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December 02, 1988 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-12-02

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 2, 1988 -Page 13.

Uncle

Bonsai raps, rates with

crowd

BY KIM MCGINNIS
THREE people were spotted dressed as Uncle Bonsai
this year for Halloween - the cult is growing.
The folk trio returns to Ann Arbor for the third
time in just over 12 months Saturday night. They
haven't been here since July's Summer Arts Festival,
where they invited the entire Power Center crowd to
join them for a pool party at the Ann Arbor Inn.
("Just 'say you're with the Rabinowitz party. DO
NOT mention Uncle Bonsai.")
Uncle Bonsai burst onto the local. scene at the
1987 Ann Arbor folk festival. With such biting songs
as "Boys Want Sex in the Morning" and the real
"Suzy" (rather than the Chenille Sisters' valium-
influenced version), they were an instant hit. Since
that show, the group has been returning regularly, to
the delight of their expanding audience.'
Ashley Kristen, Arni Adler, and Andrew Rat'shin
conspired to create Uncle Bonsai. Although now based
in Seattle, all three grew up in the New York area and
graduated from Bennington College in Vermont. They
didn't connect, however, until after they had migrated
west. Kristen, hoping to form a traditional folk
group, advertised in the paper for musicians. What she
got was Adler and Ratshin and nothing close to
traditional. A friend suggested the name - it has no
significance beyond being catchy - and Uncle Bonsai
was born.
Their first club date was three one-hour sets -
which was great, except for the fact that they only had
six songs. Thus, out of necessity, their bizarre
audience rapport started. They now have tons of
material but they still like to talk a lot - to each

other, to the audience, recapping the show for late-
comers. ("First, we did a song about liposuction, then
we did one called 'Womyn with a Y,' then we talked
for a while about Andrew's dog.") Their shows border
on theater, but, unlike a lot of performers, they don't
have stilted routines worked up around songs.
Uncle Bonsai have been described as "new wave"
folk artists - "folk" only because Ratshin's acoustic
guitar is their sole accompaniment, "new wave"
because it's impossible to pin them down. They say
that they like to be prepared to play in any sort of
music club, so they have at least one song in every
genre - folk, rock, reggae, blues, boogie-woogie,
dance, etc. They even have a doo-wop version of the
"Star Spangled Banner."
They are often compared to the Roches. Both
groups are bitingly funny trios with amazing vocals,
but next to Uncle Bonsai, the Roches are tame.
Bonsai's lyrics (mostly written by Ratshin) are often
searingly satirical and require careful listening. The
three of them sing at such a frenetic pace and with
such complex interactions that short lapses of atten-
tion may ,cause you to miss a major point of the
song.
The lyrics are strongly feminist and political as
well as fun. "Penis Envy," which was banned from
several San Francisco area radio stations, explores
what Adler and Kristen would do if they had a penis
- "I'd stuff it in turkeys on Thanksgiving Day... If I
had a penis I'd still be a girl, but I'd make much more
money and conquer the world."
It's almost exam time; you're throwing together
your last few papers. Give yourself a break. Help
yourself through this stressful period. Go see Uncle
Bonsai.
UNCLE BONSAI at The Ark, Saturday, 7:30 and 10
p.m. $1050. Be there.

.

No, they're
right) Arni.

not a small Japanese garden tree. The faces behind the name are (left to
Adler, Andrew Ratshin, and Ashley Kristen.

..

Messiah:

an old rebel's

t
.;
.:,
-.

ecclesiastical echoes

BY MARGIE HEINLEN
TRADITION and traditional don't always mean the
same thing.
For those of you rebels who think that revolting
against parents who want their kids to go to law school
by running off to start a band is something relatively.
new, think again. George Freiderich Handel was a
bigger rebel than you'll ever be.
The man who wrote possibly the most venerable
oratorio (an ecclesiastical drama set to music) in the
history of music was more like Meatloaf than Mozart.
Handel, who wrote the Messiah in a mere 24 days,
was corpulent in size, rudeness, temper-and brilliance.
He brought religious music back into style (that's
right, just like Stryper). In his early years he was

managed by a celebrated Italian agent, Ferdinando
Medechi, who had a monopoly on the Renaissance arts,
but was later signed to another royal label. London's
kings of popular music, by mandate not Casey Kasem,
Georges I and II gave him a contract he couldn't refuse.
Handel had many problems with music pirates as
copywriting wasn't around in the 1700's.He produced
what few others have - a work which in itself has
become a tradition. The Electric Light Orchestra even
lifted his famous Halleluiah chorus for the opening of
one of their most famous pieces. Even today, he has
groupies; the Handel Societies of Boston and London
work solely in the preforming and publishing of his
work. Let's just see if Elvis festivals will still be held
in the year 2146.

See Handel, Page

16

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Fluoressential art ROBINLOZNAK/Doily
An installation art piece glows in one of the Rackham galleries. Luke Mendle (blur in
background left) constructed the work using fluorescent lights and an electrical arc
unit for a multi-media exhibit. See story, page 12.

A Winter
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