Free shows abound 

Let them eat

Well, now, we certainly had a bundle of activity in the metro Detroit area for the Fourth of July holiday week, didn’t we? Whatever you chose to pursue, you most likely reluctantly ended up at work on Monday morning with the remnants of a nasty sunburn, a lingering hangover and nostril hairs still singed by hazardous illegal fireworks purchased in Ohio.

I wasn’t brave enough to endure the pulsating throng of people who piled into Hart Plaza for the Detroit fireworks, and I didn’t actually make it up to Pontiac for the annual Cool Nights event of fireworks, music and barbecue — but I did spend several days meandering about the Tastefest — oh, excuse me, I meant the Comerica Tastefest. First Comerica Park, then the Comerica Tastefest, next it will be the United States of Comerica.

Tastefest has become damn hip, with performances that cater to nearly every crowd imaginable. Of particular note were the performances by DJs Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, Kenny Larkin, Stacey Pullen and Minx, as well as veteran Detroit jazz divas Straight Ahead doing a special set with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave.

Spotted in the mix were the mistress of fabulosity Carole Bannerman and her husband, trombonist John Ferry (formerly of Gangster Fun and currently with Al Hill and the Love Butlers), Michael “Look, I’m out in the sunlight!” Garrity, Sean “Master of 1,000 Disguises” Harrington of the Town Pump, the soft-spoken female half of the White Stripes, Meg White, Greg Baise, Jennifer Jeffery and Mary Mans, and the reclusive but darn swell computer kids Fbain and Vein, who were drawn out of hiding by the Echo and the Bunnymen performance.

It was most enjoyable to sit back and watch such an incredibly diverse array of Detroiters pack the streets of the New Center — all of them smiling, laughing and generally stuffing themselves like pigs. This display of mass good vibes emanating from everyone making nice with one another through the harmonious bond of gluttony made even my jaded self get a bit warm and fuzzy — that is, until I pulled up to the freeway and saw the disheveled, exhausted man hunched over by the road holding a sign asking for food because he was hungry. However, my faith in humanity was quickly restored when the woman driving the Lexus in front of me rolled down her window and handed a fistful of her leftover Tastefest tickets to the man.

I pulled up, rolled down my window, did the same, and sped off onto the pothole-laden Lodge Freeway for further adventures.


This weekend saw the grand finale to the beloved summer tradition of Ann Arbor, the Top of the Park series of free music and movies. Every summer for a little more than a month, the parking structure adjacent to the Power Center transforms into the best spot to hear great local music for free and catch some of your favorite flicks, which start at dusk and are projected onto a large white flat facade, under a starry night. T-O-P as locals affectionately call it, has long been a favored hangout of everyone from soccer-mom families, high-school students and senior citizens — again, with the warm fuzzy feeling of mass harmony, this time united by the joy of anything that’s free. The event ended last Sunday, with the traditional finale performance from local rockabilly heroes, George Bedard and the Kingpins. However, if you read the Ann Arbor News, you would have thought the event ended on Saturday, according to the paper’s erroneous reporting. Not only did someone drop the ball big-time by overlooking the actual finale of the festival, but they put it on the dang front page. Geez, I don’t mean to keep busting your balls, but you guys keep giving me the opportunity. And stop using the phrase “Ann Arborites” in your paper! It’s damned obnoxious.

In any case, Sunday went off with a bang, despite the fact that Saturday turned out rather soggy, with attendance dampened by drizzly rains. However, die-hard fans Sara McMullen-Laird and Kamron Mensinger of Shar Music were among the faces dotting the barren bleachers and chairs. The duo had diligently come out to see their friend’s band, the Original Brothers and Sisters of Love — who were busy being frustrated and waiting for it to stop raining so they could start their set. However, band member Liz Auchinvole of New Zealand was still chipper in her colorful polyester dress and black Doc Martens, as she bided time with Elliot Lawes — also from New Zealand but not in the band.

Of course, on any night of Top of the Park, you are guaranteed to spot local celebrity and Ann Arbor icon Shaky Jake, the best-dressed guy around and perhaps the one shining redemption of this pompous, stuffy, overwhelmingly pretentious college town. Jake is a very eccentric but highly endearing old fellow who carries around a shabby guitar for impromptu street-corner performances, and is always sharply dressed in leisure suits dotted with bursts of colorful and flamboyant accessories. Needless to say, he is one damn cool cat, and if you ever bump into him while wandering about Tree Town, strike up a conversation with the guy — you’ll be glad you did.

Sarah Klein broke her arm while skinny-dipping.

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