In One Ear 


If you missed the opening of detroit contemporary's "Sight;Sonic: The Art of Music" exhibit -- and judging by the shoulder-to-shoulder throngs in attendance, not many folks did -- you missed more than the art on the walls, sculptures and installations. The exhibit connected the art of musicians and the music of artists, blurring divisions and accentuating the connection between the two communities. Much of the fun to be had was in the vast array of sonic and multimedia performances that tickled the ears and synapses from 9 p.m. till 5 (a.m., that is). Everything from found-sound audio collages to world music to electronic explorations to, well, rock of a sort filled the lineup. Now that it's time for "Sight;Sonic" to close, exhibit co-curator and musical nexus David Hartman has assembled "Sides and Trimmings," to neatly bookend the opening night kickoff this Saturday (doors at 7 p.m.). The sounds will be provided by a stellar cast of metro Detroit's, and I'm quoting Greg Baise here, finest "freedom chasing" musical assemblies -- including Universal Indians Orchestra (Universal Indians joined by sonic superfriends), the ecstatic trombone-guitar-drum brilliance of Foxgloves, the unintended-post-Velvets velvety goodness of Night Doctors, the Poopy Times' theatrical concept art punk (as endearing as they wanna be) and Matt Smith and his Atonal Friends (a collaboration between Outrageous Cherry's Matt Smith and hypnotic collaborators).

As if that weren't enough to titillate, in between sets there will be 15-minute mini-sets by the Bad Girls (free sax with guitars), the funky DJ Fukno & Sitcom, Tonehead (featuring three members of Postaliah, formerly Visitor) and DJ Booth (Gravitar's Geoff Walker and Ghost World/Volebeats-er John Nash). The whole kit-and-caboodle will have its visual mojo worked by video artist Driveway (who provided the film projection fun at "Sight;Sonic"'s opening).

Take this last chance to see detroit contemporary's kickoff show -- you won't regret it. The gallery is located at 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd., north of Warren Avenue, west of Trumbull Avenue. Call 313-898-4ART for directions and information.


Let's put it this way: I had a musical itch and the Imperial Swing Orchestra scratched it!

While the lounge and swing revivals have been on the cultural map for too long to be dismissed as a passing fad, and Detroit has its share of worshipers at the Daddy-o temple, there have been precious few recorded documents of the handful of truly great swing-jump-big band sounds this area boasts. Ann Arbor's Imperial Swing Orchestra has just stepped up to fill a goodly part of that gap, though. Simply put, the 10-piece (that's a five-piece horn section, mister!) ISO's debut EP makes me giddy. Sure, it's only five songs and 15 minutes, but that means that for just a little while, jump-savvy dancing feet have a reason to get busy.

Make no mistake, this is no mere retrofitted punkabilly or ironic posture of a fashion statement the Imperial Swing Orchestra's making here. There's a reverence for rollicking big band-era dance floor fillers, sultry torch intimacies and pre-rock 'n' roll American music that doesn't come down the road too often -- particularly I-94! That Squirrel Nut Zippers producer Mike Napolitano came up to Ann Arbor to record the band at the Big Sky Studio has something to do with the hot, live and, for lack of a better word, earthy feel of the tunes, but it's also the songwriting of bandleader Tom Loncaric, vocalist Tracy Leigh Komarmy and guest scribe Michael Lutz -- who wrote the classic "Smokin' in the Boys Room" and here contributes "Good Times Are Everywhere." The band inhabits these tunes with a stage-honed fluidity that sounds as spontaneously combustive as it can be onstage -- do yourself a favor and see ISO! Particularly of note is guitarist Chris Neel, who burns hot with roots rockabilly licks one minute -- check "Futureliner" -- and evokes all the bare bones smolder of Marc Ribot the next.

Clear away the furniture, pop on the hi-fi and turn your living room into a dance floor with the Imperial Swing Orchestra -- I did, and it hit the spot!

For more info, write the Imperial Swing Orchestra at 2733 Deake St., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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