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Jazzing with Baker’s & the Frog



Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is the oldest jazz venue in the world, brimming with more than 66 years of rich musical history to make it one of the most historically significant structures in Detroit.

Thursday night, a group of young, modern clubbers and musicians and I decided to take a break from our normal hangouts and head down to Baker’s at Livernois and Eight Mile for an evening of classy entertainment. Flanked by Karina Chai, Brian Dubrinksi, Kevin Edwards of 500 Ft. of Pipe, Chris McEvoy of Motor City Burgers, and Danielle Arsenault, we crammed into a booth and enjoyed a fabulously low-key evening of fine food, outstanding jazz and highbrow cocktails.

Even on a Thursday night the place was packed, with a refreshing crowd of diverse ages and backgrounds. After some hard years and a lagging audience, the club was purchased in 1996 by John Colbert and Juanita Jackson. Since then, it has experienced a sort of rebirth, drawing a new, enthusiastic crowd which supports live jazz six nights a week.

So for all of you Gen X and Y club kids who are sick of this revolting new, elitist trend of $20 covers for New York-style “see and be seen” dance emporiums: Wipe off that body glitter and head down to Baker’s for an evening! There’s never a cover charge, and for one evening you can escape into another era that you might think was long gone, but is instead breathing with a renewed vitality. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Speaking of quality jazz entertainment, the Frog Island Music Festival will not go forth this summer, due to a lack of financial backers. Quite frankly, this really sucks. The three-day, family-oriented music fest in Ypsilanti has continually offered a wonderful lineup of jazz, blues, zydeco and folk music over the years. However, festival sponsors WEMU-FM and the Ark are hopeful that Frog Island will make a return in 2003.

In case you’re fretting the same fate may meet with this year’s Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival, fear not: Joe Tiboni, a festival board member, told me to go ahead and mark Sept. 12-15 on my calendar for the special 30th anniversary festival.


After soaking up the elegance and sophistication of a historic jazz bar, it was time once again to get down and dirty and succumb to the leer, er, lure of rock ’n’ roll, baby.

The Zillathon benefit at Lili’s on Friday night was one of the most amazing shows I have even seen in my seasoned career as a Detroit scenester. Each of eight bands put on a rip-roaring, passionate set, to raise money for Angie Zilla, the drummer of Broadzilla who was saddled with some monstrous medical bills after a brush with breast cancer.

In typical Angie style, this classy lady full of piss and vinegar spit in cancer’s face with a resounding “fuck you.” Indeed, the best part of the evening was watching Angie — who is feeling much better and in excellent spirits — enjoy the living hell out of herself.

The evening was truly a success — by the end of the night, the proceeds were about $2,600, counting the cover charge and the money garnered from a raffle that went throughout the evening.

And as for the bands? Damn! Every single one of them was full of electrifying energy — Queen Bee, the Bomb Pops, Face, Detektive Riot, Forge, the Ruiners and the aforementioned Burgers each gave it their all, including plenty of Broadzilla covers. The audience was also treated to a special performance from the Burnouts — featuring Zilla girls Kim and Rachel.

Lili’s was packed to capacity, and despite the fact that the bar was understaffed for the crowd, bartenders Paul Chervenak and Michael Karwowski did a great job running their asses off to keep the thirsty masses satiated.

The evening came to a close with a highly appropriate mass chaos of the Ruiners, who tore through several large bags of shredded paper while the lovely Ruinettes jumped and wiggled on stage. In fact, before the show, Lili’s owner Art Lyzak warned the notoriously destructive band to keep things at least tolerably under control — which is really funny, because in his old band, the Mutants, Lyzak reportedly was fond of throwing pizzas into the audience. (Insert witty irony comment here.)

The crowd was a who’s who of the local music scene, and all the movers and shakers who are frequently mentioned in this column were representing; also spotted: Bubba, Dr. Death, Mark Dagen, Shaky Nate, Jill Lappin, Chris Levitan, Steve Firneno, Monica Breen and Erik Kluiber of Inner Recipe.

And lastly, special thanks to everyone who caught me when I came up with the brilliant idea of climbing atop a 5-foot-high speaker cabinet and stage diving into the audience during the Ruiners’ set. As I sit here popping Aleve and typing with an ice bag on my knee, I’ve come to the stunning realization that, at the ripe ol’ age of 25, I am now way too old to pull off shit like that. Let’s hear it for rock ’n’ … ow.


Seeing as I was incapacitated, Saturday night I was limited to tuning into the local music show Static Radio on WKRK, 97.1 FM, hosted by Rudy DeSantis of MindCandy. This show, which gives local bands a full hour of live performance time, will be moving on, as DeSantis will now be hosting Club 9-7-1 at Clutch Cargo’s on Saturday nights.

The multitalented Detroit rock institution Vinnie Dombrowski was on hand, and played a few of the alt-country rockabilly gems from his neo-country-rock band the Orbitsuns. An hourlong live performance by MindCandy followed.

You can hear the irresistibly catchy twang and roots rock of the Orbitsuns on Friday, Feb. 1 at the Blind Pig, which is also the grand opening party for the new Lucky Monkey Tattoo Parlour in Ann Arbor. Check out for more info.

Sarah Klein is walking with a noticeable limp. Send sympathy letters, hot gossip and party invites to, or call the tip line at 313-962-5281. Press *, then dial

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