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Thursday, March 27, 2008

GOLD: A FUNDRAISER FOR THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DETROIT

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) seems to be on a roll since opening in October of 2006, hosting interesting and thought provoking exhibits, while also hosting a multitude of popular events. Most exhibits are free, but on March 29, MOCAD will host "Gold" a fundraiser which will provide museum goers an opportunity to see great performances and eat delicious food, while raising money so that MOCAD can keep up the museum and continue to entertain Detroiters year round. This is a great opportunity to do something different than going to the local Irish Pub on a Saturday night and is a great way to support the museum which has provided Detroiters and visitors alike with impressive and well received exhibits over the past year and a half.

The fundraiser will include an evening of art, fashion, and music. In addition to the festivities, patrons will have access to the ongoing exhibitions Holy Hip Hop! New Paintings by Alex Melamid and ReFusing Fashion: Rei Kawakubo, as well as musical performances and a raffle.

There will be two types of admission tickets available. Individuals who pay $75 are able to arrive at the museum beginning at 7:30, and will have access to cuisine from multiple restaurants throughout the Detroit Metro area. Some of these great restaurants include Forte of Birmingham, Slows of Corktown in Detroit, Tribute of Farmington Hills, and Small Plates and Vicente’s of Downtown Detroit. Entertainment during the dining portion of the night includes a collaborative performance by filmmaker Martha Colburn and Detroit-based musician Ian Clark. Something important to note is that ticket holders who pay $75 to arrive at 7:30 p.m, are invited to take part in an open bar and food for the entire evening.

If you'd rather arrive late, for only $15 dollars, individuals can arrive at 9:30 p.m., as Detroit musicians will play pop cover songs from the past 30 years with their own distinct flavor. For individuals who arrive at 9:30 p.m., a cash bar will be available.

Bands performing at 9:30 p.m. include The Go, T3 (Slum Village), Lee Marvin Computer Arm, Bad Party, The Silent Years, Dee Jay Frankie Banks, Dark Red, EsQuire, and The Sisters Lucas.

To read about these artists, performers, and other details, check out the official website for the event at MOCAD Gold Event.

MOCAD is located at:
4454 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI
48201
Detroit Army

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 Detroit Fringe Festival

The Fringe Festival is back this year and hopes to improve upon an impressive showing in 2007. The Fringe Festival runs for 32 hours straight in celebration of experimental music, performance art, fashion, film and visual art. This year's performers include legendary rap music pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaattaa, Polka Floyd and Champions of Breakfast. Visual artists include world renowned artist Mark Ryden and Detroit's own Niagara and Glenn Barr.

We don't pretend to be too hip at Detroit Army.com, so while I can't comment on many of the performers, Afrika Bambaataa definitely rings a bell. He was instrumental in the development of hip hop in the 1970's and rose to fame especially in the socially conscious crowd in the 1980's. We had no idea what he had been doing for the last twenty years, but what do we know? Apparently he continued to speak out against apartheid in South Africa and more recently had taken on the challenge of curbing gang violence, all while continuing to spin, make records and collaborate with other artists.

Whether you know the artists/performers listed or not, the whole idea of the festival is pretty cool. Detroit doesn't/can't have a late night scene (unless you are at a house party, or doing something illegal), so the thought of being able to hang out and watch bizarre behavior, acts, and performances with a bunch of hardcore hipsters all night in Detroit sounds like good times to me.

The show is hosted at the Music Hall Center for Performing Arts in Detroit, beginning at 2 p.m. April 5 to 4 a.m. April 6. Tickets are $35. Music Hall is at 350 Madison Ave., Detroit.

Call (313) 887-8500
Visit www.musichall.org
For a complete festival lineup, visit www.detroitfringefestival.com

Oh, and also, the host of the show is Flint native Sandra Bernhard. (I hesitated at mentioning this fact earlier because I can't stand her, but it is what it is.)
Detroit Army

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Problem With Kwame Being Kwame

Today is another unfortunate day in the life and times of not only Detroit, but of Southeast Michigan as well. The prosecutor for the city of Detroit, Kym Worthy, has made her announcement that she will move forward with charges against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick with regard to his testimony at this summer's whistle blower lawsuit and subsequent findings that his testimony was untruthful, in addition to the $8.7 million dollars in city money which were used to settle the dispute. The charges include perjury, obstruction of justice, and misconduct in office. "Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on," Worthy stated. "This is as far from being a private matter as one can get."

In many regards, Kwame Kilpatrick has been a successful mayor and has done a lot for the city of Detroit. He has helped usher in an era of new stadiums, permanent casinos, and a vastly improved central business district. He has also created neighborhood initiatives to jump start the rejuvenation of once great sections of the city that lay downtrodden and decaying. He partnered with prominent business leaders and enticed other businessmen to move their companies to Detroit and invest more of their time and money into the city.

Kwame has been able to succeed because Kwame is Kwame. He is personable, charismatic, confident, a great orator, convincing, and a little over the top. While Kwame being Kwame has contributed mightily to his success, within Kwame being Kwame also lies the problem. Along with Kwame's aforementioned qualities, he is also cocky, a megalomaniac, and believes he is invincible. These qualities will catch up to a person if not careful, especially somebody in power, and Kwame has been anything but careful.

I have always backed Kwame Kilpatrick, even through the diamond stud, the "Stripper Party" at the Manoogian Mansion, and spending city money on Carlita's Navigator. I believed that although not perfect, his redeeming qualities outweighed his faults and that he had the characteristics and ability to lead Detroit into a new era. Now, after almost 7 years in office and in light of his most recent indiscretions, it is painfully obvious that his good qualities cannot be separated from his bad. Kwame himself cannot distinguish the line between his duties as Mayor of Detroit, and his desire to live the life of a rock star while not taking responsibility for his actions.

The Kwame Kilpatrick story is a shame. Kwame could have been mayor for life and still at only 37 years old, he could have led Detroit's renaissance well into this century. Alas, it was not meant to be. Just as the citizens of the tri-county area have been disappointed before, Kwame has left us like Pavlov's dogs, salivating in anticipation of chili powder coated food, but without any satiation.

We have been duped again my friends, but we should not let this get us down. I still honestly believe Detroit is on the right track and will continue down the road towards success, as long as we stick together as a cohesive group and not let negativity and internal squabbling ruin what we have started. I still believe that a smart, charismatic leader can lead us into what Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans, has called Detroit 2.0. Sadly, Kwame Kilpatrick, will not, and should not, be the one to do so.

Stephen Asher Weisberg
Detroit Army

Monday, March 17, 2008

Detroit's Downtown Hoedown

On one of those 20/20 type shows the other night, they were interviewing a convicted murderer who was apparently schizophrenic at the time he committed the act. He spoke of topics in the variety of spaceships, aliens, voices telling him to do things, and finally, how he found himself at the "Hoedown at Hart Plaza in Detroit." I wasn't surprised at all. Spaceships, aliens, and Detroit's Downtown Hoedown fit into a nice category together, especially coming from a schizophrenic murderer. The belated point is that the Hoedown in Hart plaza is both bizarre and great, kind of like aliens and spaceships.

I know that people from all over metro Detroit come down to the city for all kinds of events, and yet the hoedown still seems like the most out of place. The hoedown, which is celebrating its 25th anniverary, must be a good time though, as it continues to succeed as an extremely popular event every May. According to multiple sources, it is widely recognized as the largest free country music festival of its kind in the world.

This year's hoedown is once again at Hart Plaza on the weekend of May 9-May 11 and it might be the most prolific hoedown in the 25 year history. The headlining acts including Jewel on May 9th, Trisha Yearwood on the 10th, and Gretchen Wilson closing out the festival on the 11th. In addition to the headliners, there will also be over 30 other acts throughout the weekend including performers from out of state, along with up and coming local artists.

So put on your cowboy boots and hat and you'll be ready to party with every country music fan within a 7 hour radius, and maybe even some schizophrenic criminals.

Jewel, Trisha Yearwood will Headline Detroit's Downtown Hoedown
Detroit Army

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pure Detroit

Pure Detroit is now somewhat of a veteran in the Detroit apparel world. While a relatively new brand, Pure Detroit's start seemed to coincide with the recent emergence of downtown. Pure Detroit was started by Kevin Borsay and Shawn Santo who opened the first store in 1998. Since the first store opened, it then moved to the corner of W. Congress and Shelby, and is presently located in the lobby of the Guardian Building at 500 Griswold. They have also expanded and now have stores in the Fisher Building lobby at 3011 W. Grand Boulevard and in the Wintergarden of the Renaissance Center. Products are additionally available at Pure Detroit Website: www.puredetroit.com

Pure Detroit carries t-shirts, long sleeve and short, hoodies, hats and belts. The prints on the clothing include phrases such as "Detroit Funk," "Detroit Soul," "Detroit Rock City," "Detroit is for Lovers," "Detroit City," "313" and of course prints that just say "Detroit" in various letter designs. Some of their newer prints include "Enjoy Detroit," and print which they call "Detroit Transit," which is drawing of a bus with Woodward scrawled upon the top.

The shirts are classic and a nice addition to anyone's Detroit collection, but personally I'd like to see newer styles come out more often. Many of the current styles have been around since almost the beginning and an infusion of new designs would add some spice to the ones available. That being said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The prints that are currently available seem to be popular and apparel is one aspect of just one business venture that the entrepreneurs who started this store are
behind.

If you want products made in Detroit, Pure Detroit is the place to look. They not only have clothing, but they also carry a multitude of Detroit made products including Pewabic Pottery, historic and contemporary photographs, music, books on Detroit, functional art created from remnant automotive parts and local specialty food products such as Red Pelican Mustard, Detroit Spices Co. products, Faygo glass bottle Rock & Rye, Germack pistachios of Sanders hot fudge.

Pure Detroit is definitely a place to check out if you have not done so. The stores have classic products that all Detroit aficionados should have, in addition to apparel which should be found in all Detroiters' closets. Pure Detroit stores seem to have the right mix of new Detroit culture, in addition to old Detroit flavor. With continued success, Pure Detroit is on its way to turning into a Detroit institution.

Pure Detroit Website: www.puredetroit.com
Pure Detroit Stores are located at:

Guardian Building Lobby
500 Griswold Suite 250
Detroit 48226
313-963-1440


Fisher Building Lobby
3011 W. Grand Blvd Suite 101
Detroit 48202
313-873-PURE

Renaissance Center Wintergarden
Detroit 48226
313-259-5100
Detroit Army

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Briggs Neighborhood

While I love to be the bearer of all things good, at times I instead like to take the interesting and eye opening approach. Recently while in the city I decided to head over to the Briggs neighborhood, which is also called North Corktown. Briggs is located North of old Tiger Stadium and just West of Motor City Casino. The boundaries are approximately Martin Luther King Blvd. to the North, Fisher Freeway West to the West and South, and Grand River Ave. to the East.

To drive up to the neighborhood in a rear wheel drive vehicle with the streets completely unplowed and snow covered, while seeing only 3-4 people along with countless swaths of open fields, certainly left an impression. It might as well have been farm country in Northern Michigan. Yet, this wasn't farm country in Northern Michigan, this was within a mile of the city center of Detroit. The West side of the neighborhood, which is where I was mostly, was completely barren with old deteriorating houses scattered throughout. Otherwise, I found a church, a liquor store and what seemed like a junkyard. That was about it, but this neighborhood was anything but boring. Instead, it was one of the most fascinating scenes I have ever witnessed.

Although much is made of Detroit neighborhoods such as this, which seem to have returned to nature, only a small proportion of Detroit neighborhoods are like this. Again, this is not representative of the Detroit neighborhoods as a whole, as much as hipster film makers on Current TV would like you to believe. Moreover, I'm told that while I mostly stuck to the West side of the Neighborhood, the East side has had recent development and plans for revitalization. Next time I am in the area, I will look further into the East side and update this story.

Although I'm not privy to the entire history of the area, I do know that it has a mixture of both Whites and Blacks living in the area, or what is left of it. Apparently it became known as a neighborhood that had many white people in an overwhelmingly non-white city. If anyone has any more info on the neighborhood's history, feel free to comment.

If you're interested in urban prairie, the effects of suburban sprawl and flight, and the results of a city losing over half its population in a mere 50 years, this is one of the places to check out. It's more than the poverty and urban decay that can be seen in other Detroit neighborhoods because it is past that point. It is on its way to returning to its natural roots from well before Detroit reached its peak of 2 million people.

The pictures can tell the story much better than I. Below are a few of the pictures I took during my excursion, along with a link to the complete set of pictures on Flickr.

The house in the background of the above picture was one of maybe two houses within a radius of 2-3 "plots" in any given direction, although I can't be certain because it is impossible to figure out where property lines are or would be.

Again, while there is basically nothing around this house, it is not abandoned as is the case with other houses in the area.

The vastness of the nothingness around these houses is hard to describe in words. Even the pictures can only tell part of the story.

The above picture shows the ultimate contrast. While a lone home surrounded by empty fields is seen in the forefront, the "retro elegant," and "neo decadent," (their words...not mine) Motor City Casino rises in the background.

While the neighborhood has crumbled and vanished, on the East end, some things still remain. Above is a neighborhood church, which I saw churchgoers (hopefully) come out of. Across the street to the South is also a liquor store which I saw multiple people (multiple meaning around 5) walk into.


This picture gives a pretty good idea of the area. It's something to think about...

Full Detroit-Briggs Neighborhood Flickr Set

Detroit Army