Washtenaw County podcasts you need to be listening to now

If you listen to podcasts as much as we do, you understand the insatiable need to keep adding great new casts to your feed. So why not keep it local? Washtenaw County is packed with podcasters doing incredible work, ranging from emotionally raw journalism to obsessive analysis of the Star Wars universe to conversational portraits of inspirational local women. Here's a look at just a few of our favorite local podcasts. (And if you want even more, check out our sister publication's list of the best podcasts in Detroit, as well as this story on the rise of podcasting culture in our area!)

 

Believed: As the details on Larry Nassar's abuse of young women in his care came to light, Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith reported the story on a daily basis for Michigan Radio. The former USA Gymnastics team doctor and Michigan State University physician is now in prison, and Wells and Smith have used their podcast Believed to answer one key question: How did he get away with it? Or, more to the point, how were so many abuse survivors disbelieved for so long? Despite the horrifying nature of the material, Wells and Smith manage to make the podcast an engaging experience. Their tone is conversational, even informal; Nassar is almost always referred to as "Larry." The mission is clear: to uplift survivors and offer clear-eyed perspective on how Nassar manipulated them, so that in the future similar villains can be better recognized – and those they abuse can be taken seriously.

 

Blast Points: Running strong for three years and over 180 episodes, Blast Points is a podcast made by Star Wars nerds for casual or hardcore Star Wars fans. Hosted by painter/The Bang! co-organizer Jason Gibner and Gabe Bott, the cast covers the entire gamut of the Star Wars universe. Gibner and Bott discuss not just the movies, but also the annual Star Wars Celebration convention, the novels, the soundtracks, and the fanzines, along with deep dives on characters from Aunt Baru to Jabba the Hutt. Alternately serious (one episode deals with Carrie Fisher’s 2002 interview of George Lucas) and silly (one episode ranks explosions in all the films), Blast Points equally embraces the awesome and the absurd of the Star Wars universe. As dyed-in-the-wool fans, Gibner and Bott aren't afraid to celebrate their love of Jar Jar Binks or the oft-maligned prequel trilogy. With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hitting theaters this December, you know Blast Points will be kicking into full gear to celebrate the newest chapter in the greatest film franchise of all time.

 

Michigan Crime Stories: MLive’s Michigan Crime Stories podcast looks into "murders, mysteries, and mayhem in the Mitten State." Hosted by reporters Gus Burns and Darcie Moran, this bi-weekly series jumps across the state and time to bring you stories that are frequently stranger than fiction. The Witch of Delray tells the story of the many mysterious deaths at a boarding house in Detroit during the Depression, while Pigs Gotta Eat covers the 1985 disappearance of two hunters in northern Michigan – which was covered up by feeding the evidence to unwitting porcine conspirators. Some of the stories seem ripe for a novel or a movie adaptation, like the tale of a helicopter escape from Jackson prison in 1975. Some are a bit more pedestrian, like the equally humorous and horrifying story of Ypsilanti’s Prospect Park Pooper. In the process of retelling these stories, Michigan Crime Stories does a great job of evoking both the wonder and darkness lurking in Michigan.

 

Ann Arbor Stories: Though it's sadly ended its run, Ann Arbor historian/author Richard Retyi’s podcast on Ann Arbor history strikes a nice balance between reverence and a healthy sense of humor. The stories are all the more important given the quick onset of historical amnesia in Michigan and all the more surprising since Ann Arbor has always punched above its weight class for a city of its size. Did you know that the University of Michigan used to have a zoo on central campus, or that there’s enough astronauts from Ann Arbor to compile a top 10 list? Did you wonder how the Naked Mile came to be and what brought it to an end, or how the Blind Pig started? What’s the deal with The Embassy Hotel? Who was Shakey Jake? What Ann Arbor record store did Iggy Pop work at? All these amazing stories are just a click away on the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) website.

 

Shelf Talking: There are several great book podcasts based out of Ann Arbor. Literati Bookstore’s monthly podcast Shelf Talking features audio versions of the book talks local and national authors present at the shop. Topics have included everything from music (with local authors Jas Obrecht and Michael Zadoorian) to astrophysics, in media including poetry, short stories, and novels. All episodes are recorded live at Literati and produced by owners Mike and Hilary Gustafson. Seeing all these great author talks in person at the bookstore while enjoying some of Literati's fantastic coffee is obviously your best option. Tuning in on your couch with your favorite beverage comes in a close second if you’re cool with not getting your book signed.

 

Martin Bandyke Under Covers: Another great book podcast is ann arbor’s 107one radio host and writer Martin Bandyke’s monthly podcast for the AADL. Not surprisingly, many of the books and authors touch on music. Bandyke has interviewed the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, XTC’s Andy Partridge, and The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst, as well as authors of books on Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, and Alex Chilton. Going beyond music, Bandyke is just as likely to cover books dealing with culture, Detroit, and Michigan history, or just any good work of nonfiction that crosses his desk.

 

Super Skull Show: If you're looking for even more reading-related podcasts, try the weekly podcast from Ann Arbor's Vault of Midnight comic book store. It's developed a national fanbase for its wide-ranging, entertaining, and thoughtful commentary on comics and board games. The hosts – Vault owners Curtis Sullivan and Nick Yribar and local comics artist Aaron Polk – bring diverse taste and industry perspective to the table. If you're new to comics and games, or only well-versed in a particular genre, don't worry about feeling left out. The hosts keep things extremely accessible, making great effort to offer a quick primer on any perhaps-obscure characters, creators, or concepts that may come up. It's almost impossible to listen to an episode without wanting to go out and read or play something new. Plus, after a few episodes, it's worth tuning in just for the (friendly) trash talk.

 

Behind The Marquee: Behind The Marquee is the Michigan Theater Foundation’s podcast on arthouse cinema. Topics include current films at the Michigan Theater and the State Theatre, behind-the-scenes info on the foundation’s operations and programming, and classic and mainstream movies. Nick Alderink, the foundation’s programming and media coordinator, is the host and he's joined by a couple of his coworkers on each roundtable episode. Episodes can help you navigate Cinetopia Film Festival offerings, Sundance Film Festival highlights, the works of Ingmar Bergman, or film noir classics. The movies discussed aren't all highbrow fare, though. One episode is dedicated to the history of midnight movies, while another is a deep dive on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each episode concludes with "Movie Magic Moments of the Week," which will guide you to some great films to check out as well.

 

52 Portrait Project: Ypsilanti singer/songwriter/photographer Misty Lyn Bergeron’s 52 Portrait Project podcast is an ongoing series of conversations with inspiring women from Michigan. Activists, healers, musicians, artists, teachers, business owners, and even Bergeron’s mom have been subjects of the podcast. Guests have included Ypsilanti Community High School art teacher Lynne Settles, Cultivate Coffee and Tap House co-owner Bekah Wallace, The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers founder Satori Shakoor, and Moth StorySLAM producer Patricia Wheeler. Bergeron also does beautiful photos of each guest, which are available on the podcast's website. The conversations come off as friends casually hanging out, but Bergeron has a clear agenda. "I believe each of us is courageous and inspiring in our own ways...and I believe society would benefit greatly from celebrating this everyday courage and inspiration," she says on the podcast's website.

 

We know we didn't touch on every single awesome local podcast! What did we miss? Share your favorite with us in the comments.

 

Doug Coombe is Concentrate's managing photographer. Patrick Dunn is Concentrate's managing editor.


All photos by Doug Coombe.
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