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November 10, 2005 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-10

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 10, 2005





By Hyatt Michaels
Daily Arts Writer
Chicago has The Second City,
New York has the Upright Citizens
Brigade and now Ann Arbor is
launching its own improvisational
dynasty thanks to a thriving bond
between the comedy club Improv
Inferno and the student improv
groups at the University.
With its stacked bar and rela-
tively small size, Improv Inferno
could be mistaken for any trendy
comedy club, but it's actually a the-
ater that has become the hub for a
growing community of improvis-
ers, both professional and student,
in Ann Arbor. Since it opened last
fall, Dan Izzo, an alum of Chica-
go's The Second City, wanted to
bring Improv Inferno to Ann Arbor
because it offered a market less
saturated and competitive than big-
ger cities.
"Everybody in Chicago and
New York is trying to use improv
to become famous (and) are less
willing to help each other out," he
said. "In Ann Arbor, (improvis-
ers) realize we're trying to build
a community (and) not trying to
screw each other over to be the
next person to be on 'Mad TV' or
'Saturday Night Live.'
Though the publicity is better in
big cities such as Chicago, the coop-
eration and genuine relationships
between improvisers in the com-
munity has been key to the thriving
improv scene. It's something unique
to this city and key to Ann Arbor's
thriving improv community, accord-
ing to Izzo. He added that Improv
Inferno has played a large role in
building this nurturing community.
In addition to opening its doors to
professional groups, the theater has
also staged performances from stu-
dent groups like ComCo and Witt's
End - who previously played most-
ly college audiences.
"Inferno has given groups a
chance to (perform) and learn from
them," said ComCo member and
Music junior Zac LeMieux.
The relationship between Infer-

no and student groups has proved
mutually beneficial.
"Students have been extremely
helpful with getting us up and run-
ning," Izzo said. "We've been try-
ing a lot more activities for them to
get involved."
Because of the convenient nature of
the improv scene, Ann Arbor has also
become a ripe environment for fledg-
ling improv talent.
"It's a close-knit community,"
LeMieux said. "People help you out
... (if you) come to our show, we'll
(go) to your show."
Even more promising is the fact
that groups performing outside
Improv Inferno have still been
successful. Last month, the troupe
Beer Money performed at Ann'
Arbor's Comedy Showcase. Imag-
es of Identity, an all-black improv
group, also found success outside
Inferno. Despite a relatively low
profile, Images has created a solid
fan base within the University.
"It provides a place for the com-
munity to come together, laugh and
enjoy one another," said Images
member and LSA senior Ronnie
Johnson. Though their perfor-
mances feature improvised spoofs
on politics, the group also parodies
topical themes like pop culture and
college-student life.
"Our purpose is to bring laugh-
ter through comedy to the average
hardworking Michigan student,"
said Images member and LSA
junior Katrina Johnson. "Images is
a form of release and venting that
serves the community."
The relatively small size of Ann
Arbor has also been beneficial to
the thriving scene, according to
John Hartman, a music senior.
"In Ann Arbor there's a nice
small community," he said. "I think
that's the reason it's doing so well.
It's a small community (and) there's
not thousands of improv shows."
Despite its size, Ann Arbor
boasts an assortment of different
improv flavors. ComCo would be
the equivalent of vanilla - a tra-
ditional staple among University's
improv groups. It's the oldest com-

duo plays
with more
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
Lightning Bolt are a kind of musi-
cal anomaly. While spearheading the
almost unheard genre of noise-punk
- with fellow rockers Pink and Brown
as well as the more esoteric Black Dice
- Lightning Bolt's sound resembles
some dream band's
Imagine Eddie Lightning
Van Halen ripping Bolt
through "Erup- Hypermagic
tion" while Neil Mountain
Peart bangs away Load
at the drums of
every track. Throw
in a perpetual, driving bass line and the
convulsion of Sigur Ros's vocals, and
you've got Lightning Bolt.
Even with all of that name-dropping,
it's still nearly impossible to grasp
Lightning Bolt's sound - especially
given that they are made up of only
two men. Luckily, they've got it mas-
tered and prove it again on their latest,
Hypermagic Mountain.
Even though Lightning Bolt delves
into the heavier, less technically impres-
sive side of their music, their signature
style remains intact and as does their
extraordinary musicianship. "Riff-
wraiths" has a straightforward, over-
powering bass line and staccato cymbal
rhythms. It may sound impressive to a
first-timer, but anyone acquainted with
the band will admit that it's below aver-
age and watered-down.
"Mohawk Windmill" is another
divergence for Lightning Bolt. As pos-
sibly the most structured song they've
ever done, it lacks the sheer intensity
of their other material. The bass line is
slowed and distinguishable rather than
the standard avalanche of distorted
notes, and the drums are impressive
but not overly exceptional.
Hypermagic Mountain does host its
fair share of early-era Lightning Bolt
freakouts. "Bizarro Zarro Land" opens
with more finger tapping than Eddie
Van Halen and Sammy Hagar could fit
into a five-minute battle, and the ensu-
ing insanity sounds like a soundtrack
to hell.
"Dead Cowboy" is another Lightning
Bolt staple. After bassist Brian Gibson
is given a chance to strut his stuff, lead-
singer and drummer Brian Chippendale
rips through the percussion section and
screams his cryptic lines. Chippendale
even infuses the album with the group's
quirky sense of humor when he sings
the bass line on "Birdy."
Lightning Bolt traverse just far
enough away from the old on Hyperma-
gic Mountain to keep fans interested,
and don't lose the occasional listen-
er. The album's focus shifts slightly
toward structured songs make it mar-
ginally less intriguing but certainly a
bit more accessible. Maybe Eddie will
bring them along on the next Van Halen
reunion tour just for kicks.


Royal Oak resident Bob Marquis practices at the Improv Inferno.

edy group at the University and
performs the classical short-form
style of improv.
Short form usually involves
traditional unscripted skits with
audience participation and games
similar to those performed on
"Whose Line is it Anyway?" For
audiences looking for something
different, Witt's End is a little
riskier - they perform the new
and increasingly popular long-form
style of improv.
"I think (long form) is (another)

reason why the improv scene is
flourishing - because it's a new
kind of improv people haven't seen
before," said Hartman.
The outcome of the cooperative
relationship among improvisers
remains to be seen. Every Wednes-
day night this month, Improv Infer-
no will stage College Improv Night
with Witt's End members Hartman
and Mikala Bierman. The first
show last Wednesday was a hit for
the theater. "(Improv Inferno) was
certainly pleased," Hartman said.

"We had a fairly large crowd
there, and the largest one I've ever
seen on a Wednesday."
With the growing popularity of
improv in Ann Arbor, it would be
natural to expect growing tension
and competition. But Izzo is hope-
ful about the future of Ann Arbor's
improv community.
"The scene is starting to blossom
and develop," Izzo said. "It's easy
to think that there's competition,
but really what's good for one of us
is good for all of us."

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