Sounds of the fest

By Eric Gallippo

A closer look at two of this year’s musical acts

The Ragbirds

Hailing from Ann Arbor, “infectious global groove” unit The Ragbirds has been making a name for itself among the new generation of folk, world and oldtime music makers in the region and, says bandleader Erin Zindle, is making plenty of friends along the way.

The band, which also includes guitarist T.J. Zindle, percussionist Tim Dziekan and bassist Dan Hildebrandt, is playing gobs of shows and festivals around Michigan and the Midwest this summer, as well as a short stint in … Japan? “It’s all a mystery to us still,” said Zindle, before explaining what little she knows about the band’s success in the Land of the Rising Sun. Unsigned in the United States, The Ragbirds distribute their music through Home Grown Music, which the group was surprised to learn was moving big shipments of its CDs to Japans Japan. Since then a Japanese label has picked up the group’s 2007 release, “Wanderlove,” and invited the group to perform on the main stage of a festival this summer.

Zindle started the band with then boyfriend (now husband), Randall Moore about four years ago. The classically trained violinist started writing poetry as a teenager and took an interest in the pop and world music mix of artists like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and Rusted Root. “I’m looking for things that take me somewhere else, out of my own head,” she said.

4:45 p.m. Saturday, May 16. East Lansing Art Festival Main Stage

Vienna Teng Trio

May 16 marks the end of a long trip for Vienna Teng. The New Yorkbased singer, songwriter and pianist will conclude a tour she began in February to promote her new CD, “Inland Territory,” including a long stint in Europe, where Teng said audiences seems a little more receptive to her far-flung approach. “They come in with a pretty open mind,” Teng said. “They seem to like the mix of classical chamber pop and folk and singer-songwriter pop thing we do. It’s fun to veer from one genre to another and know the audience will be there with you.

Teng, 30, started taking classical piano lessons when she was young, something she said was common for the Chinese immigrant community she grew up. But luckily, she said, her parents found her a good teacher who realized she had a genuine interest in the piano, and not only instructed in her in classical playing, but also had her transcribe pop songs.

“It became pretty clear I couldn’t practice a repertoire for eight hours a day. I didn’t have it in me,” she said. “I liked exploring the piano in my own way rather than actually practicing the drills. For a while, it was just the more fun part of playing the piano. As I got older, it became a way of counter balancing the other things I was doing. It was just kind of an escape.”

3 p.m. Saturday, May 16. East Lansing Art Festival Main Stage.