The Far House is far out

A tiny house on Packard Street, in between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, is bursting with enormous musical and artistic flavor. The Far House serves as a music venue as well as a platform of passion for artists, activists, musicians and wild ones.

Local music venues are hard to come by as it is, let alone one that encourages avant-garde expression. Eric Stephenson is one of the house’s seven founders. He lives in the house at 2606
Packard St. and books, promotes and hosts all of the shows at the Far House.

“Our space has never been genre-specific,” Stephenson said. “We’ve had rock, folk, punk, metal, jazz, hip hop and a wide spectrum of electronic music, with emphasis on experimentation.”

This house is put together by artists, for artists, and it’s no holds barred. The house encourages surrealism and makes a point to destroy the boundaries of what is considered art. They certainly draw a crowd.

“We draw around 40 people to a show, but we’ve had as many as 120 on some nights,” Stephenson said.

The Far House put on a show earlier this month, with four different bands, spanning across an array of different genres. But, as it turns out, the music is only part of the experience. Upon arrival, participants were expected to “give up their birth name, and be given a new title.” Names like Frost Scarecrow, Diet Sprite, Vanilla Hexagon and Celery Angel were among some of the titles bequeathed to the crowd of about 40. Frequent outbursts of poetry and comedy filled the air. Hugs and smiles were given to all who entered the door. People were also given “tasks.” Some tasks included standing on your head, kissing the cheek of the youngest person at the show and even eating a cigarette.

All are done in fun, and the atmosphere is accepting to whatever anyone brings towards a free-form expression of ideas. The walls are made of chalkboard paint, and people draw and add to drawings in a never-ending art piece. For instance, a cartoon dragon stares down at you, surrounded by bizarre and unintelligible phrases.

The music stage is in the house’s small basement. The March of the Ant was one of the first bands to perform. They are composed of five Ypsilanti inhabitants. They describe their musical experience as “Inspired by relationships, cohabitation, communication, love, expectations of one’s self and others, honesty, touch and all fulfillment and friction caused by such things.” Their sound is indie-rock with infectious rhythms and emotional lyrics.

Super Thing, which claims to be “two nerds performing the mating call of hell spawn with a power level of over 9000!” played last on the lineup. It is simply a drummer and bassist, using distortion effects to give a driving rock and roll sound. The crowd bounced everywhere, and the bassist even had trouble with people dancing all over his pedals. The Wild Savages also performed their old fashioned Guns N’ Roses-esque rock and roll. They are also from the Ypsilanti area.

Stephenson says that as far as music is concerned, Ypsilanti is a hotspot.

“I think the area has a lot to offer, musically,” Stephenson said. “There’s a pretty good selection of DIY spaces and a diversity of local music that can satisfy a variety of tastes. I do tend to favor sounds that are more off-kilter, though, as there’s plenty of representation in the area for more accessible music.”

Stephenson is passionate about what he does and doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon. He’s most proud of his semi-annual multimedia concert experience, entitled “Ultra Mega Awesome Extreme.” Another one of his crown jewels was the weeklong “Seize the Week” festival in the summer of 2011, which included a secret candlelit show in the woods and a concert on a stage that floated in the Huron River.

“I see what I’m doing as creating a vehicle for independent art, music and ideas to flourish,” he said. “Working together as a community and creating these kinds of avenues for exchange is how we can all benefit and it shows.”

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