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    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 […]

    The post Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 PlanetAnt.com. 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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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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