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June 29, 1998 - Image 20

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1998-06-29

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20 - The Michigan Daily -- Monday, June 29, 1998

Frog Island Fest gives cool music in the hot su

By Michael Galloway
'tDaily Arts Editor
Imagine a giant, blue and white striped tent with
people sitting underneath and around it in lawn
chairs or on beach towels, listening to the swing
grooves of Blues, Jazz, Zydeco, Cajun, R & B or
Roots Rock, depending on the live band. Anywhere
from 10 to 50 people are in front of the band, danc-
ing individually or with a partner, infected by the
same need to react to the music that the improvisa-
tionalists display onstage. Now add some vendors
some frisbee-throwing kids, some infectious music
and a certain funkified "je ne sais quois," and
you've got the 1998 Frog Island Festival.
Although the scene may have been quite literally
a smelly "I-don't-know-what" to some, the laid-
back atmosphere and sweet pendulum off-beat
music could be very cool. Produced by The Ark, the
Festival is a regular occurrence each year in
Ypsilanti's Depot Town. This year's show began
Friday night at 5 p.m. with the Motor City Street
Band, a parading jazz ensemble.

"Friday night was crowded and everyone was
partying,"said Dave Siglin, owner/manager of The
Ark. "Today (Saturday) was a little more mellow,
and tomorrow should be even more mellow.
"We had a lot of people swinging earlier today for
The Johnny Favourite Orchestra - Standing in the
front area there and dancing," Siglin said, motioning
to the area in front of the band free of lawn chairs
and blankets. Even as he pointed this out, there were
people getting an up-close-
and-personal look while $
swayin' and boppin' to the
beat of the gravelly voiced
Sam Meyers, accompanied Frog Island
'by Anson Funderberg & the Festival
Rockets. Frog Island Park
Meyers was the paradig Ja 262
of a cool blues musician -
an older African-American
man in a purple suit and dark
glasses. In between songs,
he would ask the audience to
clap for Funderberg & the
Rockets or various other per-
formers in the festival.
"Let's show them some love," Meyers said. He
asked the audience to clap for themselves as well,
since they "were the real stars here. I don't mean of
tomorrow; I mean of today."
Meyers and Funderberg & the Rockets were
great, but many in the audience on Saturday came
to see the final artist of the evening, Keb' Mo',
who has played some rather uncommon venues,
such as a Boulder, Co., post office when the
Robert Johnson commemorative stamp was
issued. Nik Thompson, Kandy Styrk and Josh
Scheys had come together to the festival and were
anxiously awaiting Keb' Mo'.
"This is the first time I've come to the festival,
but I hear about it every year on WEMU, Styrk
said.
Scheys had come with his two friends to hear
Keb' Mo' first hand. "I never heard about him
before. They (Styrk and Thompson) told me
about him. I like the blues, and it sounded like

Chubby Carrier, "The World's Premiere Zydeco Showman," showed that accordions aren't just good for
slow polkas as he and the Bayou Swamp Band performed at Ypsi's Frog Island Festival on Friday.

fun."
Amy Adamec and Pat Kirkwood also had never
been to the festival and were looking forward to
Kep' Mo'. They had heard about the festival
"through friends who were supposed to be here,"
Adamec said. "But we can't find them. They must
be here somewhere." Adamec and Kirkwood decid-
ed to just chill and listen.
"The music is awesome," Kirkwood said.
Adamec added, "And interesting. The sound is
great. The bands are great."
And truly, the bands displayed quality through
and through. How many concert festivals occur
where that can be said with sincerity?
Sure, the festival wasn't the most happening
scene for college students. In fact, high schoolers
and college students were noticeably absent, but the
people who were there enjoyed being there. There
was none of the pretension or the pretending that
accompanies the headliners and fans of more popu-
lar concerts. If someone wanted to dance, he or she

could dance. If someone wanted to play cards
throw a frisbee or just relax in a lawn chair, it wa
all good.
Bailey Walsh and Kathy Cramer were glad the)
finally went to the festival. "I've been in Ann Arbo
a couple of years and meaning to go to the festival,
Bailey Walsh said. "I heard about it from friends4
this year I went"
Kathy Cramer said she enjoyed watching all the
people as well as the bands. "I've had a great tim
watching all the families. There's a great famil)
atmosphere here."
Even with kids playing off to the sides of the ten
on the Frog Island field and the Fourth-of-July-fam
ily-reunion feel (attested to by the signs on the ten
poles that read "Lawn chairs this side only," whici
were ignored entirely by the patrons), the Festiva
could be a great place to spend the day. As the say
ing goes, "If you don't have fun, it's your own da
fault," and the Frog Island Festival provided plent)
of opportunity for fun.

Erma Thomas was one of a trio of Jazz and Blues
divas who finished off Friday night's festivities.

Tortoise grows Wings of its own

By Steve Gertz
For the Daily
Last Tuesday at The Magic Stick,
while 99.9% of Detroit was paying
exclusive attention to what was to
become the winning game for the Red
Wings in the Stanley Cup finals, neo-
prog rock instrumental sensationalist
Tortoise gave dedicated fans a stunning
live performance.
Having earned the title of the hardest
band to categorize in the current indie-
music scene, Tortoise weaves languid
aural tapestries by applying traditional
jazz structures to a cornucopia of stylis-
tic elements. Its songs are liquidous
streams of subtle hip-hop beats, fuzzy
vibraphones, well-calculated and under-
stated samples and blurbs of noise, pre-
historic synthesizers from outer space
and mysterious yet groovy bass lines.
Tortoise is simultaneously giving new
life to the horrendous corpse of "art
rock" (once inhabited by the likes of Yes
-and ELO), exploring the more nebulous
areas of jazz and funk (see 1970s Miles
Davis and Herbie Hancock) and keeping
up - despite its lack of digital produc-
tion and sequencing -- with the psyche-
delic wanderings of trip-hop, jungle and
drum and bass. The resulting formula,

ultimately, is startlingly original and,
despite its genre-bending tendencies,
avoids appearing bloated or pasted
together
Greeting the crowd (which had most-
ly ignored opening acts and watched the
Wings game on a
nearby television
monitor) with its f.
signature "Djed",
the opening track TortoiSe
from the band's
breakthrough
1995 album The Magic Stick
"Millions Now June 16
Living Will
Never Die",
Tortoise prepared
its audience for a
night of hypnotic
brilliance..
The song,
which on the
album exceeds rhe 20-minute mark,
started with a creeping and elusive bass
line and escalated into a labyrinth of
winding rhythms and melodies. The live
performance of "Ojed" almost reached
the half-hour point and ranged from pit-
ter-pattering synth drones to pulsating
acid-jazz blasts and harmonious inter-

ludes so catchy that they could easily
pass for a TV show theme song.
The band then proceeded to apply that
same eccentric pastiche to the rest of its
songs and, rather than dividing them into
distinguishable entities, allowed them to
overlap one another, turning the show
into a grandiose symphony.
Interestingly, the members of the band-
displayed their well-rounded talent by
playing musical chairs with their instru-
ments, changing, sometimes mid-song,
between xylophones, guitars, keyboards
and drums. Leader John Mcyntire in
particular displayed well-rounded
prowess on keys, sticks and bells alike.
After 60-plus minutes of continuous
music, Tortoise rewarded its fans with
two encores, during one of which it
reprised the majestic "Djed."
Upon the show's conclusion, atten-
dees were greeted outside the venue with
an explosion of celebratory cheer.
Detroit had just won the Stanley Cup
and was up in arms over it. Although the
screaming hockey fans were oblivious to
the hidden wonder of what the Tortoise
audience had so recently experienced,
their fervor seemed oddly appropriate
for the denouement of such an extraordi-
nary show.

SIEVE GERTZ/Dail
Memrbes of Tortoise doubled-up on xylophones and even alternated instruments,
but most people tuned into the Red Wings game and mised the magnificent show

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