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.”