end, Fragments being the title of the album was one on which we could all agree.”

A Field Guild to Hannah Burr: The Ann Arbor artist creates abstract works that conjure contemplation

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Left image: Unfolding artwork by Hannah Burr. Right image: Hannah Burr in her studio.

Left image: Unfolding artwork by Hannah Burr. Right image: Hannah Burr in her studio; photo by Abby Rose.

Hannah Burr's art seeks to foster connections, not only between the viewer and the work but also between the viewer and the universe. The Ann Arbor artist works in everything from painting and drawing to sculpture and books, but no matter the medium, Burr's art acts as a prompt for observers to consider how they relate to the world around them and beyond.

Burr's dedication to contemplative matters is perhaps best shown in her series of books, such as Contemporary Prayers to * [whatever works] and Elements: a love letter to all things everywhere, which marry aphorisms or scientific facts with abstract paintings and ask readers to observer how they feel when taking in the words, colors, and shapes on the page. Her forthcoming book, Field Guide to Ambiguity, is currently in its Kickstarter phase, and like Elements, is coming out via Fifth Avenue Press, the Ann Arbor District Library's publishing imprint. This follows a 2021 expanded and completely reworked version of Contemporary Prayers, which was published by Simon & Schuster.

Burr is one of more than 80 artists who will display her works at the West Side Art Hop, held annually in Ann Arbor's historic Old West Side. This year's Art Hop runs June 10 and 11; a map of the home/garage/yard venues can be found here, but Burr will be at 701 5th Street.

I caught up with Burr ahead of the West Side Art Hop as she preps Field Guide to Ambiguity and other projects, many of which she documents in her well-maintained blog, Good Bonfire.

Dr. Janet Gilsdorf's novel "Fever" charts a mysterious illness and a researcher's race to discover the bacteria causing it

WRITTEN WORD INTERVIEW

Janet Gilsdorf and her book Fever

On a getaway with a colleague to visit family in Brazil, Dr. Sidonie Royal instead finds herself in a race to save children falling ill with a mysterious disease—and she experiences grief when they do not make it. Janet Gilsdorf's novel Fever tracks Sid’s subsequent research attempts back in Michigan to find out what is causing the deaths.

As a professor emerita of epidemiology and pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Gilsdorf is the right person to write a novel on this topic. Her work involves studying pathogenic factors, molecular genetics, and the epidemiology of Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium that causes invasive and respiratory infections in children and adults. It is this bacterium that Sid, the character in her novel, is trying to understand.

Many hurdles appear along the way for Sid. One problem consists of her belligerent lab mate, Eliot, who always seems ready with criticism. At one point, he informs Sid:

Music in Motion: The Carolyn Striho Group brings Detroit energy to AADL June 1

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Scott Dailey performs with Carolyn Striho in 2019.

Scott Dailey performs with Carolyn Striho in Detroit. Photo by Dori Sumter.

Carolyn Striho takes a fearless approach to life both onstage and off.

The singer-songwriter has had a storied career in various Southeast Michigan creative scenes: She’s been a member of early Detroit punk quartet The Cubes; a frontperson for the longtime rock ‘n’ roll collective Detroit Energy Asylum; a DJ for WDET 101.9-FM’s “Radios in Motion” punk, new wave, and underground music show; a touring musician with Patti Smith and an onstage performer with Don Was; and a solo artist and poet.

“I do know it’s showed me that you must keep going and work on your craft,” said Striho, whose latest release includes a 2019 collection of poems and lyrics called Detroit (Maiden Energy). “Your music, your art, and your work are what make you unique, yourself, and original.

“But I think with new music coming out with my former band Detroit Energy Asylum and the new Hit Girls: Women in Punk book, and other books I’ve been in, my music past is being documented more and more.”

Striho brings that musical past and present to life for a June 1 show at the Downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library with her bandmates, which include her husband/guitarist Scott Dailey, bassist Christopher Spooner, and drummer Lauren Johnson.

“And as much as I loved being on stage for so many years, the energy-first stage thing has changed, but I never know what I might end up doing onstage,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m grateful for my big past, and that I now love recording, too.”

In advance of her upcoming show, we recently spoke to Striho about what inspires her creatively, her Detroit (Maiden Energy) collection and potential plans for another volume, a new single with Erin Zindle, her show setlist, and new material with Dailey.

Going Platinum: Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library Reflects on 70 Years of Supporting AADL Patrons and Programs

PULP LIFE HISTORY INTERVIEW

A Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library walkway sale in the 1960s

Patrons attend a Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library sale outside the Downtown Library in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of AADL.

In May 1953, the Friends of the Ann Arbor District Library (FAADL) shared a historical moment alongside Ernest Hemingway.

The library’s volunteer organization officially became a nonprofit the same month Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for The Old Man and the Sea.

Seven decades later, Hemingway’s novella still graces the library’s shelves as FAADL celebrates its 70th anniversary of supporting Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) patrons and programs through used book sales. From library locations to summer bookmobiles to online bookstores, the group has played a pivotal role in AADL’s evolution.

“[FAADL] was really instrumental in the location of where the downtown library sits, and it was instrumental in the branches,” said Rachel Pastiva, FAADL’s director, while reflecting on the group’s platinum anniversary.

That same year, FAADL advocated for a separate and central location for the library since it was attached to an old high school at State and Huron streets. By 1957, the new location ended up being the current downtown site at Fifth Avenue and William Street.

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.

This story originally ran on June 2, 2022. We're featuring it again because Chris Bathgate plays AADL's Downtown Library on May 26.

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.

Embracing Our Differences Michigan installs 60 art banners in two Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti parks

VISUAL ART INTERVIEW

Alysia Yvette, Knitted Together

Alysia Yvette, Ypsilanti: Knitted Together

A Florida vacation gave Nancy Margolis a "fabulous" idea. 

“A couple years ago I saw this exhibit in Sarasota in one of their parks, and it was so fabulous that I talked to their executive director about bringing it here to Washtenaw County," Margolis says.

The public art exhibit featured enormous vinyl banners with images celebrating diversity and inclusion. It was organized by Embracing Our Differences, an organization Sarasota has supported for 20 years. It spotlights pieces created by students from local schools alongside works by artists from around the world to celebrate diverse identities and inclusion.

In the spring of 2021, Margolis began planning the first Embracing Our Differences Michigan banner installations, calling on her professional experience and passion for amplifying diverse voices to build a coalition that would ultimately bring the endeavor to fruition. 

“My background is in anti-poverty programs and community organization,” Margolis says. “I brought myself into this project because I was so thrilled with the idea of a good medium for working on diversity and inclusion.”

By the time Embracing Our Differences’ first exhibit was installed at parks in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor in May 2022, Margolis and her initial support team had recruited the support of 100 local organizations. The inaugural Michigan exhibition featured 59 images created by students, adult community members, and professionals.

From Solitude to the Stage: Post Eden’s debut album is a trip to achieve "Solace in Entropy"

MUSIC INTERVIEW

Post Eden pose inside a bar wearing '80s new wave sunglasses.

If you ask the men of Ann Arbor’s Post Eden what their tagline “musical fusion” means, they really couldn’t tell you. More of a tongue-in-cheek umbrella term than an attempt to grasp a genre, the group really only started taking themselves seriously in the past two years.

Just not too seriously. 

“At the end of the day, we’re doing this for fun,” lead guitarist Nick Noteman said. “Yes, we take a lot of the music we write seriously and some of our songs have deep undertones, but music is supposed to be fun—the ‘musical fusion’ is us noting that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Former high school cross-country runners Noteman, Pat Murray (lead vocalist and guitarist), Abe Worth (bassist), and Alex Bowling (drummer) started Post Eden after a year and a half of playing together. 

“There’s a lot of time when you’re stuck in the middle of the woods to sit and talk about stuff,” Murray said. “You’re running for miles, and you become really good friends with people.”

Post Eden’s debut album, Solace in Entropy, came out in January. The record was named after the chaos of life, especially during the COVID-19 era, and the comfort that playing together brought the musicians. Solace in Entropy begins with a series of footsteps that guide listeners to 11 tracks that signify months of hard work and fine-tuning. Post Eden’s sound is a mix of Rage Against the Machine, Pink Floyd, and King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard, tied together with ’70s psychedelic and ’90s grunge influences.