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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

Keepers of the Flame

How the Detroit Fire Guild is igniting Detroit's most anarchic pagan parties

Photo: Photos: Doug Coombe, License: N/A

Photos: Doug Coombe

Photo: , License: N/A

Flame on!: Detroit Fire Guild members (l to r) Evan Bradish (rear), Noel Rivard, Matthew Surline and Christine Bingham.

It's Saturday night at Pontiac's Crofoot ballroom, and people are milling around the dance floor expectantly. The stark modern space is an unusual setting for the anarchic pageant that will follow, but there are hints of the weirdness to come, including masked and costumed attendees and a video projector showing scenes of mostly naked, torch-bearing pagans celebrating Beltane, the springtime pagan holiday, in Scotland. It feels kind of like Halloween in May as the energy begins to build. The DJ plays eerie music matched with Tibetan throat singers, the main video screen shows ripples of fire, and a dancer sashays back and forth swinging wands draped with purple cloths that glide through the air.

The lights go down a bit and the mood changes as a procession of performers streams through the entrance. The celebrants are led by a duo carrying burning lamps, and a train of wildly decked-out drummers and dancers follow them in slowly, taking over the dance floor. Soon, the center of the room is a mass of movement, an odd collection of people hula-hooping, doing modern dance moves, ballet, even pantomiming wild animals. They're done up in spiky mohawks, fauxhawks, dreadlocks, tattoos, horns, body paint, tattered garments, fur and feathers. Some wear boots, some go barefoot and half-naked, wearing flowers in their hair, or with menacing stripes of paint across their faces. It's like a vision deep in some tribal future.

After a few minutes of this crazed dance party, the leaders of this procession take to the stage, staging a battle with double-ended torches. Fire is the potent symbol tonight, and it drives the crowd bananas. As the performers twirl, spin and juggle the torches, the audience erupts in a roar and a 100-cameraphone salute. This is what they've come to see: The Detroit Fire Guild's spring spectacular, the Fires of Beltane.

Before the night is over, the crowd of several hundred will be treated to fire juggling, modern dance, an aerial trapeze show from the ladies at Detroit Flyhouse Circus School, striptease burlesque from the lovely Chloe Bowie, belly dancing with a flaming sword by Chantal, human sculpture from a team of contortionists, more than a little dirty dancing, and a "human sacrifice" — as well as performances from two bands. The men and women on the stage expose their muscled and supple flesh, and the fire is the binding sensual metaphor. The whole while, performers range through the audience, engaging the mob. Outside in the smoking area, burners stand on the stairs or climb atop the outdoor bar to whirl flames to joyous shouts. Orange firelight leaps over the walls, and over the din you can hear the whooshing of the torches as they rip through the air. And this audience of hundreds is ready to have fun: Even during lulls and stage setups, they're dancing along to the music, or spontaneously playing limbo with a long feather boa, or donning yet stranger costumes, such as one reveler with an eye patch and face paint who carried a spear around all night.

This exciting, immersive experience is the stock in trade of the Detroit Fire Guild, a group of several dozen local folks who've joined forces to create the ultimate in over-the-top spectacle. And it has grown from a small collection of misfit performers and musicians into a full-fledged enterprise in just a few years.

Rising From the Ashes

Detroit Fire Guild co-founder Evan Bradish and DFG member Matthew "Ely" Surline sip on beers at Hamtramck's Painted Lady bar, sketching out the beginnings. Aside from generous sideburns and a two-gauge barbell piercing in his septum, Bradish looks clean-cut, with close-cropped red hair and a work jacket. Surline exudes mystery, with only a soul patch on his chin and a shock of hair on the back of his shaven head. They're polite, organized and friendly guys — although when they're really having fun they can get a sinister sort of glimmer in their eyes.

Originally a raver from Flint, Bradish moved to Detroit from Genessee County in 2006, shortly after getting involved with Fire Fabulon, Detroit's most high-profile fire-slingers at the time. Upon his arrival, a whole new world of performance opened up to him.

Bradish laughs and says, "Seeing the weirdos in Detroit really inspired me. It turned out that all the absurd things I'd thought about doing were not just doable, but in demand."

Ely, 26 as well, is a former folksinger who also moved to Detroit in 2006 from Port Huron, because, as he says it, Detroit "wasn't Port Huron."

"I had a few friends who said they'd let me crash on their couch if I did some dishes," he says, adding with a laugh, "I still owe some people some clean dishes."

That year, Bradish and Surline joined the tight-knit group of Detroiters who make the annual pilgrimage out to the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada desert, a 1-million-watt spectacle in which thousands of performers, neo-hippies and just plain oddballs converge to create a temporary city for a week. The two missed each other at the festival, but met in a hotel room in Reno, Nev., where several Detroit people had stopped on their way back to Michigan. Surline's soon-to-be girlfriend, Jessica "Rabbit" Grassa, a Fire Fabulon performer herself, introduced him to her ex, Bradish. The three hit it off.

And not a moment too soon. Over the next year, Fire Fabulon's momentum slackened to a standstill. "Right as I was becoming active and learning a lot," Bradish says, "people in the group had a lot of other goals in their lives. They weren't as interested in performing as much." The members drifted away, and by 2008 it was all a memory.

Luckily for Detroit, Bradish and Grassa connected with a few other performers and organizers eager to rekindle interest in a fire group. With the help of such seasoned folks as Eric Miller and Danielle "Doxie" Kaltz, they had expert advice on performance. They designed their own courses in fire safety, using advice culled from other fire groups, such as Chicago's Pyrotechniq. They made pains to befriend fire marshals and try to codify fire performance safety in Michigan. And they found a supportive venue to strut their stuff in Detroit's Theatre Bizarre, whose freakish, haunted midway hosted Detroit's best annual Halloween party for years on West State Fair.

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