Ypsilanti has never fallen short when it comes to diversity.
The same can be said when it comes to the music scene. Iggy Pop was raised here, Sufjan Stevens wrote a song called “For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti,” and even Elvis Costello has mentioned Ypsi in his song “Sulphur to Sugarcane.” Ypsilanti has a rich musical history and it’s growing more and more as the years go by.
“Ypsi is between Detroit and Ann Arbor and those crowds sort of meet in the middle here,” Phil Boos, EMU student and guitarist of local progressive grunge group Algernon, said. “In Ypsi, you can find a lot of indie folk and soft rock stuff from the Ann Arbor area, but also some hard rock, like us, some hip-hop stuff, art rock/musical poets, funk, and even some electronica stuff.”
Ypsilanti’s many music venues have housed acts, ranging from punk and hardcore bands like Lovesick to rap musicians like the guys on Smoking Good Entertainment and indie bands like Little Island Lake.
“When I first think of the Ypsilanti music scene the first thing that comes to mind is a diverse community. Everyone is incredibly friendly and supportive out here,” Boos said. “This may have to do with the fact that most of the audience and concert goers are musicians and vice-versa, but this makes the scene a little tighter knit.”
Algernon consists of Boos on guitar, Lee Renaud on vocals, Roy Jackson on bass, and Ryan Jurado on drums. Jurado took over as Algernon’s drummer in October 2011, following the fatal car crash in April 2011 that took the life of former drummer Ted Weindorf.
“Music for us is very communal, transcending and fun for us and we—well, at least for me; I can’t speak entirely for the whole band now, can I?—can always rely on the jam to help unify us and to celebrate life,” Boos said. “For me, there’s no greater experience than jamming with this three great guys. It’s as if it’s a spiritual experience and a party at once.”
A big part of Ypsilanti’s music scene is the Poke Tri Rx House. It’s a mock fraternity located on College Place that gives local artists and musicians a place to mingle and hang out, housing concerts and other events. Many local acts perform there on a regular basis, along with national touring acts.
Some of the Poke Tri Rx’s regulars include Ypsilanti’s Clara Balmer, a ukulele player and an EMU student, and Walk Your Bike, which includes Seth Weddle, EMU student and Poke Tri Rx organizer. He also runs Sweddle Records and Community in the Poke Tri Rx House. He manages, records and books the bands on the label.
“In addition to playing, his main goal in the music scene is to create this sense of community,” Boos said of Weddle. “I feel he’s doing a good job of it.”
“It seems that anyone and everyone who plays an instrument in this town knows each other, either from a show, a street performance, a party or some other means such as the six degrees of separation,” Boos said.
In addition to performing and recording with Walk Your Bike and organizing the events at the Poke Tri Rx House, Weddle also hosts open mic nights at EMU.
The Ypsilanti music scene might not get the kind of publicity that the Ann Arbor or Detroit scenes do, but we have our own special thing going on here. With a great music program at EMU, the people involved learn from the best. It’s light and genuine and it’s fun for the performers and the fans.
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