On The Road With NPR Music: Chris Campbell At WDET, Detroit, Michigan

Beyond travel, we’re also big music fans here at Gadling; largely because music is a great way to get to know a place. This month happens to be Public Radio Music Month and we’re teaming up with NPR to bring you exclusive interviews from NPR music specialists around the country. We’ll be learning about local music culture and up and coming new regional artists, so be sure to follow along all month.

Today we’re checking out the scene in Detroit, and local host Chris Campbell has his finger on the pulse of all that’s progressive and underground. His playlist that he made exclusively for Gadling is full of tracks you’ve probably never heard, but certainly won’t be able to stop listening to. If you think Detroit is just a rap scene as depicted in “8 Mile,” think again.

Name: Chris Campbell

Member station: 101.9 FM WDET

Regular Show/Contribution BeatThe Progressive Underground w/Chris Campbell


1. When people think of music in Detroit, what do they think of?

Generally speaking, people think of Motown Records, but Detroit also has a vibrant techno/electronic music scene (it’s the birthplace of techno music) in addition to a burgeoning progressive hip hop and R&B scene as well. The electronic, future soul and progressive hip hop genres are the scenes that we tend to focus on during our show broadcasts.

2. How do you help curate the Detroit musical scene?

I curate the electronic music scene through artist/DJ spotlights, atmospheric mix segments and artist interviews, which are also posted through various media networks (WDET website, Sound Cloud, etc).

3. How has that scene evolved over the last few decades?

The electronic scene has had a curious evolution. It started out very strong back in the 1980s locally, but became a genre that was more cherished overseas – especially in the UK and Japan. Many artists who are looking to become even more established still focus on touring overseas, but there has been a concerted effort made to play/tour the home market and build up the scene locally.

4. What would you say is the most unique thing about your music scene?

The most unique thing – in my mind – is that the electronic scene is full of diversity, variance and a myriad number of styles. Stylistically, electronic encompasses subgenres such as deep house, chill, chill wave, down tempo, and future soul. It is a genre that is seeing a “boon” in the number of artists who are embracing it.

5. What are three new up and coming bands on the Detroit scene right now and what makes them distinct?

Tall Black Guy – Terrell Wallace aka Tall Black Guy is a Detroit artist/producer whose music spans a wide spectrum of electronic. We have currently been playing his album “The Brazilian Chronicles,” which is electronic music that is inspired by the history and music of Brazil. His uniqueness is displayed in his production work – groovy orchestral flourishes set on top of multi-layered rhythm patterns. He is truly a producer that approaches his electronic music with a sense of musical virtuosity.

Inohs Sivad – Inohs Sivad is singer/songwriter/producer/composer, who exemplifies the emerging future soul genre. Her music combines some of the foundational elements of classic soul (strong lyricism/writing) with some of the staples of progressive and future soul arrangements (organic and elemental sound textures).

Leaf Erikson – Artist/wordsmith Vernon Greenleaf aka Leaf Erikson is an artist who is on Detroit’s famed underground Butter Made record label. He has shared the stage with many regional and national figures and what makes his music exceptional is the merger of the melodic production with his sense of communal awareness and lyrical substance.

6. For a Gadling playlist, what are your favorite tracks?

The last four are not Detroit artists, but they are artists that we have broken in the Detroit market and ones that we play heavily.

“O Fim De Viagem” – Tall Black Guy

“Brown Suga” – Swiftus Funkellwerk

“Moving On” – Rick Wade

“Somewhere Else” – Inohs Sivad feat. Diamondancer

“Artificial” – Leaf Erikson

“Midnight” – Candace Nicole

“So Blue & Green” – Cecilia Stalin

“Listeriosis” – BadBadNotGood

“See With Me” – Jesse Boykins III

“Play With Me” – Princess Freesia

Listen to the complete playlist on Spotify.

Roadside America: St. Joseph, Michigan

Growing up in Boston and later Tucson, I grew up going on beach vacations in New England and California. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband a decade ago that I discovered America’s “Third Coast” (the Great Lakes, for our purposes, though some call the Gulf states the Third Coast) in the Midwest. Visiting my in-laws in St. Joseph, Michigan, I was amazed to see that you don’t need to go to the edges of the country to experience sand between your toes, eat an ice cream on the boardwalk, and swim out further than your parents can see you. The Lake Michigan town of St. Joseph is a resort town from way back in the midst of a comeback, striking the rare balance between charming and twee.

Each year that I’ve visited St. Joseph, the town has evolved and improved into a destination worth visiting beyond a quick side trip from Chicago. The waterfront parks have been revitalized in recent years, and the beaches are so wide and sandy, you could forget you aren’t on an ocean. St. Joe and its sister city Benton Harbor are under two hours from Chicago, as well as an easy drive from other Midwestern cities such as Milwaukee and Detroit, in what has been called the “Riviera of the Midwest.”Just across Lake Michigan from Chicago, residents recently had hoped to revive the old Chicago-St. Joseph ferry that carried thousands to the beach in the 1920s heyday, but the venture proved too costly. Land remains the only approach, although there is a trans-Lake Michigan ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon in the summer season, about 90 miles north of St. Joe. Amtrak makes the trip an hour and forty minutes from Chicago daily if you’d prefer not to get caught in traffic.

This area of Michigan is also famed for its produce, owing to the “lake effect” on the climate, helping to produce what is arguably the world’s best fruit. From June to November, you can taste many varieties at the Benton Harbor Fruit Market, one of the oldest and largest seller-to-buyer produce markets in America. Excellent fruit means excellent wine as well, and you can visit over a dozen wineries within a dozen miles of St. Joseph. You can also sample Michigan flavors at the annual Harvest Festival and regular farmers markets in the summer season.

In addition to the cute shops and a good selection of restaurants, St. Joseph has a budding arts scene anchored by the Krasl Art Center, which holds a major art fair each summer. The new pride of St. Joe is the Silver Beach area just below downtown. The historic Silver Beach Carousel was first opened in 1910 and re-opened 100 years later after the park had deteriorated and closed in the early ’70s. You can ride the carousel year-round, but go in the summer for the optimum effect, when you can finish out a day at the beach with one of Michigan’s famed sunsets and think about how soon you can return.

[flickr image via Molechaser]

USS Edson To Become Part Of Future Ship Museum

USS EdsonEarlier this week, the destroyer USS Edson sailed into the harbor of Bay City, Michigan, to the cheers of an expectant crowd. As Art Daily reports, it will become part of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.

This museum’s primary purpose will be to showcase the USS Edson, which saw duty from 1958 to 1988. She saw action in the Vietnam War and was shelled by Vietcong land forces.

The USS Edson has been a museum before. From 1989 to 2004, she was part of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City. Although she’s been fitted out as a museum and is seaworthy, there’s still much to be done to make her ready for a new set of visitors. The museum is raising funds to get this work done and open this historic ship to the public. There’s no set opening date at this time. Stay tuned.

[Photo courtesy John McCullough]

The Soo Locks Of Sault Ste. Marie

The Soo Locks of Sault Ste MarieMichigan’s Upper Peninsula is an often overlooked travel destination. Sandwiched between three of the Great Lakes, the U.P. is a remote and rugged wilderness that features hundreds of miles of trail, incredibly dense forests and more solitude than anyone could ever ask for. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the options for hiking, camping and backpacking, while other visitors will enjoy the scenic beauty and laid back lifestyle.

That vast expanse of wilderness is occasionally broken up by quaint and inviting Midwestern towns populated by friendly and accommodating people. The largest of those towns is Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo-Saint-Marie), which is located on the southern banks of the St. Mary’s River on the eastern side of the Peninsula, just a stone’s throw away from Canada.

You wouldn’t know it while passing through the sleepy little town but Sault Ste. Marie (Pop. 15,000) is home to the busiest lock system in the entire world. Completed in 1855, the Soo Locks connect Lake Superior and Lake Huron, allowing ships to safely traverse the 21-foot drop that separates those two bodies of water. Each year more than 10,000 vessels pass through the locks, despite the fact that they are closed between January and March, and in 2008 alone, the locks saw more than 80 million tons of cargo come and go.The Great Lakes have served as shipping lanes for centuries and the Soo Locks are vitally important in keeping that traffic flowing today. As such, most of the ships that pass through Sault Ste. Marie are freighters, barges and tugboats. Some of those vessels are capable of steaming straight out of the Lakes and directly into the ocean itself, delivering as much as 72,000 tons of cargo to the rest of the world. It is not unusual for the locks to see the occasional tall sailing ships, cruise lines or even military vessels too.

During the summer travel months the Soo Locks are amongst the most popular tourist destinations in all of Michigan. Visitors actually come from around the world to take in the sights of a large ocean-going vessel passing through Sault Ste. Marie. The transfer process between the two lakes is a fascinating one and watching the locks in operation is a unique experience. That process can be observed from a lovely park that sits alongside the locks, which is the perfect place for spotting the large ships as they approach. Better yet, visitors can actually pass through the Soo Locks themselves by booking a local boat tour.

The Soo Locks Visitor Center is also a great place to learn more about the locks while visiting Sault Ste. Marie. The center provides a contextual history of how and why these modern wonders were built while also offering a large observation deck for watching the ships “lock through.”

When you’re finished enjoying the locks, be sure to spend a little time exploring Sault Ste. Marie as well. As Michigan’s oldest city, it has plenty of unique aspects to discover. And whatever you do, don’t leave town without trying the fudge!

Iconic Road Trips: Around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula With US Highway 2

US Highway 2, through Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula, is pristine. This stretch of road is so relatively far out of the way that its untouched beauty is its main attraction. This trip is 290 miles. You’ll want to stop off and take a dip every time you see the waters of Lake Michigan glistening beyond the birch trees, and so you should. That’s what I did when I drove across this portion of Highway 2. The actual US Highway 2 spans from Houlton, Maine, to Rouses Point, New York, in one chunk. In another chunk, it spans from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Everett, Washington. I’ve driven on parts of 2 both east and west of the UP, but the UP section is my favorite. Begin this drive early in the day and be sure to stop for pasties for lunch. Although the water is cold, no beaches I’ve been to in the U.S.A. feel quite as clean as the Great Lakes beaches. Make sure to cross the Mackinac Bridge as part of this trip. Not only is it a beautiful bridge, but parts of the water have the same turquoise glow you’ll see in the Caribbean.You’ll pass through the town of St. Ignace, Sault Ste. Marie State Forest, Shingleton State Forest, Big and Little Bay De Noc, and Green Bay. Many of the beaches you’ll pass on this drive appear to be nameless. Travelers park on the road’s shoulder and walk through tall grass that masks the sandy shores.