5 concerts in Michigan to add to your summer bucket list

  1. MoPop 2017 (July 29 &30): Killer line-up (literally, Killer Mike will be performing) including Foster the People, alt-j, Phantogram, Solange, and Jay Som.run-the-jewels-51e6edbd4913d.jpg
  2. Gorillaz play Detroit’s Fox Theatre (Sept. 18): Your jaw will drop for three reasons: the gorgeous backdrop art, the live renditions of international favorites, and the soul-shaking finale.

  3. Gogol Bordello at Royal Oak Theater (Sept. 26) and Grand Rapids’ The Intersection (Sept. 27): A show that promises to leave you smiling and possibly dancing some blend of jig-line dance-mosh pit.gogol
  4. Moon Hooch at The Stache (Sept. 27): If you love brass instruments and live re-mixings of songs, don’t miss this jam band’s stop in Grand Rapids. Tickets are cheap!
  5. Glass Animals at Royal Oak Music Theatre (Sept. 29): Their focus on the personal in their album “How to Be a Human Being” promises a profoundly intimate experience with the crowd at this show.

Photo credit: SoundCloud, Grace Mitchell Facebook, and Run the Jewels Official

Introducing Ladies Get Paid GR

Ladies Get Paid (LGP) is a career development organization with a focus on closing the female wage and leadership gap. The global organization helps women advocate for themselves in their careers. LGP hosts town halls, webinars, and local events and is made up of a “strong, supportive community.”
The organization currently boasts over 10,000 international members (women wanna get paid no matter where they live!). All 50 U.S. states have their own local chapters.
“As a local chapter, we have been established since March. We held our first happy hour event in May at the Meanwhile. We have photos of that event up on Facebook. It was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves as a new organization in the community and get to talk to some of our members about what they hope to get out of LGP.”
What are some of your goals as a local chapter?
“We are still in our infancy as a group, and we’re looking to spread the word and grow as an organization. We really want this is a be diverse group of women (including trans women and non-binary/gender nonconforming folks) across all industries, ages, and backgrounds. We are a small team of four women who run this outside of our actually paying jobs, and we’re actually looking for one more woman to join the team and help us run our social media.”
What are your upcoming events?
On Wednesday, July 19 (this week!), there’s a “Wealth-Building” workshop at Varsity News Network. This workshop will teach you how to use what you have to build wealth, rather than chase a higher income with a “get rich” mindset. Tickets are $25 each. Then on Wednesday, August 16, some of the members are getting together for a pre-work coffee at Madcap.
If anyone is interested in following, joining, or volunteering with Ladies Get Paid GR, here is their contact info:
twitter: @LGP_GrandRapids
instagram: @lgp_grandrapids


Photo credit: Ladies Get Paid GR Facebook page

Gorillaz Gave Us All Sunshine in a Bag

written by Kelsey May
July 9, 2017

All who attended the first U.S. Gorillaz concert (2017) at Huntington Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois were blessed to experience such profoundly moving, inspiring, and genuine art. Gorillaz (aka Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett plus their brilliant cohort of collaborators) is one of the best examples of activism done well. While the crowd was diverse in taste, personality, life experiences, age, and appearance, we shared a love for good music and – hopefully – a commitment to “be loving each other no matter what happens.”

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Photo Credit: @soulkash

Setlist (with commentary and highlights)

The stage design featured a large LED-lit circle, which displayed various video clips and images throughout the show, and a video screen backdrop, typical of many Gorillaz performances. The circular screen briefly displayed an Illuminati-reminiscent eye, and when the screen moved to hover over the performers, it seemed to symbolize the reminder that this night – as with every day activists are alive and upsetting the status quo – was under watch by the powers that be.

one) Gorillaz opened with “Ascension,” to the delight of many.

two) “Last Living Souls,” a song I understand as commentary on the deadened nature of those who limit their perception by refusing to use psychedelic drugs, as well as those who don’t care about others (the two characteristics, funnily enough, are often found in the same people).

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Photo Credit: Joshua Mellin

three) “Saturnz Barz”, during which Albarn played the melodica.

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Photo credit: Lisa T Lien

four) “Charger”: The video backdrop featured electricity bolts and created a beautifully intense mood for the live performance. XXXX made me (and others, I assure you) swoon.

five) “Rhinestone Eyes,” which is one of my all-time favorite tracks, particularly because of its important subject matter and commentary on climate change and consumerism.

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Photo credit: Paris Henderson

six) “Sex Murder Party,” the ironic murder ballad that – sadly – was especially relevant to the city of Chicago, both past and present. Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz were both present to lend their talents. Following the song, Katz encouraged us to “start a revolution… of love.” Now to follow through…

seven) “She’s My Collar,” which had one of the most creative (and damn good) video accompaniments: a pelican (with toucan or eagle coloring) flying over a photo collage of women’s bodies. Fine art. I was disappointed that Kali Uchis was not on the performer docket, as this is one of my favorite tracks from Humanz.

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Photo credit: Angelina M. Cole

eight) “Busted and Blue,” which was dedicated “to all those in the grandstand… [and] all those in VIP”. The video accompaniment for this song was also fine art; it featured the Humanz album artwork of Noodle. Images of Noodle’s past phases bloomed in each lens of her glasses, spilling the ink of her history across the stage and our hearts. Its shifts in lighting supported each crescendo in the song perfectly.

Photo credit: @iaminatx

nine) “El Mañana,” during which the circular screen above the stage featured additional imagery of clouds and a helicopter, thus expanding the ambience of the traditional music video.

ten) “Carnival,” featuring Anthony Hamilton, whose vocals were confident and somehow even better live than on the album.

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Photo Credit: @superstar_gorg

eleven) An extended version of “Broken”

twelve) “Interlude: Elevator Going Up”

thirteen) “Andromeda,” with a stunning video accompaniment displaying a green-toned star-strewn sky in motion. Also, Albarn’s falsetto was on point during this performance. I particularly loved that Albarn paused the show to re-perform the song’s ending, insisting that it be performed right.

fourteen) “Strobelite” with Albarn on keytar and beautiful stage lighting.

out of body
Photo Credit: Lumpy Head Studios

fifteen) An altered version of “Out Of Body” with outstanding guest performances by Little Simz and Zebra Katz. “All that’s left for us to do is move,” Simz instructed, and the trippy video accompaniment winked with the details.

sixteen) New track “Garage Palace,” an anthem featuring Little Simz. It assured listeners, “This is our time.” The video accompaniment was a compilation of neon sign art overlapped and arranged in alternating patterns, one of my favorite aesthetics of the evening.

Photo Credit: Joshua Mellin

seventeen) “We Got the Power” was the final song for the initial setlist, and Albarn ensured that the audience understood why we ought to be there: to remember our “heart[s] full of hope” and that our love is “indestructible even when we’re tired.” (And fuck, this fight for justice, this march for peace, this country, these people, we’re tired.) This song was the epitome of beauty, featuring Noodle’s album art again but with rose-colored glasses, a direct statement on how we need to continue seeing and hoping for the world.

which happened after a record short interlude, perhaps one and a half minutes, just enough time for the band to walk backstage and guzzle some water.

eighteen) The classic hit “Stylo”

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Photo Credit: Lumpy Head Studios

nineteen) An all-out performance of “Kids With Guns,” another satirical piece that splays out social problems and forces you to imagine solutions. (Because how can our kids have guns?)

Photo Credit: @superstar_gorg

twenty) “Clint Eastwood,” which was, as Albarn put it, an enormously special treat. Del the Funky Homosapien grinned his way onto stage, and we sang our guts out together. “I’m useless, but not for long,” Albarn admitted, by which I mean he assured us that ethical perception-expanding is how you become useful.

Photo credit: Brittlyn Tyler

twenty-one & twenty-two) The evening’s final songs (and, in my tear ducts’ opinion, finest moments) were “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and “Demon Days.” Simply speaking, this performance was a spiritual experience. “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” is a song which begs listeners to shrug off the temptations to abuse opioids and other life-destroying addictions: “Don’t get lost in heaven / They got locks on the gate / Don’t go over the edge / You’ll make a big mistake.” The choice to play this song at the evening’s close highlighted the importance of the city’s own struggle with hard drugs: in 2015 alone, 32,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In the past two months, dozens of Chicago residents have died from a new addictive prescription drug that is marketed as safe.

“Tomorrow is a brand new day,” the gospel choir sang, looping “Demon Days” over and over while behind them, an image of stained glass rose onto the video screen. “So turn yourself around, turn yourself, turn yourself around.” Their voices reverberated around the pavilion, and I shut my eyes, lifted my face, and wept.

What do you want to change about your life? Albarn wants us to reconsider who we are and what we live for. What can you commit to doing this next week? I asked several people post-show.

Vincent Perez said, “I left hoping that the feeling wouldn’t fade. The only change I would make would be to have a positive attitude towards my week.”

Robert Fraser said, “The same things I always want to change about myself. I want to be more disciplined and productive with my time. I want to give myself reasons to make art beyond aesthetic.”

As for me, I’m continuing to advocate for self-reflection, mental wellness, spiritual health, peace, justice, and socialism. I’m writing poetry, curating this blog, and learning music. I certainly need to pick up the pace on my projects and use my time intentionally. I also need to give myself space to breathe, and I need to take pride in all I’ve accomplished and all those I’ve touched thus far. And I want to find:

“Some kind of nature
Some kind of soul
Some kind of mixture
Some kind of goal
Some kind of majesty
Some chemical load…
Some kind of gold”

Featured image credit: Robert Fraser

first fridays: july 7

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On the first Friday of every month, Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan bursts with art, performances, food, and laughter. Avenue for the Arts‘ free event is attended by artists, curators, art-lovers, young people, students, and world travelers.

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Shibori [indigo dyeing] mini-workshop with Annie from LIGHT Gallery + Studio

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All displayed artwork, books, shelves, candles, jars, etc. inside LIGHT is for sale.
What a beautiful way to shop!

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My favorite pieces were from smallholding craft & co. [Mackenzie Lund]
and vanessa autumn.

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Trippy painting on display in Smokin’ J’s

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Affordable handcrafted wood earrings by jarrod napierkowski
for sale in the UICA gift shop

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my husband, Robert Fraser, and good friend, Alexis De Weese

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These flowers were part of a multimodal installation and series on mental wellness.
This piece was titled “Self Care isn’t always Pretty.”

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This station allowed viewers to respond anonymously. The invitation helped get something off your chest.

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Art is everywhere. This beautiful tilework was at one building’s entrance.

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summer ’17 love

We love to celebrate beauty, so much so that I often stop strangers to ask if I can snap a photo of them. Beauty is about so many things: confidence, selflessness, smiling, charm. What makes you feel beautiful?

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Thanks to Bri Ross, Emily Hubbard, Taylor, Lindsey, and Deborah Zillmer, and Jennifer Beardsley for posing!

hiking thoughts

written by Kelsey May
July 5th, 2017


Hiking is a new love. I began hiking just last year with my husband. We love exploring untouched parcels of land, places where trees are taller than buildings and deer are startled to see you. It’s lovely to reconnect with the earth, to place my palms on trees older than anyone I know, to identify birds by their calls. I love seeing young animals; this year, I’ve seen goslings, ducklings, baby squirrels, fawns, and baby birds. In the past, I’ve seen baby skunks, rabbits, and raccoons. I love chasing dragonflies and smelling pine needles. I love feeling whole.


side effects

I stopped taking my anti-depressant last week. It was first prescribed to me by a Spectrum Health mental wellness expert, and the positive effects on my anxiety were immediate. I could drive somewhere without an anchor in my chest. I could breathe while having a difficult conversation with a boss or parent. I felt genuine love and happiness in my marriage, emotions that should have never vanished.

I attribute my steady improvement and growth in self-esteem and confidence largely to my 5 mg Lexapro swallows. Therapy is certainly the most helpful part of my mental wellness regimen, along with my own journaling and conversations with my husband, but my anti-depressant has aided in lowering my general level of anxiety and allowing me to be successful in my day-to-day activities.

However, I decided last week Thursday that I was sick of the exhaustion Lexapro brought to my days. Before my prescription started, I slept between eight and nine hours a night and occasionally, perhaps once or twice a week, took a one hour nap. While on Lexapro, I began needing ten to eleven hours of sleep a night and could rarely make it to evening without laying down for a nap. My brain was certainly happier with the extra serotonin, but I think it was getting exhausted from the constant chemicals. (As someone else said, I’m not a doctor, but I can speak from my own experience.)

All those extra hours of sleep added up and stole valuable time from my productivity and hobbies. So I stopped taking it abruptly last week, after a night of twelve hours of sleep. Ain’t nobody got time to sleep that much.


And the dizziness started. I’ve been feeling nauseous, light-headed, dizzy, and unfocused for five days now. I didn’t realize that side effects can also happen after you stop taking prescription drugs. Just now, I googled “does stopping a Lexapro prescription cause withdrawal?” and found this entire page of testimonies about how eliminating or lessening doses of Lexapro can cause a whole slew of side effects. Why weren’t we told about this possibility before being prescribed such a serious drug? I’m grateful to my prescription for the benefits I had while on it, but I’m not looking forward to enduring up to a month of dizziness and nausea. We’re talking end of July here. That’s a long-ass time. I want to reclaim my days and make progress with self-love and confidence, and skipping meals and using an inhaler aren’t what I had in mind.

Any of you suffering from mental wellness-related withdrawal symptoms? I feel for ya. Tell me about your experiences in the comments section!


friends should have your back but might not always have the time

written by Kelsey May
June 27th, 2017

Friendships are tough. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a shoddy friend and an amazing friend, and most of the time, my behavior had very little to do with my friends and a lot to do with my own availability and interests.

Like many of you reading, I’ve lost, made, and lost touch with lots of friends. Middle school was rough; I cried a lot on the bus ride home, lonely and feeling left out of inside jokes and dating. In high school, my closest friends drifted into other cliques, dedicated their time to sports and colorguard, and spent time with their significant others. It was really tough to lose friends during those years, when I often needed someone to sympathize with over A.P. Econ or to fret with over what to wear to the school dance. I found my closest friends in those who I had never given much thought to, friends I’d never hung out with except in group settings but who went on to stand with me in my wedding.

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It’s really difficult to be lonely; I feel for those of you out there who have been home alone on a Friday night or who miss the sleepover days of childhood. Loneliness comes and goes; sometimes, you’ll find you’re relieved to have alone time to process life, catch up on a good book, or go for a run. Look for opportunities to bond with new (or familiar) people over your hobbies and passions. I made lots of new friends by joining a club in college that organized social justice actions and protests. I also am still best friends with two women I befriended back in high school through a writing group.

That being said, I still rarely go out with friends, and most of the events I RSVP to on Facebook I end up going to solo. But it gives me the chance to challenge my independence and have interesting conversations with new people. My last piece of advice – don’t take it personally when people cancel plans or don’t reply to a text message right away. I’ve been the person too busy to return a text or too overwhelmed to follow through with plans, and I always feel terrible for cancelling, but sometimes I find myself doing it anyway.

Do the things you’re interested in doing, whether it’s seeing the latest movie or going for a Saturday morning hike. Sometimes, friends will be able to tag along (or maybe they’ll see your Instagram pics and invite you to their next outing).

IMG_0314.JPGSometimes, you’ll have the day to yourself, so live fully and embrace your days no matter who they’re spent with. And if you find yourself complaining about a lack of friends, start cultivating a spirit of gratitude for the experiences you have shared with others; I’m sure your past is much more richly embroidered than you remember.

Wonder Woman, Gamora, & Nebula: Redefining Female Roles in Action Films

written by Kelsey May
June 21, 2017

Crying during a movie’s climax is a pretty beautiful experience. You’ve been so moved by the film that you cry during the very moment the director worked hardest to convey emotionally. For me, Wonder Woman (2017) held a very special gift: a bad ass female lead. Diana was the strongest character in the film, able to throw tanks and jump the height of three stories. She was one of the only woman, a norm in action movies, but she was the best fighter. She was determined, unlike her Amazon family, to help mankind end the war. And with her kind heart, bravery, and fighting spirit, she did.

I grew up watching action films. It was always a point of pride that I loved the Matrix and Bourne trilogies, that I could quote lines from Ocean’s Eleven by age thirteen. I didn’t watch “chick flicks” (although they tend to be highly amusing); I watched The Italian Job and Taken, bonding with my step-dad over the adrenaline-pumping films. The women in these movies are often great fighters, but they aren’t the focus. Ever. They’re sidekicks, afterthoughts, supporting roles, comic relief. I never complained, mind you. I didn’t realize that women were missing until I was sitting in the theater a few weeks ago watching Diana lead her group of soldiers and misfits against German troops. All of a sudden, tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I turned to my husband and said, “She’s a woman.”

I’m glad that films are being more intentional about cultivating positive, realistic characters, especially for their female characters. The other 2017 action film that’s done a great job of including women without needing them to be defined by their relationship to men is Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017). Gamora and her sister Nebula have one of the most compelling storylines of the second installment. Viewers (those who haven’t read the comics) learn that during their childhoods, Gamora and Nebula were forced to fight each other. The loser had part of her body replaced by machinated parts by their father, a cruelty that tore apart Nebula’s identity as well as her physical body. The film (spoiler alert) depicts the two of them resolving their childhood hurts and competing to be better, a learned behavior leftover from their fierce matches.

Photo credit: Digital Spy

I was so touched to see the two sisters discover how they’d both been wronged by their father’s cruelty and work to forgive each other. Competition is all too often the reason that two female characters talk in a film, and that tends to be over a man or romantic partner. Guardians Vol. 2 passes the Bechdel Test, a standard which measures whether women exist in a film simply to stoke male characters’ egos or whether they are given speaking roles that deepen their characters to a purpose beyond romance. The beginnings of love and respect that stir between Nebula and Gamora by the film’s close and the beautifully sculpted role of Diana in Wonder Woman gave me hope that directors and writers are thinking of their female characters in important, realistic storylines and are including them in the bigger pictures of their films.

Wonder Woman image credit: New Brighton “Light Cinemas”