By Cashmere Morley | Contributor
It’s the music that hits you first, the soft, almost eerie strings of the violin. But that almost becomes an afterthought when you see who’s making the music.
It doesn’t have to be a full moon to witness him. Walk downtown in Ann Arbor day or night, and you’re almost guaranteed to see “The Violin Monster.” At first glance he’s a little intimidating; a guy standing on the street corner, strumming a violin, his face frozen in the permanent snarl of a gray werewolf. But underneath all the fur, he’s a pretty personable guy. The Violin Monster says that he’s lived in many places over his life, but Ann Arbor is where he likes to call home. He’s lived here a couple of years now.
“I love it here. The people, the community… there’s so many colleges and universities in this whole area, and a lot of interesting people. It just really felt like home to me,” said The Violin Monster. His regular haunts, according to a Youtube video, include the arch of the U-M campus, Liberty Street, Main Street, and occasionally graffiti ally in downtown Ann Arbor.
While his real name is something he felt was best kept a secret, The Violin Monster said he’s been playing violin “for centuries” and that he recently celebrated his 492nd birthday on Oct. 3. You’d never be able to tell; in person, he sounds mid-twenties at best.
And his music is essential.
“What I can tell you about the violin is that soothes me so I don’t feel like going out there and eating people all the time,” he said. “That’s a big reason as to why I do it. I can be around people and not be quite such a danger.”
Maybe the real danger is not the people, but the animals.
“A big dog came by a few night ago and just started barking at me nonstop. I’d give a few howls and
kind of show him who’s boss,” he laughs. “I definitely have a fearful reaction. Rightly so.”Pass by The Violin Monster on the street and watch the reaction. It’s a cocktail of smiles and intrigue. “Most people are really positive about it,” he said. “People have supported what I do here, and it’s all that I do. It’s a full time job and I’m making a living at it.”
It shows, too, because typically The Violin Monster is dressed to the nines, playing his Irish, fiddle, and old traditional violin tunes in a type of hipster-meets-werewolf attire that only a Violin Monster could pull off. A plastic, old school jack-o-lantern trick-or-treat basket is what serves as his tip jar.
“He’s really different and really good for Ann Arbor,” said passerby Dan Nichols, a U-M student who frequents the downtown. “I’ve seen him down here a few times, and he always puts a smile on my face. I definitely think people admire what he does and come back to see him again, which is good for the shops down here too.
While The Violin Monster mostly calls himself a street performer, he is kicking off some shows in Ann Arbor next month as part of a tour. He hopes to visit a different city every night. Last year, he left Ann Arbor at the end of October to visit some warmer states such as New Orleans, Austin, Las Angeles, San Francisco and Memphis. He even got himself on the television show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” for a couple of seconds, unbeknownst to him at the time of filming.
“What I love about it is people contacting me and just never knowing what the next adventure is, whether it’s working with filmmakers, or photographers, or just getting invited to events,” The Violin Monster said.
But it’s not about the fame; The Violin Monster just thrives around people, and loves getting involved with local charities as well.
If you happen to stumble upon him during a full moon, however, be ready for a show.
“I definitely play with more intensity,” said The Violin Monster, “And you might hear me howling more often.”