Art by Matthew Craven
Some might describe the work of Hamtramck resident Matthew Craven as trippy water worlds of floating sea creatures. Others might see puffy clouds bloated with feverish swirls of rain. Either way, Craven's bizarre style comes from incorporating several techniques and media, including yarn stitching and spray paint. In his latest show, he composes vibrant pop art pastiche-like pattern-on-pattern quilts: Decorative elements as traditional as Victorian wallpaper and as twisted as small intestines are patched together to engaging and endearing ends. Opens as part of the monthly "Exhibitionist" installation at the Belmont Bar, 10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-1966.
These days, if you zing a CDR in any given direction you're going to graze a "songwriter," most likely some boring shut-in who mirror-stars himself on the glow of his computer screen for an unlikely audience of MySpace drones and go-nowhere, bug-eyed music bloggers. But by our humble estimation, one in 100,000 of these songsmiths are actually worthy of attention. Judah Johnson head Dan Johnson is one. He's by turns an Eno fan and, perhaps, a shut-in, but his songwriting has improved exponentially in the last few years. It appears that Johnson's arrived at a simple truth in song using turns-of-phrase involving displacement and longing, lovely found-instrument soundscapes and hooks, and believable ache. If "Picking Up Doves" doesn't give the goose bumps, you might just be dead. Too engaging to be music for films, but with the kind of beauty Daniel Lanois might kill for. The Belmont, 10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-1966. With the Elanors and Loretta and the Larkspurs.
T.i. isn't resting on his single "What You Know" being the best thing to come out of Atlanta hip hop since Young Jeezy's "Trap Star." It's not enough that it's at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, where it's kicking the crap out of that simp Daniel Portnow. Nor is it enough that King, T.i.'s fourth album, is ranked No. 5 in the country. No, dude has to have a hit movie too. ATL, his screen debut opposite Big Boi from Outkast, is a real charmer, almost like a slightly grittier, contemporary Roll Bounce. Damn. If T.i. maintains this level of media domination, he might really be king someday. So see him now while it's still possible for mere mortals to get on the guest list. Fellow Atlantan and recent Bad Boy signee Yung Joc opens; his debut single "It's Going Down" is like a taunt tucked inside a badass laser show. State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5450.
Hannan House Spring Open
With experience comes wisdom. That's why, each year, when the Ellen Kayrod Gallery has its Spring Open featuring works from artists age 60 and older a certain thoughtfulness shines through, as if to say: "Been around the block once or twice, Junior." Opening reception is 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at Hannan House, 4750 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-1300.
Between the over-the-top praise, sweet success and attendant backlash, the Bad Plus supplies just the kind of argument fodder the jazz world needs. Esquire magazine called their major-label debut good enough to save jazz. Jazz Times put them on the cover with big type reading: "Good, Bad or Even a Plus?" In that issue, critic Bill Milkowski's slammed the mag's previous raves and said the Plus could only matter to "white rock scribes and other assorted geeks who couldn't swing from a rope." They're loud, witty, fond of rock covers and fonder of thundering rock dynamics (even as an acoustic piano-bass-drums trio). And now they're playing live before the judges and jury in Detroit. 8 and 10 p.m. at Jazz Club@The Max, Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-576-5111. $28.50.
First Amendment on Trial: The Case of the Detroit Six and Professional Revolutionary: The Story of Saul Wellman
Producer Ron Aronson takes a look at the First Amendment infringements made in the 1950s during one of the more shameful eras in American history the Red Scare. His doc, First Amendment on Trial: The Case of the Detroit Six chronicles how six leaders of the Michigan Communist Party were arrested in Detroit under the Smith Act, for conspiring to advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government. Also showing: Professional Revolutionary: The Story of Saul Wellman, a profile of one of the more radical political activists in recent history. Insight Screening Room, 24300 Southfield Rd., Southfield. Call 313-577-0828 for tickets. $10.
An Evening of Gospel Music
Though Joel Palmer is best known for his guitar-picking prowess with his folk band Wanderin' Wheel, the performer, teacher and activist is not opposed to plopping a little spirituality into the mix. This week, Palmer headlines a gospel fundraiser for the venerable Trinity House Theatre in Livonia, one of the last venues around to offer common ground for roots music and the people who love to play it. Also scheduled to perform are Ruth and Max Bloomquist, Lauren Garfield, Floyd King and the Bushwhackers, Dell and the Roughcuts, the Blue Marys, and Eric and Polly Rapp. Starts at 8 p.m., 38840 W. Six Mile Rd., Livonia; 734-464-6302.
35th Annual Student Film & Video Festival
The next Altmans and Scorseses among us get busy this week with the 35th Annual Student Film & Video Festival. The event puts the spotlight on the film and video works of students grades K-12, and will give recognition, awards and scholarships to deserving young prodigies. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Detroit Institute of Arts Film Theatre, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900.
FUN FOR ALL
So you bitched and whined and made a fuss when they threatened to close the Detroit Zoo. And now's the perfect time to pony up with the price of a couple admissions as the zoo presents Dino Island II, a simulation ride that features stunning computer imagery of the land before time. It's sort of like a real-life Jurassic Park ... only without the giant piles of Tyrannosaurus crap. (Recommended for riders age 5 and older; 36 inches and up only.) Opens Monday, May 1, at the Ford Education Center of the Detroit Zoo; for more information, call 248-398-0900 or see detroitzoo.com.
Blair & Audra Kubat
What do you get when you cross an old-school African-American spoken word master and a scrappy Joan Baez-type folk singer? No, it's not a lost scene from Rent; it's the newest theme night at the Buzz Bar in downtown Detroit. Hosted by local slam poet-cum-singer-songwriter Blair and the ethereal folkie Audra Kubat, this Sunday night happenin' will feature a turnstile of local and touring writers and singers. It's a boho's dream. Starts Sunday, April 30, at 546 E. Larned St., Detroit; 313-962-1800.
Michael Goss: Portraits
Portraiture is anything but straightforward for Michael Goss. He uses simple lines and colors to convey unorthodox emotions and sometimes-unsettling imagery to further his artistic mission. He says, "It is not my intention to tell a story with my work, I am more intrigued by expressing a single thought in a single period of time." At the Biddle Gallery, 2840 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-281-4779. End Saturday, June 3.Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org