PREVIEW: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Several years ago, Alex Ebert was lost and confused; previously a hard-partying member of the band Ima Robot, he left the band, broke up with his girlfriend, moved from his house and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. That was when Edward Sharpe, a messianic figure sent down to earth to heal mankind, was born.
The band was created by Ebert after he sketched out the character of Edward Sharpe and met Jade Castrinos in downtown L.A. Shortly after, they began touring the country in a giant white bus, meeting fellow musicians and having them join for the adventure. Besides for singing songs about 40 day dreams, setting your spirit free, and celebrating life, the band also loves charismatically dancing around stage, creating a cinematic experience while belting out gospel-like vocals. Their most popular song, “Home,” is often performed while Ebert and Castrinos joyfully jump up and down – Ebert usually clad in all-white.
After a cancellation of their May 29 show, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will be playing September 25 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. The small venue will not only showcase their fun, quirky, and hippie-esque performances, but the theatre is perfect for their exuberant and layered sound.
Tickets can be purchased through the following link:

REVIEW: Ballet Preljocaj Snow White

Friday April 20th at 8 p.m. the Power Center filled with people excitedly anticipating the talked-about performance of Ballet Preljocaj’s rendition of the beloved Grimm fairy tale, Snow White. The lights lowered, and the audience fell silent. The performance began with a bang, with loud, dramatic music, low lighting, and smoke filling the stage as the curtains parted. A shadowy figure stood behind the smoke, barely visible. She slowly moved forward through the smoke, a creepy, but beautiful figure dressed in an all black, gauzy flowing gown, with black gauze covering her face and her hair, a black crown on her head. She is the pregnant mother of Snow White. In agony she gives birth to Snow White, but dies in the process. The king, also dressed in all black with a towering black crown, enters the stage with his men, and he picks up the baby. The men carry the body of the mother off the stage. And so the show begins! Incredibly dramatic.

Snow Whites Mother
Snow White's Mother

The king dances with his baby daughter, then briefly runs behind a panel of fabric, emerging with a little girl, dancing the part of young Snow White. Once again they run behind a panel of fabric, and out comes the star of the show, the most beautiful girl in the kingdom, Snow White, danced by Nagisa Shirai.

Throughout the performance sets and costumes created a beautifully enchanted fairy-tale world. This production of Snow White is certainly nothing like the Disney cartoon. The characters are darker and creepier, and the entire performance is fused with sexual tension and suggestive scenes. The performance was given a very clear disclaimer that the content is very adult, and that the show contains nudity, so it is not recommended for children to attend. However, I felt that UMS took the idea that this ballet is for adults a bit too seriously, making the audience look for these racy points in the piece, focusing their attention on the fact that it is “adult” rather than taking it as a piece of art without this prior disclaimer in mind. The nudity contained in the piece consisted of one female dancer dancing a part topless, and it was really  in no way sexual. She played a deer, complete with big fuzzy pants and antlers on her head. She was the animal sacrificed in order to protect Snow White from being killed, as the men needed to bring a heart back to the evil stepmother. Scenes that were meant to be sexual, such as the scene with the lovers in the woods, in a place where lovers go to have sex, were obviously not explicit. The dance movements suggested something sexual, but it was also very playful and flirtatious, much more innocent than the disclaimer warned audience members that it would be. This preoccupation with the sensuality of the piece persisted throughout the Question and Answer session with the dancers after the performance, with many individuals asking the dancers about the sexual content in the piece, rather than their experiences as professional ballet dancers in such a world-renown company.

The red scarf used in the scene with the lovers, a symbol of Snow Whites beauty and flirtation.
The red scarf used in the scene with the lover's, a symbol of Snow White's beauty and flirtation.

There were many really exciting and interesting moments in the dance. It was very engaging to see how the company portrayed different characters and scenes, as the story is so well known to its audience. I loved how the mirror scenes with the evil stepmother were portrayed, using a black screen and another dancer on the other side mirroring the character’s movements. It took me a minute to realize that it was another dancer in costume on the other side of a screen rather than a real mirror–the dancers were so precise!

I also loved the scene with the “dwarfs,” in this case miners who were  described by the dancers in the Q&A session as “monks” or non-sexual beings, a necessary component as a way of making sense of Snow White’s residence with these seven men while she was in hiding. They were suspended onto a rock wall, and danced up and down the wall, doing flips and turns. It was so cool to watch.

I also loved the moments between the prince and Snow White. During their meeting in the forest, where the lovers go, the music stopped as they danced together for the first time. It was breath-taking to watch them move together for an entire phrase in silence. They repeated the dance phrase once again and the music came in. It was like experiencing that moment of first falling in love between the two of them, where the world around them doesn’t exist, that intimate moment, and then watching it again from our perspective, on the outside with music. There was also an incredible scene after Snow White is poisoned by the apple, and the prince mourns her death. He flops around her “dead” body, dancing with her, tossing her around and performing a beautiful and tragic pas de deux seemingly completely on his own strength. They really made a wonderful pair dancing together throughout the performance.

Ballet Preljocaj’s performance of Snow White was a really incredible final dance performance for the UMS season. Ballet Preljocaj is a talented company of artists. They are some of the best dancers and performers I have ever seen. They moved completely in the moment, as if it were the very first time they were performing the dance. Their movements were full and luscious, and they were very aware of the other dancers on stage, moving together and feeding off of one another. They were very playful, and stayed in character relentlessly throughout the piece, including interactions and gestures that appeared and felt improvised and genuine. They never seemed to simply dance the steps taught to them, but they completely immersed themselves in the characters, in the movements, exploring the movements and the character, being in them and growing in them to fill them out before the audience. It was so beautiful and rewarding to watch. Ballet Preljocaj is certainly a company to watch out for. I’ll be looking forward to their next production, and I hope they will come back to perform here in Ann Arbor again soon!

To view a clip of Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White, go to:

PREVIEW: Ballet Preljocaj Snow White

This Friday, April 20th, Ballet Preljocaj will make its first appearance at the University’s Power Center in more than 10 years, performing the contemporary ballet company’s original rendition of the beloved fairy-tale Snow White. This is not your Disney fairy tale story of Snow White. The company warns that their show is for an adult audience only, as their take on the story is modern and edgy, containing adult themes and and a shift in perspective, making the evil stepmother the center focus of the production, exploring her desires and inner conflicts. The show looks sexy and fun, while retaining the beauty of classical ballet, and the whimsical world of magic where fairy tales exist.

Ballet Preljocaj will be performing Friday April 20th and Saturday April 21st at 8 p.m. at the Power Center. To purchase tickets go to:

For more information on Ballet Preljocaj, check out the company’s website:

PREVIEW: Ben Rolston CD Release

Ben Rolston CD Release Concert

Little is more exciting for a musician than the long awaited launch of his very first CD. This Friday, April 20th, U of M Music School grad Ben Rolston will be celebrating this very event. “Fables” is a debut creation by the bass player/song writer. All the compositions are original works, written and recorded over the past year.And if you’ve never been to the Kerrytown Concert House, where the show will take place, that alone is worth the ticket. One of the coziest venues in town, the Kerrytown Concert House is the perfect spot to sit back and hear some Friday night  jazz. The walls feature rotating works of art by various artists from the area. Currently on display are Cathy Barry’s esoteric, abstract oil paintings, a sight to behold.

A great deal of work has been leading up to this special evening performance. “The songs are from a  variety of periods,” said Ben. “Some were written specifically for the CD (For Continuing Curiosity and Wonder, Branches and Bark for example) and some were written earlier and adapted or reworked to be played on the album. The Cd has been a goal of mine since last spring.” And a year later, the work is complete.

The show will feature a slew of well known faces in the U of M music world. Student musicians include Ingrid Racine on trumpet, Marcus Elliot on saxophone, Alex Levine on guitar, Ian Finkelstein on piano, and Julian Allen on drums. Profs who will be joining are Andrew Bishop of the Jazz Department and Steve Rush of The School of Music. Not only is the performance an act of student collaboration but the album design as well. Recent School of Art and Design grad Katharine Drake’s large scale clay sculptures are elements of the album art (see the image below to get a visual). Many aspects of this creation can be attributed to energetic collaboration between campus artists on the rise.

I got an “exclusive” first listen to the entire CD last week. All ten tracks. Some are short, instrumental pieces while others are as long as ten minutes. Most have a jazzy flavor, but some, like (mineral) have a more experimental sound to them (thats my favorite track). One thing I really enjoy about this album is that in every song, the bass has a very commanding presence. They always say you don’t know the bass is there unless it isn’t, but in this case, the deep string sounds take center stage in a refreshing way. Another prop about the album is that it flows comfortable between foreground and background sound. I listened to the whole thing while doing my homework and was able to balance the harmonies with my concentration. But also, I paused at moments to listen only to the rhythms and let it be my entire focus. A great listening experience, this release is bound to be everything the recordings are and more.

To get a listen yourself, check out Ben’s Bandcamp. The site is in development so only one song is currently available (more to come). Click to listen to the track Leafy. The CD will be available at local record stores, itunes, bandcamp, amazon, cdbady, and more, but only after the release. The concert is the first place the CD will be available.

Below is a picture of Ben on bass, Marcus Elliot and Julian Allen playing a gig at Bakers in Detroit.

Ben Rolston in the studio recording “Fables”

Some info about the concert:

Friday, April 20th 2012

8 pm

Kerrytown Concert House

415 N. 4th Street, across from the Farmer’s Market

REVIEW: Atlas Sound feat. Fthrsn

Atlas Sound and Fthrsn

On Tuesday, April 10th, The Center for Campus Involvement presented Atlas Sound in The League Ballroom. The name is an alias for Bradford Cox, who you may recognize as a music maker in  the local band Deerhunter. The ambient punkrock performance drew a decently sized crowd, especially for a Tuesday  night. Synthesizers and electric mixing brought a whole new meaning to guy-and-his guitar. In Deerhunter, Cox plays guitar, but does not always take center stage—the reason he has branched out to command his own act. Apparently, the singer songwriter works in stream of consciousness. Not sure if that means improv on the spot, but apparently he doesn’t write his lyrics beforehand. Pretty bold! Each song he played was incredibly lengthy, loud, and and mesmerizing- almost hard to tell one track from another. At one point, I laid down on the carpet in the back and closed my eyes to listen. Despite the volume, it could have lulled me to sleep. A rage nap, if you will.

I wonder if the majority of the crowd was there for the headliner or the opener, Fthrsn. (I was definitely there for the latter). As an award for winning this semester’s East Quad Music Coop’s Battle of the Bands, Fthrsn got the opening gig for this performance. Performing Arts Technology student, Macklin Underdown’s homemade musical alias, Fthrsn, is on the rise. Under the genre of Ann Arbor Bedroom Glitch Pop, Fthrsn is a spacey, technologically altered mixture of voice and computerized sounds affect. I’m going to go ahead and boldly say that of all of the current college groups making waves, this one is my favorite. I listen to his Soundcloud regularly while doing my homework and felt embarrassingly like a groupie when I knew all the words to the songs he played. But not too embarrassed to happily sing along. Normally the one man band acts alone, but for this particular performance, he called on the help of fellow music school students Evan Layborne on the drums, Peter Felsman on the keyboard, and on guitar, Jeremy Malvin of Ann Arbor’s pride Chrome Sparks. The set was paired with visuals of psychedelic nature, flowers, birds, and, of all things, hoolah dancers- an instructional video for the audience? Who knows, but I danced along.

Maybe it was because the concert was school sponsored or maybe because it was held on school grounds, but something about the evening felt incredibly prom like. The dark and open space of the ballroom was crowded in the middle with floaters milling about on the outskirts of the room, hesitant to join in at first though certainly wanting to. Also, I was there with a date and for all I know, I might as well have been wearing a corsage and slow dancing. But the evening was certainly enjoyable and, if nothing else, it was exciting to see Fthrsn play live when it usually only plays loudly in my headphones in the library.

Check out Fthrsn on Soundcloud and on Bandcamp. And get a listen to Bradford Cox as Atlas Sound and Deerhunter. And lastly, Ann Arbor’s DJ Peter Wiley as SUBVADER played beats at the very beginning of the show while the crowd filed in. All local, all awesome. All great music for summertime (Happy last day of classes!)

Below, pictures of Fthrsn and Atlas Sound respectively

PREVIEW: Adam Falkner

The Global Scholars Program at the University of Michigan presents Adam Falkner. Spoken word artist and University of Michigan alumnus, Adam Falkner is a poet, performer, public high school teacher, and educational consultant. The events will carry out through the weekend and will provide the chance to hear him speak, as well as one-on-one meet and greets. The event line up is as follows:

Thursday, April 12th, 2012, 7:00pm – 9:00pm  — Welcome Reception
North Quad, 105 South State St. – Space 2435
Deserts Provided

Social Identities and Creative Writing – Friday, April 13th, 2012, 11:00am – 1:00pm & 2:00pm – 4:00pm
North Quad 2275
A 2 session workshop series
No preparation required; register at

Drop in One-on-One Times
Friday, April 13th, 2012, 7-9 (Media Gateway in North Quad)
Saturday, April 14th, 2012, 4-6 (Media Gateway in North Quad) 

Loving Life After Graduation: Dialogue about how to do what you love after graduation and how to still pay the rent.  – April 14th, 2012, 1:00pm – 4:00pm

Want to Tell Your Story? Story Slam featuring Adam Falkner
Saturday, April 14th, 2012, in 2435 NQ
Open Mic: 7pm
Story Slam: 8pm