Peninsular Place

The Magazine

May 30, 2013

Ann Arbor Summer Festival + Artist Interviews

A2 Summer Festival

In the summertime the city of Ann Arbor seems to be awash in festivals. Where once was a desolate land with only the occasional cool show for sustenance now thrives a riot of music, art, food and fun. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is the big daddy of them all. Beginning on June 14, all roads lead to Ann Arbor with attractions as varied as dancing radio hosts, late night movies, capoeira demonstrations and boozy book discussions. The best part, kids, is that (nearly) every event is free, free, FREE!
The main draw of A2SF for most people is the music – and for good reason. This year they’ve tapped folky bluegrass acts like The Appleseed Collective, Matt Jones and Theo Katzman among others, to populate both of the festival stages in addition to Wild Belle, who are currently making quite the stir in the national indie music scene. A slew of great DJs like Ross Federman and Michael Dykehouse will keep the cool kids up late during the DJs After Dark series at The Grove stage, sponsored by iSPY Magazine.

While all of these acts are music to our ears, there’s more to love about A2SF than just the sonic banquet. The “Spontaneous Art” happening, an interactive and unpredictable piece of performance art will take place on the evening of the June 20 at the South Ingalls Mall. A delightful kid’s event called Tangle (essentially a huge elastic spider web that the young ones weave themselves) will be spun on June 19 as well as “Superhero” – a concept that really has to be seen to be believed (check the A2SF website) – make up some of the one off events of the festival.

A tradition in long-standing has been the outdoor movies shown after the sun goes down, and this year’s crop does not disappoint with classics like “The Goonies,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Sixteen Candles” and the Hitchcock thriller: “Vertigo.” Some more recent films are also on the schedule with the inclusion of blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” and “Skyfall” along with some more indie flair like “Life of Pi” and the latest Wes Anderson quirk-fest “Moonrise Kingdom,” making the offerings pretty omnivorous.

Like I said, none of these events will cost you one red cent, but for those of us who love poppin’ collas and dropping dollas, the events get even bigger. Ann Arbor’s Power Center plays host to the festival’s Mainstage events which include performances from the futuristic Django Django, the vaguely orchestral Pink Martini and a trio of NPR heavy hitters. Garrison Keillor will be doing his Prairie Home Companion shtick at Hill Auditorium, Glynn Washington will be steering the ship on the Snap Judgment storytelling juggernaut and Ira Glass will be engaged in some sort of mad dance off.
This year’s Ann Arbor Summer Festival promises thrills and trills for all, but they are far too numerous to chronicle in this little piece. I can’t stress how much the 33 1/3 book series merits a trip, for example. For a full schedule of events and details to boot, visit or download their awesome mobile app and see for yourself.


 We asked some of our favorite local Ann Arbor Summer Festival artists about the festival. Here’s what they had to say:


Erin Zindle photo by toko shiiki santos   ERIN ZINDLE OF THE RAGBIRDS

 What do you love about the Summer Festival? 

The Summer Festival is a great experience for artists and music lovers alike. The Ragbirds have performed at Top of the Park many times over the years, and it’s always a great community experience – great sound and lights, children and adults of all ages dancing together in the street, good food and beer. It is also a great way to discover new music and keep up with what’s happening in the Ann Arbor music scene. We love coming out to support and enjoy other bands who are performing and running into so many friends when we get there. It feels like a family party.

 What are you looking forward to most about performing at the Summer Festival? 

This year we will be gathering a group of friends to join us for our Top of the Park performance, and we’ll be announcing our guests soon, but it will be a special show for all of us. We’re planning on digging in and getting creative to make this performance really unique.

What’s your favorite Ann Arbor Summer Festival memory?

One of our Ann Arbor super-fans who has become a good friend of ours casually suggested a Talking Heads song for us to cover. We liked the suggestion (but didn’t tell him) and when we played at Top of The Park, we decided to play that song as an encore because he was dancing in the front row. His surprise and excitement alone sent sparks into an already super-charged crowd, and it made everyone really happy. It was the perfect way to end the show.

The Ragbirds will perform at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21 at the Rackham Stage.


Ross Huff - The Macpodz  ROSS HUFF OF THE MACPODZ

  What do you love about the Summer Festival? 

It causes us to look around and be happy about our town. I love that young kids and our parents can come hear us – folks that don’t want to stay up until midnight at the Pig. You can walk down there any evening and run into some friends and hear amazing music. It’s really inspiring to see the community come together to just goof off.

 What are you looking forward to most about performing at the Summer Festival? 

Our set is on Father’s Day, and I think Brennan (Andes) is excited to play for his daughter and her gang of soap-dodgers. I always love playing outdoors among the beautiful architecture. The lighting schemes in the trees and people of all ages having fun makes it magical. It’s also hilarious to have the Burton Memorial Tower as a stage-clock. It’s impossible to start late or run over-time. I’m glad that our friends (and brilliant songwriters) Matt Jones and Kate Peterson each will play a set on the Grove Stage. Top it off with one of those jalapeño and cheese infused hot dogs and a 007 film, and it feels like we’re living in civilization.

What’s your favorite Ann Arbor Summer Festival memory?

We were scheduled to play opening night in 2008 with My Dear Disco (who later became Ella Riot). Around 6:30 p.m. we had all the gear staged in the side-tent but didn’t set it up because dark clouds were rolling in. There was much speculation, hemming and hawing, hopes that the storm wouldn’t 86 the gig and vague planning for shortened set times. Brennan has a knack for the right action, and, realizing we weren’t going to accomplish anything standing around in the street, suggested that we wait out the inclemency at Arbor Brewing Co. The lot of us, a dozen deep, arrived at the pub just as the storm hit. It lasted long enough for two frothy pints apiece and blew away in plenty of time for MDD’s 8 p.m. downbeat. At the end of the Macpodz set, some of their gang came on stage with us, and we performed one of worst cover versions of “Dancing in the Streets” in history. It’s only right that over the years we’ve had both our most triumphal and most embarrassing moments on the same stage in front of all of our families, friends and neighbors – like the year that Brennan’s bass cable was 10 feet long but the vocal microphone was 13 feet away or the year our manager neglected to tell us that we were supposed to take a set break. They made us get right back onstage and we wound up playing for three hours straight. Afterwards I was a staggering wreck. We never ran out of material, though.

The Macpodz will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 16 at the Rackham Stage.


Dan Henig photo by anne frances ghislaine  DAN HENIG

 What do you love about the Summer Festival? 

I love pretty much everything about Summer Festival. Ann Arbor is beautiful in the summer, and music downtown with good people and good food makes it even better.

 What are you looking forward to most about performing at the Summer Festival? 

I’m looking forward to being part of Ann Arbor’s iconic summer festival and performing for genuine music lovers.

What’s your favorite Ann Arbor Summer Festival memory?

My favorite memory has to be when I performed last year. It was so much fun, and I got to meet and talk to some really cool people through it.

Dan Henig will perform at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3 at the Grove Stage.


Kate Peterson of Nervous but Excited  KATE PETERSON OF NERVOUS BUT EXCITED

 What do you love about the Summer Festival? 

To me, it’s the ultimate Ann Arbor – community, local arts, local food, lots and lots of friends. It’s a good excuse to make a night of a Tuesday and an opportunity to really enforce the idea that summer is here.

What are you looking forward to most about performing at the Summer Festival?

The Grove Stage is awesome! It’s shady, breezy and lovely. It will be my first time playing solo at Summer Festival, and I am going to try out some new stuff – and going back to back with Matt Jones is quite a treat.

What’s your favorite Ann Arbor Summer Festival memory?

Our first year on the Rackham stage with Nervous but Excited. We all out brought the “danciest” versions of ourselves, and it was a pretty perfect night. We encouraged an already enthusiastic crowd to attempt the worm during one of our songs, and the winner got a free CD. The recording of the show has some pretty hilarious responses to the event – including some more painful sounding ones based on the teenage boy who really put his heart into it. Thankfully, he was okay and we hear the CD helped him in the “healing process.”

Kate Peterson will perform at 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 16 at the Grove Stage.

About the Author

Jasmine Zweifler

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