Monthly Archives: August 2013

Concert Review: Shinedown lets Carnival of Madness crowd be the boss

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Brent Smith of Shinedown at DTE Energy Music Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. Photo/The Oakland Press

Brent Smith of Shinedown at DTE Energy Music Theatre on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013. Photo/The Oakland Press

Shinedown lead vocalist Brent Smith was a commanding presence Tuesday night, Aug. 27, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, uniting the crowd through both song and story during the fourth annual Carnival of Madness tour.

The group headlined this year’s lineup, which also included Papa Roach, Skillet, We As Human and In This Moment.

We As Human, from Nashville, started the show with a five-song set that included a new song, “Zombie,” which was co-written by Skillet’s John Cooper, and “I Stand,” which frontman Justin Cordle dedicated to U.S. armed forces personnel.

View slideshow of pictures from the concert by Ken Settle

In This Moment followed, with flamboyantly dressed and emotive lead singer Maria Brink leading the group through a six-song set that featured tracks “Rise With Me” and “Adrenaline,” closing with “Blood.”

Its members clad in black, Skillet turned in an energetic 70-minute, 11-song set, encouraging fans to throw their hands in the air during “Sick of It” and finishing with “Rebirthing.”

Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix, meanwhile, asked the rhetorical question, “Do we have any old-school Papa Roach fans in this (expletive)?!” as the group charged through its own 12-song, 55-minute performance. Shaddix got up close and personal with those fans, too, running into the audience during “Give Me Back My Life.”

The best was saved for last, however, as Shinedown opened its pyrotechnic-accented 14-song, 90-minute set with “I’m Not Alright,” bringing a bit of carnival-style madness with dancing carnies and the band members’ carnival-style stagewear.

Tapping into Shinedown’s faith-based roots, Smith asked fans to introduce themselves to each other and paid tribute to the group’s following, telling them they were the bosses — and then seeking to please with performances of “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom),” “If You Only Knew” and other numbers that turned into singalongs.

Shinedown slowed it down with an emotional performance “Simple Man” dedicated to bassist Eric Bass, who lost his dog of 11 years earlier that day, and ended the show with an inspiring performance of “Bully,” telling the audience to be themselves and not let others get them down.

On Tuesday, Shinedown certainly lived up to its end of that bargain.


Auburn Hills playwright’s “Bronzeville Gold” takes audience back in time

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

With the economy in a slump, playwright and Auburn Hills resident Anetria Cole wanted to look back to the Great Depression, and study how people lived during that time.

Her upcoming play, “Bronzeville Gold” shows how a community of African-Americans survived the 1930s by running illegal numbers in the neighborhood.

Anetria Cole of Auburn Hills wrote "Bronzville Gold," recalling life for African-Americans in Chicago post-Depression.

Anetria Cole of Auburn Hills wrote “Bronzville Gold,” recalling life for African-Americans in Chicago post-Depression.

“Back then, African-Americans couldn’t get loans to start businesses and it was really hard for them to get jobs,” Cole said. “In Bronzeville, they would go to these policy kings and number men, instead of going to the bank where they weren’t able to get these things. It’s really an endearing story.”

FYI: Auditions for a reading of “Bronzeville Gold” take place noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Auburn Hills Community Center, 1827 N. Squirrel Road. Auditions are by appointment; email Tickets for the reading, which will be Oct. 10, at 1515 Broadway in Detroit, will be available the day of the event. They are $10, or pay what you can. The play will be performed in full at Varner Recital Hall at Oakland University, June 6-8.

The story follows Willie, who moves his family to Chicago’s south side from Mississippi in search of the American dream. There he finds Bronzeville Gold, the gambling numbers wheel, as Willie tries to seek fame and fortune, learning about life in the process.

“I would love for them to take from the play that family is very important, and for all of us to value our goals in life to see if pursuing material things is worth losing the ones closest to you,” Cole said. “Greed leads to separation of family.”

Cole, a Pontiac native, got her start in theater at Kennedy Junior High School, when she auditioned for and received a lead role in “Purlie Victorious.” Following high school, she went on to pursue theater at Oakland University, receiving a Matilda Award for her works.

“I really love the personal contact— theater is so personal,” Cole said. “In watching a live performance, it’s as if you were right there with the actors, and it draws you into the story because there are actually live bodies there. Whereas with film and movies, which I still love, it’s not as personal as seeing a live body make words from a page come to life.”

While studying in Varner Hall, Cole said her favorite courses were in playwriting. Her professor, Kitty Dubin, gave her an outlet to further increase her skills.

“Bronzeville Gold” was born while she was studying with Dubin. She

The cast of Bronzeville Gold, Photo/Anetria Cole

The cast of Bronzeville Gold, Photo/Anetria Cole

found she had a gift and rare talent for playwriting.

“I thought this play was extremely special and powerful, and should be widely produced,” Dubin said. “Anetria is a very soulful person and she brings that to her writing so she creates characters that are real-life human beings, and you really come to care about what happens to them. There’s also a historical significance to this play that brings an added dimension to it.”

Pontiac needed a community theater, Cole said, so she formed Eyeful Productions in 2003, later renaming it Humblefolk Productions, to put on plays in the area involving talented residents.

Going back to her roots, Cole cast members of the Pontiac School district, her alma mater. Teachers Clifford Sykes, James Nelson and Alita Mayfield have roles in a planned reading of “Bronzville.”

Sykes, who was involved her previous play, “Family Secret,” said Cole has a lot of talent, and working with her is a great experience. Not only would she direct, but Cole allowed the cast to comment on the writing, and she asked for their constructive criticism.

Cole’s works have received awards in contests, and “Bronzeville Gold” has earned national recognition, through an honorable mention in The Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival, and a reading at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“Anetria is a phenomenal writer, great director — full of spirit and very kind,” Sykes said. “As a music teacher and professional performing musician, I’ve been around a lot, and I can say without hesitation that Anetria is a star among us, and we need to pay attention to her.”


Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

After sampling it a few dozen times as I walked by the store, I finally broke down and invested in Teavana’s most popular tea combination, Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom Herbal Tea. And I have to say, I am happy with my purchase. I was pleasantly surprised to find out the store’s exchange policy, and returned the bit too sour Berry Kiwi Colada, for this sweet treat.

Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom is a signature blend Teavana offers in stores. I purchased the two and tried it for myself. Photo/STEPHANIE SOKOL

Youthberry White Tea and Wild Orange Blossom is a signature blend Teavana offers in stores. I purchased the two and tried it for myself. Photo/STEPHANIE SOKOL

While the two teas are sold together as a blend, I purchased two ounces of each kind. Herbal teas usually taste best when mixed with a black, green, white or rooibos. Youthberry white tea is a great pick, and mixes well with the crisp orange flavors for a tropical treat. The tea blend is good both hot and cold, but when chilled takes on a sweeter flavor.

Orange is the main note flavor, and has the highest aroma in the tea.  The drink is very citrusy, which meshes well with the hint of berry in the white tea. Floral follows in taste. It’s not overpowering, but offers just the right amount of earthy flavor to create a great tasting beverage, that is also healthy and enjoyable.

To make Youthberry and Wild Orange Blossom Tea blend at home, add one tablespoon of each tea to your basket, and about a half to one tablespoon of sugar  to desired taste. (I usually use Teavana’s German Rock sugar, which has a hint of honey, but any kind works)

Bring the water to 175 degrees, and steep for only two minutes. With flavorful teas, steeping too long can lead to a bitterness, so keep the process short. After following these steps, let the drink cool somewhat, and poor over ice into a tall glass, to enjoy the last few weeks of summer tastefully with this refreshing and energizing beverage.


Stephanie Sokol for The Pit

The weather is getting cooler, the wind is picking up and the days are getting shorter. Summer is on its way out—which means it is time for fall fashion.

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Sweater weather is amazing – really, who doesn’t enjoy cuddling up in a cozy sweater, with a cup of warm spiced cider and gazing at the leaves changing shades? Transitioning from summer to autumn in style is easier than ever this year, because almost anything goes this season. A few essential, inexpensive pieces create a great wardrobe base that can be personalized with the wearer’s favorite trends.



When worn properly, leggings can be chic and sexy. Pair them with a long sweater and lace-up boots to stay warm and cozy on a cool fall afternoon. Stick to dark hues for versatility, like Vera Wang’s Kohl’s line “Simply Vera” black leggings on sale for $15.99.

A good pair of pants, whether denim or comfy cotton, is essential to any wardrobe. Find the right jeans to flatter your figure. Dark washes in jeans flatter everyone; taller people can wear bell bottoms, while skinny or straight jeans flatter those who are on the shorter side. Old Navy has men’s and women’s comfy jeans for a great price. For young women, The Diva Skinny Ankle Pant, that can be worn dressy or informal, and flatters every figure. Pac Sun also carries cool jeans for guys, in a variety of styles and colors.

There’s nothing more important to a wardrobe than good shoes. You need your feet to work, so keep them comfortable with quality footwear. A good pair of flats, whether a moccasin or embellished leather shoe—is crucial to any young woman’s clothing collection and works well with every outfit, and sometimes investing a little more in this area is advisable. Ann Klein loafers are comfy and provide good foot support, while still keeping the wearer stylish.

Both men and women can benefit from a good quality moccasin. Minnetonka moccasinsare more casual, made from comfy suede available in a variety of colors and styles. Well the shoes aren’t cheap ($30-$45), they last a long time and always give you your money’s worth in wear. Sneakers are also great shoe for everyone; get a nice dark pair for those weekends spent at the apple orchard.

A denim jacket is another necessity for fall weather. Whether you want a

Denim jackets are great for men and women, and can be found in a variety of shades, fits and washes. Photo/Esquire

Denim jackets are great for men and women, and can be found in a variety of shades, fits and washes. Photo/Esquire

dark wash, or colored denim, this item is timeless and works with a variety of looks. Layer it with a dress to add a casual vibe, or pair it with pants to add more structure to a look. Just try to avoid the “denim suit” ensemble.

Thrift stores, like Plato’s Closet or Salvation Army are a great place to find a great jean jacket at an even greater price. If you have the time, check one out, or hit up the clearance rack at your favorite department store. With coupons and savings, I found a purple Jessica Simpson jean jacket marked down to about 70 percent off. Putting in time is rewarding – there’s nothing better than finding an amazing bargain on a quality clothing item.

So as the temperature starts to grow chillier, don’t be left in the cold. These wardrobe essentials help transition, providing a great style start to a new season.

History of the Woodward Dream Cruise

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

What started as a small fundraiser for a soccer field has grown into the world’s largest automotive event, bringing more than one million people to Oakland County. This year marks the 19th annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

In August of 1995, retired plumber Nelson House was setting up fundraising to create a local soccer field. He contacted Jean Chamberlain, who later became the Cruise founding president, about his idea for “Cruising in Ferndale.”

FYI: The Woodward Dream Cruise draws nearly 1 million classic cars fans for 18 miles along both sides of Woodward Avenue, from Ferndale to Pontiac. This year’s event, on Aug. 17, again will feature the “Dream Cruise In Shoes” 5K run/walk on the morning of Dream Cruise in Royal Oak. Browse through all Woodward Dream Cruise merchandise online at

“It sounded like there would be more cities interested than just Ferndale,” Chamberlain said. “I gave (House) the numbers of the chamber directors on the route to Pontiac, and he called them and set up a meeting. That was how the Woodward Dream Cruise was born.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Oakland County Sheriff’s department partnered with the cities in the beginning to help the event run smoothly, Chamberlain said. The first year the non-profit automobile event was hosted, it received a lot of response from people around the country.

“We decided that if we got 25,000 people, it would be a huge success,” Chamberlain said. “The first year we had 250,000 people.”

Chamberlain said the Cruise started out small, quickly growing to be known worldwide and sponsored by advertisers. The board splits money with the cities the Cruise goes through, including Pontiac, Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak and Ferndale.

Driving up and down Woodward Avenue was popular before the Cruise was created, however. Former Madison Heights resident Terry Bistue has been driving down the road since he was young, participating in the Dream Cruise from its start as well.

“Back in the ’60s, I was a weekend warrior,” Bistue said. “Every Friday and Saturday night I would go cruising up and down Woodward. I worked at a gas station on Woodward as a teenager, so it’s always kind of been part of my life.”

The owner of a ’67 blue Chevy II, Bistue said the cruise started out as people driving up and down the street like he used to, though it has evolved past a simple cruise to more of a party.

The Cruise has grown more commercial, with businesses and vendors putting on parties and the Big Three sponsoring activities and entertainment, though he said it is still a lot of fun.

“It’s always an experience to go because every year you see something you’ve never seen before,” Bistue said. “The one thing about it is you get people from all over the world coming to Woodward. All kinds of cars, from junky things that people find out in a field, to quarter million or million dollar cars, you see a lot of variations. It’s always special to the guy driving it, it’s theirs.”

While the cruise has evolved since its start, with additions like corporate involvement the weekend is still reminiscent of the ’50s and ’60s when people took their cars for a spin down the street.

“It’s a chance to see a happy face on the Detroit area,” Chamberlain said. “People hear horror stories about Detroit not being safe, with bankruptcy and everything. It gives us a chance to show off our city, the region, and certainly Oakland County.”

Detroit native Porcelain Black teases album with live video series

Porcelain Black grew up in Detroit, and will be releasing a series of five live videos with personal intros. Photo courtesy of Porcelain Black

Porcelain Black grew up in Detroit, and will be releasing a series of five live videos with personal intros. Photo courtesy of Porcelain Black

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Fans of Detroit native and musician Porcelain Black should know who is behind the music they listen to.

Alaina Marie Beaton, known more commonly by her stage name, began releasing a series of five live performance videos with personal narrative intros on her Youtube channel “PorcelainBlackMusic” last week.

“Coming from Detroit, it’s a very real place,” Black said. “I live in L.A., and it’s just so fake and different. I just feel it’s good for people to know your story and learn about you, to connect with you on more of a person-to-person level, not just like, ‘Look at my fancy videos, look at what I’m doing’ — people can relate to you more and know that you’ve been through things as well.”

The live performances were filmed during a private show at SIR in Hollywood two months ago.

Black said she spent a lot of time figuring out exactly what she wanted to discuss in the intros, and will film the rest in L.A., with each video having a different story.

The first, “Mama Forgive Me,” begins with clips of Detroit, as Black talks about growing up in the city.

She will also add personal intros to “Rich Boy,”  “Pretty Little Psycho,” “How Do You Love Someone” and “One Woman Army,” from her upcoming album “Mannequin Factory,” released through 2101 Records.

While Black sees Marilyn Manson as a musical and visual performance muse, she said Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is her favorite artist. She considers Reznor a musical genius, though her father got her into music in the first place.

“My biggest inspiration growing up for music was my dad,” Black said. “He would put on Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC, Nirvana, and would be like, ‘Who’s playing guitar? Who’s singing?’ He just schooled me on rock ’n’ roll.”

Breaking into the music industry came easy, but the journey that followed required a lot of work. Black was signed immediately when she was 18 and living in L.A. for one week, but she described the next phase as an “uphill battle.”

The industry was tough, and she says she had to be true to herself as an artist, be bold and have respect for her art, though it took a long time from when she was signed to finally releasing this album.

“Everybody’s journey is so different and so crazy,” Black said. “Stay true to your art and what you want to do. Don’t get pigeonholed and don’t get swayed into doing something that you don’t feel proud of and happy about at the end of the day. The industry’s definitely a f—– up place and it’s not easy at all. Only the strongest survive and that’s the way it is — it’s a lot of heartbreak.”

The sound she creates mesh dance music with grunge for a genre she describes as “industrial pop,” with a gritty, strong guitar sound.

“(I wanted to create) good music people like — that touches them. Music that can help people, empower them and make them feel strong,” Black said. “I just really hope (the fans) like it. There are so many musicians out there. I hope people see what I’m doing and that it inspires them to do what they want to do artistically and live out their dreams.”

Motor City Tap Fest hopes to have crowds moving their feet in Detroit this week

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Dancers of all levels can shuffle over to Wayne State University’s campus for the sixth annual Motor City Tap Fest, hosted by Clarkston native Denise Caston, Aug. 15-17.

Denise Caston hosts Motor City Tap festival. Courtesy Photo.

Denise Caston hosts Motor City Tap festival. Courtesy Photo.

“We have classes for just about anybody,” Caston said. “The saying is, ‘if you can walk, you can tap dance’ — if you can make your way to Detroit for the tap fest, there’s something there for you.”

A former Radio City Rockette, Caston started Motor City Tap Fest in 2008 with her friend and fellow tap dancer Jennifer Miller from Rochester. Both are alumna of Oakland University’s dance program, and were reunited when Miller found Caston’s dance company flier and called for a class.

Though both have toured internationally, the dancers said Detroit is home and they want to bring the tap crowd here.

“Tap festivals happen all over the world, everywhere from Taiwan to Australia, Stockholm and Barcelona,” Caston said. “Motor City Tap Fest has definitely put Detroit on the map as a destination for tap dancers. I’ve had tap dancers come from Europe and around the continental U.S. and Canada. It feels really great to bring all these people down to the heart of Detroit (who) might not otherwise come down and experience it.

FYI: Motor City Tap Fest is Aug. 15-17 at the Wayne State University Campus at 42 W. Warren Ave. Tappy Hour takes place at Motor City Wine at 608 Woodward Ave, Detroit. The Masters of Tap Concert takes place at Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. For more information on the camps, visit; to purchase tickets to the show, visit the Tap Fest website or

Tappy Hour at Motor City Wine kicks off on the first day of the event,

Photo Courtesy of Motor City Tap Fest. Photo/Motor City Tap Festival

Photo Courtesy of Motor City Tap Fest. Photo/Motor City Tap Festival

providing an opportunity for adults to have a cocktail and learn some dance moves from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Motor City Tap fest is a nonprofit organization with need-based scholarships available to cover camp tuition.

This year’s festival features three days of master classes with nationally renowned tap artists, Caston said. Each day commences with a free stretch class. Dance lessons range from beginner to advanced levels for dancers of all ages, including improvisation courses and tap lessons.

On the final day, students who participate in all master classes by honoree Bob Sheerer will perform in the Masters of Tap Concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at Orchestra Hall.

The students will be joined onstage by tap faculty comprising dancers from around the world, with music performed by Skeeto Valdez’s The Mighty Funhouse Band.

“Tap dancing always brings joy to others,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen anyone watch a tap dance and be angry or frustrated. Anytime I see anyone watch tap dancing, it always brings a smile to their face.”