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Posted on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Violin Monster finds new spot after State Street Area Art Fair asks him to leave

By Chelsea Hoedl


The Violin Monster performs at South Main and East Liberty streets at the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair on Thursday.

Courtney Sacco |

The Mega Guide: Full coverage of the 2013 Ann Arbor Art Fair

The Violin Monster was playing at the Ann Arbor Art Fair again Thursday after being asked to leave his spot on State Street the day before.

Zachary Storey, who performs frequently around town wearing a werewolf mask, was entertaining attendees of the State Street Art Fair at the corner of State and William streets Wednesday when he was approached by organizers and asked to leave.

“They told me that they bought the street space and each vendor here has to pay,” Storey said. An Ann Arbor police sergeant who was summoned agreed that Storey had to leave.

He was upset because he said he's not a vendor and he's not normally required to have a permit.

"You can buy the rights to have vendors on the street, but in my view it’s still public property and the rights of the first amendment are still valid for me and what I do," he said.

Tom Heywood, executive director of the State Street Area Association, said the organization received an interpretation of the rules from the City of Ann Arbor's Community Standards Unit on Monday and determined that no one could operate within the boundaries of the art fair during the four days of the event.

“It is the code of the city of Ann Arbor that we were enforcing,” Heywood said. “Little kids can’t sell water, street musicians can’t play or sell their work and peddlers can’t sell items because no permits are valid during the fair.”

It wasn't long before the Violin Monster was back to playing his tunes on a downtown street. He contacted organizers of the Summer Art Fair Wednesday night, and organizers told him they would love to have him play on the southeast corner of Liberty and Main Street.

City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said the city has given a sidewalk occupancy permit to the various art fairs so they have control of the sidewalks.

She said that even though street performers do not need a permit in the city of Ann Arbor, they cannot be on the sidewalk where someone else has a permit without that person’s permission.

“If somebody is occupying the sidewalk without having gone through one of those art fair organizations, that person is in violation of our permitting structure,” Briere said. “The Violin Monster was occupying a space without permission in the State Street Art Fair and he was told to move on. Now he’s at the Main Street Art Fair where he has been completely tolerated.”

Briere said police have been instructed to give performers a warning and ask them to move on if a complaint is made by fair organizers.

This is the Violin Monster’s third year performing at the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He said he has never had an issue like this before.

“It was a very disappointing day,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward to the art fair for a while now.”

He said he has received support from fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter about the incident.

“Some people were saying that they were looking all over for me yesterday and that I was their favorite part of art fair last year,” Storey said. “I’m grateful for that and that’s why I love Ann Arbor. I feel like a part of the community.”

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for She can be reached at



Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

Zachary, I am so very sorry that this happened to you. You are a talented young man and I've enjoyed your music. Some people ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves!! You know who you are!!


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

The high-minded merchants have one thing in mind: Cash! "Little kids" -- teenagers account for almost all of it, actually -- can't sell water for a buck because then merchants can't charge three bucks for a bottle of water on a day with heat indexes in the 105-range.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

We ran into this performer on a street corner the night that my daughter performed with Huron High School at Hill. It was fun, surprising, and part of what made the evening special and memorable.

Sabra C Briere

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

One of the odd difficulties in public life is - when one gives neutral information (these are the rules, here's the person to contact) - some people assume you made the rules or want them to be enforced. I was asked to find out the rationale behind limiting street performers. I did that - and spoke with the City Attorney's office about the rationale, explaining that I thought the street entertainers were a valuable part of Art Fair, and that I'd enjoyed them this year. I then passed the information along to Ms Hoedl. And it was just information - not agreement with the policy. I'm not happy with this policy, but any change I want to see cannot be made in time to affect things this year.

Sabra C Briere

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

#Ms1215919 - my comment about 'tolerated' was offered - based on what I was told by the City Attorney's office - well before this article was written. As far as I know, the Violin Monster wasn't recruited or invited, but once on Main Street found folks were fine with his presence. That's OK with me. Tolerated is fine - welcomed is better. However, I wasn't speaking with or for the Main Street Art Fair - I was closely paraphrasing what I learned from one of the City Attorneys who had been dealing with this issue. I didn't know this issue was about the Violin Monster when I was called by the dotCom - I thought it was about all performance art. I saw two string trios, a brass quartet, a 'robot' model, a dulcimer player, a zylophone player and probably some other musicians that didn't register while I was at the Art Fair. I even took photos of some musicians - because I enjoyed the benefit they bring to my experience. #Tano I don't think any effort has previously been made to limit musicians at the Art Fair. I've certainly never heard a complaint. And - while I understand the desire to make the rules fit the circumstance - I think the City and the State Street Art Fair cut off their toes to try to jam their foot into this slipper. The Fairs should have the right to control their sidewalks - but if they are going to allow some performers to perform, they have to create an avenue for any performer to perform. Otherwise, the rules are just arbitrary and untrustworthy. The City should also have the ability to provide some form of regulation - during Art Fair and after. Buskers aren't like sidewalk cafes - they go to where the money is, as they should. (We go to the cafes; buskers come to us.) So a sidewalk occupancy permit is absurd. There has to be a better way.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

I just love it when politicians act as if they are not responsible for stupid laws and regulations.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

Saying "Now he's at the Main Street Art Fair where he has been completely tolerated" makes your stance fairly obvious, non?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. You have come to a place here where the specialty is a certain brand of public performance art, called ranting. Any innocent person who is caught in the crosshairs will get dumped on - it is just part of the charm of the exercise. It really does not amount to anything. BTW, do you really object to the rules, or are you just trying to appease the beast? Should the fairs have no right to control their space, absolute right, or something in between?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

I think it was the "Now he's at the Main Street Art Fair where he has been completely tolerated" comment. "Tolerated" does not indicate the more than positive attitude expressed by the organizers of the Summer Art Fair who "told him they would love to have him play on the southeast corner of Liberty and Main Street."


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

People just love to rant. What is the issue here? One Art Fair didn't want this guy around, so he has to move. Big deal. Another fair welcomes him. So he moves there. If no other fair had wanted him, there are hundreds of other well-trafficed spots he could have moved to. He seems to be doing very well at his new spot, everyone is happy. Whats the problem?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

i dont blame the state street fair for ousting him. he is not a musician and he is not even amusing. i think a fund should be established to either get him violin lessons or a bus ticket to detroit.

Jaime Magiera

Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 6:34 a.m.

Violin Monster is a musician. You may not enjoy his persona or his music, but he is a musician. (I'm also a musician - we learn to ignore armchair critics). In an age of personalized music experiences and headphones/earbuds, it's nice when music floats through the air freely.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Hmmmm.... "a bus ticket to detroit"? Making no judgment at all on the musician in question, the way in which the insult was expressed was vintage Ann Arbor pretentious elitism. My guess is that, in virtually every artistic field, Ann Arbor's talent would wilt before that of Motown. Do people come to A2 for great jazz? Great blues? A great symphony orchestra? Where is the A2 Institute of Arts? Did A2 produce Motown?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Anyone who would wear a mask in weather like this deserves a chance to be heard, He has to be dying under that mask.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

Oh, but the Michael Jackson dancer in the ally near the Michigan Theatre was told to quit since the "ally" brought undesirable attention to the perceived notion of what could be taking place in an ally with a Michael Jackson dancer. A person who had been doing this for years, ever the executive director of the Michigan Theatre didn't find any issues with him being there. But we have wolfman bouncing from corner to corner. His act is whimsical, but the Michael Jackson dancer was a threat. Good grief Ann Arbor!

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 10:56 a.m.

Bravo Ms. Briere. Thanks for your leadership on this. We can't have any illegal music now can we? Why didn't we just toss this criminal in jail as an example? Thanks for explaining what the new Ann Arbor is all about. "If somebody is occupying the sidewalk without having gone through one of those art fair organizations, that person is in violation of our permitting structure," Briere said. "The Violin Monster was occupying a space without permission in the State Street Art Fair and he was told to move on. Now he's at the Main Street Art Fair where he has been completely tolerated." "


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

@A Goldsmith I find your comment to be very strange. Illegal music? What are you ranting about? The Art Fair gets to control a few blocks of city street for a few days. They are responsible for allocating space. They decide that they don't want this guy in their space, for whatever reason. Maybe it is a dumb decision - I imagine he attracts a crowd, might be a good thing for the fair. Maybe you and I would have made a different decision, just because we like the guy or like his music. Whatever. It is not our decision to make however. The people organizing the fair have the right and the responsibility to decide, and they wish the guy to not be in their space. Why can't you simply respect that? Nobody is throwing the guy in jail. He is moving to a spot where he is more welcome. Everybody ends up happy. And going after Ms. Briere? For what? Patiently explaining the facts of what the rules are?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

I agree a strolling musician permit would be good, it could be a yearly thing that would include art fair. Does A2com have a hotline to Ms. Briere? How is it that she has become to the go-to person for explaining the craziness our city council is up to? She does not represent my feelings on this issue, that's for sure. Hope my opinions don't violate the permitting structure. I comment here on a2com where I am (almost) completly tolerated.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

Simple solution, have the Art Fair create a "strolling musician" category. Then he can register and get his permit and the Art Fair can control how many walking around musicians there'll be. But he'll have to keep moving!


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 10:54 a.m.

What a dumb dumb world we live in. I'm totally on your side, VM!


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 3:16 a.m.

I don't understand why he wears that dog mask and plays that tiny guitar on his shoulder.


Sat, Jul 20, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

3. Why so many "down" votes? - Grimace was pulling our (collective) legs.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

1. it's not a dog mask. 2. it's not a "tiny guitar."

Nicholas Urfe

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:59 a.m.

Those who have hunted and oppressed the creature would do well to avoid the streets in those hours of the full moon, when the powers of the Violin Monster are exalted.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Yep, and we have a full moon coming up!!!

Laurie Longo

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

The violin monster is so wonderful, as are all the musician that come out of hiding for the art fair. There was a fantastic string quartet in the arcade yesterday that made the whole afternoon sing. These young musicians don't have to be out in the heat for the few dollars they manage to pick up... But they do. They remind me of all that Ann Arbor used to be and could be again. We've lost so many of the wonderful unique little shops downtown because the rents kept going up, up, up. Will we lose the musicians to the profit thing, too? The artists benefit from the music, there is no fest if there's no music... Besides, Tom, how much "real estate" could one monster with a violin be taking up anyway?

The Picker

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

The Art Fair is just not what it use to be, and for that matter The City of Ann Arbor has lost it as well. What made A2 interesting are quirky little things like the Werewolf, Shakey Jake, weirdos peacefully hanging out, ect. ect., free to wander the streets, carrying on and making for an interesting place. But lately its become big business for the city government, in conjunction with fair organizers to bureaucratize what was once a simple street fair, putting a stranglehold on the very things that have made Ann Arbor Cool. That's a shame ! P.S. Tom Heywood (who ever he is) hiding behind Commie Standards, is true Weaselcraft!

The Picker

Sun, Jul 21, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

No Tano, because its a symptom of whats going wrong


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

yeah right, because the VM is on Main St. rather than State St. What nonsense....


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2 a.m.

Rules,Rules,Rules got to love my hometown Rules,Rules,Rules


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

That is socialism my friend and it is here. And if you break THEIR rules, they will find a way to break you. Their definition of democracy comes from the clinton dictionary. (Remember, he did not have sexual relations with that woman.) THEY make the rules and only THEY can break them.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Plato didn't live in a town with 3200 pages of parking ordinances.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Plato: When the citizens of a society fail to observe even the smallest of laws, that society dies.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

Boycott State Street Art Fair & write letters to Tom Heywood's boss!!!

The Saint

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

This doesn't seem very fair to the artists that didn't complain or have a problem with the Violin Monster...kind of like trying to kill a mosquito with a stick of dynamite, don't you think? I have a friend who's got a booth on State & he's one of the most open & accepting people on the planet! I know he wasn't one to complain or have a problem with the Violin Monster, why punish him & others like him???


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

Sorry to learn of the problem Violin Monster. I spent a couple of hours on yesterday and today scoping out ideas for Christmas presents. I'm going again tormrrow to make the purchases. There are plenty of things on Main Street; no ned to purchase anything on State Street. Anyone know who this Tom Heywood is? I'll be sure not to fequent his business the rest of the year.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

What were The State Street Art Fair people so upset about? At least he's not like that yahoo in New York, The Naked Cowboy.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Tell you what, his legs are better-looking than mine - and I'm a girl werewolf.

Top Cat

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

Could the Violin Monster be the reincarnation of Shaky Jake?


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:18 p.m.

Maybe so - he's gotta keep movin..


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

I think this is a very serious issue (extremely serious) and its about time started reporting on these kinds of pressing urgent issues affecting our community!


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

Boo hoo!


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:20 p.m.

Also, what's up with all the people selling bottled water for $1 out of coolers their pulling? If "little kids can't sell bottles of water" why are kids selling bottles of water?


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

How in the world is he playing with the mask on.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

One must suffer for one's art.

Top Cat

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:31 a.m.

Shaky Jake had no mask and could not play at all.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

A very patriotic werewolf.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:21 p.m.

Well played sir. Well played.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

How do you think - he's a freakin' werewolf.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:42 p.m.

The Art Fair folks just made themselves sound extremely petty to get upset about a popular street musician.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

What a petty thing to do. Who the hell is Tom Heywood anyway?


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

For example, if a restaurant buys a "sidewalk permit" from the city it's good for all summer *except* Art Fair. You have to rent that separately from the fair organizers who have rented the entire downtown. I bet we're way up there on the top 10 list of rentable cities.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:01 a.m.

I used to work for a local business that operated a food stand during the Art Fair. Not only did he have to pay $1500 for a 10'x10' booth, pay additional money for an electric line, he also had to "donate" 2% or 3% of his gross sales to the merchant association.

r treat

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:05 p.m.

Ok. Spend some of that rent and fix the damn roads

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:35 p.m.

This sounds like a case of the State Street Art Fair deciding they weren't getting their cut of the action.

Cavern Clubs

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:31 p.m.

VM you are a fixture at that corner anyway! Welcome back 'DOWNTOWN'!!!

Jaime Magiera

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

Yeah. His usual haunt is on the corner of Liberty and Main. It's a shame he was asked to move, but I'm glad they he is allowed near his usual spot.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

Seems rather gimmicky to me. Lose the mask, let music play for itself.

Jaime Magiera

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

D8ton, ever heard of The Residents? It's not uncommon for musicians to have a persona.The fact is that Violin Monster can play. He's toured as a musician. People enjoy him. Lighten up.

Nic F.

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

its like his pen name! He's very talented BTW


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Gimmick? Those who demand "diversity" or consider urine on religious figures artwork - are the people who wear the "mask" of hypocrisy.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

It's fine for him to busk, but no, he isn't a great player.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

He actually plays very well. The mask is a public persona thing, but the dude can seriously play.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 11:18 p.m.

It's not gimmicky at all. Clearly you aren't familiar with VM.

Ann English

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:46 p.m.

I wonder how he can wear a mask like that one in this heat! I would expect his face to be so hot, that perspiration would run constantly into his eyes.


Thu, Jul 18, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

I will come out, applaud him and throw a few bucks in his case. Sheesh! Don't people have more important things to whine about? It's not as though people try to decide between spending their money on a piece of art or a contribution to a street performer.


Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

Thats all fine and dandy, but what does City Council have to say about the ban on Ypsi Street Hoops as it relates to Art Fair?

Laurie Longo

Fri, Jul 19, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.

Well said!