News & Views » Columns

Motor City Cribs




Chris Bathgate is one of the stars of yet another Ann Arbor folk generation. Alongside Jim Roll, Misty Lyn, Matt Jones, Canada, Great Lakes Myth Society and many others, Bathgate is part of a vibrant scene where musicians play in a multitude of bands and show up on each other’s recordings. Bathgate is equally comfortable in solo acoustic performances too, just as he pushes sonic envelopes in bands. (He’s moonlighting on bass and guitar with Saturday Looks Good To Me on their current tour.)


Bathgate’s Ann Arbor home is a co-op and former dancehall located above Wazoo Records. In a time when downtown Ann Arbor is beginning to resemble Royal Oak, the Arbor Vitae co-op is one of the few remaining remnants of the city’s freer times, circa the 1960s and early ’70s. Arbor Vitae started off as a dancehall (there’s a half inch of sand under the floor to deaden sound), then it became a corset factory and even a miniature golf course until the late, self-proclaimed peace planner Rich Ahern turned the loft — with soaring, two-story wood ceilings! — into a community living space.

None of the rooms have actual ceilings, so the lofts aren’t for light sleepers. But that’s also part of its appeal. “Arbor Vitae takes me out of my bubble,” Bathgate says. “It’s nice to be around so many different creative people. You might fall asleep to klezmer music at 4 in the morning and then hear a noise music jam at 10 a.m.”

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.