The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fal 2003 - 3D
Root of the
The lonehiness of the Ann Arbor metal scene
By James Pfent
Daily Arts Writer
Ann Arbor's hard rock scene is kind of like a good Creed song -
neither one really exists. The lone exception, Taproot, has achieved
international success the old fashioned way: by touring their asses off.
But when the band was getting started in 1997, the lack of proper
places to play in town forced the band to travel to Detroit for-gigs.
"We started off driving there quite a bit, playing a lot of the small
lubs," says vocalist Stephen Richards. "We did a lot of shows out in
"Detroit for the first seven or eight months before we actually started
getting shows in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Then through contacts and
demand, we finally worked our way into the Blind Pig."
Taproot became regulars at the Pig, playing there "probably once a
month for a good year-and-a-half to two years before we were signed."
According to Richards, it's the only place in town "that can hold-a
good hard rock show."
Taproot also utilized the Internet to build a fan base early on. "We
made a full time job of contacting people on web sites just to get our
name out there. We sold a lot of independent records, almost 10,000
before we got signed, all over the world."
In a now infamous story, Taproot signed with Atlantic after being
courted by none other than Fred Durst for Interscope Records. "We
made a conscious decision not to go with Fred because we didn't want
to lose control of our band and our music. We didn't want to become
the next Staind and have him in all our videos," he explains. "Luckily
that didn't happen, but we're still kind of known as the 'Fred band' even
though that's what we were trying to get away from in the first place."
In retrospect, the singer sees the incident as having a mixed impact on
their career. "It has brought a lot of attention our way, some good, some
bad ... we're doing things the way we want to and we're very happy with
where we are. I'm sure Fred has other things on his mind by now."
Guess who's back
Taproot quickly put Durst out of their minds and jumped head-
long into the recording of their debut album, Gift. "We did the
first record in six weeks. The goal was to have it released for -
Ozzfest 2000, our first major tour. We just ran through it really r
quickly. We had been playing all those songs when we were a local
band playing the Blind Pig, we didn't write anything new while
recording." Singles "Again and Again" and "I" were minor suc-
cesses on radio, but Gift's quarter million in sales came mainly
from relentless touring.
In November 2001, the band returned to the studio to record
their follow-up, Welcome. "We're really happy with the new
record," Richards states enthusiastically. "We spent nine months
on it." And it shows. Welcome is a giant artistic step forward for
Taproot, trading muddy guitars and bad rapping for smooth vocal
harmonies and crisp instrumentation.
"Poem," the album's first single, has done quite well on radio.
but the band doesn't overestimate its impact. "A lot of people espe-
cially that work at radio say it's a full-blown hit, but I definitely
don't think it affected our record sales much," says Richards.
"We've sold more records sooner this time, which I guess has a lot '
to do with the single, but its not like we've blown up." Rather than "'
concern themselves with air play, Taproot continues to focus on the
road. "Poem' is doing pretty well and hopefully 'Mine' (the next
single) will do well, but we're doing what we did on the first
record. We've spent a lot of time on the road already; this is proba-
bly our third or fourth tour since the record came out. We've been
hitting the road pretty hard."
That road doesn't often bring Taproot back to their hometown.
"We don't have many opportunities to play in Ann Arbor. We usual-
ly end up playing Detroit since that's where the bigger venues are. Courtesy of Atlantic
We're from Ann Arbor, but Detroit is still the hometown crowd The band Taproot has been a regular at clubs in the Detroit area as well as Ann Arbor's own hot spot,
because family and friends are there." the Blind Pig.
- Eminem performs at A2's Touchdown Cafe
By Joseph Utman
Daily Arts Writer
There are local celebrities and then there are local celebrities.
Patrons at Touchdown Cafe on January 11th fawned over prominent
members of the University's basketball team - players celebrating an 11 th
consecutive victory that had been recorded earlier that day in Evanston -
'interspersed throughout the bar's crowd. Yet these notable guests were
reduced to adoring fans themselves when Ann Arbor rap group Athletic Mic
League took the stage around midnight. After energetically performing for
45 minutes, the League rejoined the hoi-polloi and all those left in the
crowd - regular bar patrons, basketball players, and promising rappers
alike - were sent into a frenzy by the evening's final, unexpected per-
former, Detroit native Eminem.
Y The hip-hop megastar appeared in conjunction with the scheduled per-
-formance of his Shady Records protege, Obie Trice. Trice rapped by him-
self for roughly 30 minutes, completing only parts of several songs and
taking time for various salacious, obscenity-laced tangential interludes. The
tone for Trice's performance was set when he asked people in the crowd if
they were drunk and responded to their cheers of affirmation by acknowl-
Eminem, whose real name is
Marshall Mathers, helped con-
clude Trice's set, emerging from
Touchdown's off-stage wings
like a white-jacketed phoenix in
time for his verse in the song
"Love Me," one which he per-
forms with Trice on the sound-
track to Mathers' movie "8
Mile". Following a lengthy
speech, Mathers performed one
more song before quickly exiting
the bar, ignoring overtures from
fans and media.
In an oversized down jacket,
his usual white T-shirt and a
white stocking cap adorned
with a black headband, Mathers
paused after his entrance to
acknowledge the crowd's chants
mantra referred to Eminem's public discord with rapper and entrepre-
neur Ray "Benzino" Scott, co-owner of The Source magazine. The two
men have feuded since Scott criticized Eminem's mass appeal and flip-
pantly disregarded Mathers' success.
Reminding "Michigan" that he was on probation, Eminem said, "I ain't
touching that man. But Michigan's a big market," and the music giant implored
those in attendance to ignore Scott and his upcoming promotional tour.
Eminem's words were in some part lost on the crowd, a mass whose mem-
bers were mostly consumed by the surprise visit from such a noted celebri-
ty. Jon Beyer, LSA senior, said, "I had heard rumors that (Eminem would be
there), but I wasn't sure. He's a pretty big star, so to see him in Ann Arbor,
in that setting was pretty cool."
The evening's earlier performers, the League, acquitted themselves nice-
ly, pleasing the crowd with their enthusiasm and music. "They were
impressive. I liked their beats and they had good energy," said Beyer. In a
contrast between where AML is and where they would like to be, Eminem
was mobbed by adoring fans while on stage and afterwards while AML
was selling their debut album, Sweats and Kicks, both before and after
On a night when many stars of varying degrees could be found in the dark
at Touchdown's, none shone brighter than Michigan's favorite son.
edging his own inebriation. of "(expletive) Benzino." The Eminem grinds at Touchdown Cafe.
Michigan Pops offers alternative to redundant orchestra shows
Ay Jim Schiff
;Daily Arts Writer
The University is known for its wealth of classical music
ensembles. From the Campus Philharmonia to the dozens of
international orchestras that visit Ann Arbor every year, stu-
dents have no shortage of concerts to attend.
But a different sort of orchestra played at the Michigan
Theater November 14th. Putting aside Bach and Beethoven
for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the Michigan Pops
,Orchestra promises an evening of upbeat American favorites
and modern classics.
Comprised of students from LSA, nursing, engineering,
business and music, the 55-member MPO is the only student-
run and directed orchestra on campus. The ensemble's leader-
ship, elected each fall, is in charge of choosing and arranging
music, auditioning musicians, publicizing concerts, designing
program booklets and keeping strong relations with its spon-
sor, the University Activities Center.
On top of all this responsibility is music school senior
Chris Lees, the ensemble's musical director. While con-
ducting a group of musicians, let alone his peers, might
seem intimidating, Lees finds that the MPO is highly
cooperative. "The first rehearsal I went to I was stunned
by the eerie silence that happened when I first got on
the podium," he said. "They are very focused in
rehearsal and we get some good work done that way -
there aren't issues with talking, since we have very lim-
ited rehearsal time."
Speaking of time constraints, the MPO rarely has over eight
weeks to prepare for a concert. This semester, in particular,
with the concert before Thanksgiving, the orchestra has had to
pull together quickly. French horn player and program director
Nora Dunlop, an LSA junior, felt the pressure on her shoul-
ders, but finds that the MPO's work ethic carried them
through. "Everyone really pulled together and went home to
practice," she said. "This is a much earlier date than we've
ever had, so everyone knew that it was going to take work to
play pieces of this caliber."
Tomorrow's program ranks among their most ambitious in
recent memory. Performing Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue,"
Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Billy Joel's "Lulla-
by," the MPO dug deep into existing pops repertoire and in
some cases, arranged pieces of their own. Lees added a few
lines to the Cincinnati Pops' version of "You are my Lucky
,Star" from themusical.°ingin'.iw4. Rain" andcp aii-;
sioned another student to arrange "Lullaby." The two Beatles'
tunes, "A Hard Days Night" and "All My Loving" were
arranged specifically for Michigan Pops by a fan in California.
This year, beyond performing as a
full group, the MPO began supporting E A
three smaller ensembles. After practic-
ing for only three weeks, a string quar-
tet, woodwind quintet and brass quintet
played at Tech Day, an event held last
Saturday at the Media Union for
prospective engineering students. Prior Jen n if e r o
to the concert, the brass quintet played
in front of the Michigan Theater as a
prelude to the performance.
Dunlop, who administrates the new L o c ate d
ensembles, finds her participation in 0 P
the MPO rewarding. "It's just differ-
ent than any orchestra I've ever been in, she said. "Every-
one is there because they want to be and that creates a
lighthearted and fun atmosphere."
-Lees, a choraleducation.student, echoes Dunlop's senti
ments. "We're all there for the music," he said. "There's an
understanding that we're going to work hard and have a lot of
fun doing it and the end result will be very very cool."
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