Peninsular Place


April 28, 2013

The Buzz — May 2013


Billy Bragg // The Ark / May 1
by Jeff Milo

I don’t feel like I’m “writing about music” when it comes to Billy Bragg. I’m glad for that. No one makes hints of gloom sound so sublime. His music, his way with words gets me thinking about the big stuff – like what are we doing here, anyway, and what about the universe and our ancestors and who has the answer and whatever happened to that supposed great-leap-forwards. When anxiety or disenchantment haunts your days, it’s this distinctive non-traditionalist folk singer’s subtly gruff, richly rigid style, sung in that east London warble that shrugs and coos with warm, meandering melodies, exacting beautifully succinct, poetically-sarcastic wisdom to the restless riffs on his acoustic guitar, that makes me forget about all the bullshit with the suggested justification, almost like a gutter-punk/blue-collared zen koan, that it might all be bullshit, anyway. “Tooth & Nail” is the songwriter’s latest album in a 30-year solo career that’s blended intriguing re-imaginings of country-western-twanged folk balladry, adding in a bit of an indie-rockers edge and, lately, aging nicely with a sage-like confidence to his mellower meditations. Be sure to see him when he makes a stop at the Ark in Ann Arbor on May 1.


James Blake // The Majestic / May 3
by Drew Waller

Intimate, electronic music on a national tour stop with hundreds of your friends – what could be better? Combining love for the classic with the loops and samples of a digital age, James Blake brings his haunting vocals and mind-tripping beats to Michigan.

Consider the equal parts soul and electronic experimentation with the love of D’Angelo, Burial, Björk and Stevie Wonder under his belt, it is only expected that the final result would be one that would get you moving and make you think. His latest release marks an evolution in both his sound and result. After exposing the world to his singular talent from his critically-hailed eponymous debut release in 2011, his follow-up smartly takes that sound further while bringing in inspirations (Brian Eno, for one) and collaborators like Wu-Tang’s RZA into a completely organic and engrossing long player that sounds naturally enhanced. No filler.

Taking his own 1-800-Dinosaur label DJ sets and live shows across the world, expect a prime time gig that brings in the right amount of instrumentation from Blake and band Ben Assiter on drums and Rob McAndrews on guitar, electronic crunch and soul swoon that already found itself worthy on the stages of Coachella earlier this year. Tickets are $20. All ages.


Purity Ring // The Crofoot / May 4
By Paul Kitti

Early in 2011, Purity Ring was a mysterious band with a gimmicky name and one jaw-dropping single. This Canadian singer/programmer duo has since risen to the forefront of a new wave of artful electro-pop, joining scene veterans such as The Knife and Crystal Castles and influencing talented newcomers such as CHVRCHES. If you missed their debut album, I’d put it on your urgent listen list. It’s full of entrancing melodies with dark edges and sublime imagery with Megan James’ childlike vocals having the effect of an angel in a nightmare. Purity Ring adds a personal visual touch to each live show, turning the stage into some kind of haunted arts and crafts exhibit. There’s no news yet of plans for a second album, but it’ll be something of an internet firestorm when it drops – their latest release, a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy,” crashed their servers with way too many eager downloaders clicking at once. If you want to see Purity Ring, I’d get on tickets fast – they start at $14 from Doors open at 8 p.m.


Water Hill Music Festival // Water Hill Neighborhood, Ann Arbor / May 5
By Jasmine Zweifler

When it comes to music festivals, southeast Michigan has more than our fair share: Movement for the ravers, Top of the Park for the Ann Arbor townies and Mittenfest for us Ypsi weirdos. But one of the least conventional of these is Ann Arbor’s Water Hill Music Festival. Instead of a big stage set up with little satellites of mediocre food stands set nearby, Water Hill is an event that is basically a huge block party…if everyone on your block was an amazing musician. Performers like Chit Chat, Charlie Slick and The Appleseed Collective are among the acts this year. Guests turn up and, guided by signs on lawns, set out and explore the neighborhood. Bands just set up on porches and let rip. This event is free and is distinctly non-commercial. No fees, no sponsors, just tunes. It all gets underway at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5.


Youngblood Hawke // The Shelter / May 8
By Jasmine Zweifler

There is a certain breed of indie band that prides itself not on being hip and opaque, but rather wears its sunny optimism on its sleeve. Bands like Polyphonic Spree and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros know something about this, but Youngblood Hawke has a seat at the head table as well. Their layered, jangly dance tunes are perfect for warm weather and late nights. It seems an interesting proposition, but they are going to try to fit an arena sized sound into the teeny tiny Shelter around the back and underneath St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit on May 8. In their current incarnation, Youngblood Hawke has a tantalizingly spare catalog, but a new album is just a few months away. For just $12 you can taste the rainbow with Y.B. and Southern California friends The Colourist. This show may just be too much fun to handle on a Wednesday night, but we must rise to the challenge!


Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October // The Ark / May 9
By Jasmine Zweifler

The eyeliner-bedecked Blue October front man Justin Furstenfeld made it cool to be sad during his many years with the band. According to the information available, the recently solo singer has “bipolar disorder with psychotic tendencies.” All of these things make the prospect of his event at The Ark entitled “An Open Book” a good bet for some weepy, emo goodness. The evening is part of a tour Furstenfeld conceived to support the expanded third edition of his book of lyrics and writings “Crazy Making,” which dropped last month. He’s bringing along his guitar and plans to keep the evening acoustic with never before heard songs and some old favorites from his Blue October tenure. With a question and answer session planned as part of the May 9 event and limited numbers of meet-and-greet tickets available, this promises to be a veritable bonanza for fans who want to get a little closer.


May Days // Woodruff’s & Park Bar / May 10 – May 11
by Jeff Milo
Local musicians and merry pranksters are assembling for something more like a conference than a festival. May Days is two days of live music spread between two cities, celebrating the swell collaborative creation in the underground arts community. Inspired by the creative-circles of Michigan’s mythologized past, groups like Duende, Disinformants, Pewter Cub and many more are on two line-ups (May 10 at Woodruff’s / May 11 at the Park Bar in Detroit) stacked with nine bands per night (ranging from indie-pop, thrashy-post-punk and surrealist-hip-hop to garage-gored techno-rap…and more).
The dual/dueling-showcases come together thanks to the efforts of a music blog, a pair of arts collectives, a local record label and an arts studio all based around Metro Detroit. Both venues have multiple stages and energies should be amicably amped up towards a nervier nature of healthy competition – the summit adorned, also, with psychedelic art installations.
May Days will take place on May 10 at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti and May 11 at the Park Bar in Detroit. Music starts at 7 p.m.


Black Moth Super Rainbow // May 10 / Magic Stick
By Jasmine Zweifler

In certain circles, Black Moth Super Rainbow inspires a reverential awe that is well warranted. They delight in an entirely unique brand of synthesizer driven electro-fuzz psychedelia. Black Moth Super Rainbow and bring the weirdness with every new release, every music video and every live show. They keep their personality divorced from the music, so little is known about the members which make the prospect of a live show an exciting one indeed. You’ll get to see them in the flesh on Friday May 10 if you dare brave what promises to be a hot and creeped out evening of hippie hating Pittsburgh power at The Magic Stick in Detroit. They’ve brought friends with them – Heaven, help us. The Hood Internet and Oscillator Bug will be opening the show for BMSR. I will say with conviction that this is the show to attend this May.


Craft Beer Tour // Ypsi/A2 Bars / May 13 – May 19
by Jasmine Zweifler

Warmer weather has finally begun to hold us to her glowy, gentle bosom – and that means that beers and porches need to be at the forefront of all of our minds. Arbor Brewing Company (as always) is doing their part to make that a reality. May 13 through 19 they are unleashing the Craft Beer Tour – a progressive pub crawl with a competitive element – on the Ypsi/Arbor bar scene. To play, all you need to do is pick up a “beer passport” at any participating booze dispensary – places like The Wurst Bar, Arbor Brewing Company and Bill’s Beer Garden are among the watering holes on the list. With the first Michigan beer you imbibe at each bar, you’ll get a little sticker for your passport. Once the week is out, you snap a picture of your (hopefully) bestickered passport. For each sticker, you get an entry into a raffle to win killer prizes. Drink up and win!


The Airborne Toxic Event // May 15 / Majestic
By Jasmine Zweifler

The Airborne Toxic Event isn’t nearly as catastrophic as their name would indicate. This is a good thing, because otherwise the crowd at the Majestic would be filled with hipsters wearing gas masks on May 15. TATE’s interesting smoothie of rock, orchestral instrumentation (the band has its very own violinist) and heartfelt indie vocal stylings have garnered them oodles of fans and critical love. TATE are reminiscent of many things all at once: The Cure are obvious influences and their hyper-literate lyrics (the lead singer is a novelist after all) brings to mind The Smiths. Their album “Such Hot Blood” was just released, and they are bringing that fresh energy and brand new tunes here to Motown. The sanguine title holds the promise of a vitality and visceral quality to their newest offering that will no doubt be devoured like so many vampires on lovely necks.


Vampire Weekend //The Fillmore Detroit/ May 17
By Paul Kitti

Vampire Weekend entered the indie music scene like they were stepping off a yacht. While other bands were devising new ways to be cool, these four fresh-faced Columbia grads appeared as though they intended to buy popularity with their daddy’s credit card. By now, it’s understood the quality of their music took care of that for them. And the preppy personas have since grown curiously endearing. Borrowing from African pop, punk and new wave, Vampire Weekend devised a style that is at once simple and complex, made all the more distinct by Ezra Koenig’s easy, wry vocal expression. Their first two albums were incredibly tight and detail-packed pop offerings designed for replay, and if their two recent singles are any clue, their third entry will prove to be equally as vital. You can get your fix of Vampire Weekend’s “Upper West Side Soweto” at the Fillmore on May 17.


Rodriguez // Masonic Temple / May 18
By Ellen Kortesoja

On par with the storytelling prowess of Bob Dylan, Sixto Rodriguez’s own story is truly amazing. Rodriguez recorded his first two records with Sussex Records (a label owned by Clarence Avant – the former chairman of Motown Records) – “Cold Fact” in 1970 and “Coming from Reality” in 1971. The label quickly dropped him when his albums sold only a few copies in the U.S. However, without any knowledge to Rodriguez, his music developed a cult-like following in South Africa. The music became the anthem of anti-apartheid. On one side of the world in Michigan, Rodriguez lived a quiet life doing hard labor in Detroit, and on the other side, he was a household name – where his records sold over half a million copies, and he was commonly regarded as more famous than Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones.

He traveled to Cape Town in 1998 and played six sold out shows with tens of thousands of people. After the biographical documentary, “Searching for Sugarman,” premiered at Sundance in 2012, his fame finally traveled back across the Atlantic. On May 18, Rodriguez will grace the stage of the Masonic Temple in Detroit. Prolific and lingering, Rodriguez’s music carries the weight of a legend, and his lyrics detail the constant search for something more.


Of Monsters and Men // Meadowbrook Music Festival / May 28
By Paul Kitti

This Icelandic quintet formed in 2009 and experienced a rapid ascent to the peaks of indie folk/pop popularity. This was due in large to writing one of the most beloved singles of 2011, “Little Talks,” which reached the top 20 in multiple countries. They’ve been able to back up their debut album with a rigorous string of high-energy live performances, fueled by their four-part vocal harmonies and skills with multiple instruments. They won’t be slowing down this summer, playing at the biggest festival in Scotland in July and at Glastonbury Festival in June. Word is that they began piecing together a follow-up album in late December, so keep an ear out for new songs. They’ll be coming to Meadowbrook Music Festival on May 28 (tickets start at $20 from and doors open at 7 p.m.). Until then, you can catch them if you tune into Saturday Night Live on May 4.

About the Author

iSPY Team
iSPY Team
This piece was so awesome it took a whole bunch of iSPY team members to put together.

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