Summer Guide 2012
Published: June 13, 2012
There's a shadow over a festival that was to have included Detroit saxophonist Faruq Z. Bey as a poet and musician, but there'll be a special tribute to him as the show goes on. Bey was to be part of the Fifth Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue, billed this year as the "Detroit Jazz City Edition," featuring Marion Hayden, James Carter, Sheila Jordan, Regina Carter, Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Amp Fiddler, Dennis Coffey, A. Spencer Barefield, Joan Belgrave and TBA surprises. That's the big attraction on Saturday at Orchestra Hall. Also in the mix, pipa virtuoso (it's a Chinese lute) Wu Man and cellist Eric Jacobsen with the DSO, George Clinton and P-Funk, Tito Puente Jr. Orchestra, Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits. Mainly at Orchestra Hall. Full details at concertofcolors.com.
This electronic music prodigy scored his first big hit with "Say My Name" before he even graduated high school, packing dance floors at clubs he was barely old enough to frequent. Now 19-years-old, the Chapel Hill, NC-based DJ has toured with the likes of Tiësto and Skrillex and earned the commendation of Deadmau5, notoriously picky about endorsing any fellow artists. Robinson mastered his distinct electro house sound while attending high school in a city without much of an electronic scene to speak of — the first time he saw a DJ perform was at a party where he was also on the lineup. The EDM wunderkind wraps up his first headlining tour in metro Detroit at Elektricity, 15 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-599-2212.
The annual Michigan Elvisfest offers some of the most entertaining evidence of the King's undying legacy. Beginning in 2000, it's now the largest tribute concert in North America, attracting thousands each year with its lineup of professional tribute artists and reverently rocking atmosphere. In addition to a massive set of rock 'n' roll tunes, this two-day event also features a classic car show and a special gospel hour, not to mention plenty of beer, food and Elvis memorabilia. Attendees can also share a solemn moment at a candlelight vigil commemorating the 33rd anniversary of Presley's death. This spectacle of burnin' love goes down inYpsilanti's Riverside Park, 515 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti. Dressing the part is encouraged; mielvistfest.org for info.
No details on the lineup at press time, but the 19th festival is a go. Expect a cross section of what the local jazz scene has to offer, about 150 musicians in nearly 30 overlapping combos and big bands on a half-dozen stages. It all takes place at Schoolcraft College, 18600 Haggerty Road, Livonia; michiganjazzfestival.homestead.com.
The Baltimore duo of guitarist-keyboardist Alex Scally and singer-organist Victoria Legrand debuted in 2006 with a self-titled disc of blurry, ethereal dream-pop that instantly made waves in indie music circles thanks to Legrand's hushed, almost somber vocals and Scally's careful instrumentation. Their rep was bolstered even further with 2008's Devotion, which saw Beach House raising its emotive languor to cinematic heights. The upward swing continued with 2010's, Teen Dream and this year's Bloom, a beautiful and shining showcase of the music's understated majesty. With Wild Nothing at 8 p.m. at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac; 248-858-9333; $18 advance.
Detroit's own Elzhi (aka Jason Powers) accomplished something special in 2011: He remixed Nas' Illmatic — one of the most revered hip-hop albums of all time — into Elmatic, a stunning re-imagining that combined his adoration for the original with fresh invention. Critics were love-struck. It didn't hurt that he was already one of the most respected emcees around, serving on the front lines during Detroit rap battles in the '90s, touring as a member of Slum Village in the '00s, and releasing solo mixtapes that are now underground classics. He's an intelligent word-twister, delivering complicated rhyme schemes with bold clarity. Elzhi is currently on a world tour in support of a new album set to release this fall. Doors at 8 p.m. at St. Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit, 313-961-8961; $10.
This interactive art festival returns to Detroit for a second year, expanding to two days of no-cost arty fun on Belle Isle. The goal of the volunteer-run event is to provide the community with a free and accessible art experience, with emphasis on works that involve audience participation and blur the lines between creator and spectator. A wide range of art is expected, from music, performance and games to sculpture, site-specific installations and workshops. Last year's projects included everything from interactive storytelling and screenprinting to dance workshops and even the painting of an ice cream truck. FIGMENT was founded in New York in 2007 and now takes place in multiple cities across the country. In Detroit, the fest happens from noon to 6 p.m. on Belle Isle in Detroit; for a map of artworks and schedule of events, visit detroit.figmentproject.org.
This celebration and showcase of DIY inventiveness has become one of the most anticipated events of the summer, bringing hundreds of exhibitors, demos and workshops to the grounds of the Henry Ford for two days of mind-bending innovation. Attendees can learn how to fix, make, alter and customize everything from kites and bikes to tools and appliances; participate in musical performances and biology projects; and check out arts, crafts, local foodie offerings, student projects, robotics and much more. At the Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; 313-982-6001; makerfairedetroit.com.
The career of Detroiter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez begins with his late-'60s discovery in a local bar by producers Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore. Two trippy Dylanesque discs went nowhere as "Rodriguez" sank into obscurity. Improbably, bootlegs of the debut, Cold Facts, became massively popular anti-establishment anthems in apartheid-era South Africa; meanwhile rumors of an onstage suicide and other fictions shrouded the singer in mystery. Two South African fans set out on a years-long quest to find the stranger-than-rumor truth, and, equally unlikely, their journey is now the centerpiece of a film that won Sundance raves: "mixes detective work with the tale of the bewildering and poignant resurrection." The soundtrack Searching for Sugarman (Light in the Attic/Legacy) drops July 24, just before the film's Detroit debut at the Main Art in Royal Oak.
Comedy whiz kid, actor, Internet sensation, TV star, rapper — Donald Glover's rapidly rising career has many facets. Between TV shows and stand-up gigs, his hip-hop persona Childish Gambino has released several mixtapes featuring foul-mouthed rhymes over indie rock samples, as well as Camp, his debut LP released last year. His rhymes are packed full of pop culture references, but that doesn't detract from the intimate references to his own insecurities. He approaches his own trials and tribulations with humor and honesty, demonstrating a lyrical prowess that proves his foray into music is no joke. At the Fillmore, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5451; tickets start at $25.
Corpus Illuminata: An Anatomic Interpretation offers a multifaceted artistic exploration of anatomy, biology, medicine and the human form. Along with anatomy-inspired artworks by an array of international artists, the show also features a display of rare Victorian-era medical equipment and scientific oddities, and demonstrations and lectures on a variety of medical topics. Now in its second year, the event has added a bazaar for the sale and trading of medical antiquities and related items, as well as an auction of particularly obscure and juicy items. Corpus Illuminata takes place from 6 p.m. to midnight both nights at Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 E. Milwaukee St., Detroit; further info at corpusilluminata.org.
Pops Staples' most talented daughter has been in rare form in recent years, with a crack band that understands what it is to play fervently in support of the star attraction (and echo Pops' eerie guitar tremolo). We suspect that her repertoire is going to keep some of the tunes she worked up for last year's Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone. And we can't help to wonder whether she'll join headliner Bonnie Raitt's group for a tune or two (or vice versa). Vocalist and slide guitarist extraordinaire Raitt, like Staples, has been at the top of her game of late.
This Brooklyn-based outfit explores the complete range of roots music, from Western swing and old-time country to ragtime and Tin Pan Alley. And while the appropriation of vintage American sounds has become something of a tired fad, the Wiyos' seamless integration of so many styles, combined with their superb musicianship, songwriting and boundless energy, make them something wholly new (yes, new!). Their most recent disc, Twist, is an adventurous Americana opus loosely based on The Wizard of Oz, with tunes sure to benefit from the group's notorious energetic live treatment. At New Center Park, 2998 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit; free; newcenterpark.com.
Preaching the gospel of real American death metal since the late '90s, Virginia's Lamb of God relies on the standbys of the genre to create their mind-crushing sound — thunderous drumming, smoking riffs and relentless screaming. The raw intensity of their sound is unmatched, although tour mates Dethklok, the virtual band that stars in Adult Swim's Metalocalpyse, come pretty close. Joined by French metal outfit Gojira, the show promises to be the most extreme event of the summer, not to be missed by any self-respecting metalhead. At Compuware Arena, 14900 Beck Rd., Plymouth; 877-271-1280; compuwarearena.com.
The singer keeps busy on the road with her hometown-area stops too infrequent. This one celebrates her latest disc, To the Ladies of Cool (Resonance), which salutes 1950s jazz stars Anita O'Day, June Christy, Chris Connor and Julie London not by echoing their styles (let alone their mannerisms) but by squeezing Kosin's rather more expressionistic vocals into the cooler trappings these forerunners favored. A flattering fit, and she pulls it off (evoking Frank O'Hara's comparison of good poetry to snug jeans). And while Kosins delivers some of the four songbirds' better-known tunes, she'll also wow you with lesser-known works that sound like they should have been hits. At 8 p.m., Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-769-2999; kerrytownconcerthouse.com.
The Detroit International Jazz Festival is back for its 33rd year. They're marketing themselves to the extended national (and international) jazz community. This year the festival veers toward the hardcore with nary a feint to blues, rock or world fusion to be heard. But the schedule is chock full of the biggest names in jazz: Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, the Chick Corea-Gary Burton team, Wynton Marsalis and Joe Lovano, for instance. Pat Metheny is here, but even he's with one of his jazz-focused lineups (Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez and Ben Williams). Another big change this year is an emphasis on big productions behind local musicians. Charlie Gabriel gets feted for his 80th birthday in addition to his gig with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Marcus Belgrave is featured with an all-star ensemble of comrades and mentees (Curtis Fuller, Kenny Garrett, Geri Allen, Marion Hayden, and Louis Hayes).
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