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  • 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? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor

    Detroit home-girl Lily Tomlin will perform at the Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 14. A press release reads, “Get together with Lily Tomlin for an unforgettable night of fun and sidesplitting laughter. “Tomlin is amazing” The NY Times and “as always a revelation.” The New Yorker This unique comic artist takes her audience on what the Washington Post calls a “wise and howlingly funny” trip with more than a dozen of her timeless characters—from Ernestine to Mrs. Beasley to Edith Ann.” “With astounding skill and energy, Tomlin zaps through the channels like a human remote control. Using a fantastic range of voices, gestures and movements, she conjures up the cast of characters with all the apparent ease of a magician pulling a whole menagerie of animals from a single hat.” NY Daily News “Her gentle touch is as comforting as it is edifying.” NY Time Out She has “made the one-person show the daring, irreverent art form it is today.” Newsweek Her long list of awards includes: a Grammy; two Tonys; six Emmys; an Oscar nomination; two Peabodys; and the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Find more info here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Lily Tomlin coming to Ann Arbor appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor

    The Detroit Metro Times, Detroit’s award-winning alternative weekly media company, is proud to announce the recent hire of Valerie Vande Panne as Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning independent journalist and Michigan native, Vande Panne’s work has appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, The Daily Beast, and Salon, among other publications. Previously, Vande Panne attended Harvard University and was a regular contributor to The Boston Phoenix, and a news editor of High Times magazine. She has spent years covering drug policy among other subjects, including the environment, culture, lifestyle, extreme sports, and academia. “Valerie understands our business and what we expect to accomplish in Detroit. She has an excellent sense for stories that will move our readers, as well as experience with balancing print and digital content. I’m excited to have her at the paper and trust her leadership as we move forward,” said Detroit Metro Times publisher Chris Keating.

    The post Welcome Valerie Vande Panne, the new Detroit Metro Times editor 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 twright@metrotimes.com

 

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