REVIEW: John Butler Trio

The Michigan Theater provided a really gorgeous setting for last night’s concert. If you’ve ever been there, you’re familiar with the ornate designs on the walls, the gold sheen of everything, and the overall cozy yet lavish atmosphere. As the theater started filling up, Dustin Thomas started his set.

He played a song from 2016 that stuck out to me, called “Kings and Queens.” He introduced it by stating that we need to live more like our grandparents – in the moment, and connected with our loved ones (not our screens). In a rather ironic turn of events, one of his next songs was, as he called it, a “reverse Thanksgiving song,” something to listen to when politics emerges at the dinner table. Overall, though, Dustin Thomas’s set was heartfelt, even though it wasn’t what I was there for.

Based on the reaction John Butler received after intermission, I wasn’t alone in my excitement for his performance. There were 5 people onstage, the only other one I was familiar with other than Butler being the bassist, Byron Luiters. As I mentioned before, I was a little skeptical about the new drummer, but he was amazing.

I’ve always admired the John Butler Trio’s message. He had a great respect for the Native American land gift that is our university, and said so explicitly before he started playing. I also really love the band’s logo and poster artwork. Aside from aesthetics, the music was better than I’d anticipated. I had forgotten how great they were in a live performance. Every single one of their songs was unique.

“Blame It On Me” was one of the songs I particularly enjoyed. Butler was on an electric guitar. During his solo he used a reverb setting which reminded me a bit of the Eagles. I was amazed at how much of the neck he was using, and so quickly. The lights even did the rock song strobe effect so it was a very intense experience.

Speaking of the lights, whoever was the light designer was impeccable. The colors were both subtle and vibrant at the right moments, and complex sets were well thought through for every song. The music was good, but the performance wouldn’t have been half as impressive with a different light show.

That is, of course, except for “Ocean.” It’s hard to even come up with where to start talking about that song. It’s more than a song, really, I think it’s more Butler’s life experience, or whatever message he’s trying to portray. It’s all played on his beautiful 12 string, but it sounds like at least five different instruments. My favorite version still has to be Live at Red Rocks, so if you ever get a chance, be sure to look it up. You’ll understand why I haven’t been able to do it justice in a description.

I would have paid the full ticket price just to see “Ocean,” but I got a lot more. Last night was a great show, and if John Butler is ever back in Michigan, I’ll be sure to attend.

PREVIEW: John Butler Trio

Tomorrow night at 7:30, the John Butler Trio will be performing at the Michigan Theater. I’ve seen them once before a few years ago in Grand Rapids, and they were amazing. Butler’s guitar playing in particular stood out to me – if you’ve ever heard or seen him play “Ocean” you’ll know what I mean. I wanted to buy a 12 string guitar for the better part of high school just to learn that song.

The John Butler Trio has a new album out. It’s called “Home.” It’s pretty good; a little more alternative than their previous stuff, it’s definitely marking the band’s progression through the genres. While I don’t like it as much as some of their other albums, I’m excited to see how they incorporate new and old songs into their set. They also have a new drummer, Grant Gerathy.

They will be performing tomorrow night with Dustin Thomas.

REVIEW: Women’s Glee Club Fall Concert

The Women’s Glee Club fall concert featured performances from Women’s Glee, the South Lyon High School Varsity Choir, and Midnight Blue. Although this concert seemed to take attention away from just voices, adding a lot of instrumental work, the concert consisted of empowering messages for women, students, and those affected by the Holocaust.

My favorite song was the Women’s Glee Club’s second performance. Called “A Jubliant Song” by Norman Dello Joio, it represented a complex and versatile method of using an entire choir. Each segment of the choir was singing almost the entire time, forming intense harmonies and crescendos. The pianist, Bobby Levinger, was also amazing, showcasing his talent with every note. After speaking with my friend in the choir, I discovered that “A Jubliant Song” was ridiculously complicated to perform, but it stood out to me as the most unique and memorable number of the night.

After “A Jubliant Song,” the Women’s Glee Club performed “Reflections from Yad Vashem,” by Daniel Hall. The song was a juxtaposition of references to the Book of Genesis, prose by Hall, and names of children who were victims of the Holocaust. It was a haunting tune, using a lot of minor key along with a beautiful viola performance by Samuel Koeppe.

Women’s Glee Club then left the stage, making room for the South Lyon High School Varsity Choir. While they were less in number than Women’s Glee, their sound was still resonant and strong. For their last performance, “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy,” all the singers stepped down from the bleachers to form a line across the lip of the stage. They made their own percussion by clapping and stomping, which was a welcome addition to the relatively textbook glee performance.

After intermission, Midnight Blue sang “Praying” by Kesha, a song meant to serve as a message of empowerment for anyone going through hard times. After that they performed “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. Both rather contemporary pieces provided diversity to the concert, allowing for some of the glee singers without solos in the large performance to get their voices heard.

Women’s Glee then retook the stage. For their last two songs, they invited any glee alumni to join them in singing the famous “Yellow and Blue” as well as “Varsity Victors.” As a senior, those were probably my second favorite performances, as they always make me proud to be a student here.

Overall, the fall concert was a great way to celebrate 125 years. I appreciate that the glee club invites high school choirs and alumni to join them each year. Additionally, the use of talented musicians really adds to the performances, although I wish some songs simply focused on the voices of the glee club members.

PREVIEW: Women’s Glee Club Fall Concert

Tomorrow at 4pm, I’ll be heading to Hill Auditorium to the Women’s Glee Club fall concert. I’m always astounded by the quality of their sound and can’t wait to immerse myself once again. Aside from that, this concert also has a relevant theme: reflections of the past … with a focus on remembering the Holocaust.

The main languages concerned will be Hebrew and Latin. Songs will be performed by artists like Jake Runestad, Levente, and Daniel J. Hall.

I have a friend on Women’s Glee so I’m excited to see her perform! Knowing the Glee Club, this will be a gorgeous, resonant way to celebrate their 125 years of song.

REVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

Attending Luzinterruptus: Literature vs. Traffic was a different experience than I had originally thought. After volunteering on the project and researching a bit about the organization itself, I was really excited. For the first time in my life, I was going to get to be a part of an urban intervention. I was going to make social change. While that of course was ultimately true, I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I expected.

My friends and I arrived at Liberty Street ten minutes before 8pm. Unbeknownst to us, at 8pm Luzinterruptus permitted people to start taking books for themselves. Obviously I support this idea because I advocate for free reading and what it represents for society. What I didn’t expect was that I never even got to see the installation in all its glory because bodies were blocking the lights. People swarmed over the installation, stepping over books they did not want. We even climbed up the State Theater to try and see a glimpse of the promised spectacle from a higher window and all we saw were people.

This was all well and good, as Luzinterruptus was trying to promote their message. Free thought, the written word, and the importance of literature were all shining through in the book frenzy. While I was upset I never got to see an illuminated Liberty Street, I understand why that ended up being a good thing for the project.

Be that as it may, I can’t give you a full review of Literature vs. Traffic. What I can do is tell you about my volunteering experience. I was skeptical about giving up 6 hours of my Saturday – a game day, no less – to spend time in a room with people I had never met before. It was a cold and rainy day, so getting to Ruthven also was not fun. But when I arrived, the staff was welcoming and very apparently excited to have us there. The free t-shirts were also a bonus, but that’s beside the point.

My friend and I sat next to a very enjoyable couple. They were both alumni and still lived in the Ann Arbor area. The man – Joe, I think his name was – had a gorgeous leather-bound book saved off to the side because he was wrestling with the idea of gifting it to his nephew. His wife, Lisa, was discussing cookbooks with my friend, who had hoarded seven of them by the time our shift was over. Our goal was to put 20,000 lights into the pages of 10,000 books, which we accomplished in two days as opposed to the expected five.

Overall, Lisa and Ben were what made my experience memorable. I was happy with myself for choosing to volunteer my time for Luzinterruptus, a group whose goals I fully support. While I didn’t get to see the installation itself, I’m really glad I was able to contribute.

PREVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

Tomorrow from 5-11pm you can walk down a Liberty Street paved with illuminated books. As a part of Luzinterruptus’s Literature vs. Traffic installment, 10,000 discarded books have been recycled for the best possible purpose: to remind us of the importance of free thought, the written word, and our own community. As a grass-roots project, the participation of volunteers (myself included!) was essential. People from countless different backgrounds met at Ruthven to flatten the books, tape 20,000 tiny lights inside their pages, and move them to their exhibit site. Ann Arbor joined Toronto, New York, and Melbourne in featuring this specific project, but Luzinterruptus is an urban intervention guerrilla group all the way from Madrid, and they have created similar projects around the world.

Join us tomorrow night to see the Literature vs. Traffic installation in person. Pick up a free book. Enjoy Ann Arbor’s culture, memories, and people.