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Cycles of change (9/22/2010)
Little bar on the prairie (9/15/2010)
Down on the corner (8/25/2010)
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Metro Retro (10/6/2010)
Metro Retro (9/29/2010)
Metro Retro (9/22/2010)
June 20 and 25-27: THE DETROIT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The orchestra heads outdoors with a number of free concerts this month, beginning with a gig at the Detroit River Days fest at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 20, and continuing with the annual Harmony in the Park series at 8 p.m. Friday, June 25, at Kensington Metro Park, 8 p.m., Saturday, June 26, at Metro Beach Metro Park and 8 p.m. Sunday, June 27, at Stony Creek.
June 25: PASSION PIT
The band's romantic origin myth has lead singer Michael Angelakos writing, recording and producing a mixtape in his dorm room for his then-girlfriend. Add four friends on keyboards, synths, bass and drums, and you've got Passion Pit. Since then, the band has been inducted into the ranks of Pitchfork and YouTube Internet darlinghood, racking up page views and downloads. Their synthy, dreamy dance numbers should get your beard growing down to the floor and out through the doors. At 8 p.m. at Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-298-0708.
June 25: CANFIELD STREET MARKET
Indie boutiques Bureau of Urban Living and City Bird are hosting this block party-cum-street market in their front courtyards. Enjoy beer, music and a plethora of handmade and vintage goods, including artwork by Sarah Burger, vintage duds from new shop MillieBea's and hand screened T-shirts by Detroit Lives! From 5 to 9 p.m. in front of the Canfield Lofts, 460 W. Canfield St., Detroit.
June 25-27: JAZZ FEST IN THE WOODS
The Palmer Woods Music in Homes Series usually keeps the location of its music sites secret from the general public. But they're letting it be known that the final concert of this series is being held in the neighborhood's most famous home, metro Detroit's only Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, which had fallen into disrepair before the current owners took control a few years ago and embarked on a major restoration effort. While the actual concert takes place outside in the garden, the home will be open for tours and the reception. Guitarist Spencer Barefield's rhythm section performs with a different guest nightly: trumpeter Rayse Biggs, saxophonist David McMurray and saxophonist Wendell Harrison. Advance tickets only; 313-891-2514 or palmerwoods.org.
June 26: JAY ELECTRONICA
This is Jay Electronica's debut performance in Detroit (since he canceled a scheduled appearance at the Music Hall in April), though he spent time here in the mid-2000s getting chummy with J Dilla and Mr. Porter. His music is high-brow (some say pretentious) hip hop — he first got attention for rapping over a nine-minute loop of music from the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Enough said. DJ Houseshoes, Slum Village, Guilty Simpson, One Be Lo, 5 Ela and Ro Spit will all be on hand to warm up the crowd. At 8 p.m. at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-6358.
June 26-27: DETROIT CHILDREN'S MUSEUM GRAND RE-OPENING
The Detroit Children's Museum — which shut its doors last August — reopens under the management of the Detroit Science Center, providing one more way to keep the kiddies entertained during these long summer months. The grand-opening weekend includes free admission to the museum — which features more than 10,000 artifacts, a planetarium and hands-on activity stations — and an outdoor block party. The Children's Museum is located at 6131 Second Ave., Detroit; 313-873-8100; detroitsciencecenter.org.
July 1-2: MODEST MOUSE
One of indie rockdom's fave mainstream bands (how does that work again?), Modest Mouse managed to make cerebral adventuresome sounds, paired with introspective and esoteric lyrics, radio-friendly. And that's no small feat. The band recently celebrated 10 years of major-label patronage with a vinyl reissue of its landmark 2000 major label debut The Moon & Antarctica. At 7 p.m. each night at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980; $35; all ages; with Avi Buffalo.
July 2: CINEMATIC TITANIC
You can turn a board game into a movie, a newspaper column into a movie, a video game into a movie, a one-minute SNL sketch into a movie, a movie into a musical back to a movie ... but can you really turn a TV show about riffing on bad sci-fi flicks into a live theater event? Yup. After hitting the Royal Oak Music Theatre earlier this year, Cinematic Titanic, the onstage version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, brings its best bad jokes to the Ann Arbor Summerfest. At 7 and 10:30 p.m. at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-668- 8463; annarborsummerfestival.org.
July 2-5: NEW CENTER PARK KICKOFF WEEKEND
If you're mourning the loss of Cityfest, one of the best of Detroit's now-dwindling ranks of summer fests, take consolation in the rebirth of New Center Park. The "unique green space" will play host to a variety of weekly events throughout the summer: movie nights, live music, kids' activities and harvest markets. A Labor Day block party, Octoberfest celebration and holiday sing-alongs are also in the works. It all starts over Fourth of July weekend at the celebratory kickoff, which features live music daily (beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon on Sunday and Monday), as well as fun for tykes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. At West Grand Boulevard and Second Avenue in Detroit; newcenterpark.com.
July 3-Aug. 14: OUSMANE SEMBENE FILM SERIES
Opening with two short films, Black Girl and Borom Sarret, and closing with Senegalese master director Ousmane Semebene's final work, Moolade, this retrospective provides an overview not only of Sembene's work, but of the entire history of African cinema. Screened in conjunction with the exhibit Through African Eyes: The European in African Art 1500-Present, Sembene's films offer just that insight into postcolonial subjects' perspectives on the colonizer. Saturdays, July 3 and 17 and Aug. 7 and 14, at 4 p.m. at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900.
July 6: DEVO
New wave legends, art-pop whackos and fashion pioneers, Devo became part of the collective consciousness with its 1980 hit, the classic ode to beating off, "Whip It." And while that track guaranteed their fate to I Love the '80s punch line status, their off-kilter din was truly groundbreaking and has forever earned them a hallowed place in a music geeks' hearts. The group performs in support of its first disc in 20 years — the shockingly great Something for Everybody — at 8 p.m. at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor; 734-764-2538; annarborsummerfestival.org.
July 6: MUD DAY
Kids can get down and dirty in the two tons of topsoil and 20,000 gallons of water available for the wallowing between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Nankin Mills Area of Hines Drive Park in Westland. Co-sponsored by ITC Holdings and Community Alliance Credit Union (what? No laundry detergent company backed its booty up?), the event will also include the coronation of Mr. and Ms. Mud. Before you pile the kiddies back in the minivan, the Westland Fire Department will be on hand to hose them off.
July 9: TATSUYA NAKATANI
For Tatsuya Nakatani, the idea is less the percussionist as a one-man band and more the percussionist as one-man sonic universe. This Nakatani dude often bows gongs and miscellaneous objects for the sheer aural sumptuousness — and sometimes strangeness — without regard to rhythmic sense, let alone creating or suggesting a conventional melody. Originally from Japan, his forays into experimental styles strive to retain — nonetheless — the reverence for the musical space of traditional Japanese music. A Bohemian in Exile prodcution, venue TBA, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for updates.
July 9: DOMINIQUE YOUNG UNIQUE
Tampa's hip-hop upstart Dominique Young Unique has collected plenty of buzz of late and it's little wonder why: She's a pretty chick with a sassy 'tude who delivers rapid-fire rhymes about her ass, glocks and pulling triggers over sick danceable beats. What's not to dig? Besides, she's mighty lovely, like a young, winsome Diana Ross with a gap-toothed grin! With V. Count Macula and Mobil at 8 p.m. at the Majestic Café, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; $8.
July 9-11: MICHIGAN ELVISFEST
If you're searching for an event where the white jumpsuit, gold jacket and Hawaiian shirt kick aesthetic ass, look no farther than the annual Michigan Elvisfest. Young Elvi, old Elvi, good Elvi and even bad Elvi abound. And we don't call them "impersonators" any more — they're "tribute artists," bitch! — and they'll be singing, dancing, twisting and shaking. Now in its 11th year, Elvisfest will be held at Riverside Park at Cross and Huron streets in Ypsilanti. For information and a video of what to expect, see mielvisfest.org.
July 9-11: DETROIT APBA GOLD CUP
That roar you hear from the riverfront July 9-11 is the annual Detroit APBA Gold Cup racing. From the classic Gar Wood boats to the modern turbine era, the drivers, boats and races bring excitement, competition and outdoor fun to race sites. Whether you view from the stands, a private boat or Belle Isle, the races have become a Motor City summer tradition. For videos of past events, merchandise, event schedules, tickets and anything else associated with the weekend: gold-cup.com.
July 16-25: WINDSOR INTERNATIONAL FRINGE FESTIVAL
Cross the bridge and get thee to the theater for this 10-day performing arts event. Now in its third year, the fest showcases both amateur and veteran performers and troupes from as near as Detroit and as far as Australia, presenting works in informal settings at a low cost. Zero censorship, no artistic direction and complete accessibility to both audience and artist are the guiding tenets of Canadian Fringe Festivals, making this event an exciting incubator for fresh actors and innovative new works. Performances at venues throughout Windsor; see windsorfringe.com.
July 16-18: CONCERT OF COLORS
So many summertime celebrations have gone the way of the typewriter, but the CofC is still kickin', and even has a new home at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Max M. Fisher Music Center. The Don Was All-Star Revue is back, and local world-music maestro Sean Blackman's Brazilian jazz-funk group Zap Toro is set to play too. With steel-guitar sliders, reggae jammers, Native American and Irish folksters on the bill, it's a beautiful cultural mélange. Soul maven Mavis Staples closes out the festival. Mavis Staples! For free! Info at concertofcolors.com.
July 18: MICHIGAN JAZZ FESTIVAL
The Michigan Jazz Festival, which began in '91, is just shy of its 20th anniversary, still based on the simple premise of focusing on homegrown artists. Promoter Midge Ellis' baby returns to Schoolcraft College with six stages and 23 acts, among them the Hot Club of Detroit, Dennis Tini Trio, Dave Bennett's Tribute to Benny Goodman, George (Sax) Benson, Ed Nucilli and Plural Circle and the Alma Smith Quartet. Noon to 9:15; free at Schoolcraft College, Haggerty Road (between Six Mile and Seven Mile roads), Livonia; michiganjazzfestival.homestead.com.
July 21: LILITH FAIR
It's been almost 11 years since Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan's traveling distaff fest beat the dusty trail. And so it is she reprises it in '10 with a surprising genre-spanning lineup. Other than headliner McLachlan, a different group will perform at each stop; in Detroit, we'll see the mighty Queen Latifah, Suzanne Vega, country crooner Miranda Lambert and Idol Kelly Clarkston, along with second stage up-and-comers such as La Roux, Lights and Kate Nash. At DTE Energy Music Theatre, 7774 Sashabaw Rd., Clarkston; 248-377-0100; palacenet.com.
July 21: MARY J. BLIGE
Bill Withers' "Lean on Me" during the Obama inaugural, Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More" during a televised Haiti benefit, "Stairway to Heaven" with Oprah ... we keep seeing Mary J. Blige and thinking, "Damn — ain't nothin' the girl can't sing." And she also has a career's worth of her own material that's every note her own. The Hollywood press has her shooting her Nina Simone biopic this fall, so we're wishfully thinking she'll test out some High Priestess of Soul repertoire in the D. With hometown special guest Dwele. At Chene Park, 2600 Atwater, Detroit; 313-393-7128; cheneparkdetroit.com.
July 23-24: MICHIGAN BREWERS GUILD SUMMER BEER FESTIVAL
Much like the bellies of its beer-swilling attendees, the Summer Beer Festival keeps on growing. This year, the 13th edition of the fest boasts more than 300 frothy, hoppy, smooth, strong, dark, light, fruity (and everything in between) beers from more than 50 Michigan breweries. In Riverside Park at Huron and Cross Streets in Ypsilanti; michiganbrewersguild.org for tickets and info.
July 31: THE DEAD WEATHER
The ever-loved-in-Detroit Jack White and his merry band of rock "superstars" upped the ante on their sophomore album, Sea of Cowards, released just 10 months after their debut. The disc's steamy, snarling blues-rock provides an unrelenting sonic assault of blistering guitars, lusty wailing and barely restrained aggression. If they can match this ferocity live (and we think they can), this show is guaranteed to smash you out of that lazy summer haze. At 7 p.m. at the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451.
July 31-Aug. 1: MAKER FAIRE DETROIT
Organized by the folks of Make magazine, the Maker Faire takes place in cities throughout the country and, for the first time this summer, in Detroit. The fair celebrates builders, thinkers, innovators and tinkerers of all sorts — scientists, musicians, authors, engineers, crafters, artists and hobbyists. Get inspired by perusing the displays and demos offered by this wide spectrum of DIY-ers. Young makers will also be spotlighted. At the Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-982-6001.
Aug. 3: THE NATIONAL
In the arresting baritone of singer Matt Berninger, life's quotidian concerns and everyday defeats take on grandiose overtones. Songs alternatively brooding and majestic express a familiar and nameless anxiety while still sounding reassuring, and, boy, that ain't easy to do. And that is, perhaps, the very reason the Brooklyn-based quintet has enjoyed a steadily increasing acclaim since its 2001 debut. The band's fifth and most recent, High Violet, continues the trend. At the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980; $25; all ages; with the Antlers.
Aug. 4: POWERHOUSE SOUND
We're going to improvise on the word "clotheshorse" and invent "bandhorse" to describe Ken Vandermark's approach to his musical collaborations. This time he's with Powerhouse Sound, which, according to his website, "was inspired by the rhythmic ideas of James Brown, the dub concepts of Lee Perry, and the collage approach of Public Enemy" and grew to include Afrobeat, post-punk and electric-era Miles Davis. The Chicago-based saxophonist teams up with hometown allies Nate McBride on bass, John Herndon on drums and Jeff (Tortoise) Parker on guitar. A Bohemian in Exile production, venue TBA, e-mail email@example.com for updates.
Aug. 4: EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros was born out of lead singer Alex Ebert's personal rebirth — he quit the drugs, turned his gaze inward and fell in love with singer Jade Castrinos (who now sings in the band). The result is a 10-member collective making a joyous, openhearted and eclectic noise — and, yes, band reviews often brandish the word "hippie." A lot. But don't let that turn you off! For the best example of the irresistible pull of their cacophonous bliss, check out the song "Home" from their debut, Up From Below. You'll hit repeat. At 8 p.m. at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333; $15 advance.
Aug. 18: HERBIE HANCOCK
Herbie Hancock has famously done tributes to George Gershwin and Joni Mitchell among others. We're not sure what's planned for what's billed as "Herbie Hancock with Donald Byrd Tribute," but it sounds pretty sweet to us, since jazz legend Byrd is a native Detroiter and all. That's not to mention the Byrd was one of Hancock's earliest employers, back before another trumpet player, a Mr. M. Davis, hired him and put him on the forefront of the scene — where he's stayed, steadfast, to this day. At Chene Park, 2600 Atwater St., Detroit; 313-393-7128; cheneparkdetroit.com.
Aug. 19: SLAYER & MEGADETH
Two raging thrash-metal behemoths co-headline a tour for the first time since '91, performing their classic 1990 albums — as per the trend with bands who can still earn a living touring — from start to finish; Seasons of the Abyss for Slayer and Rust in Peace for Megadeth. Not only that, but brain-fry legends Testament opens! Fu-uck me. At 7 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Dr., Detroit; 800-745-3000 for tickets.
Aug. 20: JIM GAFFIGAN
Is there a more militantly middle-of-the-road comedian today than Jim Gaffigan? Someone more determinedly deconstructing the very essence of dullness? Even Gaffigan himself admits the premise of his acts sound boring: no politics, no cursing, respectful religious jokes. So how does he do it? Well, it turns out even Hot Pockets are funny when explained by the calmest kook in the nuthouse. At Meadow Brook Music Festival; $19.50-$49.50.
Aug. 20-21: MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
"You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together!" "I fart in your general direction." "Ni! Ni! Ni! Ni!" "Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly he chickened out." "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" And so it goes ... genius at the Redford Theatre, 17360 Lahser Rd., Detroit; 313-537-2560.
Aug. 26: LOUIS
Re-creating their era, director Dan Pritzker depicts a 6-year-old Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, alluring damsels and the birth of American music in his silent film Louis. And for accompaniment? Renowned pianist Cecile Licad performs the music of 19th century New Orleans composer L.M. Gottschalk while Wynton Marsalis and a 10-piece all-star jazz ensemble play (mostly) music composed by Marsalis for the project. This is one of five premiere performances for Louis nationwide. Starring Jackie Earle Haley, Shanti Lowry and Anthony Coleman with cinematography by Oscar-winner Vilmos Zsigmond. At Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5111.
Aug. 29: JUNIOR BROWN
Think of Junior Brown as the Jerry Lee Lewis of the "guit-steel" — his cobbling together of a garden variety six-string guitar and a pedal steel into a double-necked (or double-barreled) contraption that's played on a sort of display stand. True, he has no serious competition on the instrument, but we're sure his unhinged energy and focused virtuosity would win him the Lewis Award even if there were contenders. On the other hand, we don't think the Killer ever penned a song as surreally funny as "You're Wanted by the Police, and My Wife Thinks You're Dead." At the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-763-8587.
Sept. 3-6: DETROIT INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL
Four nights and three days of amazing music on Hart Plaza and downtown Detroit, from just about every school of jazz (Yellow Jackets to Freddy Cole, Roy Haynes, Kurt Elling, Branford Marsalis, Maria Schneider) plus some blues, some rock, some mambo, some gospel and a tribute to the late soul singer Donny Hathaway. And if today's jazz names are less familiar to the general public than the jazz giants of yore, there'll be a half-dozen tribs to the likes of Art Blakey, Ray Brown, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Betty Carter and Gil Evans. Salute! See detroitjazzfest.com for info.
Aug. 19-22: TOYOTA INTERNATIONAL MATCH RACE FOR THE DETROIT CUP
This style of sailing competition — match racing — is what's done in the America's Cup. It pits just two boats against each other to make for aggressive competition that's actually spectator-friendly. Bayview opens its waterfront lawn to the public for this four-day event that will feature an Olympic gold medalist and sailors from around the globe. The 2004 Laser champion from Beijing, Anna Tunnicliffe, who grew up sailing in Monroe, plans to return to Detroit and defend her "D-Cup" title this year. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bayview Yacht Club, 300 Clairpointe St., Detroit.
Sept. 2: EMINEM AND JAY-Z
Local hip-hop hero Eminem and rap's reining kingpin Jay-Z team up for a pair of stadium concerts in their respective hometowns. New York gets sloppy seconds with a Sept. 13 concert at Yankee Stadium. The duo's debut kicks off the extended Labor Day weekend at Comerica Park. Eminem, who has hardly stepped on a stage since '05, has described the co-headlining gigs as a "once-in-a-lifetime set of shows." At 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; tickets not yet available, olympiaentertainment.com for updates.
Sept. 11: DALLY IN THE ALLY
Celebrating its 33rd year, Dally in the Ally is the Cass Corridor's funky annual arts and music festival that goes down the second Saturday of September. Now "Detroit's greenest festival" — perhaps environmentally and herbaceously — Dally is a quirky day where punks, hippies, students and their teachers, kids and their parents, employees and their bosses all shed pretension and wobble the streets of the Corridor, meeting and greeting local artists, musicians and vendors dishing goods.
Sept. 25: TOUR DE TROIT
Some say Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, but for southeast Michigan cyclists, it just may be this Motor City ride. One route is 30 miles which is not as far as it sounds when you're pedaling with hundreds of other people at a reasonable pace with a police escort. The more hardcore among us ride the "metric century" of 100 kilometers or about 67 miles. Both start and end at Detroit's Roosevelt Park with celebratory food and drink. Last year's ride drew 2,000. Organizers are planning (bracing?) for 4,000 in 2010. Registration opens later this summer. See tour-de-troit.org.
ALL SUMMER LONG
As if anyone needs a reason to visit Detroit's RiverWalk beyond what this recreational greenway already offers, three ongoing weekly events this summer bring more reasons to get down there. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays until July 29, there will be a series of free fitness classes, led by certified personal trainers and sponsored by WGPR-FM. If your mind needs calming and your body some invigorating before the weekend starts, join the 10 a.m. hour-long yoga sessions on Fridays at Rivard Plaza where the Urban Wellness Group will help with flexibility, balance and strength through sequences and poses. And finally, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. Sundays through October, dogs can bring their owners and allow them to hold their leashes as they join a guided walk along the water's edge led by the staff of the Cass Corridor doggy day care center, Canine to Five. Meet at Rivard Plaza.