What does having an amazing university, a plethora of fantastic local independent bookstores, and a pretty slam-bang public library system (if we do say so ourselves) bring to a town?
Authors. Lots and lots of authors.
In fact, so many authors pass through the area that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of who is speaking and when and where. To help guide you, Pulp curated a highlights list of March 2018 author events.
Ziggy's is a cafe, performance space, and arcade in downtown Ypsilanti that has hosted an appealing wide range of concerts ever since it opened in August 2017, from experimental jazz to hip-hop and indie rock. Most of the performers have been local, but on Friday, Feb. 2, Ziggy's goes international with Kenyan musician Kamba Nane.
Nane plays an eight-string nyatiti, a plucked lyre associated with the Luo people of Kenya. Traditionally the nyatiti is played alone, accompanied only by the player's singing and percussion items attached to his feet. But the Nairobi-raised Nane takes a modern approach to the instrument, playing in groups of all sorts, from jazz to electronica. At Ziggy's, Nane will be accompanied by the RAKA Ensemble, featuring Dave Sharp on bass and percussionists Abbas Camara and Lamine Souma.
Below is a short documentary on Nane and some of his music on Soundcloud:
The Threads All Arts Festival has finally been rescheduled. The second edition was originally set for August 2017 at the Ann Arbor Distilling Company, but when the city put a temporary kibosh on live events at the artisanal spirits space due to parking issues, Threads was called off. It took the U-M student-run festival a while to reorganize, but it has now found a home in Ypsilanti’s Historic Freighthouse and will present its rangy mix of live music, dance, film, poetry, and art on March 10-11.
The idea for Threads began in 2015 when Nicole Patrick (U-M 2016, percussion and jazz and contemporary improvisation) and her friends "wanted to find a way to share, with many people, all the amazing art they saw coming out of their friends and neighbors," they told Pulp contributor Anna Prushinskaya for piece meant to preview the 2017 edition.
But along with the break came a new mission statement that shows Threads has expanded its focus:
When not on tour, indie-rocker Stef Chura runs several karaoke nights in Detroit, the city where she lives. It's common for karaoke hosts to sing a few songs to set the stage and encourage the crowd, and Chura told MTV.com in a January 2017 interview that The Cranberries are one of her go-to bands to croon.
Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan comes up a lot in articles about Chura. Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks comes up, too. So does Liz Phair and The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Bettie Serveert's Carol van Dijk has also been mentioned, and so have Destroyer's Dan Bejar and Television's Tom Verlaine. There are hints of Billie Holiday, too.
I was on a bike ride with a friend when he told me about the Saturday, Oct. 14, attempt to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the biggest gathering of women dressed as Rosie the Riveter. My knee-jerk response was that this wasn’t my scene. I’m not a fan of crowds, and more specifically, a bunch of women coming together at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center to dress up like Rosie the Riveter was definitely not my scene.
Rosie the Riveter is a representation of the women who worked in factories during World War II to support the war effort. The character is based on several people, including Rose Will Monroe, who worked as a riveter at Ypsilanti's Willow Run Aircraft Factory building B-24 bombers. But Rosie's didn’t resonate with me personally. I come from Southern black stock, and the women I am descended from always did some sort of work, primarily domestic, outside of their homes, paid or otherwise. Also, it’s in my nature to take icons and popular narratives and complicate them; it’s what I was taught as a history student, and it has become second nature. I didn’t think that there was anything here for me.
However, my friend’s prompting had given rise to a question, “Who are these women. Whose scene is this?”
I am one of the people who couldn’t get enough of political podcasts during the 2016 presidential election. That is how I found my way to the podcast Keepin’ It 1600, hosted by Washington insiders Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Daniel Pfeiffer.
In January 2017, the hosts of that show started Pod Save America, a show about current United States politics and it impacts on the American people as a part of Crooked Media, their network that now hosts five podcasts and written work from several contributors. Through their work, they hope to inform people from their progressive point of view about the current political landscape while entertaining their audience and inspiring them to become personally involved in the political process.
Based on the crowd outside of the Michigan Theater on Friday, Oct. 6, the Pod Save America team inspired people to leave the comfort of their homes to see the foursome in action.
The most common use for effects pedals in AADL's collection is to change the sound of electric instruments, such as guitars and keyboards -- not acoustic gear, such as trumpets and drums. But there's nothing common about the music of Mark Kirschenmann, PhD. He's been experimenting with changing the tone of his trumpet through electronics since the '70s after he heard Miles Davis' electro-jazz-funk classic On the Corner.
Kirschenmann is a U-M lecturer of jazz and contemporary improvisation, and he also leads the music school's Creative Arts Orchestra, which includes drummer Adam Shead, a grad student at U-M studying "cultural memory, tradition, and narrative in improvised music communities." Shead augments his standard drum setup with electronics and straight-up knick-knacks, such as a dishtowel or his wallet, so he can explore different tonalities on his kit.
Together, Kirschenmann and Shead combine their extended techniques -- such as playing the trumpet without a mouthpiece or putting a leg on the snare drum -- to create an improvised universe of sound.
We talked to the duo about why they began applying electronic effects to their acoustic instruments, Kirschenmann's use of AADL music tools in his classes, and the stories behind the two songs they recorded for us in the library's Secret Lab on April 20, 2017.
During the Ann Arbor Comics Art Festival -- aka A2CAF -- in June, cartoonist Jerzy Drozd interviewed his fellow author-illustrator Ben Hatke about his work. The two were on the third floor of the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library, standing in front of the framed works that comprise the exhibition Ben Hatke: Art and Adventure:
Explore the plucky heroes, eerie monsters, and fabulous realms of artist and author Ben Hatke in an exhibition of original art from his picture books and graphic novels. Illustrations and watercolors from Nobody Likes a Goblin, Zita the Spacegirl, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and a few surprises. (The exhibition runs through August 31.)
The talk between Drozd and Hatke runs 41 minutes. Pressed for time? Grab the MP3; the conversation works fine as a podcast. Or if you want to skip around, see the list below with the topics discussed and their times in the video/MP3:
History records that cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt -- and they have never forgotten that! Our furry feline friends may be finicky at times, but they are also devoted, cuddly, and loving. If you don’t or can’t have a kitty (and even if you do!), you can get your feline fix six days a week at our own cat cafe, Tiny Lions.
The “catfe,” which is run by the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV), opened in 2016 and cat lovers have been cuddling, petting, and snuggling felines ever since. Visitors can drop in -- even grab a coffee from the Biggby next door -- for some pettings and purrs, or they can attend events such as yoga, Family Mew-vie Night, trivia for grownups, or coloring for all ages.
* This video contains explicit content. *
As evidenced by their name, Approachable Minorities make strong social statements couched in playfully pointed language. The Ypsilanti hip-hop trio -- MCs Drew Denton and TJ Greggs with DJ Marcus McKinney -- released its debut album, Afro-American, in April 2016, and Denton’s solo LP, The Ascension Theory, arrived in December.
Approachable Minorities have worked hard to promote their music through a series of concerts under the name Northern Threat Entertainment, but the group is largely still a Washtenaw County phenomenon. But any label or manager looking to sign a talented and motivated group of artists who are ready to put in the work to promote their art would do well to turn 2017 into Approachable Minorities’ breakout year.
Impressed by the ensemble’s creativity and energy, we invited Approachable Minorities and their friend Cole Greve to check out a bunch Music Tools from the Ann Arbor District Library, learn how to use the gear, and come cut a Tools Crew Live video. The group re-created two cuts from Afro-American -- “Bodies” and “Bet” -- on the library’s gear and performed the songs at AADL’s downtown branch on June 9, 2017.
We spoke with Denton about the group’s history, the stories behind the songs, and the challenges and rewards of learning new music gear from scratch.