What: Poet, MC and songwriter known for his clever wordplay, provocative commentary and energetic stage presence.
Why you should give a damn: He records with PAJAM, a Detroit-based production team that hit paydirt with ’NSYNC, Kelly Price and Karen Clarke-Sheard. There is some major-label interest in his work with PAJAM. Until then, the cat keeps killing audiences from New York to Miami and L.A. He set flame to the poetry game when, as a member of the 2002 Detroit Slam Team, he won the National Slam Competition in Minneapolis, Minn. He followed that by blazing a series of performances in New York City, which led to an appearance on HBO’s “Def Poetry.” He looks like a model, talks like an activist and markets himself like Russell Simmons. He’s the type of cat folks get mad at just for having the whole package. But dude’s too focused to pay attention.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers:Ellison draws from the reservoir of hip hop (Public Enemy), gospel (Mahalia Jackson) and soul (Sam Cooke).
The killer quote: “I think people respect my work because it reflects their own thoughts, questions, concerns and commentary.”
Releases: A self-released CD, Light-Skinded.
Predictions: Whatever he does, by this time next year, you’ll probably catch Ellison putting his best forward and praying for progress. —Khary Kimani Turner
What: Ann Arbor-via-Brighton and New Zealand sextet. Perhaps the world’s finest maritime gothic folk-prog-rock-pop band. Timothy Monger — guitar/ vocals/ accordion; Jamie Monger — songwriter/ guitar/ mandolin; Greg McIntosh — guitar/ vocal; Liz Auchinvole — violin; Fido Kennington — drums/ percussion; Scott McClintock — bass.
Why you should give a damn: Because in this ca-wazee world of musical niches, specialization, cliques and target marketing, TOBASOL embraces what’s left of the spirit and wonder of music, invites you in to listen and proceeds to spin unabashedly imaginative, accessible and beautiful yarns that you won’t hear anywhere else.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Gordon Lightfoot, the Mystery Spot (you know, coming off the bridge as you pass St. Ignace), Robyn Hitchcock, Doc Boggs, that slightly acrid, musty smell ancient photographs give off that make you look just a little closer at the people in the picture.
The killer quote: ”Next thing you know we’ll have our own Michigan version of the Harry Smith Anthology,” says Timothy Monger. “But it’ll be Michigan gothic — I’m sure a huge scene will spring up from this and we’ll have to beat off the press with a stick.”
Releases: The Legende of Jeb Minor (1999 Planet Ant; reissued 2001 Telegraph Company); H.O.M.E.S. Vol. 1 (2001, Telegraph Company) Upcoming (Jan. ’04 H.O.M.E.S. Vol. 2)
Predictions: TOBASOL will continue to make beguiling music that snares listener ears and avoids any and all hype quicksand. They will learn a cover version of “Noah” by the Bob Seger System. The Chicago and New York avant-indie-folk scenes will heartily embrace the sounds of Gitcheegummee. —Chris Handyside
See TOBASOL Saturday, May 24 at Leopold’s (523 S. Main, Ann Arbor) with Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire. For more info, call 734-747-9806.
What: Well-pedigreed 10-piece ’60s soul revival outfit. Sean Ike — vocals; Erica Herron — vocals; Eric Stollsteimer — guitar/ vibes; Jim Auge — bass; Jerry Berlongieri — keyboards; Joel Devonshire — drums; Gabe Heiss — tenor sax; Jason Ledbetter — trumpet; Ben Mancell — guitar/ alto sax; Jack Wagner (not pictured) — tenor sax
Why you should give a damn: Despite the monastic rock loyalists and genre revivalists working the boards in town, the scene desperately needs a “party” band. The Elevations are just reverent enough to the originals and just punk enough to have the raw energy to get asses off barstools.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: The City of Memphis, Sam Cooke, Quadrophenia, Northern Soul, Gangster Fun, Roddy Doyle
The killer quote: ”We’re putting the energy of punk and garage into another kind of music. You listen to ’60s soul and it might as well be punk,” says Ben Mancell. “And we’ve all been kind of conscious not to sound too garage.”
Releases: Currently in the studio with Freddy Fortune recording a single for an as-yet-unnamed label.
Predictions: This one’s really a no-brainer: By this time next year, the Elevations will be headlining the Magic Stick and Blind Pig. They’ll have a couple singles out at least and a crop of college kids will be eating out of the palms of their hands. The punks and hipsters should be gushing about ’em, too. Hopefully they can hold the 10-piece lineup together enough to hit the road. —Chris Handyside.
The Elevations will perform at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit) Friday, June 6. For info call, 313-833-9700.
What: Young (average age 22), not-so-dumb with appropriately droll monikers: Fish — bass/ vocals; Timmy — guitar/vocals; D — vocals/guitar; S. O’Lucky — drums. The band delivers a four-on-the-floor, four-chord wallop with aplomb.
Why you should give a damn: The boys go so far as to care about rock’s well-being! Go figure.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Sonic’s Rendezvous Band, Wildhearts and the Humpers, as well as the usual suspects such as Johnny Cash, New York Dolls, Modern Lovers, MC5, and the Stooges. All four of the members’ dads played in Detroit-area rock bands during the ’60s and ’70s.
The killer quote: “We didn’t invent shit,” quips Timmy. “If Sum 41 is a fuckin’ punk band, then we’re a gospel band.”
Releases: A self-titled, self-released 2003 full-length.
Predictions: With their ability for constructing hooky, punk-riotous rock ’n’ roll with staying power, the band should soon find major-label weasels doing yet another Detroit soft-shoe. —Ricky Phillips
What: All of seven months old, the Rioteers find themselves in a holy trio of matchless Detroit power-pop bands, flanked by Brendan Benson and the Fags. Tim McHugh —vocals/guitar; Andy Reed — guitar/vocals; Jason Reed — bass/vocals; Jeff Hupp — drums. Also, main tunesmith McHugh was burped up from the gut of criminally overlooked Atomic Numbers.
Why you should give a damn: Songwriting, chief! What’s more, each guy on stage is intriguingly engaging. Supple-voiced McHugh is the in-house chick-magnet and trapsman Hupp’s timekeeping skills rival that of a Rolex. There’s an unlikely guitar hero in Reed whose bassist brother out-scissors his legs in a manner that upholds the honor of Dee Dee Ramone.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Beatles, banana seats, Badfinger singles, Queen, “All The Young Dudes,” early Coop, the brothers McDonald, Phil Seymour, 20/20, ’70’s Cheap Trick, GBV, Office Space and Frank Black.
The killer quote:”Rock anthems for losers!”
Releases: Bedroom-recorded, self-released debut EP, Underachievers of the World Unite, is out this week.
Predictions: Band lands a major-label deal, takes the dough and runs — debut album most likely will adhere to long-standing rule that power-pop doesn’t sell. However, long-term residual checks will litter Rioteer mailboxes after penning theme song to a forthcoming WB sitcom. —Brian Smith
Catch the Rioteers’ inspired hook-din at their record release show Saturday, May 10 at the Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit). For info, call 313-961-4668.
What: Categorization impossible. Think shoe-gazer karaoke stand-up and song-driven ambient interludes. He calls his songs shoddy and sex-laden. He likes to mope about not having sex. He works in a parking garage. He’s got a penchant for drink. Trusted sources say he’s a genius.
Why you should give a damn: Burns the house down live. Also known for stellar karaoke sets. Once did an entire set of Prince covers with Midwest Product. His rendition of Starbuck’s “Moonlight Feels Right” has yet to be topped. His own self-recorded tunes are constantly evolving and changing, bending ears into abnormal shapes.
The killer quote:”I would like to make a good record. Does that totally sound pretentious?”
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Kevin Shields/ My Bloody Valentine, Andy Kaufman, Stevie Wonder, J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick.
Releases: Brave Wire cover in “Map Ref.” on new Ghostly International comp Idol Tryouts. Also, Leftovers and Dynamic Obsolescence (both 2001 Planet Mu). Look for a full-length on Ghostly later this year.
Predictions: Big in Finland. Holds on to his day gig at the parking garage. —Brian Smith
Dykehouse will perform Saturday, May 17 at the Blind Pig (208 S. First St., Ann Arbor). For info, call 734-996-8555.
Athletic Mic League
What: Six MCs and a DJ. This Ann Arbor-based septet has made noise with Funktelligence, Invincible and the Carl Craig-produced Detroit Experiment. Buff (1); 14KT; Grand Cee; Texture (not pictured); DJ Haircut; Vital; Sonny Star.
Why you should give a damn: Their clever lyrics and high production quality go down easy with listeners, and they’ve built a following in places as close as home and as far away as Australia.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: DJ Haircut and Tres Styles say their influences range from Holland-Dozier-Holland (and Gamble and Huff) to Steel Pulse and all early ’90s hip-hop artists. That’s a lot of musical history for a crew with no member older than 25. Gotta respect their gansta.
The killer quote: “AML is the hip-hop group Michael Jordan, early Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder would’ve put together for the new era of music,” says Buff (1).
Releases: AML releases include The Thrill of Victory, The Thrill is Gone, The Feel Good EP and the current full-length CD Sweats & Kicks.
Predictions: The crew expects to be traveling the world on tour within the next couple years. Look out, they may land in your spot. —Khary Kimani Turner
What: Polyrhythmic broken-beat soul-hop and/ or Sunday-driving folkish jazz ’n’ bass.
Why you should give a damn: Brownstudy marches to the beat of his own drum machine. He’s one of Detroit’s most eclectic musicians, connecting the dots between warm hip hop and living-room electronic music.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: ’80s pop from Patrice Rushen (“Forget Me Nots”) to Duran Duran, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, 4 Hero, Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Radiohead, anything on Thrill Jockey records.
The killer quote: “I still act like an 18-year-old and pass it off as eccentricity,” coos Brownstudy (aka Jason Hogans). “I’m proud of that. Life’s too short to posture like you’re dignified. Nobody’s anything but carbon, water and a set of circumstances.”
Releases: Peter and the Rooster EP (Planet E). His forthcoming album, Accepting Cookies, is tentatively slated for release on Planet E this fall.
Predictions: Starts mandatory, citywide intramural laptop music program for troubled youths. His experimental greenhouse research yields first plants to process energy via audiosynthesis. —Robert Gorell
Brownstudy will perform Friday, May 23 at the Corktown Tavern (1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit). The night is dubbed Color and is a Movement 2003 pre-party. For info call 313-867-3897.
Tamion 12 Inch
What: Analog electro-punk that offers discomfort to the comfortable.
B. Kerry — vocals; C. Samual — analogs; K. Michael — bass and electronic percussion.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: ESG, DNA, EPMD, PIL, the Green Room, Crispin Glover, Fluxus, Bulb.
The killer quote: “As I define it we are a punk band, but I’m not prepared to give you my definition of punk,” says C. Samual (aka Sam Consiglio). “Are we more like 45 Grave than Derrick May? Probably. More like Cabaret Voltaire than the Dead Kennedys? Sure. But a lot of what’s defined as electronic music seems to be this moneymaking thing where a DJ is paid, like, $5,000 to appear at a techno club. We’re definitely not that.”
Why you should give a damn: Under the Tamion umbrella, these kids have managed to make that post-punk avant-garde sound a wee bit more dance-ready than you remember, and a lot more viscerally human. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more commanding live band working the DIY circuit. And the singer was in the Snitches!
Releases: All Black, Eyes Closed to the Point of Disaster EP (Ersatz Audio, 2003), Misery Loves Company — “Thin Boys Murdered” (Ersatz Audio, 2002)
Predictions: By this time next year, expect Tamion 12 Inch to be making many friends (they’ll be remixed at least twice by a guy with a German surname), influencing lotsa people (“the kids”), and generally moving and shaking on the international underground electronic punk scene once this whole electroclash bullshit has blown over. Future headline: “Move over Yeah Yeah Yeahs, here’s T12I!” —Chris Handyside
What: Unpolluted rock ’n’ roll in the time-honored sense of the word. The band has, for lack of a less hackneyed term, swagger. Eric Hoegemeyer: vocals/electric piano; Steve Zuccaro — guitar; Michael Falzon — drums; Dino Zoyes — bass.
Why you should give a damn: Don’t hold the fact that GCG members did time in Mercury band Charm Farm — or backed Uncle Kracker — against them. That would be gauche. The nearly year-old band improves exponentially with each show and has already penned a future rock radio staple in “Diamond Mine.” Live, the cocksure chemistry between Hoegemeyer and Zuccaro is beginning to resemble Rocks-era Tyler and Perry.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Faces, Stones, Sly, Zep, Crowes, AC/DC.
The killer quote: Guitarist Zuccaro thankfully eschews mumbo jumbo when explaining the GCG manifesto: “We love rock ’n’ roll and just want to make rock ’n’ roll for people who love rock ’n’ roll.”
Releases: Just signed to Times Beach, a debut full-length is due early fall.
Predictions: Doing bongs with Rich Robinson and Greg Allman in the back of their own tour coach. —Brian Smith
What: Live, this guy called Man is actually a trio in one; he stomps a kick drum whilst chording a filthy-sounding bass and ranting existential, producing a potent punch-drunk ruckus that surpasses that of most punk and noise bands.
Why you should give a damn: Courage. Man lobs verbal grenades at Christian fundamentalists and right-wing goons, laws against blow jobs and Sunday drinking, himself and the proverbial corporate team, all firmly concealed in melody and wit.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Celine, Coltrane, the Clash, Henry Miller, Dead Kennedys, pre-Rollins Black Flag, and blah, blah, blah.
The killer quote: ”The day of the repeal of prohibition should be a national holiday. It should be bigger than Christmas!” Boy Howdy!
Releases: Armed with the chestnuts “Fuck the Team,” “Beer For Man” and “Go Fuck Yourself,” Man’s gnarly 17-song debut — Machine (Times Beach) — hits a bin near you on Tuesday, June 17.
Predictions: One man, one van, one code, one road. —Brian Smith
Man’s record-release jamboree is scheduled for June 13 at Small’s (10339 Conant, Hamtramck). For info call 313-873-1117.
What: Saddled with wince-worthy pigeonholes like “alt-country,” “folky” or, worse, the dreaded “singer-songwriter,” Ypsilanti’s Jim Roll simply writes clear-eyed narratives set in lovely rock ’n’ roll refrains.
Why you should give a damn: Should be big as Wilco. Truly. Roll is fearless in pursuit of a good tale set to song, and his records are — despite piles of gushy worldwide press — so far commercial failures, and he couldn’t get arrested here. But dig this: Literary giants Denis Johnson (Jesus’ Son, Angels) and Rick Moody (Garden State, The Ice Storm) both agree Roll is the shit, so much so that they contributed lyrics to Roll’s latest, Inhabiting the Ball.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Green On Red, Dylan, Neil Young, the Who, Tom Waits.
The killer quote: Roll’s never one to taint conversations with self-interest.
Releases: Ready to Hang (1998, No Man Clapping), Lunette (2000, New West), Inhabiting the Ball (2002 The Telegraph Company). A Roll/Johnson song “Desperado in the Parking Lot” adapted from Johnson’s novel Already Dead is just released on the inaugural Utne Magazine-sponsored CD comp for www.inradio.com.
Predictions: Songs in films. Successfully making mortgage payments without having to suffer a low-rent day gig. —Brian Smith
Jim Roll will perform Friday, May 9, at The Blue Note Café (7 N. Saginaw, Pontiac). Showtime is 8 p.m. For info, call 248-338-9389.
What: The now sound of minimal mind-and-feet techno.
Why you should give a damn: Dear’s selections as a DJ represent a recent rebirth of song structure in techno and his live set is reassuring that laptops can move the floor.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: Safety Scissors, Kit Clayton, Pantytech, Ricardo Villalobos, anything on Kompact, Compost or Playhouse records, Foreigner, Nelly.
The killer quote: Says Dear, “The best records coming out now are thick, clean, micro-glitch-funk ... whatever you want to call it, it’s really smart yet still has its mind in the gutter, where it belongs.”
Releases: Irreparably Dented EP (Ghostly International), Stealing Moves EP (Ghostly International), Jabberjaw Girlfriend EP (Perlon), False (Plus 8). False is the first full-length release from the legendary Plus 8 imprint in six years.
Predictions: Dear moves to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and hates it before winding up in Berlin, where he is embraced by fashion models and dudes with chunky, angular glasses. By the time he tours Detroit, Trinidadian soca music is all that anyone listens to. —Robert Gorell
Matthew Dear spins Tuesdays at Goodnight Gracie (301 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor). For info, call 734-623-2070.
What: Nocturnal synth-pop gone horribly right.
Why you should give a damn: Perspects (aka Ian Clarke) juggles drumsticks and synth knobs, working warped melodies and vocals into a vulnerable live set that demands respect from rockers, electro-fetishists and anyone with dance moves weird enough to keep up.
Debts/spiritual forefathers: Dennis Cooper, Burroughs, early Human League, Liaisons Dangereuses, anything with analog guts to patch.
The killer quote: “The future of electronic music is performance and not sequencing,” he says, “because sequenced electronic music has gotten so easy to make, there’s so much of it now that I’ve lost interest. The song is what’s important.”
Releases: Desire and Efficiency (Ersatz Audio), Le Car (Perspects’ high-torque retro-futurist project with Adam Lee Miller of Adult.) Auto-Biography (Ersatz Audio), The Third and Final Report EP (Interdimensional Transmissions).
Predictions: Perspects inadvertently re-elects George W. in a landslide after his tunes home in on alien life Close Encounters-style — “Are they with us, or against us?” asks Bush. Make no mistake; the aliens must, and will, be stopped! —Robert Gorell
You can catch Perspects at Movement 2003: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Specific venue and time were not available at press time.
What: Spazzy sci-fi space surfers. The Rev. Angry Larry — guitar; Ambassador Chuck Bronson — theremin & media; His Magizstrate J’Ewls Reanault — bass; Sen. Thompson Speck — drums.
Why you should give a damn: Duh! They’re from outer space! If every instrumental surf-punk band played songs as short and with such energy and manic media manipulation as the Amino Acids, the genre might just find its way out of the retro ghetto from which Man … or Astroman? also attempted an escape.
Debts/ spiritual forefathers: The Mummies, Bob Dobbs, Devo, Dick Dale, Count Scary, L’Eggs, The Garden Bowl, Russ Myers.
The killer quote: The Amino Acids will leave soon … or stay forever. The Amino Acids will point and laugh at human culture. The Amino Acids will not converse with humans. So what?
Releases: MAN ... in the UNIVERSE? (Garage Door Recordings, 2003)
Predictions: The Amino Acids will bring their de-evolution-loving madness to beer enthusiasts throughout the rust belt. The fetishistic West Coast musiculture will embrace the band. They’ll make the cover of Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll. They will construct an elaborate “compound” outside of Akron, Ohio, and await further orders. Oh, and their bowling scores won’t suffer for all the activity. —Chris Handyside
Catch the fetching sounds of Amino Acids with Dick Dale on Wednesday, May 14, at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit). For info, call 313-833-9700.
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