Night and Day

Oct 14, 2009 at 12:00 am


Edgefest, now in its 13th year, has always celebrated the breadth of a hard-to-define avant-garde whose roots twist back to John Coltrane and John Cage, Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Erik Satie, folk music of the world and Frank Zappa. This year's fest is no different. There're elders of the movement, cats like saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and percussionist Han Bennink who helped pioneer the edge in the 1960s; there are up-and-comers in the University of Michigan jazz and creative music students performing, and, most likely, there are representatives of every generation and cohort in between. There are bands that lean to chamber music circumspection, like the Gravitas Quartet (featuring Wayne Horvitz), others that trade more on intensity, such as the loopily electrified Yuganaut (which will add Mitchell as a special guest), and plenty of acts you can expect to seesaw between extremes. And with this year's emphasis on reeds, there will be all-reed groups led or including the likes of Andrew Bishop (Ballad Age), 4 Altos (Marty Ehrlich) and Conspiracy Winds Ensemble (Faruq Z. Bey). Other performances include former Detroiter Oluyemi Thomas' Positive Knowledge, cellist Thomas Ulrich's Cargo Cult and guitarist Brad Shepik's music addressing global warming in his "Human Activity Suite." Most action is at Kerrytown Concert House with additional action at SHaut Gallery, Sweetwaters Cafe and in the streets (for a parade). Free events include a mass reed choir and vocal lessons with Thomas Buckner. Ten or so ticketed events cost $10 to $20, but $135 covers them all. For more info and reservations: 734-769-2999 or

David Taylor

The U.S.-Mexican border and the guards who patrol it are David Taylor's subjects. In his ongoing project, Working the Line, the New Mexico-based photographer documents the border from El Paso to San Diego, and the increasing efforts of the government — from a greater number of border agents to the miles of fencing — to prohibit illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Taylor was granted broad access to border patrol operations, both in the office and in the field, and his work often highlights the monotonous activity that lies behind this highly charged issue, humanizing the antagonists on both sides of the border. Taylor speaks about his work in a free lecture titled "Work the Line: Photographs of the U.S./Mexican Border" at 6 p.m. at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-3200.


In their decade-long career, Gossip has existed as part DIY garage rockers, part dance-punk darlings. The Oregon-based trio found success by tipping the scale toward the latter, hitting it big in Britain with groovy gay rights anthem "Standing in the Way of Control" off the 2006 album of the same name. Now they're poised to do the same back home with their fourth disc, the Rick Rubin-produced, major-label debut Music for Men. But pumping up the disco chic doesn't detract from the band's trademark — the ferocious soul wail of Beth Ditto. The charismatic and outspoken singer may now be best chums with Kate Moss, but she hasn't lost her 'tude or her chops (or her penchant for dropping trou for the camera), which will be on full display at 8 p.m. at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; all ages; with Men and the Replicas.


Tune-Yards is the vehicle for New England's Merrill Garbus, a ukulele-wielding songstress who fearlessly combines everything from West African rhythms, swampy blues and folk to create her oddly enchanting racket. Her debut disc, Bird-Brains, was recorded more than two years ago on a handheld digital recorder, and consists of little more than Garbus' husky voice, the trembling uke, field recordings and looped percussion created from whatever objects were handy. It's an intriguing hodgepodge that Garbus molds into something of a primitive beauty. With Prussia, Wildcatting and Starring at 8 p.m. at the Crofoot's Vernors Room, 1 S. Saginaw, Pontiac; 248-858-9333; $8.

Halloweird Hallowbaloo

Tingle your spine and raise your hairs at Halloweird Hallowballo, a mixed-media exhibition of otherworldly works. Expect robots, aliens, monsters — even scary TVs (what the…?) by artists such as Brent Harris, Davin Brainard, Rick McQuaid, Lisa Ackley and more. The opening features a linocut demonstration by John Benson, who'll create Halloween cards using the printmaking technique. Also, Dr. Zin-Zin Electro will perform compositions by Michigan poet Glen Armstrong on the theremin, an early electric instrument that's known for its eerie and mysterious sound. The reception takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Biddle Gallery, 2840 Biddle Ave., Wyandotte; 734-281-4779; the exhibit displays through Nov. 1.

Ken Meisel

Detroit born-and-bred poet Ken Meisel makes the city his subject in his latest collection of poems, Beautiful Rust. He details his explorations of abandoned factories and the forgotten music clubs of Motown's heyday; his conversations with storefront preachers and graffiti artists. He captures the essence of a city where the glory is always so prominently in the past and the failure is inescapably present. But through Meisel's voice, it's a city that needs a witness such as himself, someone to tell the story of so much beautiful decay. Meisel reads from Beautiful Rust at 7 p.m. at the Detroit Artists Market, 4719 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-8540; all proceeds from the sale of Beautiful Rust will benefit the underheralded InsideOut Literary Arts Project.

Fra Fra Sound

Fra Fra Sound got started in Amsterdam and fashions its brightly accessible jazz with a heavy influence from Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana) in South America but including sounds of the wider Caribbean and Africa, South Africa, in particular. Having evolved their sound since 1980, original member Vincent Henar is right when he says, "Today we sound only like ourselves." Better known across Europe than in the States, the band is barnstorming through a half-dozen cities here working behind their dynamic disc Dya So (Pramisi Records). The septet performs at 8 p.m. both nights at the Arts League of Michigan's Virgil Carr Center, 311 E. Grand River, Detroit; 313-965-8430. Tickets $20.

The Talented Tenth

Richard Wesley's 1989 play focuses on a group of Howard University graduates who have gone from crusading activists of the civil rights movement to self-involved corporate "buppies." One character's midlife crisis causes the friends to reflect on the ideals they've sacrificed in exchange for the materialistic comforts of the American Dream. Twenty years after the play's debut, Wesley's characters wrestle with issues — from the meaning of success to the politics of race — whose relevance has only increased with time. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 25 at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-577-2960; $15.

Avedon Fashion Photographs 1944-2000

From the start of his career in 1944 (when he was hired by Harper's Bazaar at the age of 21) until his death in 2004, Richard Avedon was one of the most prominent photographers
in the world of fashion. From the start, he reinvented the form, transforming the norm of static models in drab studios to vibrant women in motion in unusual and provocative settings. At Harper's, and later at Vogue and The New Yorker, Avedon worked with both celebrities and models, creating iconic and innovative images that he viewed as portraits of the women and not the clothes. 181 works are displayed as part of Avedon Fashion Photographs, which opens Sunday and runs through Jan. 17. At 2 p.m. associate curator of prints, drawings and photographs Nancy Barr will lecture on Avedon's career. At the Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-7900;

Love and Knowledge in Jane Austen

One of the most beloved English writers of all time, Jane Austen continues to permeate contemporary culture, from film adaptations starring the dreamy Keira Knightley to the post modern mashups of her novels Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Adela Pinch, the director of graduate studies in women's studies at the University of Michigan, will discuss Austen's work from the feminist perspective in the talk "Love and Knowledge in Jane Austen." Janeites should gather at 7:30 p.m. at Grosse Pointe South High School, 11 Grosse Pointe Blvd., Grosse Pointe Farms; info at 313-343-2074 ext. 6; $10, free for members of The Friends of the Grosse Pointe Library. The lecture is the first in a series of events sponsored by the group, upcoming events can be found at

Love's Labour's Lost

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of London hops across the pond for six performances of Love's Labour's Lost, one of the Bard's earliest comedies. The play tells the story of King Ferdinand and his cronies who have abandoned love in all its forms for three years of ascetic study. The arrival of the Princess of France and her bevy of hotties puts the boys' will power to the test — a test they ultimately fail. The triumph of love and lust is told in some of Shakespeare's most playful and sophisticated language, from puns and rhymes to deliberately "bad" poetry and parody. It's a language lover's delight at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor; tickets and info at 734-764-2538. Other performances take place Oct. 22-25, with a special students-only staging on Wednesday, Oct. 21. For details on a series of educational events offered in conjunction with the performance, visit