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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

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  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

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  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

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  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

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  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

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Stir It Up

Treme and the sounds of revival

Lifeblood of New Orleans rejuvenates with its music

Photo: Photo by Paul Schraldi, HBO, License: N/A

Photo by Paul Schraldi, HBO

In 2004, I crashed on my cousin Frank's couch for a week at his home on St. Philip Street in New Orleans. This was a year before Hurricane Katrina, and gentrification was taking root in the neighborhood. Contractors were busy converting duplex "shotgun" houses into single homes, in most cases converting the two three-room flats into a six-room configuration more attractive to middle-class buyers. 

Frank had a bicycle that I used to get around town that week. One evening I borrowed the bike and headed down St. Philip in the direction of the French Quarter, Bourbon Street and all that. After a couple of blocks the streetscape took a downturn. The houses were ragged and groups of people I assumed to be drug dealers stood on corners. I paid little attention to them and headed on my way.

Later, on returning to my cousin's house, he was livid. He said that had I gone in any other direction it would have been OK — that I had gone into a dangerous neighborhood and could have been killed. As it turned out I had gone into Treme.

The Treme neighborhood is now familiar to millions of non-New Orleanians due to the popular HBO program named for it. Treme, which follows a diverse group of people as they attempt to recover and put their lives back together after the devastating Katrina, is going into its third season. As part of the buildup to this season the concert tour "A Night in Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans" stops Friday at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. The lineup — Rebirth Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., Glen David Andrews, James "12" Andrews, Dr. Michael White and Cyril Neville — presents a wide swath of New Orleans music. Most of the performers on tour have appeared in the TV show. 

Trombonist Glen Andrews is one musician whose life changed profoundly after the flood. He kicked a drug habit and became a community leader fighting to save the traditional New Orleans neighborhoods. He was raised in Treme and found himself living in a trailer in the aftermath of the flood. He sees resilience in the people there. 

"I saw the citizens of New Orleans rebuild this city brick by brick," says Andrews. "We will never let our culture die. If we let New Orleans die it's like France losing Paris. The reason I am who I am is old cats. I've been paying traditional jazz all my life and coming from the Treme neighborhood I got to know that music."

Andrews was 25 when Katrina hit. He'd been a street musician and a sideman for much of his life, but living through the disaster taught him he needed to change his ways. In addition to being a compelling speaker and a leader of political demonstrations, he focused on the brass band and traditional music that he'd grown up with. Andrews now leads his band in weekly shows at Preservation Hall in New Orleans and on tours worldwide. I had to schedule my phone interview with him around his time on the set of Treme.

"The show helps New Orleans," says Andrews. "The city is still thriving with culture. When people come to New Orleans, instead of staying in the French Quarter, now they want to go to Treme. It's the best thing that could happen to us and musicians and me as a representative of that neighborhood. The show exposes me to 5 to 10 million people every week."

But Andrews sees the downside of his hometown too. "New Orleans is back, but we have a lot of problems, crime problems."

He likens some New Orleans issues to things going on in Detroit. He was in Michigan recently and saw news about people stealing copper wire from light poles. He also heard about plans to downsize Detroit and stop services to some parts of the city. That's like parts of New Orleans, he says, "They have no plans for these places to come back."

Some of those negatives weigh on the mind of clarinetist Dr. Michael White, too. "I'm just trying to get my head around why 10 people got shot last night," he told me. He got the number wrong, 16 people were shot and two killed in five different incidents in New Orleans the Night of Oct. 31. We didn't get that on Halloween night here, but it sounds like the kind of news we wake up to from time to time.

White is probably the most pure traditionalist among the "Night in Treme" performers. The Rebirth Brass Band mixes their sound with funk and hip hop. Saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. is a modern jazz player, although he weaves in traditional black Indian music and has collaborated with hip-hop artists. Trumpeter James "12" Andrews (brother of Trombone Shorty and cousin to Glen David Andrews) is a protégé of the singer-songwriter-producer Allen Toussaint (author of "Southern Nights," "Working in a Coalmine," etc.). Singer-percussionist Cyril Neville comes from the legendary Meters funk band and his R&B classic family group. White, 57, came up playing music mostly with the older generation. 

"I played with more than three-dozen guys born before 1910, guys who played with Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton," he says.

His new compositions maintain the style and flavor of music that was made a century ago. "I been here all my life," he says. "I saw the last days of the traditional style brass bands that we're out in the community playing church parades, social club parades and funerals. ... The culture of New Orleans is like a big head of lettuce. You have to peel back each layer. New Orleans culture is not one thing but a mixture of many things. I still don't have it figured out yet." 

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