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    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.

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    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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No show

Without a ride to gigs, one Detroiter's puppet show remains obscure

Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Detroitblogger John

Darrell Banks lip-syncing with his puppet Diamond inside his booth.

His booth is dark and locked tight. It's early afternoon inside the Russell Industrial Center's weekend bazaar, and Darrell Banks is late for work. Behind the black metal gate are his dollar store elephants, his quaint figurines, his little bags of incense and his hand puppets, all unreachable by anyone who might wander past, because the store is still closed.

Banks, 59, is the proprietor behind Banks Enterprise Gift Emporium, one of dozens of small and side businesses renting space inside the cavernous industrial complex. He pays just under $80 a week in rent to sell his odd assortment of knickknacks from inside a fenced-in rectangular space among the market's perfume makers, baseball hat manufacturers, used CD salesmen and a taco booth by the door.

But he's not here yet, and the bazaar has been open for hours. Though he lives in the nearby New Center area, in a senior apartment complex, he has no car and depends on others for rides to work. He could take the bus, but he has difficulty walking to and from stops. Sometimes he relies on his brother, who sometimes proves unreliable. So he often arrives places late or not at all.

It's hard enough to keep a small business like his alive, and Banks already faces more challenges than most. He can't afford to advertise, so his sales come from shoppers who happen to wander past when he's present. He plans to make fliers and create a website, but he hasn't gotten to that yet. His stock consists of things most people don't have a pressing need for. 

And making all that worse is the persistent problem of getting to work. "I have a transportation situation," he says. 

With all those factors working against him, he needed to come up with something to draw customers during the few hours he's actually here.

One day he picked up one of his hand puppets and made it lip-sync to some old soul songs playing from a little stereo. And soon, the people who used to walk past his table of elephants and giraffes were now standing before his booth, transfixed by a puppet show unlike any other. 

"I was surprised, matter of fact," he says of the reaction. "From the very first time that I started showing them."


Banks never thought much about puppets. He saw some on TV when he was growing up, but he really didn't care for them.

After retiring a decade ago from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Banks grew bored and wanted to start a side business to give him something to do. He first set up shop at the Michigan Mart inside the State Fair, then at the Russell, selling an odd assortment of items loosely connected by an African theme. 

A man in a neighboring booth gave him a puppet as a gift, and Banks added several more to his stock when he saw people gravitate toward it. Then, one day, he took one down from a shelf and practiced animating it.

"I just started playing with it and then realized, damn, it kind of looked real," he says. He did online research on the history of puppets, took a quick course in puppetry, asked others for tips. But most of his thoroughly unique act came from his own imagination.

"I came to realize doing puppetry is your own personal craft of how you make it, and I decided to develop it. It's just evolution."

His puppets don't delight the audience with a skit, or engage children with questions and stories. Apart from a few spare words to open the show, the puppets simply lip-sync to old soul songs.

He'd read that in traditional Japanese puppetry the puppeteers are hidden or shrouded, to avoid the audience being distracted by the performer, so he started doing shows with a black shroud draped over his head.

But the cloth is fairly transparent, and he gets so enthused by the puppets' liveliness that he can't help but mouth a song's words along with them. So the show consists of a singing puppet and a puppeteer whose lip-syncing is clearly visible through his shroud. It's the opposite of ventriloquism. 

His sincere delight and beaming smile, though, are just as much a part of the show. Because no matter who's in the audience, chances are Banks is the one in the room most delighted by the singing puppet. "I just like them," he says, smiling. "Just seeing something that's not real, an inanimate object, just all of a sudden coming alive. Sometimes they amaze me."

After a while he built a small, black-curtained stage at the back of his booth where he puts on performances whenever someone requests one, for the absurdly low rate of $2 for 15 minutes. A small, old TV at the front of his booth loops grainy videos of his puppet shows, shot on an old VHS camcorder, in hopes of drawing the curious into asking for a live performance.

Since he began a year ago, almost all his shows have been confined to his little space, seen only by the few who chanced upon it. But then someone passing his booth saw his act and invited him to be part of a Halloween show at Bert's Warehouse in Eastern Market. This little hobby he'd developed in quiet moments had grown remarkable enough to draw an invitation to perform in public. And Banks couldn't wait.

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