Grand Rapids

Pure Michigan Statewide Sing-along premiers

Rob Bliss & Jeff Barrett, creators of the fantastic Grand Rapids lip dub video premiered their Pure Michigan Statewide Sing-along at halftime of the Lions game on Sunday. It was filmed in 50 Michigan cities in 7 days. It’s a pretty cool travelogue of the Great Lakes State in under 4 minutes.

Check out the finished video below and also don’t miss the behind the scenes blog from PureMichigan.org.

Top Michigan Viral Videos for 2011

Mark W. Smith of the Freep picked his Top Viral Videos of 2011 from YouTube. While there’s a number of nationwide hits, he highlighted a few Michigan ones.

We featured Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad smash Imported from Detroit (starring Eminem) and the fantastic Grand Rapids Lip Dub (starring pretty much the entire city of Grand Rapids) on Absolute Michigan when they came out, but it looks like we may have missed the best of them all! Mark writes:

Billed as the first lipdub to feature senior citizens, this clip of a Grand Rapids retirement community drew national attention in July. The clip was produced with help from students at nearby Grand Valley State University.

It features his grandparents, but with 1.2 million views, Mark’s not alone and we think you’ll agree, this is one awesome video… (if you have another we missed, post it in the comments)

 

 

Michigan in the Electric Forest: DJ SuperDre

With Electric Forest (June 30 – July 3) just around the corner, Absolute Michigan is talking to the Michigan artists that are going to help make it happen. Click for more Electric Forest interviews.

DJ SuperDre by TerryJohnston
DJ SuperDre by TerryJohnston

We recently caught up with Michigan-native and Grand Rapids resident SuperDre (Andrea Wallace). The producer/DJ filled us in on growing up surrounded by music, what Michigan musicians inspire her and some of the best places to hear electronic music in the Midwest. SuperDre’s distinctive, atmospheric arrangements have earned her a number of accolades including a Grand Rapids DJ of the Year nod and being voted one of the 10 most influential electronic artists in the Midwest. Here at Absolute Michigan, we can’t think of a better venue for a SuperDre set than Electric Forest.

Your website says you’re a byproduct of years of classical music training and nerdy computer skills. Can you tell me a little about how that unfolded?

I’ve been playing music for a long time. My mother is a classically trained pianist, so she taught my brother and I how to play when we were really young. When I was in elementary school I started in band playing the saxophone and played that all the way through college. I picked up the electric guitar, drums and violin during junior high and high school.

I’ve always been a huge classical music fan. To me reading music is really important but at the same time having the ability to play by ear is even more important, especially with genres like jazz and electronic music.

As far as computers, well nowadays you almost have to use a computer at some point for creating, mixing or mastering your music, but aside from that…I also moonlight as a software engineer/web consultant. Gotta pay the bills!

Turning the Tables by TerryJohnston
Turning the Tables by TerryJohnston

Who are some of the Michigan musicians who have most influenced you and how?

Michigan has a huge music culture. My favorites are probably mostly out of Detroit. I was heavily influenced by Motown growing up. That’s pretty much what my parents listened to: jazz, soul, funk, latin and r&b music.

My parents lived in Detroit before I was born, but I have a lot of family there. I’m still there a lot, so I obviously grew up on a lot of electronic music as well. The techno “big three” of Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin

Saunderson were big when I was little. Then as I get a little older people like Delano Smith and Seth Troxler were bigger influences.

I’m also a huge fan of Detroit hip-hop. We all know Eminem is one of the best, but there are a ton of underground artists in Detroit that I really really like. Royce Da 5’9″, Magestik Legend and RoSpit are some of my favorites. Michigan was/is home to some fabulous artists from all genres. I mean hey, we had Sonny Bono, Aaliyah … and of course Madonna.

It’s always hard to choose, but can you tell us a few of your favorite clubs or festivals in Michigan?

DJ SuperDre 11 by sethrt
DJ SuperDre 11 by sethrt

Hmmmm. That’s probably not that hard – ha ha. As far as festivals in Michigan, I mean, I’m a house/techno head, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that DEMF is my favorite festival, or Movement I mean. It’ll always be DEMF to me. Rothbury comes in a close second. I just loved the diversity of it and on top of that, the way they decorate the forest is just plain beautiful. I seriously cannot wait until Electric Forest to see what tricks they have up their sleeve. I know it’s going to look and sound amazing. I also love the Detroit Jazz Festival and I am looking forward Soundfest 2011, The Blastoff, etc. for music festivals anyway.

As far as clubs for electronic music, I wish we had more in my city of Grand Rapids, but I really like Billy’s in Eastown where I host a weekly electronic music nite featuring DJ’s from all over the country and sometimes even the world. I also like Lower Level. In Detroit, I love The Works still and TV Lounge. One of my all time Midwest favorites though, is still SmartBar in Chicago. The sound system in that place is ridiculous. Love it.

Who are you most excited to see at Electric Forest and who would you urge your fans to check out?

I’ve seen and played with a lot of artists on the list before, like Kaskade, Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, EOTO, Big Gigantic, Eliot Lipp, Paper Diamond and Emancipator so I don’t know. I am looking forward to seeing Stephen Marley and String Cheese Incident who I’ve actually never seen live before, just on TV.

I’m just excited to be included on the lineup. Plus, I think I’m the only really minimal/tech/house producer on the lineup that I know of and one of just a few who is actually born and raised in Michigan and still lives here. I’m going to really make it a point to look up everyone before I get there, so I can hear their music.

As far as my fans, I don’t know, honestly. I’d urge them to check out as many people and soak up as much of the festival as humanly possible. It’s going to be a great weekend, so make it count.

***

Learn more about SuperDre at SuperDre.com. Here’s a video of SuperDre from last summer’s Grand Rapids Electronic Music Night with Flying Without Wingz that you should check out and definitely have a look at Get ‘Em Up featuring FW2 and some awesome animation.

The Amazing Grand Rapids American Pie Lip Dub by Rob Bliss

I don’t know what else you can say but bravo? Produced by Rob Bliss, this is the best 10 minutes you’ll spend online today I expect. You might also enjoy The Making of the Grand Rapids Lip Dub by Michigan Radio.

UPDATE: Roger Ebert posts simply “The greatest music video ever made

Rob writes:

“The Grand Rapids LipDub Video was filmed May 22nd, with 5,000 people, and involved a major shutdown of downtown Grand Rapids, which was filled with marching bands, parades, weddings, motorcades, bridges on fire, and helicopter take offs. It is the largest and longest LipDub video, to date.

This video was created as an official response to the Newsweek article calling Grand Rapids a “dying city.” We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean’s “American Pie,” a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope.”

*Note: The “NEW WORLD RECORD” designation refers to size and scope, not duration.

This $40,000 production was entirely financed by the generosity of local sponsors

Driving Michigan: Jeremy Kosmicki of Founders Brewing Company

In our latest Driving Michigan episode, we visited Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids and got a tour from head brewer Jeremy Kosmicki. Click the 320p at the bottom right and choose 720p HD for the best quality or watch on YouTube.

Driving Michigan is Absolute Michigan’s new show that explores the state of Michigan and the people who are moving us towards the future. It’s hosted by Seth Bernard, a musician of  Earthworks Music with a passion for Michigan. The video was shot by Ken Lake of Mythic Michigan.

Celebrating 100 Years at the Wealthy Theatre

Wealthy Theatre, 1936

Wealthy Theatre, 1936

The Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids turns 100 this year. Located at 1130 Wealthy Street, the theater was constructed in 1911 for vaudeville and live theater, later becoming a neighborhood movie house. During World War I, the Wealthy served as a warehouse for the Michigan Aircraft Company and in the 1960s is was the only regional venue for foreign films.

The theater closed in the late 1970s and remained empty for over 25 years before the South East Economic Development neighborhood association launched a capital campaign to fund its restoration. The Theatre re-opened in 1998 as a community arts center and has helped to spawn a renaissance of the entire Wealthy Street business district. (check the video below for the astounding before & after photos!)

Streets of Grand Rapids by RichardDemingPhotography
Streets of Grand Rapids by RichardDemingPhotography

In 2004, the Theatre closed and sought a nonprofit partner who could commit to the continued growth of the theatre. The Grand Rapids Community Media Center (CMC) rose to the challenge, and with a successful capital campaign was able to acquire the Wealthy and make critical improvements including a concert sound system,  new projection screen, a micro-cinema space and repainting, upgrades and renovations throughout.

In addition to providing a modern and comfortable venue for performance and film, the Wealthy Theatre is home to CMC projects including GRTV Television and  WYCE-FM Radio.  Absolute Michigan is excited to be helping the Wealthy Theatre mark 100 years and also to present some of the amazing projects that the CMC is involved with.  This weekend, our Driving Michigan crew including host Seth Bernard will be visiting with the crew at the CMC/Wealthy to learn about what they do and how and why they are doing it!

Seth Bernard Cat Stevens TributeThis Saturday night at 6:30 PM you can enjoy a very special night of music and memories, as  Seth Bernard (and friends) pay tribute to the best of Cat Stevens. This concert is a fundraiser for the Wealthy Theatre Centennial Sustainability Campaign, which celebrates the 100th birthday of Wealthy Theatre with greening and technology upgrades as a means of historic preservation. You can learn about and donate to the Sustainable Centennial campaign right here.

PS: Tonight they are screening the classic film Harold & Maude which of course features the music of Cat Stevens.

Visit grcmc.org to learn much more about them including their services for nonprofit organizations including media production, website creation and social media training. Now check out this cool before & after video!

Wealthy Theatre Before & After from Wealthy Theatre on Vimeo.

Grand Rapids LaughFest ~ March 10-20, 2011

grand-rapids-laughfest-cosby-betty-whiteGrand Rapids LaughFest on Facebook!The first-ever Grand Rapids LaughFest kicks off this Thursday (March 10) in Grand Rapids. The city-wide festival runs March 10-20, 2011 and is presented by Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, an independent branch of Gilda’s Club Worldwide. The organization was founded in honor of comedienne Gilda Radner with the goal of helping men, women and children with cancer and their friends and families, meet to learn how to live with cancer, whatever the outcome.

One neat thing about LaughFest is that the schedule holds a lot of no-cost/low-cost events, beginning with the attempt to break the Guinness World Record for rubber chicken tossing at Rosa Parks Circle at 7:30 PM (just show up – chickens will be provided!). This feature from the Grand Rapids Press on LaughFest says:

LaughFest organizers hope to make West Michigan a very happy place with performances by more than 50 headliners plus another 300 amateur or theatrical performers. More than 110 events are open for free in 29 venues and 14 restaurants and bars.

Ten days before the opening of the 10-day event, nearly 27,000 tickets had been sold to ticket buyers from 17 U.S. states plus Canada as well as from 80 percent of Michigan’s 83 counties.

Grand Rapids LaughLest“The names I keep hearing are Cosby and White,” said Bill Cosby, who appears March 13 in DeVos Hall. “I think that’s very, very interesting that the big names would be those people who are in their 70s,” he said. “One would think that Comedy Central would be able to spin out a whole bunch of potentials who would draw a younger crowd.”

Actually, that’s been taken care of. Comedians such as Margaret Cho, Mike Birbiglia, Kevin Hart, Stephen Lynch and Kathleen Madigan are among those performing during the event-packed festival.

Gilda Radner was from Detroit, and in the video below from Gilda’s brother, Michael Radner, talks about the importance of laughter to his sister. See many more from Grand Rapids LaughFest on YouTube.

ArtPrize 2011 ~ September 21 through October 9, 2011

Cavalry by pairadocs
Cavalry by pairadocs

ArtPrize, the radically open, radically cool art competition that awards the world’s largest art prize has issued their call for ArtPrize 2011 artists. The wildly successful event will return to Grand Rapids September 21 through October 9, 2011. ArtPrize has no formal jury, curator or judge, allowing the public to choose the winners.

ArtPrize 2010 presented the work of over 1,700 artists, tallied 465,000 votes and awarded almost $500,000. It’s one of the most amazing events in Michigan and the nation, and Absolute Michigan will once again report on ArtPrize and also provide in-depth features and interviews leading up to the event. You can see coverage from past years including ArtPrize 2010 winner Chris LaPorte of Grand Rapids at absolutemichigan.com/ArtPrize.

Artist will want to note that Venue Registration opens Monday, March 14 and closes Thursday April 14 while Artist Registration is Monday, April 18 through Thursday, June 16. From May 31 to June 30, artists and venues will connect. ArtPrize Executive Director Bill Holsinger-Robinson says:

“A lot of the most memorable work in the event is created for a specific space. Artists will know all the venues available as they register. The vast majority of artists who did not secure a venue in 2010 were the ones who signed up at the last minute. Register early!”

Here’s a great video overview of ArtPrize that lets you know more about the incredible impact and reach of this event. Many more from ArtPrizeGR on YouTube!

A Passion for Pints at HopCat in Grand Rapids

HopCat by pentax hammer (gary syrba)
HopCat by pentax hammer (gary syrba)

In recent years, Grand Rapids has become a beer mecca. One of those leading that charge is HopCat, recently named as one of the best places on Planet Earth to belly up and grab a pint! BeerAdvocate named them the third best beer bar in the world for the third year in a row! The staff at HopCat take this honor with great pride and know that it also comes with great responsibility for their craft beer-loving customers.

For anyone who has cozied up to HopCat’s elegant, wooden bar and enjoyed a handmade craft beer, this distinction will come as no surprise. With 48 drafts on tap and countless bottles to choose from, the possibilities at HopCat will boggle any beer lovers’ mind. Which is why, if the mere thought of a hoppy IPA is enough to make you drool, HopCat demands repeat visits.

Since it opened three years ago, HopCat has been the envy of beer lovers not lucky enough to live nearby. And those who do are not taking the crown jewel of Michigan pubs for granted.

Steve Smith, who works at HopCat under the title Chief Beer Geek, appreciates his customers just as much as they appreciate the beer he brings in. “Being on BeerAdvocate’s list for the third year in a row is a big honor. And it is a big honor because it is determined by customer reviews. I take great pride in the fact that our customers speak up for us.” Steve told Absolute Michigan.

For anyone passionate about craft beers, the list of Chief Beer Geek job responsibilities reads like pure poetry. On any given day, Steve is selecting which beers will go on tap at HopCat, working with local chefs to come up with menus for beer-pairing dinners, planning beer festivals and, generally, talking beer all day long.

And being passionate about the industry makes HopCat’s prestigious placement on the BeerAdvocate list all the more sweet.

Hopcat by farlane
Hopcat by farlane

“We are in such great company with so many great bars on that list. When I look at it, I see people further down than we are that I look to for inspiration, bars that are doing amazing things with craft beers.” And Steve has a particular passion for the Michigan beer industry, an industry he sees as being one big family. “I have been selling beer in Michigan for 15 years now. With my experience, I am able to get a lot of stuff other people are not able to. I’m a huge supporter of craft brewers and I love seeing them succeed. The more breweries the better. And it’s better for the industry and local economies. There is such a great sense of family in the craft beer world.”

Part of makes HopCat a great beer bar, as opposed to simply a bar that serves great beers, is the fact that they brew some of Michigan’s best craft beers on site. Steve calls the HopCat brewery the “quintessential microbrewery” because they have the capacity to brew 7 half barrels at a time and only brew twice a week.

The lofty responsibility of brewing beer in a place that serves the world’s best falls in the lap of HopCat brewer Jeff Williams. According to Jeff, HopCat tries to maintain three to four mainstays on draft at any given time. But, he has the creative freedom to make whatever he thinks will taste good. “The great thing about this brewery is that we can make whatever comes to mind. A lot of our brews are experimental. Last summer, we made a Jamaican Jerk Pale Ale with lime zest, all spice, habaneras and fresh thyme. It had a nice kick to it.” Jeff said. “We are working on a Scotch Ale and we have a couple of sours in the basement we’re waiting on. And I’m toying with the idea of brewing a Pilsner.” Jeff added.

The new beers will no doubt go nicely with HopCat legends like Hoppotamus, a well-balanced IPA, Sage Against the Machine, a herbed honey pale ale and the Viener Lager, a Vienna-style lager.

Steve and Jeff are lucky. They work in an industry they love and one – thanks to all their hard work – that loves them back. As beer lovers themselves, they have a few favorites from around Michigan and beyond. And while they both said their favorite pint is the one in front of them, here are a some breweries currently whetting whistles at HopCat.

Michigan craft beers

American craft beers

Michigan Ghost Stories: The Ada Witch

The Ada Witch by farlane
The Ada Witch by farlane

The Ada Witch by Amberrose Hammond from Michigan’s Otherside explains:

The legend says a woman during the 1800′s had been cheating on her husband. She would sneak off into the night to meet her lover. Her husband began to suspect she was up to something and pretended to fall asleep one night. After his wife got up and snuck away, he followed her and found her in the arms of another man. Rage welled up inside him and in an instant, the husband attacked the adulterous couple, killing his wife first. The two men fought until they both died from the wounds they inflicted upon each other.

For many years now, people say they have heard the sounds of a fight taking place around the Findley area, only to find no one around. The area at one point must have been open for hunting before it was developed into a residential area. There have been reports from hunters feeling a presence in the area, hearing the ghostly fight, getting tapped on the shoulder only to find no one there and even seeing a ghostly woman in white.

More of Haunted Michigan.