True to its namesake, Ann Arbor is a green city littered with small parks and gardens that can be found between commerical buildings or right around the curbed corners of residential regions. Big, small, grassy, or wooded, there are a lot of options of public parks to spend time in.
Liberty Plaza, situated on Liberty St halfway between State St and Main St, is a small sunken garden about the size of a commercial building. A collection of benches surround small, stone potted trees; it’s a wonderful shaded place to relax for a bit while walking around Ann Arbor. The strings of lights in the trees also make it an accessible location after dark. They look exceptionally pretty during the winter months.
Come summer though, Liberty Plaza plays home to the Sonic Lunch concert series. Every Thursday during the summer, a small bandstand is set up for a local artist or band to perform on during the lunch hour. The concert is free, sponsored by the Bank of Ann Arbor, and each week a different local restaurant mans a lunch both in the plaza to allow music listeners to grab a bite to eat.
The music plays non-stop from noon to one thirty, the sound carrying for at least a block and a half and attracting attention from all pedestrians within the sound radius. It’s not uncommon to find people standing on of the four corners of the interception the Plaza rests on missing the walk signal because they are too busy listening to the music to remember to cross.
Liberty Plaza itself is packed during each concert. Benches are filled, walls are sat on, and there are concert goers who show up early with their own lawn chairs looking to be comfortable during the entire concert. Families spread out blankets and sit on the ground. There is a lot of ground space, but even that can be hard to find if you come after the music starts. It's not just Ann Arbor residents that come to listen to the music, fans of the bands from all places come to hear an outdoor concert. In the past Toronto based band Enter the Haggis has played, bringing with them a fan base eager to attend a free concert.
Causal listeners are very common, stopping for a brief listen on their way from one place to another and causing other pedestrians to weave around them in their rush (and really annoying cyclists). There is something about music that just demands attention, even briefly, and simply catching an earful of a song on my way past on Thursdays brightens up my monotonous daily life.
The Sonic Lunch website includes mp3 samples of all the bands scheduled to play, allowing potential concert goers to choose what bands to play, but it's also a good resource to discover local music that's easy to over look. This year is the fourth year Bank of Ann Arbor has hosted the concert series, sent to finish at the end of August, and the bank plans to bring the event back next year as well.