Adventure: First Friday

For over 30 years now, Ann Arbor’s Summer Festival has been providing opportunities for #sharednewexperience through arts, entertainment and activities. First Friday is the festival’s opening night party and heralds the arrival of summer in Ann Arbor, kicking off the month-long festivities that include beer and wine tastings, live outdoor music, movies, and much more.

After nervously watching the weather forecast for the day, it looked like the predicted thunderstorms were going to blow past so the Singer and I hopped in his plug-in hybrid vehicle and headed to Ann Arbor for free live music and some quality people watching. We spread out the hockey rink blanket on the lawn across from the Rackham stage and enjoyed a gorgeous early summer evening.

We missed some of the earlier acts but arrived in time to hear all of Jive Colossus‘ set. Colossus is an apt description since I counted as many as 11 people on stage for this group. They describe themselves as horn-driven jungle music band and feature Shelley Catalan as vocalist in front of an ever-shifting group composed of trumpet, flugelhorn, bari sax, trombone, guitars, drums and an assortment of percussion. Jive Colossus is the perfect group for this venue–lively and engaging with a crowd-friendly mix of music. People were on their feet dancing in front of the stage, grooving on the music from chairs and blankets on the lawn and the beer tent area.


While the crew changed the stage over for Third Coast Kings, we enjoyed people watching, playing a game of “Ann Arbor Resident or Circus Performer” as we observed colorfully dressed people, tricked out bikes and their riders, longboarders, a woman with a couple hula hoops.

Third Coast Kings came on as the last band of the night and they brought their funk with them. They have a really tight sound and a very charismatic singer, Sean Ike, on vocals. An enthusiastic sea of dancers crowded the area in front of the stage and were clearly having a great time. Sadly, my energy ran out before the music and we didn’t last the entire set but we enjoyed their soul-powered soundtrack as we made our walk to the parking garage. Here’s a little bit of the Kings for you.

Top of the Park is my favorite part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. I love that it’s free and informal. You can walk around and see all kinds of people, grab something to eat from a vendor or find a restaurant for a full meal, and enjoy a variety of activities from yoga and bike rides to music of all kinds. It’s got that a great vibe that comes from a seemingly contrary mix of noise and quiet, busy and stillness, and crowds and space. I don’t know how they manage to create it but it is the very essence of a good summer festival.


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