leave your inhibitions at the door
When we first moved to Ann Arbor, one of things I was looking forward to catching a bunch of live music. I figured a college town that was the hometown of legendary rockers Bob Seger and Iggy Pop has got to have a great local music scene, right?
At the time there were only about three or four bars or clubs I could catch a band play and, unfortunately, it was almost always jazz. And you know how I feel about jazz. There was also a lot of folk music, which is only slightly better. Music preferences aside, a big problem with both genres is the people they attract. Being in a bar with them has got to be the 8th circle of hell. They sit there, leaning forward, listening a tad TOO intently. Or they’ll close their eyes, tilt their head back, and nod slowly with a grin on their face like they were basking in the warmth of the sun – or were on the receiving end of awesome oral. Regardless of their preferred listening posture, they can’t stand if you dare talk during the performance. One time, I got the stink eye for ordering a beer too loudly.
And hippies. Jazz and folk attract way too many hippies.
Even if I did like jazz and folk, the local music scene would still be a little stale. The University has different performing arts events but the perfomers are mostly out-of-towners. There’s also the Ann Arbor Summer Fest and Art Fair, but a lot of the acts are the same year after year. So the very few opportunities for showcasing the local music scene are often squandered. But things are changing.
This takes place on the first Sunday in May in the Water Hill neighborhood close to downtown Ann Arbor. The event consists of musicians who either live or work in the area performing for passersby on lawns, driveways and porches. When it started in 2011 there were 100 musicians participating in a couple dozen houses, often without any kind of sound amplification. There was everything form swing quartets, singer-songwriters, jazz ensembles to kids playing guitars – truly a mishmosh of acts. Now the event has grown, drawing huge crowds that spill onto the streets. Thankfully, just about all the houses now have sound equipment.
I had a few hours to kill so I was able to make the event for the first time. My friends – The Bloodsucking Lawyers – have been to all three so I hung out with them whole time. I didn’t get to see a lot of different acts, but there was something for everyone.
The biggest crowd I saw was for Vienna Teng who, having just finished her graduate degree, performed in her cap and gown.
She’s started her music career as a student at Stanford but, upon graduation, worked as some software geek. She eventually quit that job and pursued music full time – a great decision because she is awesome. Here’s the video for her song “Gravity’ –
Though now I’m wondering what she got her graduate degree in – music or engineering?
Obviously these musicians are committed to their craft and want to put on their performance. But as I watched them play I got the sense that they were really enjoying themselves playing in their own “turf.”
Wire in the Wood
Many of the acts there aren’t exactly the type of music I like and not all of them were good, either. But that’s almost beside the point. It’s a chance to hear local musicians who don’t get to perform at the too few performing opportunities in town. And it’s a truly organic event that’s growing by word-of-mouth that, for now at least, is not there to make money. Walking around the event, it seemed that everyone had a feeling that they were part of something really special. I can’t wait ’til next year’s!
Even though this one was chock-full of hippies.