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  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

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  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now

    The schedule for Blowout 17, taking place Wednesday April 30 to Saturday May 3 in Hamtramck, Detroit and Ferndale, is available to see now. Visit to see the schedule and plan your festival. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s

    The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence. Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, […]

    The post City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art

    By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes The Red Bull House of Art, a multidisciplinary and collaborative art project, relieves the stress of financial limitation or lack of tools and space so budding artists can manifest their creative dreams right here in Detroit. Six artists are selected for a three-month residency where they are provided individual studio space and materials, allowing their artistic concepts to flow freely. At the end of each residency is an unveiling and public display at the Red Bull House of Art Gallery. As show curator Matt Eaton told us in a 2013 interview, “The selection process for the current crop of artists was just the same as every round. The goal is not to find the hippest, coolest artists (though I think they are all very cool), but to find the people who may not typically have a voice.” This year, for the first time, Red Bull House of Art will showcase more than just Detroit artists. National artists from across the country in a special artist-in-residency program will have the opportunity to showcase their work to a much broader audience, and bring a national art stage to the Motor City. Since opening, 54 Detroit-based artists have been given the […]

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Cover Story

A highway runs through it

Is it really a good idea to spend $1.8 billion expanding a 6.7-mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit?

Photo: Robert Nixon, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

MDOT’s expansion plan calls for removing overpasses that link Midtown and New Center.

“We have been working really closely with the non-motorized folks too,” Stepanski says, pointing out the plan’s intent to include 2-foot-wide bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks along the service roads.

Michael Boettcher, project manager for the Detroit-based nonprofit group Transportation Riders United, agrees there are some benefits to be gained from the upgraded service drives, but is skeptical of the project’s overall worth.

“There are elements of the project we believe could benefit travelers as well as surrounding neighborhoods along the impacted corridor, such as the proposed continuous service drives at the I-94/M-10 interchange, and enhanced pedestrian crossings at other locations,” Boettcher says. “But the current $1.8 billion price tag outweighs the benefits of a project largely designed to get cars and trucks through, not into, the city of Detroit slightly more quickly.”

MDOT’s process for the project has already included multiple studies in preparation for beginning the work on the freeway. Stepanski says the department has commenced yet another one: this time, on the actual logistics of completing such a large-scale project in the extremely busy area.

“We completed a detailed engineering design – we got our environmental clearance [from the Federal Highway Administration] in 2005,” Stepanski says. The purpose of the current study is to put “meat on the bones of the conceptual plan.”

One of the biggest concerns about closing parts of the busiest stretch of a highway that cuts through downtown Detroit is the immediate travel problems presented for those who come into the city each day for work. Stepanski says MDOT’s doing what it can to minimize construction’s impact on motorists.

“We certainly don’t want to shut the city of Detroit down,” he says, adding that they’ve now invited contractors to offer advice on how to build the project in a timelier fashion.

The hope, Stepanski says, is to reduce the projected cost from its current $1.8 billion to $1.5 billion, and to slash the time frame from 20 years to just four, with the goal to begin work in early 2015.

“The reason the project was planned to take 20 years to build was not due to construction time frames, but cash flow,” Stepanski says. “Based on the amount of money that MDOT has to contribute to the project, it would take 20 years to pay for. MDOT is currently exploring ways to enhance the financing of the project and also the feasibility of using innovative procurement methods … that could result in drastically reduced time frames.”

But there is a huge “if” in all this: MDOT can’t actually start work until it can prove funding for the entire project is locked in. Stepanski says 90 percent of the costs would be covered by the federal government. Of the remaining 10 percent, the state would pony up most of the money, but the city of Detroit, by law, must cover 12.5 percent of the state’s cost (1.25 percent of the project’s total cost). Under current estimates, that puts the city’s share of the project at $22.5 million.

On the surface, the prospect of a city that has a projected budget deficit this year of nearly $350 million finding that sort of cash is something MDOT would have to consider in discussions regarding the project’s funding. “Public Act 51 of 1951 calls for the city of Detroit to contribute 12.5 percent of the cost of the state portion of the work,” Stepanski says. “It would take legislation to change that.”

But the city claims the problems it currently faces with its general fund won’t be an impediment to the project getting started.

“The city receives gasoline and weight tax monies annually through State Act 51 to maintain its roads,” says Ron Brundidge, director of Detroit’s Department of Public Works. “This funding source will be utilized to pay the city’s portion of the project. Therefore, the present financial challenges that exist will not prevent the city from being able to support this important infrastructure project.”

Of course, much has changed in Detroit since this project was first proposed nearly 20 years ago. Among other things is the resurgence of Midtown in recent years. The potential harm the project could have on this part of the city is just one of the reasons critics are calling into question the wisdom of MDOT’s continued support of the expansion.

Since the skeleton for the project was established two decades ago, MDOT has held more than 100 meetings to gather public input. As might be expected with any undertaking of this magnitude, not everyone is going to be on board, no matter what is done to mitigate concerns, Stepanski says.

“We’ve done the best job we could,” he said.

But it’s not just a few progress-hating cranks raising concerns.

Transportation Riders United, a long-established group dedicated to the cause of improving public transit, issued a scathing 53-page report in response to the environmental impact study completed for the project in 2004.

The group’s biggest concern is focused on the planned demolition of overpasses in the Midtown neighborhood, TRU’s Boettcher says.

“We’re very concerned about the removal of the Third [Street] and John R [Street] bridges … particularly given the growth in and around Midtown,” he writes in an email. “The fewer physical connections there are between those areas on both sides of I-94, the greater psychological barriers there will be to spin off development and the greater physical separation, making it harder for people to cross the interstate at all by car or on foot.”

So by widening the freeway, I-94 would creep deeper into Midtown, and, essentially, cap it off from the New Center district at a time when the area is about to enjoy a spillover effect from the economic upswing the former Cass Corridor is currently enjoying.

Stepanski says MDOT has taken note of the burst of economic activity in Midtown and says he has frequently been in discussion with Wayne State University, Henry Ford Hospital and the College for Creative Studies — all of which are located in the area.

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