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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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This woman tells the stories of the dead

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Stephanie Teamer, biographer to the deceased..

She has to choose her words carefully, because they can define a life forever, and can be as permanent as etchings on a gravestone.

Stephanie Teamer is a biographer of the dead. She sums up the lives of the departed in those little pamphlets handed out to mourners at a funeral. Their story will appear alongside the listing of the hymns to be sung, the scriptures to be read, the eulogy to be delivered, alongside the smiling pictures of the deceased, arm in arm with the people who shared their lives, and the sad parting words from those left behind to those now gone.

It was a vocation she never sought. When her brother died in 2002 after languishing for years in a nursing home, the family asked Stephanie to write a tribute to him. He had no life insurance, the funeral had to be bare bones, and besides, she'd spent years visiting him there twice a week, comforting him, keeping him company for hours. She seemed like the right person for such a solemn task.

That was her first obituary. And she messed it up. 

"I missed my stepmother," the 54-year-old Detroiter says with a laugh. "I didn't put her name in it. But she didn't say a word. Still, it would've been nice to have her in there."

But family members hung onto that little remembrance of her brother's life, and they thought so much of it they began turning to her when other relatives died. An aunt. A niece. A father-in-law.

The frequent requests inspired her to start her own home business, Obituaries by Stephanie. It's a side job to her real job as an office manager for a local union, though the more she does it the more she wants to do it. She writes them for a fraction of what a funeral home would normally charge for the service. Funerals are costly, and people struggling to pay for them find her inexpensive service helpful.

"I don't charge much, and that's my thing," she says. "That's why I started, because people weren't able to afford obituaries. They're very expensive."

It might seem a small task among the duties to the dead, but for some people a funeral without an obituary is like a story without an ending. 

"I don't know if the white culture does that, but the black culture does that at almost every funeral," she says. "I've seen them framed. It's a keepsake for their loved ones and their friends, like a history of somebody's life that walked the earth, you know? It's something they can hold onto."

Obituaries have to capture a whole life in a few quick paragraphs. Some read like folk stories, showing glimpses into people's everyday lives, revealing the memories that their loved ones chose to cherish. 

"In her lifetime, Ethel had many employers such as Denso and TAPS, but she was very excited about her employment with Hair Plus," reads Stephanie's obituary for one of her relatives, gone now after 56 years.

The life of a grandmother named Rebecca, who lived 84 years, was summed up in a few paragraphs that paint pictures more vivid than their length seemingly allows. "Bec firmly planted her feet in Detroit after purchasing her first home on 15th Street. This house would become the 'Revolving Door of Welcome' as she hosted many family and friends as they visited or relocated to Detroit. Her daughter, Betty, remembered as a child asking her mother, 'Why do they all have to stay here?' later welcoming the opportunity to make money ironing shirts for her uncles."

Those are the kinds of memories that stunned mourners conjure to give life to someone's story right after they die. "Granny was their first teacher," reads the account of a woman's love for her five grandchildren. "She taught them valuable life lessons as they played 'Restaurant' while she served them breakfast or their favorite hamburgers. She made sure they knew how to place orders, pay their bill and count their change."

Stephanie's obituaries weave the catchphrases of the church with the softened terms of grief. A birthday is referred to as the person's "sunrise." Their death date is "sunset." Their passing becomes a "transition." The funeral is a "going home celebration." She speaks the language of grief well, balancing reverence with lightheartedness, blending piety with the everyday poetry of real life.

One woman, she notes, "had a close relationship with her family, as they were the gas in her car that kept her going." She's able to gloss over certain indelicacies with a few smooth words. "During his lifetime he married three beautiful women," she notes, sidestepping a soap opera's worth of drama.

The relatives in her obituaries express the heartfelt belief that death is merely a pause, not an ending. "This is not a goodbye, this is a see ya later!" says Little Val to their grandmother. "Will keep you in my heart — 'til we meet again," a woman named Kimberly says to her father. 

And some tributes lay bare their writer's deep sadness about the loss of a soul mate. "It broke my heart to loose you, you did not go alone, for part of me went with you," read one poem, signed, "Your husband, Valint."

"Words on paper cannot express the way my heart feels being without you," wrote Desiree, who'd just lost her boyfriend Donald. "I wish we had just a little while longer together so that I could tell you how much I appreciate you."

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