Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Detroit Days 2 and 3 (Explorers and Community)









































So it's March 3rd, we wake in Jaye and Lisa's home and have breakfast with them.  They have some work to do at Corktown, giving a more obvious external appearance and repainting the indoors.  This being necessary, we were off  to meet up with our new friend and host!

John, an adventurer
   Lisa and Jaye drop us off at John's house sometime in the afternoon, one of few houses that don't look as though it is in complete disrepair.  The striking thing about Detroit is how the majority of it is in such a state of abandonment and bitter cold melancholy, that it seems almost post apocalyptic.  When he answered the door he looked like a brown-haired version of Yukon Cornelius.  John has an energy that is calm, tired from work and from thinking.  He has a ton of knowledge and quiet confidence about him. He is Hemingway's idea of a man, crafty, quiet, assertive and self-assured.  He also has a hilarious dry sense of humor.  He leads us into his small house, quaint and quirky, hilarious decorations abound (depicted above) and oddities here and there.  He seemed to have a passive affinity for gathering knowledge and adventurous experience.  He made us tea and talks to us about various subjects; the dilapidated area he calls home, his wife (who was absent, on a trip), religion, literature, agriculture, architecture, among other things.  One idea of his that he was emphatic about, a sort of semi-nomadic life plan he wanted to perpetuate, fascinated me.  He expressed that his ideal lifestyle would be having one home in maybe four choice, very different, places around the world, and to cycle through them living there for two or three months at a time.  He'd spend a month or two in Detroit, and gain enough money through his architecture/construction exploits to carry him to each place, where there he would also work, given that his abilities were necessary everywhere.  He figured this was a wise way to live, so as to stave off stagnation, boredom and keep life culturally varied and exciting.  Consistent with his adventurous spirit, he decided, before the sun sunk, he'd show us the abandoned zoo on Belle Island.

Belle Island Zoo
 As we are driving through the Sunday streets of Detroit, the empty streets are full of despair.  The roads are like mouths with each abandoned house resembling decaying teeth.  Each home stubbornly rooted but full of holes and collapsing walls and roofs, entire blocks completely abandoned, as though aspiring to be America's answer to Chernobyl.  Even most large factory buildings are destroyed or left alone Everywhere you look on the buildings there is graffiti that for the most part isn't artistic.
 
     We crossed over a small bridge, and just beyond some sort of still-functioning rec-club building, there was the gates of the abandoned zoo.  We parked, trying to be inconspicuous.  John pointed out Canada across the water.  We stepped through the gates and it was as though we were going to Jurassic Park post-dinosaur escape, and walked out into the Zoo.  Belle Island Zoo is all over the internet as an oddity.  I've supplied a link to Huffington Post's feature about it.  The place is pretty big and has been abandoned since 2002, as mayor Kwame Kilopatrick closed it to save money.  It was featured as a location for the movie Real Steel.

     The place is eerie.  There was a room with a glacier full of ice made by years of dripping pipes.  There was an abundance of graffiti and most of the buildings had been destroyed by vandals.  Trees had fallen through certain parts of it and there was a lot of overgrowth. We climbed all around and took many pictures, it was a surreal landscape, feeling like the setting for a zombie video game or something!  We saw a group of young graff-writers trouncing around and claiming their territory with murals, and at one point, near what I imagine would be a lion's cage, we tried forcing entry through a door and turned out to be disturbing a homeless man in residence there.  John lead our expedition throughout fearlessly and familiarly, pulling a few pieces of scrap metal to take home and cash in, while Alexa and I collected photos, and I frighteningly climbed one of the conical roofs before I got a third of the way up and was terrified of slipping to my death!  At one point, before our return, as the sun dipped itself into the horizon we experiences one of the most gorgeous sunsets of our trip, which I tried to capture with my Itouch.  I've enclosed this photo, that naturally doesn't do nature justice, among the many others I took at the Zoo!  With this haunting reminder of the poverty-stricken state of Detroit in our hearts and heads, we decided to go to an event that attempts to bring the community together and quell some of the areas issues.  Finger on the pulse of his area, he took us to a big warehouse type of building to a beautiful community assembly called "Detroit Soup"

Detroit Soup and the power of community
   As we arrived at the Detroit soup (link provided above), it became clear that John knew many many people in the community and was very in touch with the changes.  He filled us in on people he interacted with and the buildings we passed as a presidential adviser would.  The Detroit Soup is a community attempt to bring people together and provide funding and awareness for local projects that would help the area.  Interestingly, we had just heard of this type of event from Amanda, Kerry and friends in Indianapolis, and less than a week later we would have the pleasure of being involved in one!  It was a giant building, perhaps an old warehouse or factory, a large open space with pillows and small low-to-the-ground tables stuffed with dozens of people. They were bundled  up as the space was  lit and heated mildly most of the warmth coming from the sheer volume of people.  There was a man set up humbly with a small P.A. playing flamenco guitar.    
    The format is as follows:  within this space, hundreds of people gather, donate five or more dollars before they enter, and get together in this large space.  Soup or food is served to people for free (often, even the people cooking or making juices, as one man Julien of Julien's Tonic and Juice, were local businesses or entrepreneurs and promoting their endeavors) on a line much like a soup kitchen would be operated.  Everyone sits with their food and then listens to some presentations.  Let me explain, four people or groups make presentations during which their proposition or business venture is explained and questions are answered.  The community sits and listens, taking notes.  Then after the presentation, there is an anonymous voting process, whichever project gets the vote wins all of the donation money collected at the door to fund the endeavors.  I thought and still think this is a brilliant means of supporting people and bringing about change in people's lives and in our local communities!
   
    One of the projects was a young man who has a very interesting and technical project involving a new sort of energy efficient light bulb.  The process involved oils and emitted more light, less heat and expended less energy than even your average economical light bulb.  This was intriguing and presented in a way that could help save the city and it's people money, but those around me seemed skeptical, it seemed too impersonal perhaps.  Next went a dancer, a woman named Ryan-Myers-Johnson, who was asking for help to fund her SideWalk Festival Of Performing Arts series.  It was a multi-faceted series that took art and dance and music to the streets to give people something to celebrate.  They would bring national, regional and local artists together to draw attention to the brilliance of culture and the life that could still be in the home of Detroit.  The money would help assemble the events and bring beauty and self expression and a positive example to influence the local young to keep them out of trouble.  Additionally, visiting admirers of the festival would bring some external income into the community.  This was the presentation's message involving the power of music and art swayed me to vote for it.  While it didn't win, Alexa later introduced herself to Ryan-Myers-Johnson and in august traveled there and was a part of the Sidewalk Festival (collaborating with her new boyfriend Kevin, of course!)  Another presentation was by a young girl who had an idea called "Adopt-A-Plot" shared a sincere and heartbreaking anecdote about her walks home from school where there are so many barren lots and fallow lawns filled with trash.  She wished deeply to have a home vibrant with foliage and flora that she could admire, take care of, be proud of.  Her idea was to create a service through which people could "adopt" a plot of land and cultivate it into an aesthetically and functionally sound garden.  This idea for both it's genuine presentation and it's practicality, feasibility and need won everyone over, and thus, won over everyone else who presented, they ended up winning just around 2,000 dollars!  The amity is contagious, and despite the "competition" format, it is supportive and non-competitive!  After talking to many people, we were exhausted, I didn't get to eat much, the lines were long and I avoided getting in other's way, so we headed off into the night in search of food.  

The end of an adventurous day
   It was around midnight when we said our good byes and John drove us through the cold night like a lawless madman.  It was fun and non-threatening, he broke traffic law after traffic law in a matter-of-fact way more than to be rebellious or just contribute absurd comedy.  He blew lights and stop signs with the philosophy that it was ridiculous that he should wait when there were clearly no current or present danger around.  Being hungry (a startling and humbling reminder that a soup kitchen wouldn't provide enough for a person, certainly not one without a roof over their head and no food between the kitchen-stops) we ate at a small restaurant that John said was cheap and tasty.  Both of these were true, they had food from Yemen and we had more soup and endless Na'n bread for roughly three dollars.  It was delicious, we had some funny conversation and reflected on the day's experiences.  He told us he bought a three story house that he had planned to renovate for he and his wife to live in.  He said it was pretty cheap when we were both aghast at how that was a big commitment and he still seemed financially comfortable.  He shrugged it off, we passed the house on the way to his current home,  while in disrepair, it was clearly once, and could be again, a large and beautiful home.  I finally caved and asked him how much it cause and he said "a few thousand, and I own it".  A few thousand for a house!  "Yeah, I mean I'll probably put ten thousand or so worth of work into it, and it didn't have much of a yard, so I had to buy the acre next to it."  "How much did the additional property cost?"  "five hundred dollars."  Alexa and I were baffled, it gave some perspective to the situation, we both joked about just moving to Detroit and making music and then traveling the world during the colder months with all of the money saved, but one thing we kept in mind was the unwillingness we had to live in such an environment.  This only enhanced our appreciation for our situations as well as the beauty of an event like Detroit Soup.  We fell asleep and the next day John took us to the bus, that ended up taking us to Pittsburgh!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day One of Detroit (A Month On The Road and My Best Show)

Happy New Years folks of the AllOne family!   Hope your holidays were wonderful.  It's 2014 and nearly a year since I got home from the Little Piano, BIG MOUTH tour.  I've decided I will finish it by the end of this week so I can more actively utilize this site to keep you updated on the many happenings of the music I'm doing!  Also, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me, the AllOne Facebook Page is over 1,000 strong, doesn't that feel grand?! Love ya'll!  While you're online, feel free to download the collaborative compilation that I released on thanksgiving, "We'll Make It Together" on my Bandcamp!
 Lets inhabit the past tense, as though it is our now: 

Day One In Detroit  (Our Arrival at Corktown Studios)
    Thus far, we have left Chicago and are on bus arriving in Detroit on Saturday, March 2nd, and it has officially been a month on the road!  Beginning to feel a little homesick, but also seeing the end of the road and a welcome home house show just days away.  There is a paradoxical aspect of this because it seems absurd that our travels should already be over and as much as we are brought back to the amity of our loved ones, we return to the sedentary chains of routine as well.  These thoughts stir in my head ceaselessly as we drive, cold and exhausted, further north.  
   We arrived in Detroit and took a bus and a walk in the freezing cold.  We were meeting Alexa's friends Jaye and Lisa, whom she met on her last tour. The plan after our delivery to Detroit was to meet them and perform during their Daytripper series at their art space/concert venue Corktown Studios then stay with them afterward.  They are wonderful people, talented artists and multi instrumentalists, comprising a band called Rogue Satellites.  If in the area I recommend a stop at Corktown Studios as well as a Rogue Satellites show if you can get to one, for now, a few satisfactory fun listens to their music should serve you very well!  Corktown studios was in an unassuming little building and when we entered we were greeted by Jaye and Lisa sweetly as though we'd known each other a long time, the performance space was just the right size, the walls full with pictures remaining from the most recent art exhibition, many of them created by Jaye himself!  We settled in and got ourselves prepared for the performance that was to occur in a few hours.
  
Internet Connection...the power of music, an International friendship (a noteworthy back story)
   While waiting anxiously on the start of the show and enjoying the art displays and meeting our new friends, I got a call from my Canadian friends Jeremy and Jon, who were crossing the border to come see me perform!  A few months prior, Jeremy contacted me entirely randomly saying that he discovered my music online (we had no mutual friends, purely the power of the internet).  He confessed generously and flatteringly to being a big fan of my album, The Inevitable Effort and, get this, due to how it helped him and influenced him positively he GOT A TATTOO inspired by the lyrics of the song "What's Your Problem?"  ! This was a mind blowing message.  It is the highest compliment I can think of to have someone be so affected my work, to have them believe in themselves due to their belief in it, that they immortalize their appreciation on their body.  This is everything I strive to do, affect people, total strangers or closest friends positively with the poetry and music I make.  Once again, as I found often on this tour, all this inter-connective technology could do some good and share true friendship with people.  For a few months I'd talked with Jeremy and befriended him, and when I told him I'd be in Detroit, he'd sworn he and his friend Jon would be there with bells on!

The Daytripper Show at Corktown (photos by Chris Cunningham)
   The evening came and folks began filing in.  We met a number of people, a kindly bearded woodsman looking fellow named John who would host us the next day.  We met plenty of noteworthy and interesting people, one of them being an ambitious, amicable and creative fella named Kevin McCoy (check out his artwork here), a close friend of Lisa and Jaye's who appears significantly for several reasons I will unveil later!  The line-up was Allen Wimbly, Alexa, myself, and then Rogue Satellites was closing out the show, the grand finale!
   Allen opened the show with some great acoustic music that really warmed things up.  He had a bare and intimate sound that was inviting and raw!  People continued to file in, including the aforementioned Jeremy and Jon!  They are both really fun guys with great attitudes and expressive senses of adventure, clearly illustrated by their generous willingness to brave the cold, the borders, and the haggard socio-economic areas of Detroit to support an independent artist!!  Seeing Jeremy's tattoo (pictured below) was a surreal experience for me and filled me with awe.
     Alexa played an incredible set.  The room was lit in a dim blue aquarium glow with one lone light bulb dangling above the stage like an anorexic chandelier.  This added to the ambiance of her performance, which was simultaneously beautifully arresting and energetically dance-inspiring.  She has an ability to mesmerize as well as mobilize, which was a phenomenal mood shift that blanketed the room that I never get tired of!  Everyone was into it and flocked to her after her performance.
     Then came my set, I was nervous because thus far this was the single most focused and large audience with the best vibe and musical line-up in a two weeks or so (Houston's Community Center or the house show in Atlanta being other big highlights of the trip).  The occupants of the crowd were respectful, attentive and eager, I felt I owed a hugely magnificent performance to everyone as always, but also an emphasized weight of responsibility to reward Jon and Jeremy for their hugely complimentary gesture coming out to see me.  Our expectations are always highest for ourselves, and yet we project that onto others and make ourselves nervous.  I have to say this was maybe one of the best performances of my career, between crowd involvement, articulation, gesticulation, energy, I was passionately putting it all out there and everyone was giving it right back and that is the best thing I could ever ask for.
This was my set list:
Carsick (a capella)
Homesick Is Where The Heart Is
Needle Kiss (which everyone finished the final lines of the bridge with me...a first timer, so intense.)
Build Here (everyone sang and chanted along to this one)
It Always Pays (which Kevin McCoy bravely came up and beat-boxed for!)
What's Your Problem? (For Jeremy and his tat! He and Jon were spitting the words into the mic with me!)
Pennsylvanian Patriarch (hugely respectful response to this emotional epic of mine, felt cathartic)
The Inevitable Effort (Needed a pick-me-up blast of energy after the lull and Jon was all over this one)
Grab The Horns (huge finale, people were all over it chanting along, a triumphant finisher)
      I could write about this experience for days but it was one of the most gratifying performances of my career to be so far from home for so long and to be in a room of strangers who gave their bodies and hearts and ears and minds to me for a short space of time but with such wholesome and sincere energy.  It galvanized me for the remainder of the trip and it was everything I needed.

   Finally, the Rogue Satellites went up and they were just absurdly good, innovative and interesting.  It was just Lisa and Jaye, Jaye makes programmed drums that then interact with a light system he rigged up so that bursts of light herald their energetic choruses.  It was theatrical and fantastic!  Jaye switched between guitars and basses, Lisa played xylophone, tambourine, keys and sang harmonies or traded vocal parts with Jaye.  Their music was catchy and made you move but it was cynical and smart.  Analogously Jaye lyrically reminded me of the guy who is the life of the party but is sardonic and solemnly critical of his and other's debauchery afterwards.  Wonderful wonderful finishing performance.  My favorite song was Sky Writhing, from their newest release "Other Angels" which you need to own immediately! I happened to capture a bit of them performing this song on video, Check it out on the AllOne Youtube Channel!
    Afterward everyone gobbled up everyone's albums and stickers and traded information.  I chatted with Jon and Jeremy, took photos with them and then had a brief freestyle session with them outside in the cold before I had to go.

Eat, Praise, Love
   Jaye, Lisa, Alexa, Myself and Kevin McCoy headed to a wonderful Spanish restaurant. Jaye and Lisa covered our meals, another eye watering and palette pleasing generous gesture of kindness! We all got to know one another more, Kevin and I had some great philosophy talk.  He and Alexa got to talking on art and several other left-field, quirky topics.  I saw a spark there, him being clearly interested in her, and her warming appreciably!  I later teased her that whether or not she knows it she's totally into him and maybe they'd fall for one another some day.  They kept in touch and months later they developed a happy relationship and nearly a year later, their connection is flourishing, despite the long distance, something Alexa initially felt couldn't possibly foster a healthy relationship! Cue the Fidder On The Roof "Matchmaker" song!  As far as love and affection goes, it has appeared to me that as long as the connection and love is true and sincere, and the friendship healthy and productive, it will endure all obstacles of distance!  Just another example of touring has reaped wonderful things.  It is a mobile life where adventure and fulfillment lurks around every corner, so long as you are ready to accept and make use of it!  We stopped in at our host's friends'  housewarming party.  Several of them made comics, which was interesting as I'd never met comic writers/illustrators.  After some fun time of  new characters whom added drunken hilarity, we headed to Lisa and Jayes cute little apartment and, spent we fell asleep promptly!
Our next day was entertaining adventurous and odd, and I'll be posting the account of it soon!
I hope you've enjoyed meeting these new people and placed through my journals and experiencing their talents as I have!
See you soon!
-AllOne