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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.

"Theater Bizarre provided a completely surreal venue, where you fit in there and it looks natural," Surline says dryly. "It's OK that a guy's dressed like a demon and swinging fire around his face — what else would he be doing?"

Inspired by further trips to Burning Man, Ely says, "I saw all kinds of performance I'd never seen, before, but I wanted to bring it home. And not only to mimic it, but to try to do it better."

After a lot of organizing and practicing, the guild put on its first show one year ago, the Motor City Vaudeville Revue at a space in the Russell Industrial Center. Not only was the show a success, it sold out many nights. A much more ambitious endeavor, the MCVR didn't just showcase a bunch of performers, but used live music, the fire arts, and a story to keep the show moving.

"Without the collective effort, we wouldn't have been able to pull it off," Bradish says. "It just exploded with creative ideas and possibilities."

"We're insane about theatrics, characters, costumes," Surline adds. "Other groups are a bunch of people who look like fire dancers. We have clowns, gypsies, an actual storyline. It's much more than burning stuff."

And the group kept gigging with small cabaret shows at such venues as the Old Miami, the Painted Lady and Hamtramck's now-defunct Trowbridge House of Coffee. Last month, some of the crew performed at a birthday party at a church on Detroit's west side; within a week the group also gigged at Lincoln Park's Hustler Club. Small performances might feature just a fire dancer or two, but their larger productions have live music from the Bride Stripped Bare — a "punk cabaret" band with Surline and drummer-keyboardist Noel Rivard — or perhaps dance-inducing music from Bradish as DJ Intercom.

In January, the guild staged the Winter Ball, a performance environment that drew hundreds to the Eagle Theatre at Pontiac's Crofoot complex. With live music, DJ segments, pagan themes, fire performance, a shattered fourth wall, and a largely out-of-control audience, the guild seems to have hit upon a winning formula.

Ritual and Religion

There's one other surprise: It turns out that Grassa, Bradish and Surline — the nonconformist pyros who've helped create pagan-inspired festivals of fire, music and hedonism — all attended Pentecostal churches as youths.

Though Bradish was baptized and raised Lutheran by his grandparents, and had considered entering the seminary, after confirmation he left the Lutherans and decided to attend Pentecostal church with his mom — "to make her happy."

For those unfamiliar with the faith, sometimes members of a Pentecostal congregation will leap up during a sermon and "speak in tongues," moved to do so, the church believes, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes other parishioners will interpret and translate what is being said. Moved by the spirit, worshippers can jump around and even fall down unconscious.

Though Bradish now says he's somewhere between "a total nihilist and a post-religious fanatic," he says, "I have no belief, but I am obsessed with religion, how people experience it and how it affects them."

In fact, he first met Grassa when they attended the same church camp, at the Michigan Church of God in Fenton, in the late 1990s and early '00s. Astonishingly, Surline was also at the camp when Bradish and Grassa were there, though they don't recall meeting.

"Later on," Surline says, "we'd meet at Burning Man and put it all together. You know: 'Oh, my god!'"

Surline's religious experience was more confrontational. "I was always getting kicked out of Sunday school," he says. "I always felt like an observer, an outsider. I always felt like I was collecting this information for something later on. I never spoke in tongues — I don't think I could have taken myself that seriously."

During one desperate effort to save his soul, he endured the "exorcism" of a "demon" — and to purge him of sin, the church burned all his belongings for good measure.

At this point in the conversation, the metaphor is running way too rich. They all went to a church that believes the Holy Spirit — often symbolized by a flame — moves us to theatrics? And the church set fire to all Surline's worldly goods?

Surline laughs, admitting that no matter how far he runs from religion, some things just never change. "At the Motor City Vaudeville Revue, naturally, I played the pipe organ. And the seating was church pews! We were hauling around these church pews, getting the seating ready, and I had to realize I'd come full-circle. I even called my grandma and said, 'Grandma, I didn't escape it!'"

So are the fun-as-hell shows actually a concerted effort to take fire, formerly a sacred symbol, and celebrate it profanely?

Surline admits, "In creating our own rituals, it's cathartic to the ones we've shed. But most of our rituals are just celebrations of existence."

Fire guild co-owner and fire performer Christine "Majik" Bingham, 21, has dropped by the bar. The Clarkston native helped co-write the Fires of Beltane show, timed to coincide with the pagan holiday, and she is a practicing pagan — even if she admits that often just means going out into nature. Her hair may be a nest of blond dreads, but she is — like the other fire-heads — coherent and professional. She's a serious-minded student working on her psychology degree at U-M Dearborn and helping manage the business of the guild; she has been to the Edinburgh Fire Festival for Beltane, she joins with pagans at the annual Starwood celebration, and she considers Burning Man to be a "sacred place."

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