Photographer Doug Coombe celebrates the music scenes of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with multimedia exhibition

‘Last Night a Camera Saved My Life’ includes a number of events throughout the weekend

click to enlarge Andrew W.K., who grew up in Ann Arbor, performing at Detroit's Magic Stick. - DOUG COOMBE
Doug Coombe
Andrew W.K., who grew up in Ann Arbor, performing at Detroit's Magic Stick.

Over the years, Metro Times contributor Doug Coombe has photographed a dizzying array of musical artists from southeastern Michigan. His photos from the fertile Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti scenes are the subject of a new exhibition that opens on Friday, the cheekily titled Last Night a Camera Saved My Life.

“I seriously think southeastern Michigan is one of the greatest music areas in the world,” he tells Metro Times. “Detroit and Ann Arbor are definitely their own thing, but they’re also very much like sister cities, and part of the whole.”

The exhibition includes images of artists who came up in Ann Arbor and Ypsi, including rock star Andrew W.K., the label Ghostly International, hip-hop collective Athletic Mic League, indie rock band Minihorse, and more.

“Even though Ann Arbor and Ypsi are transient college towns, the scene always reinvents itself, much like the Detroit scene,” Coombe says. “It’s always just an amazing music scene. It never falls off.”

The exhibition is held by arts organization CultureVerse, which has a technology component Saganworks. There will also be a virtual exhibition using a 3-D scan of Ann Arbor’s storied Blind Pig music venue that can be viewed online. Coombe says the online exhibition will include images of artists performing at the Blind Pig over the years, as well as many additional photos of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti artists that couldn't fit on the walls at CultureVerse.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that certainly, a lot of venues come and go,” Coombe says of honoring the music venue that has hosted a number of important acts before they were megastars, and in recent years went up for sale before local investors rallied to save it. The online component allows him to exhibit even more work, he says.

“I think for every picture I put on the wall here, there’s like two or three other artists I feel bad for not including,” he says. “At least this way, everybody can get some well-deserved recognition.”

In the meantime, Coombe is also working on a book of images of Detroit artists — images that include the pivotal early 2000s era of the White Stripes, the former Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and hip-hop group Slum Village, among many others.

“Looking back on those photos I’ve been thinking about how small arts communities not only can change individual lives, but they can really change the world on a larger level,” he says, adding, “The White Stripes, DEMF, and J Dilla — those are three Detroit music revolutions that changed the world.”

The exhibition has an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, June 3 at CultureVerse; 309 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; cultureverse.org. Later, Minihorse, Ectomorph, Same Eyes, and more will perform from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. at the Blind Pig; 208 S. 1st St., Ann Arbor; blindpigmusic.com.

Related events also include Chris Bathgate’s record release show on Saturday at The Ark, ‍Josef Deas’s DJ set on Saturday at LoFi, ‍and the Tim Haldeman Quartet on Sunday at the Ravens Club. See cultureverse.org for more information.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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