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  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955;

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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A second chance

For one family, a business becomes a road to redemption

Photo: MT Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

MT Photo: Detroitblogger John

Artie and Arthur Willis.

Arthur Willis calls a customer into the workshop at the back of his store.

"See this?" he says, pointing inside the gears of an old vacuum cleaner. He's showing the man how to perform a minor repair himself for next time. "Tighten this down. There. Now put that belt on that roller." The lesson takes three minutes.

And — with that — he just got rid of some repeat business.

But that gesture, he figures, will bring that customer back for something else some other time. Because here at Bronson's Vacuum Cleaner Service Shop, on McNichols near Greenfield, everything is about helping the customers. It has to be.

"It's tough. Wal-Mart, Sears, I cannot compete with them," says Arthur, 56. "They can sell 'em cheaper, but they can't beat us in service, and that's the benefit of having a ma-and-pa business. Nobody can beat a ma-and-pa in service. They're going to give you the service because they want you back."

The shop belongs to him and his son, Artie, 35. Two longtime employees work here too. The place is a relic from the days before mega-stores, when a single small business could specialize in a single small item.

When he bought the place 25 years ago, it was another shot at having his own business, after his first one was essentially wiped out. But the store became devoted to bigger things.

"It's a selfish reason," Arthur says. "Just to be able to keep a business in Detroit and not sell out. Almost every black business in the city of Detroit is selling out or closing up. We have a tremendous problem with African-Americans in the city of Detroit patronizing African-Americans, and our dollars don't stay in the community at all. So our young kids can't get a job."

"What if I can have enough business that I can hire 10 of those kids? That means I got 10 kids off the street and I'm teaching them a trade. And that's the reason I keep it open, because I refuse to shut it down."

That's not the main reason though.

Arthur once
had his own janitorial company. His wife ran a maid service.

Things went very well for a while. "We made a lot of money," he says. But he didn't pay all his taxes and it cost him. "You get involved with Uncle Sam in not paying the taxes and he has a way of bringing you down to the bottom," he says. The fines and back taxes ended the good life. Goodbye, Corvette. Goodbye, nice things.

"I was devastated," he says. "You go from having a nice income to no income. But I'm glad I went through it because it's why my faith is stronger. Really, it's not about how much money I make anymore. If I make a lot of money but I'm not happy with anything else, what's the purpose of having the money?"

After his fall, he started going to church more, took Bible studies classes, and became a pastor at a church in Romulus. He's also a volunteer chaplain for the Detroit Public Schools. When someone's kid gets shot at school or some other tragedy happens, he's the one who gets the call to come in and comfort the distraught.

Bronson's had been around for years when Arthur found it for sale and bought it. This would be his second chance.

"It never really was mine though," he says. "This was basically for the family and basically for my son."

All three of Arthur's other kids got college degrees. But Artie didn't want to. Since he was a kid he'd join his father at work, both at the janitorial company and at Bronson's, watching and learning. Arthur encouraged it. "Because he didn't go to college, I knew down the road that he's gonna need a place to work; he's gonna need this," he says.

Their shop
is small. A few dozen vacuum cleaners circle the floor space along the walls and poke upward from shelves standing in the middle. Some are 50-year-old Hoovers and Kirbys, right next to newer, more elaborate models imported from China. It's like a museum of vacuum cleaner history.

In the old days, they made them heavy and durable, and they'd last for a decade or more. If it broke you got it repaired. Nowadays they're made of light plastic and break easily.

Bronson's survives because, in tough times, its customers will get their old vacuum cleaners fixed instead of buying a new one, and because, many of them say, the old models are simply better than today's.

"When archaeologists come back a thousand years from now they're still going to find a Kirby," Artie says. "You can burn it, beat it, but you can't break it. They made a model of a vacuum cleaner that actually withstood the test of time."

Most repairs are about $20. Or you can trade in your old vacuum for credit on a new one. Rebuilt vacuums sell as cheaply as $29. The vintage models are still popular with the older folks, who know from experience that they don't make them like they used to.

"This one here's probably 50, 60 years old," Artie says, going into showroom mode. He taps on one. "Everything's cast iron on here. You could go outside and vacuum up the concrete with this. I'm serious!"

He clearly knows his way around vacuums. He had no choice but to learn. This place would become his second chance too.

He was
in his apartment about 10 years ago when some guys from the neighborhood broke in and robbed him. He chased them out, called the cops, filed a report. When the police left, the robbers showed up again, and a shoot-out ensued in the street.

A bullet hit Artie in the leg. He, in turn, shot and killed one of the men. That earned him six years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

His father had given him the shop, and now had to come out of retirement to keep it alive until Artie got out. He'd need it more than ever after this, Arthur figured.

"Coming out of jail is gonna be tough for a young African-American to go find a job, 'cause when you get a record or something, it's tough to get a job anywhere, 'cause you get a stigma," Arthur says. "And you see that all over the city of Detroit. Very seldom are you going to make any big money doing anything, 'cause the first thing they're going to ask him is, 'Oh, you did time?' And I didn't want to have the streets be his life."

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