REVIEW: 35th Annual Storytelling Festival

I highly recommend attending this event at some point in your life. It’ll be a chance to reflect on the media exposure you are getting and appreciate the art of language.

The event took place in the ark, in front of a stage with blue curtains. Two microphones were there; one for the MC, and one for the teller. The audience was seated surrounding the stage and the tellers exchanged the ‘shower caps’ of microphones every time they took the stage. The room was dimly lit with warm, orange lights. It was a perfect atmosphere to hear a good story-minimal visual distraction so that we could let our imagination run wild and focus on the vibration of air that hit our ears. At this stage, 6 tellers told one story each, the type of stories varied from a revision of an old folk tale (I recalled hearing a story in a similar twist in the Talmud), some point in the border between a joke and real life, and humorous reminiscence of moments just a few days ago or a few decades ago. In all, the tone of stories had humor and drama to them, the two great components that captures our attention. It was a combination, a tasting menu of stories to give the audience a taste of the art of storytelling.

I loved the atmosphere of the event – It was like Youtube, but without any visuals and distractions. I realized that I forgot what it was like to listen to a good story. When you hear a good story from a storyteller, you enter this state of trance where you are running a mental film inside of your head guided by the story you are hearing. This lone light of guidance in the vast night of possibilities is a feeble but powerful one: the teller’s voice and rhythm of speech shape the story yet lead enough room for imagination to fill the gaps. As I listened to the tellers, I realized how distracted I was when I was hearing a story with so many ‘visual aids’ and ‘recommended videos’ in a queue. Words from a life story made the audience focus on every word because we could not go back a few seconds to catch what they missed.

With those chaotic distractions eliminated, finally, the pauses, the tone of voice, speed, and rhythm of speech got the attention it deserved. The language was once again more than just the meaning of the text it conveys, the wisdom we forget so easily in modern life. 90 minutes was enough to provoke all those musings and re-appreciation of language. Curious about the event? You’re in luck: the recording of the event is uploaded in youtube. Also, this is an annual event with a long history! So next winter, when you’re stacking your hot cocoa for the winter, look up the news of this event as well-it’ll make you feel cozy on a winter night, maybe even better than hot chocolate.


Venturing just slightly beyond the bubble of UM, one can find the Ann Arbor Art Center, a nonprofit organization home to local art and rotating exhibitions. The current exhibition is “ART NOW: Drawing” — one focused on particular media and the fourth annual of its kind, exploring conventional and less traditional types of drawing.

For more information, check out their website.

Or, wander down Liberty and check it out!

Dates: Showing through March 17th, 2018
Location: Ann Arbor Art Center’s 117 Gallery
117 W. Liberty St.
Gallery Hours:

REVIEW: Tree City & The Contraband

Tree City & The Contraband

Last  Saturday night, Ann Arbor hip-hop group Tree City took the stage at The Blind Pig. First real night of spring break and what better to do than get down to some local sounds with some super funky musicians? The group performed to a crowd of happy college spring breakers freshly released from exams. The atmosphere was relaxed and comfortable but hype enough to feel the spirit of freedom.

Tree City was formed in Ann Arbor in 2005 by 3 MC’s and a DJ/MC. By day, they are known as Evan HaywoodKyle Hunter, and Jacoby Simmons. By night, as Clavius CratesGeneral Population, and DJ Cataclysmic respectively. The group originally included two others- Mike and Cheeks– but both have fled to the west coast, and then there were three. The trio supplies “eardrums with a  unique brand of hip-hop” via live shows around town (including last month’s Eighth Annual Midwest Hip-Hop Summit at The League) as well as through their recordings. The complete discography includes The TreE.P. (2007), Black Trees (2008), Say It Again (Single) (2010), and Thus Far (2010), and most recently Definement (2011). And luckily, you can hear samples of everything they’ve got to offer on their website!

The show at the Pig on Saturday opened with sounds from DJ Charles Trees, Thrills & Saul Good, Passalacqua, and Tunde Oliniran. And finally, headliner Tree City, as a combined act with The Contraband. The combo is an extension of other local artists that have been playing with Tree City as a group for a year. Musicians include UM students and grads Ben Rolston on bass, Julian Allen on drums, Yuma Yesaka on the saxophone and electronic wind instrument, Keaton Royer on the synthesizer and Michael Malis on synthesizers and keyboards.

The performance featured all original material. Definitely danceable; definitely a good time. The main act was worth the ticket, but the openers also warmed up the crowd nicely. Most original, in my opinion, was Tunde Oliniran, whose performance included some level of experimental/interpretative dance (click here to get a taste of what I’m talkin’ about).

A golden moment of the night, bass player Ben Rolston said, “was experiencing the audience interaction that is a major part of hip-hop. Evan or Kyle would start a chant and the crowd was right there with them, giving that energy back to us. Coming from mostly playing music where the audience connection is less direct its really wonderful to be a part of.”

I got to drop in on a rehearsal at The Neutral Zone a few nights prior to the show. It was exciting to be able to watch the evolution of the performance from practice to a complete work of art. Even in a trial run, without the lights and crowds, the group has really got it going on. Nothin’ like some good old fashioned local music to get down on over Spring Break.

Look out for more Tree City shows happening around town. In the meantime, get connected! Check out the Tree City: homepageFacebook pageTwitter, and Soundcloud.