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Culture

Summer sugar

Pointing out the treats and sweet spots of the season

 

Published 6/17/2009

SEE ALSO
More from Metro Times staff

Metro Retro (10/6/2010)
Looking back on 30 years of MT coverage

Metro Retro (9/29/2010)
Looking back on 30 years of Metro Times

Metro Retro (9/22/2010)
Looking back on 30 years of Metro Times

Saturdays and Sundays, June 19-Aug. 23
Historic Baseball Games at Greenfield Village
Buy us some peanuts and Cracker Jack, we don't care if we never get back 'cause we don't have to work on the weekends and hopefully you don't either! Oh, you do? Well, hey, at least you're workin'! For those with true American leisure time on their hands, you might want to head down to Dearborn and catch a vintage baseball game. The teams are the Lah-De-Dahs and the Nationals, and we don't care who you root, root, root for, because both are technically home teams. Grab your caps, picnic blankets and coolers and check out how America's national pastime was played in the past, as in, say, 1867. There's music, food, and baseball too. That's a triple play! Every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-982-6001; thehenryford.org.

Friday, June 26
League of Electronic Musical Robots
This seems a little weird, but so were the player piano and the drum machine when they were introduced. The League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots is an outfit that lives up to its title, designing automata that strum, strike, scrape, etc., various instruments. We're not sure whether to expect the league's GuitarBots or the HydroBots or exactly what, but we're assured that human vocalist and beatboxer Adam Matta will be performing along with the machines. And that there'll also be an audience-controlled installation, whatever that means. It's part of the Midsummer Nights in Midtown Series. This Friday installment takes place at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622. Performances at 8:45 and 10:30 p.m. along with the installation that runs from 8 p.m. to midnight. Also at MOCAD on Friday, the Balkan worldbeat band Slavic Soul performs at 9:30 and 11:15 p.m. (The all-free midsummer series for this weekend also includes Bad Plus at Wayne State University on Thursday and the Lovell Sisters at Cass and Canfield on Saturday. Details at midsummernightsinmidtown.com.)

Sunday, June 28
Rock the Bells: Nas, The Roots, Big Boi & more
The good, the bad, the ugly; the old, the new, the up-and-coming — it must be time to Rock the Bells. Hosted by "the teacha" KRS-One (he of the legendary Boogie Down Productions), the annual celebration of bass-heavy beats and 16-bar rhyme schemes brings with it a bit of sociopolitical conscious. But, really, it's all about bobbing your head to the best of the rest in hip hop. This year's lineup is off the chain too. Nas and Damian Marley will take the stage alongside the Roots, Busta Rhymes, Big Boi, Pete Rock, Slum Village and a handful of other quotable notable rhyme-slayers. At DTE Energy Music Center, 7774 Sashabaw Rd., Clarkson; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Wednesday, July 1
De La Soul @ Cityfest
There's a torrential downpour, then there's whatever happened last year when De La Soul was supposed to bring the noise at Cityfest. Seriously, what was that? It was three feet high and rising! Anyway, these hip-hop pioneers are notoriously nice, so we're more than geeked to get a second shot at seeing them this year. De La — part of a less-aggressive school of hip-hop acts such as Tribe Called Quest — are best known for their "conscious" (and even "subconscious") rap topics and their less-obvious musical samplings, like the Turtles and Hall & Oates. Arriving at a time when gangster rap was starting to rear its Oakland Raiders-capped head, the trio is one of few rap groups who have not only continued to record since the '80s, but stay relevant while doing it. These guys are practically living legends. At 9 p.m. in Detroit's New Center; info at 313-927-2700 or newcenter.com.

Thursday-Sunday, July 2-5,
Rothbury Music Festival
"The brown acid is bad." "There isn't enough food to go around, so remember, the person next to you is dinner. " Oh, wait. Wrong music festival! But we should all rejoice that Michigan finally has its own major rock festival, now in its second year. The lineup is a little more varied and eclectic than 2008's, although the emphasis is still on the "hippie" in all of us, headlined as the fest is by the Dead (as in the Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia; Warren Haynes fills in), Willie Nelson & Family, the String Cheese Incident (the band's only 2009 appearance) and rock's long-lasting poet laureate Mr. Bob Dylan. Others appearing on four different stages during the four-day weekend include everything from the Hold Steady and Cold War Kids to King Sunny Ad and D-Town's own Hard Lessons. At the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury; go to rothburyfestival.com for a full schedule or to purchase tickets.

Friday, July 3
Gladys Knight
Just to get down to the nitty-gritty, a lot of fans would ride the friendship train to the connection for the midnight train to Georgia, to hear Gladys Knight, and they'd make the journey no matter what they heard through the grapevine. Or you can just use your imagination. Part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, at Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University, Ann Arbor; 734-764-2538. annarborsummerfestival.org; $35-$65.

July 6-Aug. 10
Summer Poetry Scarab Mondays
Formerly known as Poets @ the Opera House, the reincarnation of the series will be born at the Scarab Club, a longtime refuge for arts, both visual and literary, in Detroit. Located behind the Detroit Institute of the Arts, the Scarab will present a lineup of poets each Monday night (at 7 p.m.) that promises to provoke the mind. From beat poets to performance poets to those who get their kicks in the slam scene, each week will be different than the last. On July 20, Springfed Arts will present the 2009 winners in fiction and poetry, and the Metro Detroit Writers group will host an open mic for anyone who wants to read on July 27. If poetry's your bag, the Scarab has you covered all summer long. At 217 Farnsworth St., Detroit; 313-831-1250; scarabclub.org.

Thursday, July 9
Frontier Ruckus & Cotton Jones
Each rooted in golden-tinged Americana crooning, these bands are set to burn down the barn er Pike Room this July. Intimately set inside the Crofoot's more discreet 'n' petite venue, the night looks to be a back-to-back (soft) barrage of emotive folk balladry, full of wistful acoustic guitar yelps and down-home banjo jangles. Hailing from rural Maryland, former Page France frontman Michael Nau, together with Whitney McGraw, is Cotton Jones. The duo has been releasing a series of EPs on the Ann Arbor based boutique label Quite Scientific for the last year-and-a-half. Lansing's Frontier Ruckus (pictured) is one of the state's best folk exports. Melancholy and organic, the band is led by singer Matt Milia, whose depth and delivery are wise beyond his years. At the Crofoot's Pike Room, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333; thecrofoot.com.

Friday-Saturday, July 10-11,
Elvisfest
Believe it or not, this is the biggest Elvis festival in the country outside of Memphis. Now in its 10th year, Michigan Elvisfest presents a multitude of Elvis impersonators from around the globe, booths of memorabilia, and a place for transplanted "Michigan-tuckians" to gather with like-minded folks. Who knows? Maybe the King himself will show up if someone can get him to leave that Burger King in nearby Kalamazoo for long enough! At Riverside Park, 1 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti; info at mielvisfest.org.

Saturday, July 11
Aretha Franklin
Lady Soul herself. That Voice. Home. In Detroit. At the legendary Fox Theatre. Need we say any more? At 7:30 p.m. at 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; tickets are $45 and $50; call 800-745-3000.

Monday July 13
Roomful of Blues
Jump blues, which overlapped with and in a sense morphed into R&B and rock 'n' roll, had its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, which means the Roomful of Blues, founded in Rhode Island in 1967, has been a re-do of the golden era a couple times over. They've been a first-call back-up band for hire over the years, getting behind their early heroes like Joe Turner and Eddie Cleanhead Vinson, as well as with contemporaries like Pat Benatar and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. The band's changed over numerous times, with nearly 50 players over the years, but the essence remains the same. At Callahan's, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508.

Tuesday, July 14
Green Day
Billy Joe and crew remain one of the most entertaining live bands on the face of the planet. They've managed to grow and evolve without losing their original Gilmore Street punk-rock ethics and aesthetics. And their new album, 21st Century Breakdown — their second major "concept" album in a row — is a killer. Pundits have been comparing them to an American version of the young Who as of late so what's not to love here? Go! Palace of Auburn Hills, 4 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Thursday-Saturday, July 16-19
Bluesfest International
If you've got your passport (which you now need as of June 1), you may want to drive over the bridge or through the tunnel for this excellent, long-running blues festival, which is one of our Northern neighbor's premier summer events. Some of the headliners this year include Johnny Winter (hey, his July appearance at the Ark in A2 is already sold-out), the wonderful Steve Earle (whose new album of Townes Van Zandt covers is a hit country album!) and Detroit's own Howling Diablos and the legendary Funk Brothers of Motown Records sessions fame. At the Riverfront Festival Plaza in Windsor; info at thebluesfest.com.

Friday-Saturday, July 17-18
Kid Rock
Yee-hah! Get those Confederate flags ready to fly, 'cause this promises to be one of the concert events of the summer of '09. The Kid has already sold out the first, featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd, so this should be a Detroit celebration of the highest order. No words yet as to whether Skynyrd will be joining the star on his "All Summer Long" hit, which, of course, borrows a line from their own "Sweet Home Alabama" (too bad the late Warren Zevon isn't around to join 'em, though). May we repeat: "Yee-hah!" Alice in Chains and Cypress Hill join Kid Rock for his second show in the stadium the Tigers call home. At 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; tickets at 866-66-TIGER or olympiaentertainment.com.

Saturday-Sunday, July 18-19
Concert of Colors
Detroit's long-running and much-loved music festival of cultural diversity is a tad smaller this year (but what isn't in this economy?), yet still features an extraordinary lineup, ranging from the groovy, rock-critic-formed, alt-rock of Yo La Tengo to the New Orleans-based R&B of Aaron Neville (who'll be bringing saxophonist brother Charles along as part of his quintet) to reggae, zydeco, Arabic folk-blues and everything in between. And Don Was (pictured) will return with a second version of his Detroit Super Session, this year featuring such local superstars as Sir Mack Rice, Amp Fiddler, Scott Morgan's Powertrane, Teegarden & Van Winkle, and the legendary Question Mark of "96 Tears" fame, as well as such relative newcomers as the Go, Blanche and Gorevette. Whew! At the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; info at concertofcolors.com.

Sunday July 19
The Hair Wars Musical
Latest news from the out-of-Detroit phenom includes word that Lady GaGa will soon be sporting "fantasy hair pieces" by Hair Wars artists. Closer to home, the new concept is having 25 or so "hair entertainers" re-creating various music videos — from rock to rap — "the way they would make them." The idea, according to producer David "Hump the Grinder" Humphries, is less runway and more theatrics. At Ramada Plaza Hotel, 5500 Crooks Rd.; 248-879-2100 (mention "Hair Wars" for discount room rate); hairwarsustour.com; doors at 5 p.m., show at 6; tickets $20 advance, $25 at door before 6, $30 after 6.

Wednesday, July 22
Neko Case
Audiophiles have been sweet on Case for a couple years now, but when she told Seattle's The Stranger, "I hope I can comfort people a bit — maybe show people that making music is fun and accessible to them as well. I'm not out to become Faith Hill," they flat-out fell in love. The New Pornographers siren continues to create a unique sound, blending buttercup melodies with off-kilter lyrics. Like the Leslie Feist of Canada's west coast, Neko Case is a crossover sensation with substance. She'll perform from her new solo CD, Middle Cyclone, at Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333; thecrofoot.com.

Wednesday-Saturday July 22-25
Mose Allison
Question: What jazz composer has been most often covered by non-jazz artists in the last, say, 50 years? Answer: We're ready to hear challenges, but we're gonna go with Mose Allison and cite a list of artists including the Yardbirds, the Who, Elvis Costello, the Clash, John Mayall, the Rolling Stones, J.J. Cale, Blue Cheer and Van Morrison (the latter releasing a full album of Allison material). What's the attraction? Plain-spoken blues truths, barstool ying-yang aphoristic talk turned into humorous song: "Everybody's cryin' mercy, when they don't know the meaning of the word" and "Your mind is on vacation, but your mouth is working overtime" and "I'm not talking, that's what I got to say." He's also been his own best advertisement, putting his songs over with a weathered been-there-done-that voice of experience, and with understated but thoughtful piano playing — good solos even. At the Dirty Dog Jazz Caf, 97 Kercheval St., Grosse Pointe Farms; 313-882-5299.

Friday July 24
Tinsley Ellis
A few years ago, Tinsley Ellis described his career as "a long, hard climb to the middle." He was never anointed the successor to Stevie Ray Vaughan — which he was mentioned as, which isn't to say that he sought such a title — or the next anyone or anything else. He remains what he's always been, a hard-hustling guitar-slinger, working the stages and dropping an album every couple years. He relentlessly works the territory between the rock he takes as "birthright" and the blues he loves, putting a bite in his guitar lines that honors his claim of Albert King as his No. 1 guitar influence. For as much as he's sweated to make it to the middle at middle age, the least blues-rock lovers can do is make sure to meet him there. At Callahan's, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills; 248-858-9508.

Sunday, July 26
Gershwin Galore
Detroit Symphony Orchestra director and seven-time Grammy Award winner Leonard Slatkin is set to team up with distinguished American pianist Jeffery Siegal for Gershwin Galore, a tribute to the composer who reached one high with "Rhapsody in Blue"and rose higher still with the American opera Porgy and Bess. Gershwin's gems have rolled across Broadway stages, moved audiences at Carnegie Hall, joined the action of Hollywood films, and practically set the standard for composers who followed. Travel to Broadway and Carnegie Hall with the evening's concert, featuring an array of Gershwin's hits, including the previously mentioned numbers along with "Lullaby for Strings" and "Second Rhapsody." At the Meadowbrook Music Festival, 3554 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Friday, July 31
Van's Warped Tour
The alt-punk festival returns to Detroit with 70 bands featured this year, including everyone from punk old-timers Bad Religion to Less Than Jake to the late Waylon's son, Shooter Jennings. Detroit rock fans should be proud that one of the acts appearing will be our own the Silent Years, whose national profile seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Congrats, dudes and dudettes! At the Comerica Park parking lots, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; info at warpedtour.com; $33 advance.

Thursday, July 30
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone
So imagine you're out camping and the Anthony Braxton Orchestra takes up the site next to yours. These two women wander over with guitar and viola, and they settle down for some by-the-fire entertainment, with lithe melodies sweetly sung except when the dissonances come in, and things go slightly off-kilter. Guitarist Mary Halvorson and violist Jessica Pavone (daughter of jazz bassist Mario, for those charting musical genealogies) are indeed Braxton acolytes, and their music has been compared to Robert Fripp's real sessions with the Roches, and to the imagined meeting of Alban Berg and the Shaggs. Their most recent duo disc is Thin Air on the Thirsty Ear label. A Bohemian House in Exile show venue to be announced.

July 31, Aug. 1-2, 7-9
Soul Power
When Festival Express rolled out in 2003, the world was treated to one of the greatest rock docs ever. But it almost never happened. The 1970 Canadian train tour that featured the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy and the Band was tangled up in lawsuits for more than 30 years. Similar problems besieged Soul Power, a funky documentary that captured the concert after Ali and Foreman rumbled in the jungle. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers, the Spinners and more take the stage in what has promised to be immaculately preserved concert footage. Shot in 1974, this is the first time it's unleashed upon the public. There are two screenings a day for six days, so throw some soul into your summer at the Detroit Film Theatre, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; dia.org.

Wednesday, Aug. 5
Fleet Foxes
In avoiding conventional song structures, this fairly new, fairly brilliant Seattle quintet layers singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold's baroque vocals with his band's fondness for a (though subtle) late-'60 folk-pop sound. A buzz band if there ever was one, Fleet Foxes are set to bring their stunning indie-folk jams to Germany, Norway, London, Amsterdam, Belgium and Denmark before they make their way to the Royal Oak Music Theatre. We just hope these boys don't tire out. At 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-298-0708; royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Friday Aug. 7
Jim Gaffigan
Maybe you've seen him on Comedy Central. If so, you might've learned that his father is Swedish, his mother was Elton John and he's part polar bear. Or so he claims. Gaffigan (he of the quirky Sierra-Mist commercials) is taking us Beyond the Pale, his latest touring show. Gaffigan recently signed on to co-write and lend his voice to 20 new episodes of Pale Force, a series of animated shorts set to air on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. We hear the series will focus on two notably pale crime-fighting superheroes that, uncoincidentally, like Gaffigan and O'Brien, are equipped with frighteningly fair skin. He's a funny guy, and you could use a few laughs. At the Meadow Brook Music Festival, 3554 Walton Blvd., Rochester Hills; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Saturday, Aug. 15
Cre Fest II
Some of the more discerning among us may consider "classic Mtley Cre" to be an oxymoron. But, hey, headbangers deserve their own fest — and with Ozzfest on hiatus (and Ozzy suing Tony Iommi), this is probably the best they're going to get this year. In addition to "the mighty Cre," you'll also be wrecking your eardrums to the sounds of Godsmack, Theory of a Deadman, Drowning Pool and Charm City Devils. At DTE Energy Music Center, 7774 Sashabaw Rd., Clarkson; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Saturday, Aug. 29
The Knack
These days, Geoffrey Fieger is probably the best-known Fieger, especially in Detroit. But let's not forget that brother Doug was a bona fide rock star — thanks to the timeless "My Sharona" and Get the Knack! — years before anyone had ever heard of Dr. Kevorkian. Doug is still out there, playing his hits night after night. He's been fighting cancer these last several years — reports are he's doing well — so this hometown show is a triumph of sorts for one of D-Town's favorite musical sons! At 7774 Sashabaw Rd., Clarkson; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.

Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 29-30
The People's Arts Festival
In a summer where more and more of our annual festivals have been trimmed down or completely disappeared, the People's Arts Festival is actually expanding for its third year. The popular fest has added a second day to showcase the work of 100-plus visual artists and craftspeople and to accommodate performances by more than 40 bands and other performers. While it's too early for lineups or details, the PAF will also include feature film, fashion, restaurants and the vague promise of "much, much more." At the Russell Industrial Center, 1600 Clay Ave., Detroit; for info visit peoplesartsfestival.com.

Sunday, Sept. 6
Wayne Shorter at Detroit International Jazz Festival
In the 1960s, saxophonist Wayne Shorter was part of a singular Miles Davis Quintet with Herbie Hancock et al. And although he's done plenty of good and great stuff since then, only in the last decade has he led a group that's been recognized as singular in the same way. John Patitucci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), Danilo Perez (piano) and Shorter constitute one of those groups that's more like the multiplied product of its parts than the sum. That product, of course, is just one of the offerings of this year's Detroit Jazz Festival. Other headliners over the Labor Day weekend include Chick Corea, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sheila Jordan, Geri Allen Quartet and Marcus Belgrave. The official theme is "Keepin' Up with the Jones," evoking the familial legacy of the Jones brothers of Pontiac, whose sole survivor, 82-year-old Hank, performs. Other acts touching on the theme of kinship in jazz include T.S. Monk, the Heath Brothers and the team of John and Bucky Pizzarelli. Beyond jazz, the fest offerings include Irma Thomas and the Clark Sisters. Shorter performs at 7:45 p.m.

All summer long
DIA Drop-in Workshops
Remember the good old days, when you had "art class" after "recess"? Those were the times. And you can still have them! Kind of. Vicariously, at least. Drop in on one of the DIA's Workshops to put your creative energy to work. Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in July and August, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., bring your kids, friends, family (all ages are welcome) to the Student Lunchroom (first level off Prentis Court) at the DIA to create your own jewelry, artist trading cards 3-D photographic dioramas or book covers and more. At 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900; dia.org.

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