LSA senior Jason Voss is a true renaissance man when it comes to local music in Ann Arbor. Voss, who will graduate this semester, has been deeply involved in the local music scene during his time at the University: He has recorded music as a solo artist and as a member of different bands and worked with Ann Arbor’s We’re Twins CD-R label.
For the past two and a half years, he’s hosted the Local Music Show on WCBN-FM, the University’s student-run radio station. Voss and his housemates, with whom he often collaborates musically, have even been transforming their living space once a week into Totally Awesome House, an intimate venue for unique, often experimental bands and artists. Voss has also toured around the United States three times, playing shows along both coasts and in the Midwest with friends, including his housemate and local artist Patrick Elkins.
They “were moving in together right before we were on the tour, so we were coming in contact with a lot of people who wanted to play shows and were just having a hard time finding places to play, so we decided to have our house be a venue,” Voss explained.
“There’s kind of a lot of other houses that do shows, but we started doing it every Tuesday, calling it Totally Awesome Supper Club. It ended up being a lot more shows than I’d ever heard of anyone doing at their house … I was just always in bands that played house parties and house shows,” he said.
Shows at Totally Awesome House usually happen as part of the Totally Awesome Supper Club, at which a few different artists — some local, some not — will play music, starting around 9 or 9:30 p.m. There’s also a vegetarian/vegan dinner served. The stated purpose for the weekly get-together, according to their website, www.totallyawesome.org, is “to provide a space for people to get together, talk together, eat together and listen to music together.”
As for the kinds of artists who play there, Voss said, “We try to keep it pretty open and get people that we like to play and just kind of do things that don’t go over as well in bars or bigger clubs … weirder things that don’t really have a place.”
Some local groups who have played at the Supper Club and other shows at Totally Awesome House are Hot Meat For Young Lovers, The Seams, Parenthetical Girls and Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches.
“This band (called) Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. It’s this guy Adrian from Oregon,” Voss said. “He was just touring around the whole country for like a full year in his truck … There’s (also) … a comic artist named Nate Powell (who) came and did a reading of a comic strip with an overhead projector.”
But because the “stage” at Totally Awesome House is really just a residential living room, Voss said, some acts suit the space better than others, Voss said. “We’ve had some big rock bands come in with their huge stacks and it kind of fills up the whole living room and it’s really loud … you know, what’s the point?”
However, the house Voss lives in will be torn down after April, so Totally Awesome House in its current form won’t exist after this summer — but Voss and his housemates have planned to end on a brighter note. Totally Awesome Fest will take place from April 28 to 30, “theoretically from noon until 2 a.m.”
In addition to performances by multiple bands, there will be workshops concerning how to tour and make your own CDs.
While Voss grew up listening to bands such as Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Captain Beefheart and Gang of Four, he’s expanded his horizons considerably since then.
“Just from (working) at WCBN, you learn about all this music, and it’s kind of overwhelming. But I like electronic music, especially kind of experimental music.”
His work with WCBN — he was the station’s general manager last year and a program director before that — has kept him busy.
“Pretty much since I started at the radio station, I’ve been doing more than one show a week. Now I do Jazz Till Noon on Fridays and the Local Music Show on Wednesdays, but sometimes I’d be doing four or five shows (per week),” he said.
Voss took over the Local Music Show in the fall of 2002 and made a few changes. “I started having bands on every week starting the semester after that. I made (the show) two hours long and moved it to Wednesday night.”
Bands that have appeared on the Local Music Show include Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me, Kelly Caldwell, His Name Is Alive, Nomo and The Versificators.
“I started being a little more proactive about getting (music) and playing it, but it’s been pretty much the same, (but with) more interviews and live stuff. I got my friend to make a song for the intro to the show and put up a website,” he said.
Voss is also in charge of mail orders and promotions for We’re Twins Records, a local CD-R label that has released music by artists like And Spiders, Patrick Elkins, The Most Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse Band and Voss’s own album, a semi-folk collection of 11 songs entitled Arts & Crafts. We’re Twins also released Saturday Looks Good to Me’s “I Don’t Want to Go/Disaster 7.”
“My friends Katie and Kelly started the label in early 2001, and then I started helping out,” he said. “The impetus for doing it all was that we were sending (our releases) out to college radio stations that we liked and a big motivation was that we thought we would be really excited to get this kind of stuff in the mail, kind of handmade, so we thought that other people would.”
We’re Twins CD-Rs and three-inch CDs are hand decorated and wrapped in handmade packaging, using everything from crayons to felt to create different individual discs. We’re Twins releases can be found in the local music sections at Encore Records and Wazoo.
For those interested in getting involved in Ann Arbor’s local music scene or simply playing and recording music for fun, Voss gave some suggestions.
“I think you don’t need that much ability, necessarily — creativity seems a lot more important to me. Having fun is the important thing … I’m pretty open about having people on the radio show and even playing at the house. I’m less interested in having bands come down and play that have a record out … and getting more into people who are just kind of starting out. There are a lot of places to play if you look hard enough,” he said.