Adventure: Ann Arbor Summer Fest, II

The adventuring has been going great guns this summer-so much so that I’m way behind in adventure reporting. I’ll try and catch you up on what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks.

We opened the Ann Arbor Summer Fest so it seemed appropriate that we should help close it. After our paddle down the Huron River, we got cleaned up and celebrated Canada Day with poutine and Labatt at the newly opened Smoke’s Poutinerie on South University in Ann Arbor. The beer was cheap and cold, the poutine was pretty good with generous serving sizes, and the place was decked out in the maple leaf. (try the pulled pork version, it’s yummy). What more do you need?IMG_2375

The Singer and I made our way over to Rackham Stage and spread a blanket out on the lawn for the first of the two bands we would see. The Outer Vibe was setting up, and they are front-runners for Band with Best Hair this summer. Beautiful flowing locks, used to their advantage especially by guitarist, but also by the drummer and lead singer. Also tied for band with the highest voices. I really liked that the band had a female trumpet player who also took a turn on the drum set, not something you see often. Yay for gender stereotype breaking! The Outer Vibe was pretty cool, although they seemed to be in search of a musical identity. They started off with this surfer hippie vibe but then meandered around genres a bit too much, in my opinion. Still, an enjoyable show.


After much changing of set and the longest soundcheck in history, Red Baraat took the stage. If you had to call out a genre, World Music seems most apt, but it’s inadequate for the blend of bhangra, funk, hip-hop and jazz this Brooklyn-based band of eight puts out. Check out some live footage of Shruggy Ji and see if you can resist dancing.

It’s high-energy party music led by Sunny Jain on the Indian double-headed drum called a dhol. Who doesn’t like a man with a dhol strapped around his chest? An eclectic mix of horns and percussion contribute to the sound, including a trombone, trumpet, sax, sousaphone, electric guitar, drum kit, and other percussion. It was mind blowing. And if the sound wasn’t enough, the Indian wedding party coming down the street and the on-stage dance off between audience members put the whole thing over the top.


Red Baraat was an awesome band to close out Summer Festival. They had people on their feet and dancing all night. Check them out on NPR’s Tiny Desk.

It was a beautiful night in Ann Arbor and a great end to summer festival. Even the moon was cooperating. Thank you, Ann Arbor Summer Festival. I look forward to the 2018 offerings.



Adventure: CBC Music Fest

We had such a great time at last year’s CBC Music Fest we decided to go again this year. It’s a very family friendly event at a great location and we again had good weather. We took a turn in the Jam or Not a Jam Truck-no Beiber this time, though. Plus, poutine from a food truck, something you can’t get at music fests in the States.

I have to confess, I wasn’t super excited about the 2017 lineup. Last year we saw Always, Whitehorse, New Pornographers, Tokyo Police Club and Hey Rosetta!, and I love all of them. This year’s headliner was Serena Ryder, with Walk Off The Earth and Ruth B on the main stage.

By far, the best act we saw was BROS, the brothers Ewan and Shamus Currie from the Sheepdogs. They performed on the q Stage but I think they should have been headliners, or at least on the main stage. So far, they are the only group I’ve ever seen whose horn section consisted solely of trombones–3 fantastic players who all took turns soloing, and at one point, 4 of them. BROS played some funky, bluesy jams off their album and a great Curtis Mayfield cover and had the crowd going. Also, they are pretty skilled with the tshirt cannon. I’ve got a brief clip, and if I can get the GoPro downloaded, I’ll share more.


Here’s the GoPro footage of the trombone jam. It’s magical.

We also caught the tail end of Sarah Slean’s set, also on the q Stage, and were disappointed that we didn’t see more. She’s an amazing talent, just a quality artist. We need to do a better job of managing the schedule next year. Here’s bit of the last number she did. 

In between the two feature stages, we caught Jon Bryant on the Spotlight stage. Also enjoyed that and hope he gets a boost from the festival. 

On the main stage, we saw Ruth B. Her backing band was great- lots of energy. She is pretty chill and could use a little variety in her show but it was good to see a young artist get some exposure. I think Ruth B.’s future is in songwriting as she has a real talent for verse and capturing a mood. Lost Boy is a great song. 

Most of the folks around us seemed to be there to see Walk Off the Earth. Lots of families with tweens, dayglo and WOTE tshirts. My only exposure to WOTE has been YouTube videos of their interesting covers so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, they sure put on a show. Pyrotechnics, leaping around, tossing instruments in the air and some circus-type choreography. It’s a little too much for me but the fans sure enjoy it. I think they are strongest when they are doing their unique covers–the whole band playing one guitar, singing while accompanying themselves with tubes and pipes–that stuff. That’s what is different about them and makes them musically engaging.

We didn’t stick around to see Serena Ryder. After being out way past our bedtime at the Rheo show the night before and sightseeing earlier in the day, we were pretty beat so we headed back to the hotel to rest up for another day of Doors Open. While we certainly enjoyed ourselves, I’m hoping next year’s slate is a little bit stronger.


Adventure: Vulfpeck at the Michigan Theater

First, shout out to my son Vaughn, who has exquisite taste in music and introduced me to Vulfpeck about a year ago. I saw an advance purchase email thanks to my membership at the Ark, and jumped on some tickets way back in December for the May 12 Ann Arbor show at the Michigan Theater. Vaughn got two tickets as a Christmas present and I kept two for myself. We had first row balcony so some excellent sight lines for this sold out show and a good ledge to put our beers.

If you haven’t heard of Vulfpeck, get on over to Vulf YouTube and check them out. These guys are all top-notch musicians who met during their years at the University of Michigan School of Music so this show was a bit of a homecoming. They play multiple instruments, have the greatest funky vibe and are just a lot of fun. The crowd was on their feet most of the show, grooving and singing along and enjoying the high-energy show.

Joey Dosik opened, but it was more like a mini Vulfpeck show since Theo Katzman and Jack Stratton came out and accompanied him for most of his set. Game Winner, and the introduction to it about Joey watching the 1993 NCAA basketball final was great.

Some highlights of the show:
Jack Stratton taught us all the El Chepe dance.
Antwaun Stanley joined them on stage for most of the show and got the crowd going with 1612.
We did some Vulf-apella along to Back Pocket.
Jack Stratton’s dad came on stage with his clarinet and played some klezmer music while his mom danced through the crowd. It was every bit as awesome as it sounds.
Joe Dart just killed it on Corey Wong and continues to be the most animated bass player I have ever seen.

Vulpeck’s remaining shows are mostly sold out but if you get a chance to see them, I highly recommend it. Even if funky jams aren’t your jam, you’ll still have a great time at the show. #sharednewexperience