We like to keep it local here at Ghettoblaster, which is why, every so often, we go out and talk to our favorite artists about their hometown and the things they love (or hate) about it.
For this edition of Stomping Grounds, we introduce Matthew Milia of Frontier Ruckus, who is a born and bred Michigander that calls Detroit home but also spends much of his time throughout the rest of Michigan. If you haven’t heard Frontier Ruckus’s unique brand of folk, you should take a moment and check them out. But for now, read on to hear all about the best of Michigan, from Detroit to Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti.
What’s your town’s nickname?
Well, they call Detroit the “D”. I believe they call Pontiac — the town I really live closest to — “Yak Town”. And Ann Arbor, where we also spend a lot of time, is known as A2, or A2.
What’s your nickname for your town?
Orion Town! It’s my large and vague umbrella term for all of sprawling Southeastern Michigan: Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor, etc.
Why do you live there?
It’s where I’ve lived my entire life. It’s the world where I most feel like a physical extension of the landscape, having memorized all of its contents throughout a young lifetime. Every fixture in the vast and sprawling locality brings me boundless memory and profound emotion. I get blissfully lost in its folds and aging infrastructure.
What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
I love driving down to Belle Isle around dusk. It’s a little island of abandoned aquariums, picnic lawns, and amusements in the Detroit River, between the city and Windsor, Canada. It can be incredibly peaceful, yet with an awesome element of danger vestigial from teenage drives. I remember going to Belle Isle as a child with my father for the Detroit Grand Prix, when they turned the winding Sunday-drive roads into a race-car track and hordes of people filled up the place. Now it is desolate and calm in the evening, amid the shadily parked cars and drug deals, with amazing views of the Ambassador Bridge, the Renaissance Center, the Canadian casinos, and other illuminated marvels of the modern world. I love the great spacious weedy expanses found within the urban confinements of Detroit — such as the wonderful State Fairgrounds off Woodward that have a ghostly sort of absence, my grandparents in fact buried in the Greek section of the vast cemetery directly across the road.
What is your favorite local event/festival?
Mittenfest — a local music festival put on by 826 Michigan in Ypsilanti every Christmas to raise money toward youth literacy.
What is the best time of year to be there?
Whatever the season happens to be! It is the height of spring at the moment — so gorgeous. The green leaves flickering with sun and breeze, the lilacs stinking up the air with perfume.
Who is your favorite local celebrity/personality?
I don’t know, really. Jeff Daniels? I do like occasionally seeing newscasters and weathermen eating dinners with attractive women in fancy restaurants.
Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?
The Elbow Room in Ypsilanti. Andy Garris, the owner, is its specialty. He is an exuberant and generous character who will see to it that each night is stranger or wilder than the last.
Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?
Nostalgically, the jukebox at the Peanut Barrel in East Lansing is probably the one I’ve elicited the most pleasure from, though it has its hits and misses. Many guilty pleasures have been shamelessly belted along to by a warm and fuzzy public there.
What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?
Fond memories point my mind to the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor or Macs Bar in Lansing. Seeing Jeff Mangum/Neutral Milk Hotel play “Engine” in the middle of the audience at the Pike Room in Pontiac was probably the most special performance.
What is your favorite local band?
Chris Bathgate is one of my favorite songwriters/performers in the area. His music has done much for us.
What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish?
Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor — the Gyro Hippie Breakfast.
What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
Flat, Black, and Circular in East Lansing is a wonderful institution. Some rare Beach Boys, pedal steel records, etc. Solo Records in Royal Oak — lots of Neil Young, Motown, etc.
What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?
Metro Times or Real Detroit if you’re looking for something to do or volumes of sexy advertisements.
What is your favorite local shop?
Lost and Found in Royal Oak is clothing store/magnet that has been sucking me and my money back continually since high school.