mittenfest: 27 bands play venues that ann arborites should avoid

I just received an email from Brandon Zwagerman, the fellow behind the annual musical extravaganza known as Mittenfest (not to be confused with muttonfest, which is a little different). He wanted me to know that a writer for the University of Michigan’s student paper, The Michigan Daily, was talking shit about the Ypsi bar scene. Here’s a clip:

I’m not from Michigan. But like many University students, my views on Ypsilanti were shaped before I had ever visited it. Degenerate, dirty and scary are just a few of the adjectives my peers have used to describe it. But I figured the home of Eastern Michigan University must have its own college nightlife. I decided to check Ypsi out for myself. So last Saturday, a few of my friends (emphasis on few seeing as many of my friends scoffed at the idea of going to Ypsilanti) set out to experience the city’s bar scene first hand.

We met at the Union to catch a cab and after twenty minutes, a $23 fare and important tips on choosing a cruise ship cabin from our cab driver, we arrived at the first stop on my list, The Corner Brewery. My first thought was “Where the hell are we?”…

The author of the piece ends up liking the Corner Brewery, and Sidetrack, but has issues with the Elbow Room. Here’s the review:

…I was greatly disappointed. Despite a man who looked suspiciously like George Clinton sitting at the bar and $2 well drinks all night, the place sucked. The atmosphere was like Mitch’s on its worst night and the wait staff was slow. Not even finishing the worst whisky coke I had ever tasted, we paid the tab and left for another place next door…

And here’s the final verdict on Ypsi:

…Was it different? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Maybe. Was it worth $40 in cab fare? Definitely not. Ypsilanti allowed me to escape from my peers at the University for a night. Peers whom my new friends in Ypsi would aptly describe as people who “like to put on airs and wear a uniform when they go out.” I certainly met characters I would never had met on South University Avenue or Main Street…

First off, I can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one in an Ypsi bar told the author of this article that Ann Arborites, “put on airs.” They might have uttered the phrase “stuck up sons of bitches,” but there’s no way they said that anyone, “put on airs.” I’ve spent enough time in the bars of Ypsilanti to know that’s just not true. (I can likewise say with some certainly that no one in a raccoon coat said that anything was, “the bee’s knees.”)

I’d be the first to agree that Ypsi probably isn’t worth $40 in cab fare, but why in the hell would anyone in their right mind pay $40 in cab fare when we have busses that run between the two towns for $1.00? Sure, you might need a cab for the late-night trip back, in the unlikely event that you can’t make friends with someone who knows how to hot-wire a car, but $20 isn’t that much split between a few people… I suppose I should be happy that Ann Arborites are risking their lives to come out and see what life’s like east of Carpenter, but the tone here bothers me. I don’t suppose, however, that a column for the Eastern Echo about bars in Ann Arbor would be much better.

Speaking of Mittenfest, this year it’s going to be the weekend of December 26th, and it will include some 27 bands, spread across 3 venues…. one of them being the notoriously shitty Elbow Room. And profits will go toward the youth writing center 826michigan. [Sadly, as great as Ann Arbor-based 826 is, it probably isn’t worth a $40 cab from Ypsi.] Here’s the press release:

…Things get kicked-off on Friday, December 26, where the lineup is anchored by cello-augmented indie-folk-pop juggernaut CANADA, harmonic crowd-participation enthusiasts THE POP PROJECT, and local son FRED THOMAS (Saturday Looks Good to Me, Flashpapr, City Center), who returns from Brooklyn for a much-anticipated homecoming set. Also hailing from the east coast, CREAKY BOARDS play Brian Wilson-influenced pop songs but are best known for the international notoriety they gained last summer after accusing Coldplay of stealing one of their songs (via a popular viral video). Rounding out the first night is electro wunderkind DEASTRO, indiepop buzz band LIGHTNING LOVE, psych-shoegaze Lansingites FIELDS OF INDUSTRY, antifolk jester and puppeteer PATRICK ELKINS, and young Upper Peninsula duo THIS IS DEER COUNTRY. DUSTIN KRCATOVICH (Actual Birds) spins hot tunes between sets.

The festivities continue on Saturday, December 27, with popular accordion-cartography rockers GREAT LAKES MYTH SOCIETY topping a bill that includes the Grand Rapids-based nautical sprawl of THE MIGHTY NARWHALE and MATT JONES & THE RECONSTRUCTION, an amplified version of a usually-intimate and intricate songwriter. Detroit faux fantasy duo CHAMPIONS OF BREAKFAST return with cardboard instruments in hand, one-man insanity CARJACK and the pop sounds of youngsters PRUSSIA, as well as shoegaze-country veterans DABENPORT, the world-weary songs of THAT’S HIM! THAT’S THE GUY!, and the debut of THE INTERRUPTED LOVERS, featuring ex-Freer and Canada personnel. JEREMY PETERS (Quite Scientific Records, Ghostly International) will DJ.

But wait, there’s more! Sunday, December 28, things end on a folkier note, with the epic Neutral Milk Hotel-meets-bluegrass sounds of FRONTIER RUCKUS, the genius of local songwriting hero CHRIS BATHGATE, and the twang of MISTY LYN & THE BIG BEAUTIFUL. The rural punk-stomp of BLACK JAKE & THE CARNIES, Scott Sellwood (Saturday Looks Good to Me) project DRUNKEN BARN DANCE, and the experimental sounds of HALOLOS add to the bill’s diversity. Solo sets by JOSEPH PATRICK SCOTT (Canada) and TIMOTHY MONGER (Great Lakes Myth Society), as well as returning Ann Arbor expat EMILY BATE fill-out the festival. DJ JEFF OWENS (Ghostly International) will provide inter-set music.

All proceeds from the entry fees ($5 at the door each night, $12 3-day wristband available at Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, 115 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor) benefit 826michigan, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Their services are structured around a belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success…

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  1. Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Oops, I mean, “Welcome to the Elbow Room, Ann Arbor students! You will be well taken care of!”

  3. Brackache
    Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Huh. Well, I don’t think you have to be particularly tough to live in Ypsi, but you might have to be extraordinarily pussy-like to be afraid of it.

  4. paul
    Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    I expect most Ypsi venues will serve warm milk for U of M students if asked bitchily enough.

  5. Posted December 15, 2008 at 1:22 am | Permalink

    On second thought, I just read the article and it wasn’t that bad. I think it was the Tap Room she didn’t like and said the quote above about. Her “dislike” of the Elbow Room was more of a preference thing than an actual dislike. Sounds like she was more pissed at the cab for the $40 fare than at Ypsi. Plus, she ain’t from around here and is probably young, so what the hell does she know.

    And come see us the 28th.

  6. Posted December 15, 2008 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    To be fair, the writer thought George Clinton was at the Tap Room.

    She thought the Elbow Room was like a high school party she wasn’t invited to.

  7. mark
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    The big take-away message for me in all of this was – don’t go to Mittenfest.

    And, yeah, she said some nice things about the bars, but, on the whole, there was a negative undercurrent. It reminded me of something my friend Elizabeth told me about being in a sorority. There was this game they’d play where they’d all go around the room commenting on the bodies of each young woman. They’d say one nice thing, and one devastatingly critical thing… The example that I always think of is “big nose, nice ass.” That’s what came to mind as I read the article.

  8. Posted December 15, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    When she referred to George Clinton in the Tap Room, she was probably thinking of “that guy that ran for presidint in 1992”.

    “UoM academix #!1!.”

    This is an out-of-state admission’s probing article? Then I will continue point and laugh at Michigan Degrees being compared to Ivy League diplomas.

  9. Jill
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Not to mention the fact that any U of M student (staff and faculty, too) can ride the bus for free.

  10. Curt Waugh
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Why in the hell would we want a bunch of U-M students to invade downtown Ypsi? Yuck.

  11. Posted December 15, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    It just so happens that I’m a big nose, nice ass man.

    Black Jake and the Carnies, Elbow Room, December 28th.

  12. Paw
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    How dare the Elbow Room make a visitor from Ann Arbor feel uncool. I don’t want to be rash, but I think that the Elbow should go out of business right now, before a mob of people in expensive taxis roll up with pitchforks and torches.

  13. Paw
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I’m going to charter a jet to take me to this wonderful place, Mitch’s, and then write an article about how it wasn’t worth the $5,000 I spent on the jet.

  14. Ryan
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    As far as cost goes, I think a night of drinking in Ypsi is
    significantly cheaper than a night of drinking in Ann Arbor. The cost of the (unnecessary and overused) taxi was probably offset by the cheap drinks. This makes it seem like Ypsi is expensive to visit, but that simply isn’t true.

    I’d also like to point out that if you eat a hamburger at Sidetrak you’re not a vegetarian. Sorry, Kristen. If you want to give it another shot I’d recommend checking out the Black Bean or Tempeh burger next time. They’re both vegetarian (the tempeh burger is vegan) and are both fantastic.

  15. Ditch Digger
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    LOL on the jet, Paw!

  16. j
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    This line says it all…”For as much flak as University students might get in Ypsilanti, I still enjoy sipping on overpriced Stoli, dressing to the nines and discussing Freudian slips and the nature of evil with them on a Saturday night”.

  17. Posted December 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    “…Ypsi must have its own college night life.” I’ll tell you one thing 4sure, is that when I first trasferred to EMU in 2004, and made my first trip to TC’s the summer of 2005 for my 21st bday I knew right away it wasn’t a college bar at all…and thats why I loved it! I think its funny that this person was searching for the “college night life” in Ypsi yet they didn’t go to Pub13/Best Damn Sports Bar where a lot of EMU students hang out. And p.s. College Night in Ypsi is on Thursdays at pratically every bar (that wants college kids).

    Bottom line…I went to the Elbow Room last Saturday for the first time in a long time (Rock and Rummage sale) and had a blast. I’ve been to Club Divine and even had fun somehow. I think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the night is what you make of it. So for me, I’m glad I don’t have to spend any of my free time at the Jug, Skeepers, or any of that business. Except Dominck’s is pretty cool in the summer.

  18. Posted December 16, 2008 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The burgers at Sidetracks are so good that I think we can consider it like the neutral zone between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. You can eat a burger and Sidetracks and still be a vegetarian.

  19. Posted December 16, 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    It’s too bad they didn’t announce their plans to visit because you could have mugged them and left them for dead on the tracks. You know, for that “authentic Ypsilanti experience”.

    I expect them to take a taxi to Hamtramck next. Won’t that be a treat?

  20. Murf
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    The burgers at Sidetracks are overrated but that’s all right. It keeps everyone out of my beloved Aubrees which not only has great hamburgers and Christmas decor but also takes my EMU Alumni card for a full 10% off the total bill. Sidetracks only takes 5% off of whatever I had and usually they get it wrong.

  21. Paw
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to propose a new rule. If, during the week, a 24-hour period should pass without a new post, the last post should become an official open thread.

    With that in mind, I would like to talk about kitchen remodeling and/or the television series Rip Tide.

  22. Murf
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Mmmm…Perry King. Great idea, Paw.

  23. Posted December 16, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    There’s a big difference between “Ann Arborites” and U-M students.

  24. Brackache
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Paw, I think the site was down yesterday or something. I couldn’t get in.

    I’m not saying it had anything to do with too many people surfing for “unprotected anal sex.” But I’m not NOT saying it, either.

  25. Ol' E Cross
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    I agree with CG: most Ann Arborites have had far more years to nurse negative perceptions of Ypsi, coddle an overdeveloped sense of self-importance, and integrate maize and blue into their wardrobes way more effectively than most UM students.

  26. Posted December 29, 2008 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Good thing she warned off all the Ann Arbor Students. The Elbow Room was packed!

  27. Posted December 29, 2008 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    black jake, you fucking rock. totally floored, walked in 2nd to last song of your set- can’t wait to see you again.

  28. Posted December 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks a lot, bee, glad you enjoyed it! We’ve got an Ark show up next Jan 6th. I think it’s a Tuesday.

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