Stories indexed with the term ‘The Ark’

After Obama: Jones, Ruckus at The Pig

When the history of Ann Arbor is collected and placed in the permanent archives, it will attest that more than 80,000 people gathered on May 1, 2010 at Michigan Stadium to hear President Obama speak. Impressive. But that still doesn’t make him a rock star.

Rock star Matt Jones and Colette Alexander at Take a Chance Tuesday (April 27, 2010) at The Ark on Main Street. (Photos by the writer.)

What would make him a rock star? Say a University of Michigan graduate lifted their gown to reveal the tattooed text of Obama’s complete inaugural address – that’s the kind of thing fans of actual rock stars do.

And by that standard, Ann Arbor’s Matt Jones is a rock star.

The tattoo story was related second hand at The Ark’s Take a Chance Tuesday this week by Colette Alexander. Alexander accompanied Jones on cello for his performance.

A fan somewhere north of here, Alexander reported, had recently tattooed the lyrics of an entire Jones song across her back. She fell short, however, of complete commitment, by not including every repetition of the refrain.

So the May 1, 2010 history of Ann Arbor will record the performances of rock stars and non-rock stars alike. At 11 a.m. Barack Obama (not a rock star) will deliver the University of Michigan commencement address.

Later that same evening, with the Blind Pig’s doors opening at 9:30 p.m., Jones (rock star) and Alexander will play The Pig, along with the headline act, Frontier Ruckus. Frontier Ruckus is also an alum of The Ark’s Take a Chance Tuesday. Jones told The Chronicle that The Blind Pig performance will be an all-electric set.

At The Blind Pig, they’ll be joined by Alexander Silver, who’s also playing the 2 p.m. slot at Ypsilanti’s 2010 edition of Totally Awesome Fest, before playing his Ann Arbor gig. [Full Story]

Bill Bynum’s BreakFest Preview at Old Town

On Sunday, Jim and Connie Johnston drove from Hanover, just south of Jackson, Mich., to Ann Arbor.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum & Co. Sunday night at the Old Town Tavern. Left to right: Mary Seelhorst on fiddle, Chuck Anderson on bass, Dave Keeney on guitar, Bill Bynum on guitar and vocals. (Photos by the writer.)

They’d come specifically to hear Bill Bynum & Co. play the Old Town Tavern – a neighborhood bar offering free live music every Sunday night. Yes, the Johnstons are fans – they buy a CD every time they see Bill play, says Jim, so they’ll have one to give away to another friend as an introduction to Bynum’s songs.

What kind of songs are those? Bynum announced his Old Town set by saying, “Howdy, folks, we’re here to play some hillbilly music!” And that’s what they did for two 45-minute sets, with a break in between.

The Chronicle didn’t have to drive nearly an hour to get to the Old Town like the Johnstons did – the Old Town is right down the street from us.

But we were there to see Bynum, too, because we wanted to check out one of the acts playing BreakFest 2010 at The Ark on Feb. 26. That’s when Bynum will be joined by Bonnie Rideout, Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. and Duck Baker in a benefit concert at The Ark for The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s, a nonprofit that provides a hot breakfast every day of the year to anyone who shows up at the doorstep of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on North Division. [Full Story]

Column: Orpheum Bell, Handmade Music

man singing through a grammaphone amplifyer thing

An Orpheum Bell rehearsal: On bass, Serge van der Voo; vocals sung through a gramophone horn, Aaron Klein.

I’m wedged in the corner of a west side Ann Arbor basement amongst a jumble of musical instrument cases. The cases belong to the six musicians of Orpheum Bell. There’s more than one case per musician – they each play an array of different instruments. During a break in the rehearsal, I have to ask: What is that? It’s a Stroh violin, “spelled like the beer,” explains Annie Crawford.

The rehearsal is geared towards a CD release show at The Ark on Dec. 4. I’m soaking in the sounds of the basement practice mostly because of that CD, the group’s second – “Pearls.”

Serge van der Voo had sent along a review copy of the CD to The Chronicle. In a world of MP3 files flung around the Internet, a physical CD is an awfully clunky way to deliver musical data. But when I unfolded the heavy card stock CD cover into its 16-inch total length, I noticed one of the folds was not exactly uniform and regular – not the way you’d expect if a machine had produced several thousand of them.

An even closer examination revealed that the print quality was not the laser-like rigid perfection that a modern digital printer delivers. Which is not to say it was sloppy. On the contrary. It was more like trace-evidence that human hands had played a role. Who were these people with the apparently handcrafted CD case? To get some insight, I had crammed myself back amongst those instrument cases in the corner of a basement for two hours. [Full Story]

Frontier Ruckus Wraps 10 Years of Tuesdays


"I know your blurry winter roads like the back of the hand that is Michigan."

Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus led off Tuesday night’s set at The Ark just the way he started the band – with David Jones sitting by his side. With Jones’ gentle plucking of the banjo and Milia on guitar, Milia eased into Driving Home, Christmas Eve: “The churchyard is frozen, the Salvation Army is closin’, your child is dozin’ asleep …” But the repeated rhyme stopped there and did not become a caricature of itself in the way that a Dylan lyric sometimes does.

As the evening progressed, the pair … [Full Story]