October 21, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
c be A Iiti gun tiI
Joan Baez performed politically charged folk songs at The Ark on Tuesday.
Baez brings folk
charm to A2's Ark
By Caitlin Cowan
Daily Arts Writer
Ann Arborites love art: The numerous
galleries, half dozen musical venues, Uni-
versity of Michigan
Museum of Art and Joan Baez
Ann Arbor Art Fair The Ark
on campus and down-
town all attest to that. It is this love of art
in all its forms that makes Joan Baez a
perfect match for the city's music-lovers.
Baez's mastery of the art of folk music,
together with her liberal politics and anti-
Bush witticisms, won over a sold-out
crowd at The Ark on Tuesday night.
This comes as no surprise; Ann Arbor
is often correctly labeled as a liberal
haven. Baez, a lifelong political activist,
continues to cling to her beliefs more than
30 years after Woodstock, and she pleased
the crowd with her barbed jokes and huge
smile. The one-time princess of folk made
casual conversation with the audience
throughout her show; her devoted fans in
the audience blithely referred to her sim-
ply as "Joan."
Baez is ready for the day of reckoning.
"I've been seeing this bumper sticker that
I want to get my hands on," she confessed
into her microphone. "It says, 'After the
Rapture, can I have your stuff?' " In
addition to lamentations about the treat-
ment of Southerners caught in Hurricane
Katrina, Baez also told a hillbilly joke
that got more than a few laughs.
It is precisely this kind of magical mix
of art and scathing liberal politics that
By Jessica Koch
Daily Arts Writer
make Baez a perfect fit for Ann Arbor.
Had Joni Mitchell, Baez's vocal and stylis-
tic doppelganger, taken the stage, the reac-
tion from the crowd would have differed.
Whereas Mitchell is given to singing songs
about personal trials and revelations, Baez,
incorporates folk classics by other artists
into her performances along with her own
songs. Her set on Tuesday night included
Johnny Cash's "Long Black Veil," Woody
Guthrie's poignant "Deportees (Plane
Wreck at Los Gatos)" and Elvis Costello's
The aging baby boomers that made up
nearly all of Tuesday's crowd didn't want
to hear too much about individual pain
and suffering. They wanted music, art
in its purest form. And Joan, the master
painter of folk's musical landscape, gave
them exactly what they wanted.
Standing between two younger male
instrumentalists and back-up singers,
Baez looked the part of the dignified and
revered grandmother of folk. Her voice
lilted and soared amazingly from the
sweet strain of the youthful girl she once
was into a sonorous, resonant alto indica-
tive of her age and wisdom.
Familiar tunes such as The Band's "The
Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,"
Bob Dylan's "Farwell Angelina" and a
stunning a cappella version of the gospel
staple "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" were
interspersed with her humbling asides and
hilarious commentaries. Without leaving
the stage, Baez bowed before the encore,
which she prefaced by stating a wry tru-
ism very close to her heart: "For me, it
was never about the money. It was always
about the adulation."
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
"We're like Lisa Loeb if she grew up in a Texas burlesque house."
BOU 'TIL YOU DROP
EXPERIMENTAL-COUNTRY DwvTY BOPS OPEN FOR NICKEL CREEK
By Kat Bawdon
Daily Arts Writer
Since their self-titled album was released last year,
The Ditty Bops, who are
playing at the Pease Audi-
torium in Ypsilanti this Sat-
urday. Buzz about the band
has grown, thanks to their
fervent fanbase. Though
it's hard to classify, their
music is often considered
"retro-swing" with its quick,
playful melodies augmented1
The Ditty Bops
Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
by beautiful vocal har-
themselves. "Oh, well, we don't really. (Our music has)
been categorized many different ways. But the easiest
way is just that it's Ditty Bops," Barrett explained.
An ex-teen model, she received her first dulci-
mer when she was three years old (her mother is
a professional dulcimer player). The Bops' have
also drawn influences from a well of other incon-
"We're influenced by types of art and life expe-
rience besides just bands that we've heard," Barrett
explained. "Western swing and early jazz music is
probably the closest to what we play. We like musi-
cal theater, rock, classical music, all kinds of things.
We're not exactly trying to do a certain style, just
what works with the two of us - what sounds right."
The band's live shows are noted for playful the-
atrics, whimsical outfits and even puppet shows.
"Before we started playing with the band, (Abby and
I) thought, 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a show that was
a combination of cabaret and dress up and music all
together?' In L.A., we play with different friends of
ours who are actors or puppeteers or clowns or jug-
glers, and we see what we can come up with and keep
it fun and interesting," Barrett said.
After an extended tour with Tori Amos, The Bops
are currently playing shows with neo-bluegrass pio-
neers Nickel Creek. "We're really, really excited
about it. It's been really fun, really great, enthusias-
tic crowds. The Nickel Creek folks are always very
generous and complimentary and welcoming to us,"
Currently, The Bops are working on a new album
to be released in the spring of next year. They have
plans to "keep writing things that are interesting to
(us). And we hope to entertain people, of course, by
keeping things interesting for us in our live shows
and keeping the energy fresh. A part of the way we
do this is by bringing in different influences, try-
ing out different line-ups. We always have to revisit
the way we approach the music," Barrett said. "We
played a fashion show for the (fashion design) com-
pany Petrozillia. While the girls were walking, we
were playing their runway music. We also had one
of our songs, 'Broken Dolls,' used in a puppeteer
production. Hopefully, we'll find more weird ways
to use music."
monies, country Western-style twangy guitars and
earthy percussion. At times they sound like the deli-
cate tunes of a music box, at others they're romping
and danceable. The California duo is Abby DeWald
(vocals/guitar) and Amanda Barrett (vocals/mando-
Barrett and DeWald even have trouble classifying
Michigan director Binder discusses
screenwriting, film with 'U' students
By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
This weekend the University Musi-
cal Society will captivate audiences
at the Power Cen-
ter with three
Tall Horse, a the-
atrical blend of
music and more.
is based on the
real life events
of one very influ-
at 8 p.m.
At the Power Center
ential giraffe. Taken from her home
in Sudan, the giraffe was given as
a gift to King Charles X of France
from the Viceroy of Egypt in order
to ensure an alliance between the
two nations. Upon arriving in Mar-
seilles, the French are enamored
with the graceful creature; her pres-
ence alone causes a national commo-
tion for all things African. Audience
members follow the giraffe and her
handler, Atir, en route to Paris while
they discover the chic culture of
Created through a collaboration of
South Africa's Handspring Puppet
Company and the Sologon Puppet
Troupe of Mali, the production incor-
porates two distinctly different styles
of puppet theater, Handspring's con-
temporary storytelling and sinuous
puppets combined with the Sologon's
Bambara puppetry of Mali.
Handspring's master puppet
Ap:a.. nnA -,-nkp A A.;i 1rl
Writer-director-actor Mike Binder has had the oppor-
tunity to wear many hats in his Hollywood career, but
when pressed to choose his favorite, he answered without
hesitation. "Writing," he said. "No question." Especially
in a collaborative medium like film - "everything else
is a compromise."
Binder, who wrote, directed and starred in "The
Upside of Anger," spoke Wednesday night to an audi-
torium of screenwriting students at the MLB, offering
several insights from his own career. He touched spe-
cifically on the special difficulties screenwriters face.
"If you're looking for respect," he said wearily, "don't
become a screenwriter." Shaking his head, Binder men-
tioned one middle-aged screenwriter who was forced to
take notes from a studio head's eight-year-old son. Even
the most admired scripts get the Hollywood treatment:
"It's a great writer, it's a great script ... Who else can
we bring on?"
It was, in part, an unwillingness to make such con-
cessions that led to Binder becoming a director - he
wanted to protect what he wrote. His ability to make
movies on a low budget allowed him the rare chance
of getting behind the camera, and Binder has kept at it
His talk followed a screening of his latest film, "Man
About Town," which is slated for a February release.
With a dapper yellow hat and relaxed style, Binder infor-
mally took the stage to accept questions and critiques,
acknowledging that, although he was already at work on
another project and the film was largely complete, "I've
never met a director who's done."
One of the first issues addressed was the movie's style
- someone pointed out, justly, that "Man About Town"
swung rather wildly from family drama to almost
slapstick comedy, freely mixing a wide assortment of
genres. Binder nodded as if anticipating the critique.
"Man About Town," he explained, was his opportunity
to try a bunch of different things, to really play with
film form and create a collage sort of movie. Binder
was unapologetic about taking those risks. "In film," he
said, "you have to swing for the fences."
A question about casting moved the discussion's
focus to "Man About Town" 's main star, the unfortu-
nate Ben Affleck, still weathering a notoriously dead
stretch of his career. Binder briefly addressed the prob-
lem of reputation, noting America's particular eager-
ness to brand an actor hot or cold - but spoke more
authoritativelv on his own annroach to actors. Having
Courtesy of UMS
'Tall Horse' comes alive in dance, music and puppetry tonight and Saturday.
courtesy of Sunlight
Binder spoke about his career at the MLB on Wednesday.
acted himself, Binder compared casting to a painter
selecting a color palette, as each actor brings their own
shade to a project.
As a writer particularly, Binder has great respect
for the idiosyncrasies an actor can catch in a script
- whether a character would say or do a certain thing.
"Actors put that character on like a coat, and they'll tell
me where it doesn't fit," Binder said.
At the end of the day, Binder considers himself first
and foremost a writer, comparing a good morning of
writing to the satisfaction after a good workout. Though
he writes four or more hours a day, Binder confessed
that writing is basically a full-time job - in the shower,
out on a run, or in the car, somehow he is always writ-
ing. It's a craft of design. "The harder you work," he
said, "the better you get."
Binder's attitude about Hollywood is similarly upbeat.
Despite "Man About Town" 's Hollywood-shark plot,
Binder claims to have no negative statement to make
about the industry. An admitted movie-making opti-
mist, Binder preached patience and perseverance for
Hollywood hopefuls, as well as a little bit of pushiness
- especially for screenwriters. Even after he sold his
first script, Binder still had to beg to get to be allowed
on set. How'd he finally get on? He recalled it with a
laugh: "I promised to be good."
The Sogolon Puppet Troupe's
figures are more traditional in
appearance. Some forms of puppets
are completely unique to the Bam-
bara tradition: One is the Mailian
castelet, which are antelope crea-
tures made from flexible wood and
covered in beautiful bright fabrics
and grass skirts. They are dancing
figures, given life by the perform-
er inside. Another unique figure,
the meren habitable, is, as Kohler
exnlaint-.d"inhnhited nnnnets ..
wasn't sure whether I was going to
kill the people inside because they
were strapped together. If one stum-
bled and needed to correct, would
that pull the other person down
with them?" The giraffe's neck has
an amazing range of motion; when
Atir gives the command, it actually
swings. "The movement of the neck
was the next big hurdle because any
head on the end of a two-meter neck
becomes very heavy. So the person
in the front has to he verv good at