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  • 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.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

Motown revival

Remembering the Marvelettes and the hit factory's beginnings

Photo: Justin Rose, License: N/A

Justin Rose

Photo: Doug Coombe, License: N/A

Doug Coombe

The Marvelettes: Looking for that postman, again?

Anderson-Schaffner added that "the energy was high and the vibe was immaculate. We were family, and we were always on the road. We never thought we'd break a million, and we were on the road when it did, barely had a minute to celebrate. The boys did all the partying."

Vandella Ashford-Holmes said "the atmosphere at West Grand was that everyone really did love each other — at least until you got on the road. But when you were at Hitsville, everyone greeted each other with a hug and a kiss." 

This was the kind of interaction Sperling was hoping to produce. He addressed his cast: "See, guys, she just gave you an actionable bit of research there. She said when you arrived at Motown, there was always a hug and a kiss."

"When we went to the Boulevard, it was like we were going home," said Vandella Beard-Helton. "Once we were on Motown, we actually spent more time at the studio than we did at home."

When Sperling said, "That sounds like Mosaic for some of you," he was met with a rather harmonious choruses of yeses.

It went on like that all afternoon, Mosaic mining away at source material for what are known as "actionable" moments, insights to life in the '60s and life on the road, dealing with Southern racism, separation anxiety and educational sacrifices.

"When you're 15, 16 years old, sometimes you don't think of all the consequences that are out there when you make the decision to dedicate your life to it," said Anderson-Schaffner. "We were there before the vocal training, the choreography; we had to learn as we went. We were at the start of it all. We started it. Not the Temptations, as it's been told; not the Supremes, as it's been told; and not Stevie Wonder, as it's been told. 

"We like the idea you're telling, the original story, performing the truth. This story has never been told." 


Last Friday night, Now That I Can Dance opened to a packed house in the DIA's Detroit Film Theatre. The frenzy in the lobby wasn't such a surprise.

Before the house lights came down, within the first few rows, some original Motown singers and faculty mixed it up. There was original Marvelette Wanda Young, who married her longtime boyfriend Bobby Rogers, an original member of the Miracles. The graceful beauty that is Maxine Powell, at 88 years old, sat among other Motown producers, musicians, friends and family. At one point, it seemed the family representing Florence Ballard had to fend off some diehard fan. And, of course, also there with loved ones, were Vandellas Beard-Helton and Ashford-Holmes, Contour Billingslea and that one very important Marvelette 

A feature-length play featuring an all-youth cast that works just as well for adults as it does for even elementary-aged audiences is a tall order, especially when the production involves themes such as mental illness, physical abuse, violent bigotry, broken hearts and fractured friendships. But that's exactly what Mosaic does, and Now That I Can Dance shows the Mosaic company at its best. 

With well-honed humor and well-toned drama, the early Motown story is unfurled through the perspective of Anderson and the Marvelettes, though we get plenty of the Miracles, Vandellas and Contours, as well as Stevie Wonder and Mary Wells. And if there were an antagonist, it'd be the original diva herself, Diana Ross.

It's hard to say if the acting or singing is better. On one hand, there were times when you had to remind yourself that these actors aren't even out of high school yet. But being that the audience knows the rhythms and lyrics to every song in the production, it's safe to say the play delivers the purest form of fun when they're singing.

Now That I Can Dance chronicles the early years of Motown, when Marvin Gaye wanted to be "the colored Sinatra," Martha Reeves was a secretary, and Berry Gordy was just beginning to build the foundation of an immense culture-shifting factory in what looked like just another house on West Grand Boulevard. 

If you're reading this as a Detroiter, Now That I Can Dance is, in a way, also your story. It's set in a time when our nation's social fabric was being tested and torn, yet the American Dream was coming alive one song at a time in the Motor City.

Given the state of bewildering social, political, economic and racial polarization that exists today, this production reminds us of the magic we're capable of making in the midst of it all.


Travis Wright is arts & culture editor at Metro Times. Send letter to


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