Last weekend saw the return of yet another Frog Island Festival in scenic downtown Ypsilanti, a three-day outdoor festival in Riverside Park celebrating jazz, blues, zydeco and Celtic music. Sponsored by WEMU-FM of Ypsilanti and the Ark of Ann Arbor, the festival has a long, successful tradition of fantastic music and a great feel-good vibe among attendees.
Friday the event kicked off with a bang as New Orleans’ Wild Magnolias dressed in the colorful togs of Mardi Gras indians. The costumes were elaborate, gorgeous and extremely big; as the singers ceremoniously danced through the park during their entrance, I was unceremoniously whapped with a face full of feathers. But I like feathers, so, hey, it’s all good.
Backstage, film student Robert Fischer and Keith Deporrter of Superdot were busy filming a documentary on live music. They had plenty of fodder for interviews, as the festival was of course spotted with WEMU celebrities including Molly Motherwell, and DJs Wendy Wright of the “Sunday Morning Jazz and Blues Show,” Joe Tiboni of the “Big City Blues Cruise,” and Dr. Arwulf Arwulf of the “Sunday Best.” The esteemed Arwulf, on the arm of his lovely wife Lindsay Forbes, is well known for his extensive features of jazz pioneer Fats Waller on Sunday mornings. What started out as Fats Waller Day soon stretched into Fats Waller Week, then Fats Waller Month, then Fats Waller Season, and may soon become Fats Waller Year, or even just the Fats Waller Show. But, hey, who doesn’t love Fats Waller, so, hey, it’s all good.
Also present were renowned ’50s and ’60s jazz history expert George Klein of the “Grooveyard” program and internationally acclaimed interdisciplinary studies expert and Wayne State University professor Julie Klein — no relation. OK, not really, they’re my parents. Please excuse my temporary lapse into nepotism, but they’ll get a kick out of seeing their names pop up in my column. Aren’t I sweet?
The festival, traditionally plagued by rotten weather, was remarkably sunny this year, with only a short outburst of light showers, despite the Ann Arbor News’ curious reporting of this year’s event being dampened by storms. Trust me, Frog Island has seen a lot worse, and I have the scar on my shoulder to prove it. OK, it’s really more of an emotional scar, from the year when fierce winds blew the tent up so high a tent pole came loose and went careening down onto little ol’ me. I’m happy to report the tent was much more sturdily secured after that instance. Who said jazz was boring?
Last Tuesday, underage punk fans everywhere flocked to the second annual Battle of the Bands competition at St. Andrew’s Hall, hosted by the always perky (but not in the nauseating Meg Ryan sense) Kelly Brown of 89X. Eight punk bands vied for four coveted spots on the local stage for the Detroit date of the Warped Tour, a nationwide tour of punk music and extreme-sports demonstrations.
The judges of these clean-cut young aspiring Sid Viciouses were DJ Aaron Warshaw (MT listings editor), MT music scribe Melissa Giannini, the indescribable Jimmy Doom of Gusoline Alley and Rachel May, who managed to squeeze in the time in between her hectic schedule of being a journalist, a member of two heavy-hitting bands (Broadzilla and Queen Bee), and an all-around fabulous chick. As to his selection as an esteemed judge of burgeoning musical talent, Mr. Doom was a bit confuzzled (sic), commenting, “Me judging musicianship is like Michael Jackson judging childbearing.” Speaking of grave instances of misjudgment, Jimmy, every time I see you I still think of that photo in the farewell issue of Orbit, splayed butt-nekkid across the bar at Gus’. I still shudder to think I put my drink down on that very same spot on the bar on more than one occasion.
After the show, some of the judges retreated to the Sweetwater Tavern for some nourishment, only to enter an awkward scenario, as several of members of the bands who didn’t win a spot wandered over, crestfallen and their faith in punk-rock and roll shaken. Cheer up, kids, you were all good, and there’s always next year.
DJ Warshaw and I were so guilt-laden over the young band members’ display of morbid disappointment that we were compelled to tool over to the Garden Bowl to soak up some liquid anesthetic. Here we encountered Nate Cavalieri, ever charming and now searching for gainful employment, spinning for the evening, earning big points for playing John Coltrane.
Also encountered: drink slinger Anthony Garth and the lovely hellion Becki Hall, already hatching her plans for wreaking havoc at a psychobilly festival in New Jersey in October.
Speaking of the Garden Bowl, be sure to come down this Saturday for the first-ever Rock ’n’ Bowl Showdown, a bowling tournament that will pit members of local media and music against one another, in a vicious, cutthroat, high-stakes competition. OK, not really; it’s all in good fun and for a good cause — net proceeds from the event will go to the Children’s Miracle Network, and there will also be a live performance from 19 Wheels. The tourney goes from noon till midnight, so you have plenty of time to drop by, have a good time rubbing elbows with your favorite minor-league local celebrities, and get a good laugh at my expense as I attempt to bowl in six-inch, clunky, leopard-print platform shoes.
Sarah Klein doesn't own a pair of sensible shoes, but she likes big shoes, so, hey, it's all good.Send gossip, party invites and desperate pleas for attention to [email protected] or call 313-962-5281. Press * then dial