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  • 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 […]

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

  • PETA offers to pay overdue water bills for Detroiters willing to go vegan

    #150207742 / As locals continue to flood Detroit streets to protest the city’s ongoing water debacle, one national organization is hoping to be part of the solution — that is, for a dietary price. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA as the organization is more commonly known, has offered to pay outstanding water bills for 10 Detroiters who are willing to go vegan for one month. “Vegan meals take far less of a toll on the Earth’s resources,” PETA representatives said in a recent press release. “It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of meat but only about 155 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat.” PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk adds, “Vegan meals are also a cost-effective way to help prevent health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart conditions, the last thing that someone who is struggling financially needs to deal with.” Folks interested in participating are asked to send a copy of their most recent overdue water bill and their written pledge to go vegan for one month to PETA Attn: Detroit Water at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510 before Aug. 1.

    The post PETA offers to pay overdue water bills for Detroiters willing to go vegan appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Dinner Club Does Brunch

    Sure, The Dinner Club, a regularly occurring pop-up that takes places at the Storefront Gallery  in Ferndale (and other locations, occasionally), usually happens around dinner time, but this Sunday, July 27, there will be a special edition: Brunch Chef Matthew Baldridge, who’s resume includes stints at such Detroit greats as Cliff Bell’s, The Rattlesnake Club, and Seldom Blues, has crafted a menu of French-inspired items that employ locally procured ingredients. Brunch includes four courses where guests will be treated to such delights as cocoa, cinnamon, chili-spiced creamy grits with pickled strawberries, cocoa puffs and strawberry-infused syrup, a smoked gouda potato gallette with Faygo Root Beer braised pork belly, quail egg and Faygo Root Beer syrup, banana marscapone-filled French toast with fresh raspberries, whipped cream and balsamic syrup, and champagne-soaked strawberries. It is also important to note that brunch is BYOChampagne. Baldridge, along with The Storefront Gallery’s Derek John and Lilacpop Studio owner and artist Janna Coumoundouros, curate the event that includes an art show, a great playlist, and visuals. Brunch services are at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and last about two hours, only 20 seats are available at each service. The cost is $25 plus a service fee. The Storefront Gallery […]

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  • Jurassic 5 holds onto what’s golden

      By Ashley Zlatopolsky It’s been a little over twenty years since iconic ‘90s alternative hip-hop group Jurassic 5 first formed in Los Angeles’ Good Life club. Widely regarded as a pivotal influence in the decade’s underground hip-hop movement by critics and fans alike, the six-piece crew consisting of two DJs (Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark) and four MCs (Akil, Zaakir, Marc 7 and Chali 2na) were well on their way to becoming one of hip-hop’s greatest and most powerful acts of all time, ranking alongside names such as Public Enemy and N.W.A. with socially-conscious lyrics and smooth beats paired with smart sampling. But in 2004, Cut Chemist left the group to pursue a solo career, and in 2007 Jurassic 5 completely called it quits after nearly 15 years of music. And that was it for the crew until 2013. After almost seven years apart (nine for Cut Chemist), Jurassic 5 reunited and re-emerged stronger than ever before with a new flair, seasoned attitude, and more vibrant energy at Coachella Music Festival, the group’s first show with the original six members since Cut Chemist split. During their performance, Jurassic 5 gave fans a memorable concert revisiting all the classic feel-good tracks […]

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  • Detroit Riverwalk west extension opens from Riverfront Towers to Rosa Parks

    Dogs of Detroit have new territory to trot: Yesterday, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy held a soft opening for a 20-acre westward extension of the Riverwalk. Part of a planned two-mile track of the West Riverwalk, the new span runs from the Riverfront Towers to Rosa Parks Boulevard, says Mark Pasco, director of communications for the conservancy. “It’s going to be great,” Pasco says. “It’s a wide open green space. It’s going to be great for activities.” The endgame for the Riverwalk, Pasco notes, is to extend the walkway from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park, just past the MacArthur Bridge — about a 5.5. mile route. The new westward expansion is wider than most of the walkway, about 30 feet, says Pasco — a decision made by the conservancy to accommodate fisherman that previously frequented the area. “We knew … once it opened up they’d want to fish there again, so we made the Riverwalk itself wider,” Pasco says. The conservancy will hold a grand opening in late September, which will include “food and music and activities,” Pasco says, though no official date has been set.

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Brush with fate

Robert Watson pulled himself up by the hair follicles — for real

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Watson with his brushes in his home barbershop.

There's not an empty chair inside the barbershop this afternoon. Whole families are here at the lively InZone Barber and Beauty Salon on Gratiot, just north of Eastern Market — men in the chairs, women under the hair dryers or at the nail tables, and children on the plush couches in the middle of the room, looking around and watching, listening. You can barely hear the classic funk and soul playing through the speakers because the noise from the conversations is so loud.

A Saturday at a big barbershop in Detroit like this one is more than just a quick stop for a haircut. It's a social event, a gathering of friends. Then a stranger, Robert Watson, steps in. 

The 32-year-old man carries a little cardboard box. He's making the rounds of black barbershops in the city to peddle, one by one, hairbrushes that he invented. It's the coldest of cold calls.

He approaches the chair closest to the front door. "Hey, brother," he says to a freshly shorn man. "We got the hottest thing on the streets. We're from Detroit, a local black manufacturer." This is his slogan all afternoon. Being a black business owner from the city still carries a lot of weight in Detroit.

What makes his brushes different is their curve, which lets more bristles touch the scalp at the same time. "They work better than the regular brush on brothers' hair," Watson explains. "A lot of black guys can't get the wave, get the ripples, because it takes so long to brush. But with this, in like a week or two, you're there."

At each station, the customer and barber take the brush, look it over, listen to the offer of a $15 brush for only $10 today, accept Watson's flier and promise to later check out his products online. During this short visit to the shop, two guys reach in their pockets and buy a brush.

"See, that's how it works," Watson says after walking out of the building. "You don't get everybody, but you get a few."

And so a long afternoon of street sales has begun. It's a job with full-circle significance. Watson did street sales years ago too. But back then he was selling drugs, fighting for sales turf, trying to burn down a rival's house.

"I ran the gamut of crime," Watson says. "I was for real. I wasn't out there playing."


Watson was a good kid with good grades who got into the University of Michigan to study finance, but he dropped out of school because he saw, like many kids growing up in the city, that you can earn more selling drugs now than chasing a career through college while waiting for a payoff later. It didn't take long for him to learn the ins and outs of Detroit's drug world: 

Like how almost all hired arsonists, the "pyro artists" as they're known, are women. "Maybe 'cause they're less prone to getting caught." 

How the guys at the top of the supply chain, the ones selling the keys of coke, are usually clean-cut nerds. "Because you have to be smart to do it."

And how amazing crack is when you first smoke it. "The first time I smoked crack, I tried to sell my TV. It's so addictive, but you feel like Superman, like bliss, like you can't stop smiling. So you chase that."

He had guns pointed at his face, served stints in the county jail, and searched for the right pyro artist to put someone else out of business. "I just knew how to make money, but it was like you're gonna have to take somebody out if you want to get ahead," he says. "I was like, what am I doing this for? Like, what's the end objective?"

After his partner wound up arrested and the coke supply dropped off and the weight of his escalating involvement got too intense, he broke down and checked into a drug treatment center, hoping to start over. He wasn't even 22 yet. 

He credits his faith for his second chance. "I cried out to the Lord, 'cause I was like, I don't believe in no white Jesus, but man, the devil had me in his clutches and I was going down fast," he remembers. "I was like, 'I need you to come and get me." 


Sweet Billy's Barbershop on Gratiot is an uninviting place. Its sign is down-home and hand-written. The building is old and small. And when Watson tries to pull the front door open, it's locked. 

A barber walks up and peers out at Watson and his cardboard box. "We're OK," the barber says gruffly without opening the door. "Do you know what we got?" Robert replies, eagerly. "You got them brushes. I seen them before," the man snaps back. And he walks away. No sale. No entry even. 

A dejected Watson walks down the block to Edward's Barbershop. Just as small. Just as locked. Like Sweet Billy's, this isn't a luxury spa like InZone, it's just a place for a quick haircut. In fact, the farther away from downtown Watson travels up Gratiot, the more barebones the barbershops get. At this one, weathered newspaper clippings are taped to the walls, and old sports photos from long-retired athletes fill the gaps between them. The place is old and musty. The barber opens the door and lets Watson in.

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