Wednesday, March 2
Blowout pre-Party at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313- 833-9700
1:15 a.m. Secret Twins: Because this two-piece is inked to the Mitten's premier indie (Quack!) says lots. And some ST songs are on hit parade here at MT headquarters; the speedy riff-cranks of "Lazy Cheetah" outdo Kelley Deal, and the tender "Places" reveals a depth that runs far, far deeper than so much faceless "indie rock" of late. Lovely African-American singer-songwriter Dina Bankole is a total original, uncalculated — there's absolutely no one on earth like her: She loves Georgia O'Keefe and Etta James and can manhandle a guitar (a Flying V that she sometimes finger-picks!) better than most white boys; she even sports an Orange half-stack, a Vox amp (such taste!) and a strangely octave-leaping voice that soothes bones and rattles eyelids. Can't forget percussionist Tim Thomas, he's the duo's veritable backbone, an otherwise star overshadowed. Soon to be giant.
11:45 p.m. Lettercamp: Doe-eyed, raven-headed singer Liz Wittman is the personification of adorable pinup; she's equally vamp and reserved, like some naughty nun, and there's real sexual tension (remember when music had that?) for both boys and girls. She's got some inner torch singer too, one who'd occasionally slink behind a backlit screen, go-go dancer style. The trio's live keyboardist and guitarist — and accompanying electronic bass and drums — create a sing-song scamp like some updated Giorgio Moroder; hooks and drone-y melody abound, minus the bad West Hollywood gay disco and convertible Mercedes. And kudos to Five Three Dial Tone Records for close-watched farsightedness. Verdict: "You Won't Want Me," in all of its danceable melancholy, should be a massive hit somewhere, even if only in Mozambique.
10 p.m. Fawn: Alicia Gbur, Christian Doble and Matt Rickle have been in other bands, but who cares? Because the song "Hip Parade" is such a thing of sheer power and beauty that it fooled even the most jaded critics we sent it to into thinking it was some new supergroup featuring a few Manic Street Preachers and Sharin Foo. The song even recalls the better post-punk bands of yesteryear (if you've ever gone back for Penetration or the Skids.) This is a little rock band that could, much bigger than the sum of its parts; there's folk-derived girl-boy harmonies, fist-jacking choruses and anthemic drums, and then there's fetching guitarist-singer Gbur.
12:30 a.m. Moon Pool and Dead Band: Dudes Dave Shettler and Nate Young name tunes after Wire songs and Kerouac novels, and trip the ambient electric with gentle, coffee-bean electro serenades on early '80s synths (Pro One!) like a less pop Our Daughter's Wedding — only without words, coifs and pretense, and in dirty jeans.
11:30 p.m. The Julie Hecker Tribute: This whole thing teems with humanity. Julie Hecker, you'll remember, helmed Punk Fitness Detroit, and was a huge fan-supporter of local arts, music and culture and had innumerable fans and friends to prove it. She died suddenly last summer of a heart attack (at 44) leaving behind a family. The tribute will see a video presentation followed by Detroit's official cheerleading squad, the Motor City Rah Rahs (which Hecker founded), and a collection to start a college fund for her children, Andrew and Zoe.
10:45 The Eeks: At least one person accurately said that their music gets into you "like hepatitis." Well, "She Screams" did exactly that — let the jaundice kick in! — and finger-pistols to the foursome for covering with punk-rock aplomb Nirvana's uncoverable "Negative Creep," and for its raw-boned Lady Kill Award EP, maybe the most overlooked punk rock record of 2010.
9:15 p.m. Darling Imperial: Frolic to the postmodern rock that's part diary entry, part tractor pull, part summery jangle and part busted halo; and then exit thinking you just witnessed a ghost of Chrissie Hynde pass through singer Sarah Sadovsky.
8:30 p.m. to closing. Haute to Death: Booty tang-tag, or spinning the best sides of post-punk softshoe, queer electro and new wave mashup.
THURSDAY NIGHT KICKS
From Lynchian weirdness to post-mod jazz-pop, from buzzsaw butt-kick to sartorially correct fizzy-bang!
by Brian Smith
Midnight — Computer Perfection: Spare the hyperbole: Yes, there's airy pop perfection in Gene Corduroy's combo — songwriting and synthesizers are the skin and bones to which everything clings, and the band wouldn't likely deny an enduring appreciation for Kraftwerk and the Beatles.
11 p.m. — Divine COMEDIANS: Even if old Dante himself had an array of weird indie pop records, he'd never have the foresight to see into the polished world of a 2011 laundry detergent commercial and hear the accompanying song. That's more than foamy praise.
10 p.m. — Timothy Monger State Park: Love letters to the Mitten housed gently in classic pop songwriting — heartbreaking at times.
9 p.m. — Cheat Sheet: The duo's shockingly good 2010 album Music to Yawn To was a beautifully shambolic antidote for these chary and tea-bagging days, and a witty ode to suburban life irritants, as seen through the eyes of Jason Lymangrover and David Serra, who could pass as sonic kid bros to Pavement.
12:20 a.m. — Blue Black Hours: It's a gift to not sound like you're copping another era and do it as if you are in that era. BBH sounds of heavy Brit blues-rock circa '69, when Blue Cheer was acid and Taste went unnoticed, when Free were still pups and Humble Pie began to nearly rule the planet. And then there was Leslie West comin' down the mountain. Yowsie.
11:20 p.m. — Sheefy McFly and the Delorean: Angry mixed-ethnicity male bonding over pissed-off emcee'd street rhymes ("Fuck You" is a winning skewer aimed straight at Detroit's finest) and live punk rock-inspired rack-it. But good.
10:20 p.m. — Brain Rottar: Minimalist Motor City ghetto tech-wreck, like deranged calliope music — of the bedroom-created variety; it's as hypnotic as its thrift-store scenario is charming. Oh, and it features Detroit's other Dan DeMaggio.
9:20 p.m. — Smackmadam: Port Huron's own buzzsaw merchants who we adore mostly because of their straight-up low-rent purity: songs of poverty, beer and chicks flourish, and "Hair Dresser Blues" and "Moron Pills" are as funny as the Dictators. Mic stands tend to topple at Smackmadam gigs, and beer flies; one left us all sticky-icky sweet in Miller High Life.
Midnight — Kommie Kilpatrick: As one MT scribe said, songs hit fast and hard, like summer camp heavy petting. That and their 10-song debut clocks in at a whopping 10 minutes!
11 p.m. — Cold Men Young: As witty as the name, this cadre of young street poets represents a new breed of smart Motor City hip hop. The foursome crushes live.
10 p.m. — Charlie Slick: Slick's got irrefutable presence; he can dance, sing, drop albums and write authentic songs, and his live show mixes bubbles and glam with pelvic thrusts and a collective consciousness that involves two chicks and Prince throwbacks! What?
9 p.m. — Beekeepers: Post-mod jazz-pop instrumental freak-out of sorts, the sound of apathy turning into art for entertainment's sake; listen to "Eartha Kitt Tourniquet" — at once a fitting nod to the altar of Ms. Kitt and a kind of suicide soundtrack.
12:20 a.m. — JSB Squad: Formed around worthy songs of awesome-haired Jesse Shepherd-Bates of Satin Peaches; the band is more of a revolving door collective of local stars — see Augie Visocchi, George Morris, Mick Bassett, Alison Young, etc. — who meet sporadically and draw exhaustive song experiences with deviance, drugs, nightlife, reminiscences, and drinking beer in an atmosphere of equivalent rock 'n' roll.
11:20 p.m. — The High Strung: You can hear them weekly theme-songing Showtime's brilliant Shameless, but the boys of Strung have hung in long and hard (11 years), touring hundreds of thousands of miles, playing military bases, libraries, rock halls and living rooms, and making records of a way-more-than-respectable rock-show din that compares favorably to old Brit Invasion, Cheap Trick and Motor City thunder. They are the rock 'n' roll working class.
10:20 p.m. — Smash Television: Featuring the everywhere-at-once emcee Leaf Erikson, alongside Jah Connery, both of whom are joy to watch perform. ST bestows a certain intelligence on Detroit rap, with a wink and grin inside its grim realities: In a perfect existence "Idiot Blocks" would be a radio staple — an anti-inertia anthem telling us to smash all mass media in favor of literacy and original thought.
9:20 p.m. — Hi Speed Dubbing: Classic rock 'n' roll in an all-mod-con world; the guys in the quartet aren't exactly copyists and kinda defy categorization. They've a buzz in certain circles, and peer-to-peers might be the MC5, the Stooges and Peter Tosh, but it's close to what late-night basement jams sound like if thought of as metaphysical graffiti filtered through Marshall half-stacks. You know, kinda Wayne Kramer-y in lingo.
11:40 p.m. — The Sights: They've done their homework and understand that if you don't know music history you're doomed to repeat its wretched qualities like an illiterate stooge. Hence, the Sights are rock 'n' roll — with hints of soul, pop, country and blues — the kind that rouses true emotion and transcends the sensation of 12 beers gone down. Think how hard that is to do.
10:40 p.m. — Italian Picture Factory: Dale Wilson and Nick Cicchetti (Millions of Brazilians) plus surprise guest all-stars. It's a "hush-hush" gig but promises some sort wing-ding of a hummer. The sound? It covers "a broad range of genres from loud fast rock and psych with some sweetheart and lost love tossed in."
9:40 p.m. — Scarlet Oaks: Kind of a sonic parallel to the part of Detroit that's overgrown and fading back into earth — there's that country landscape melancholy. It also has youth and folk pop and Southern soul and sublime boy-girl harmonies. There's wisdom beyond its years.
8:40 p.m. — Tone and Niche: Nothing beats a violin harmony under a lead vocal; it's all lovely drone and counterpoint, which T&N have in spades — like baroque pop meets backwater renderings of the few really good Go-Betweens songs.
Midnight — Michael Seger & Everyone's Favorite Band: A young quintet whose radio-ripe, big-chorus alt-rock is well supported by thoughtful harmonies, and words detailing suburban lives, trophy wives, girls and the one that got away.
11 p.m. — The Black List: Four-piece punk rock maintaining the honor of SoCal circa early '80s; walls of distortion support knuckle-pummeling shout-outs, and the poppy ones stick — see if you're not singing "Lights Out" under drunken Hamtown stars long after closing time.
10 p.m. — Small Noises: Covering the Pixies might slightly give this young quartet away, but there's some preternatural shit happenin' too, and not just an electric mandolin and some white raga. Bonus: The singer sometimes sounds immodestly excited, like David Byrne crossed with Jack White.
9 p.m. — Spaceband: A band "collective" of sorts shows an aesthetic that makes scavenging a necessity where will is ahead of, well, pretty much anything else. Therein lies true invention! Themes challenge conventional existence, and the group's costumes (costumes!) often look like how David Lynch would dress a prom dance. Attendant backdrop visuals, art-busted melodies and sonic dreamscapes suggest slow-motion car crashes. Neat!
11:40 p.m. — ERR... One of many two-pieces in this year's Blowout, founded by one of the Flu Shots. Loud, gnarled-up and metal-y (as if early Ozzy-era Sabbath!) — a wet mix for a wonderful night's headfuck.
10:40 p.m. — Tellecollision: Featuring beautiful singer-guitarist Nicole Ridgely Ladendorf, who could be a star in her own right, the quartet sways a kind of suburban melancholic indie — occasionally haunting melodies and a kind of disconnection offset with dense, muscular ornamentations. Sorta like two bands in one.
9:40 p.m. — Royale: Singer-guitarist Carl Douglas Greene sings and writes in a manner that suggests a young Jesse Malin, if part of him wanted to front Cream. Bassist Adam Hart and drummer Chad Sturdivant fill it all out with a kind of bash-and-pop aplomb.
8:40 p.m. — Over Macho Grande: Its name suggests dudes still clinging to that tough-guy myth, like John Wayne filtered through Negative Approach and Alice in Chains or something. The vocals on "Roll Em Out" could clear rats from the darkest of attics.
Midnight — Marco Polio & the New Vaccines: What sounds like joyless, ad hoc romps through an inconsequential mess of pop-noise damage by liberal arts students really is a joyful, ad hoc romp through a consequential mess of metaphorical pop-noise damage by liberal arts students.
11 p.m. — Banxx: Allan James and Leann Banks create a sparse songscape whose empathy and gladness is shrouded in sadness. Really beautifully sung and organized in droning simplicity. It doesn't hurt that their voices blend like brother and sister.
10 p.m. — Robin Goodfellow: A smart-pill brainchild born of Nathan F.H. Burgundy IV (from lamented Pas/Cal, Computer Perfection) and A.P. MacKinnon (Mother Whale) whose deranged synth pop soars weirdly with inexplicable choruses and an artful milieu that resembles, say, André Breton's boyhood dreams.
9 p.m. — Betty Cooper: Distaff of the cute, harmony-rich indie variety with a gusto for innocuous irony (Hence the Archies/Mad Men reference) who see a far-flung list of admirers because its stars include Melody Baetens and Annette Barbara. You might recall them as the Swamp Sisters.
12:20 a.m. — Child Bite: Unsettling in a way that can't be qualified; it rocks and there's disorder but also some dark wonder. This well-recorded, road-hardened quintet is often dismissed as art-punk or sounding too similar to Man Man. Pssshhhaw.
11:20 p.m. — Zoos of Berlin: The four sartorially correct dudes of Zoos have an uncanny knack for crafting seamless, even graceful, sing-along melodies over unpredictable musical backdrops — in 2/4 with trumpets, or darker trudges driven by guitars that inspire impromptu harmonizing, or mad keyboard melodies in simple chords — but it's the warm singing and crooning of guitarists Trevor Naud and Daniel Clark that tie the package together. MT has long been a fan.
10:20 p.m. — Man at Arms: Another duo whose spazz attack suggests both detached academia and, what we like to call here, "data" rock; in another words, a sexless form of jittery spunk rock that embraces and pokes fun at rock 'n' roll dynamics while taking the piss out of themselves and the world around them — all with fun dollops of cynicism. The guitar, drums and vocals sound so alive. Meat Puppets tried to do this a long time ago.
9:20 p.m. — Prussia: Forget the absurd nomenclature "indie rock" for a second and know that Prussia's songs simply take up head habitation and stay for days, and stubbornly never pay any rent. Band and singer Ryan Spencer have hit on a songwriting foundation that bridges gaps between novelty and purity; it takes cues from its own vaguely pop-Victorian imagery and melody fandom. The five-piece creates nervy but lilting, sometimes ticklish, pedestals of sound. They're outta here soon, so see them at a small venue before it's too late. It's baroque pop but it's folk rock, it's power poppy but it's ...
11:40 p.m. — The Phantom Shakers: Yeah, yeah, McCarthyism wasn't fun, so I'm told. But we can pretend like it was! Not just '50s rockabilly with a chick singer; but '50s rockabilly with the lovely, zaftig Elle Mae, whose croon has earned the right to accompany upright basses, pompadours and lots of crimsons, reds, cherries and tats.
10:40 p.m. — Las Dragos: Fans of drugs no doubt, most likely cerveza too, considering their four-down, four-to-go 'billy-punk wallop and penchant for lambchops, wife-beaters and blooze.
9:40 p.m. — Waxgordon: Though Dave, Pete, Mark and Lumpy are full-on punks, they'd never be in prison. Know that. They're anti-hipster and pro-beer too, and theirs is a passionate and continual suckerpunch riot of chainsaw riffs, fists, shouts and blackouts. Best pre-Blowout quote: "If you light yourself on fire, they will come and see you burn."
Deastro's VIC Showcase
Featuring new recruits from the adolescent fringes; expect the unexpected.
1:20 a.m. End Trails
12:20 a.m. Deaf Beasts
11:20 p.m. Staircase
10:20 p.m. Lobotomy's
9:20 p.m. The Armed
12:20 a.m. — The Blue Squares: Cuban heels, Lambrettas, Galois smokes and Carnaby Street all tightly wound in a quartet of Animals-adoring Detroiters.
11:20 p.m. — Phresh Heir: "Who the fuck is Phresh Heir" is Detroit hip-hop's song and phrase of the month. Myke Wright, Kenneth Macmillian, Antonio Greene, Emery Jones, Garvey Leger are Phresh Heir, emcees who create their own beats and write and record their own music, and it is beautiful stuff; smart, proactive, new-school Detroit with clever throwback beats, rhymes and irrevocable hooks, plus the occasional hot chick.
10:20 p.m. — Indian Guides: Think of skeletal trees and sadness, and long winter nights spent smoking in silence, a momentum that can carry you days, weeks even. Get it? For example, "Darkness Eat Monkey" is 13 minutes of music for nighttime jungles, but with action in slow-motion.
9:20 p.m. — Mumble: Button-down shirt rock with an almost shocking songwriting assurance; it's accessible and grown-up, to be sure, but there are elements of storytelling and experience in songwriter John Hawthorne's songs. Harmonies layer on like Crowded House, guitars sometimes get '70s glammy, and the guys look like suburban dads!
Midnight — Illy Mack: Sure they've spat in each other's faces, thrown punches, talked lots of dirt and dirty, but platonic duo Jennifer David and Steve Kendzorski's multi-hyphenate, lo-fi fury rumbles and shuckles from street corners to bar stools to rock 'n' roll venues. It's sight and sound: rattlebox soul for rattled souls that see keyboards on ironing boards and guitars slung on shoulders and saxes on knees, drums popping, all topped by the gutsy voice of the inherently gifted David.
11 p.m. — Scandinavian Pleather: A sorta supergroup whose ironic "house-band" gig at Small's has grown in stature over the months, surprisingly watchable despite their status as beer-fueled Turbonegro folly.
10 p.m. — The Deadbeat Beats: A scrubbed trio starring Alex Glendening and Maria Nuccilli, up from the Decks, whose pop innocence relies heavily on simple hooks and exuberance, plunging into the '60s beat bedrock for inspiration. Too heavy for twee, the band calls it "flower-pop."
9:20 p.m. — Carradine: Love the name. We hope it's inspired by the great Carradine clan, particularly the late, great, flask-toting fu-man, David. Really, these indie urchins prefer theirs poppy, guitar-heavy and played with an amazing drummer. Pop for little clubs, not theaters.
12:40 — Songs from the Moon: Not sure what to assume from songwriter Jonathan A. Berz (Real Detroit scribe, ex of Blasé Splee), but expect a roll call of recruits backing his well-arranged, singer-songwriter tunes, which are occasionally overcast but often beautifully self-possessed.
11:40 p.m. — Skeleton Birds: Ypsi five-piece headed by bros Jonathan and Jeremy Edwards, singer-guitarist and drummer, respectively. Jonathan is blessed with a bell-like voice that rings with natural profundity, and some songs swing easy like boyhood lullabies; they're deceptively simple, but can also flat-out rock: "Burning Houses" is as close to a perfect pop song as you can get. This is a Blowout sleeper band. What's in the water up there in Ypsilanti?
10:40 p.m. — Patrick Davy & the Ghosts: Mr. Davy has perfect cheekbones, hair and skin, and the trio's powerful pop sorta sounds like that — sonically pleasing, refined riffage with giant hooks proffered with very un-lo-fi skill and aplomb. The guy can write a song.
9:40 p.m. — Patrick Elkins & the Rainbow Family Vomit Band: Like a photo marked in time by burnt sienna tones, Patrick Elkins and his killer moniker sport tie-dye, Jesus hair, crystal-gazey imagery, ... It's jam, but on the shoulders of gnarly guitar, trumpet and quirky refrains that sometimes remind you of sacred chants. Not sure if it's hippie irony or electric folk spiritual-metal — or both.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Mixed-gender poppin', prom-date glam, schitzo-country and swimsuit girls
by Brian Smith & Brett Callwood
Brought straight to you by Ginkgo Records!
12:40 a.m. — Swimsuit: Mixed-gender Yspi quartet that's so damn happy it's nearly obscene: Soaring boy-girl harmonies drawing on bits of surf tones and beat-on-the-brat guitar virility. But it's sexy, young and looking for a (kiss) beach. It stars indie messiah Fred Thomas.
11:40 p.m. — Man the Hunter: Evan Doering's prom-date pop glam — those instantly memorable melodies — with slender hips and lots of Midwestern charm; the sound of never-ending accidental summers. His debut 7-inch dropped last month on Ginko. A shooting-star prospective.
10:40 p.m. — Turned to Crime: Like 100 ironworkers hammering or straight-up Forbidden Planet. It's Derek Michael Stanton's laptop psyche-shoegaze renderings of impetuous industrial — as well as junkyards and nightmares — and it's oddly hypnotic. No amount of distortion is too much.
9:40 p.m. — Damned Dogs: Fred and Amber from Swimsuit, pissing about with electronic toys. Yay! Your parents would say call this noise.
It's the Loco Gnosis Showcase!
12:20 a.m. — Duende!: Duende never lets anyone down with their stage-crammed schitzo-country-alt-rock freakout.
11:20 p.m. — Jehovah's Witness Protection Program: A pair of hirsute gents with a fierce yen for fuzz, clang and tumbledown harmonies. In fact, we've seen 'em blow at least one petulant, apped-up hipster clean off his barstool.
10:20 p.m. Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment: How do you describe a five- or six- or seven-piece band that absolutely sidesteps all rock 'n' roll musical convention? Where they call white and pink noise actual instruments? Psychedelic trance-dub? Actually, that was easy.
9:20 p.m. — Eleanora: Strangely experimentally pretty; it's an acoustic guitar-led drone that sounds as if it could derail at any second, gives the whole thing tension. Singer Leah Dunstan songwriter's intuition saves songs from heading off to meandering jamland.
12:40 a.m. — The Sugarcoats: Bluesy DEE-troit rock 'n' roll, with a grooved, note-bending bent and misplaced farmboy folly. Stars former Sponge and Detroit Cobras man Joey Mazzola.
11:40 p.m. — Gardens: Nothing over-complicated. The four Gardens play a frank, socially aware, fuck-all Detroit-grit rock, and do it well enough, and young-sounding enough, to retain the very thing that makes youth exciting.
10:40 p.m. — Aran Ruth: Her voice can lull you into a sleepytime haze; her songs have a kind of gentle beauty, similar to what you'd expect to hear from some Detroit angel with a torn stocking and a pint of beer.
9:40 p.m. — Kelly Jean Caldwell: Beautiful retro folk like a young, beautiful and clean Marianne Faithful.
1 a.m. — The Hard Lessons: It's the end of an era, the end of eight years that helped define post-garage in Detroit. See, this is the Hard Lessons' last show — after 700 in eight countries — before leaving on an extended, indefinite break; Augie and Korin are having a baby, due in July. Now see if Korin's voice doesn't put a tear in your beer.
Midnight — The Kickstand Band: Oooh, the Kickstand Band: Like the Mamas & the Papas if they were Michiganders, and John Phillips didn't suffer a gnarly sex and drug addiction.
11 p.m. : Mod Orange: Mark Dawson, Jon Murrell and Eric Stucky's lo-fi abstraction; rock that's not constrained by the familiar, but it still has hooks!
10 p.m. — Matt Jones & the Reconstruction: Matt Jones might be the most underrated songwriter in the Mitten, so it makes sense he spends time backing others — and he isn't the most underrated, he's the nicest. This roundup of musicians will no doubt upload its bluegrass-y sides, with fiddles and standups etc.
1 a.m. — Jeecy & the Jungle: In 1979, Gerald Collins and his band the Algebra Mothers quietly put out a burning slice of no-new-wave pop, then split up. Over the next 30 years, the record slowly grew into an under-underground legend, whispered of in back rooms of dimly-lit punk clubs and record shops from Detroit to Gdansk. Now Gerald, perfectionist to the core, has a new batch of songs and a new band to play 'em. Equal parts punk, soul, strut and pomp, like James Brown fronting early XTC, these carry the immediacy of a dude who has 30 years to make up.
Midnight — Odd Hours: It's the beauty of utter simplicity if you're going for minisymphonies; why play three notes when less is often best, or if you've got Natasha Beste, a singer who glides from innocence to scorned in less than a single chord change.
11 p.m. — Magic Jake & the Power Crystals: Not a Saturday morning kids' TV show, as you might expect, but a twangy indie-pop collective.
10 p.m. — Team Ethic: With Abbott Daimler, Joel Skene, Ed Golembiewski and Carl Greene, some are calling this an indie supergroup, which, if you think about it, is kind of an oxymoron. This is loosely assembled songcraft with moments of huge dynamics, and an overall feel of bored indifference, which is cool.
12:40 a.m. — Bear Lake: Layered guitar, harmony indie with carefully wrought songs and a burnished presentation in which melodies can trigger real longing. They've been compared to the Stills and Radiohead (when they were good), but that's too easy. Bear Lake songs have been placed all over TV and in films, and you could easily imagine these guys playing video games in their own tour coach in the not-too-distant future.
11:40 p.m. — Smoke aka the Black Cat Ripken: A Detroit emcee so humble he needs two names! Nah, this guy Smoke is a freestyle badass with a proclivity for sparse old-school beats. Smoke owns the room when he performs.
10:40 p.m. — The Drags: Someone called them the Clash meets the Bee Gees, which had us scratching our heads, but really it's go-for-radio indie-pop, the kind you hear way early at alternative-radio fests when cars are pulling into parking areas. It's sing-alongable, with some sexual tension for little girls.
9:40 p.m. — Bad Indians: There's a definite "soul" element to Bad Indians, but that's Motown soul, not Usher-esque soul-destroying soul. They rock too.
12:20 a.m. — Stoopz N Breeze: Character rap at its absolute, stop-you-in-your-fucking-tracks finest and funniest. The Miami Vice satire alone is gold. These guys cannot be underestimated.
11:20 p.m. — Carjack: Carjack, aka Lo-Fi Bri, might dress as ET, sample the theme from an '80s TV show, or smash a watermelon.
10:20 p.m. — The Ultrasounds: Kind of a shoegaze trio, but that's reductive because the songs are instantly recognizable of something you think you've heard somewhere. The humming synth-guitar-vocal hooks are frequently unshakeable and darkly sun-kissed — if that makes sense.
9:20 p.m. Sharky and the Habit: Funk-a-chunk meets black metal meets old-school rock 'n' roll. They might even be delusional enough to believe in unicorns, natch!
12:40 a.m. — Blue Snaggletooth: Blue Snaggletooth straddles the line between Hawkwind and Hendrix, with Monster Magnet-esque results.
11:40 p.m. — Bison Machine: Er, like Glenn Danzig fronting Sabbath. Beautiful in its absolute ugliness and gifted with some of the most monstrous riffs you'll hear all week.
10:40 p.m. — Isoceles Mountain: Some people call this stuff math rock because of the musical precision, but that's like calling the Stooges biology rock because Iggy takes his shirt off. These guys play progressive stoner, very well.
9:40 p.m. — ThreeHives: Does stoner jazz count?
12:20 a.m. — Doop & the Inside Outlaws: There are few people, in or outside of Detroit, doing the (alt) country rock with as much guts, passion and songwriting suss as Doop. Should be double-billing with Drive-By Truckers.
11:20 p.m. — Ryan Racine & Gas For Less: Premium grade honky-tonk with nods to old Bakersfield, Nashville, Gram Parsons, the Clash and Social D. The weepy pedal steel would do Lloyd Green proud.
10:20 p.m. — The Afternoon Round: Cool shit, a little Replacements-tilted electric country rock fare.
9:20 p.m. — The Actor Repents: A bit of slow-paced traditional country, as if tilling their musical history for organic matter. It's intimate, deep-rooted.
Midnight — Gorevette: The always-entertaining Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette kill it as if doing a gluey version of a Supremes-meets-Misfits thing, with saucy harmonies, ironic snarls, hipshake and, of course, the rock.
11 p.m. — Glossies: Orchestral, symphonic and very nice indeed.
10 p.m. — Vargas: Brit Invasion-inspired retro rock 'n' roll with fantastic hooks and irresistible choruses, and a singer who gets his behind it.
9 p.m. — Eric Villa: This Hamtramck fellow was once a Murder City Wreck. Now he makes Motor City rock 'n' roll with pals. Nice, eh?
It's the VIC showcase!
1:20 a.m. — Divorce Party: There's some healthy hype around Divorce Party, and it's justified. Imagine Pere Ubu attempting Zappa and cramming it into an app.
12:20 a.m. — Deastro: As long as there's some quality control goin' on, Deastro should arrive and conquer.
11:20 p.m. — Just Boyz: Part of the Lord Scrummage collective, Just Boyz will baffle and delight.
10:20 p.m. — Winter Ruby: Glorious indie rock obviously conceived in a Detroit garage by two less than morally sound individuals. Spectacular results.
9:20 p.m. — Phantasmagoria: Part of the future of Detroit pop: And it ain't all suger and gold.
12:20 a.m. — The Mythics: Featuring members of the High Strung and the Displays, this is the Mythics' debut performance, so ... who knows? If the band is as good as the bands that spawned it, dig it.
11:20 p.m. — Tare: Noise rock, with a hefty Jesus Lizard and Rapeman influence. If Steve Albini touched it, these guys listened to it.
10:20 p.m. — The Fresh Tones: Like George Clinton fronting the Chili Peppers. Weird in funny little ways that make you wonder what they've got next. Dunno if they're fresh though. They don't smell great.
9:20 p.m. — The Meltdowns: Rick Mills of the 3-D Invisibles is in the Meltdowns, so there's more than a little chance that they'll be rockin' out in a Dick Dale-meets-the Barracudas sorta (surf punk) way.
12:40 a.m. —Chapstik: The ugliest mofos in all Detroit will be piling into some monstrous riffs and heavy-ass grooves. The band always taps into something that's very working-class Detroit with cathartic results; they might be found screaming like psychotic high school principals.
11:40 p.m. — The Octopus: Over the past couple of years, the folks in the Octopus has quietly proven themselves to be some of the best in the state and region, and their sets have only gotten stronger. Their songs can cut between R&B-based shout-outs saved by unrepentant refrains to guitar humming Beatle-y drone that sounds as authentic as passion, or drenched in self-atonement. It's that good.
10:40 p.m. — Bars of Gold: With dusty Waits-y vocals, a spot of banjo and some eclectic disco punk, Bars of Gold fascinate. The sound could raise the roof off Smalls.
9:40 p.m. — The Crooks: Young, loud and not scientific. The Crooks play psyche-blues as if weaned on Hendrix, but in a very Detroit dirt sorta way.
1 a.m. — The Bell Beat: Previously called Sh! The Octopus, BB changed its name to avoid confusion with the Octopus. No matter. There's valid hushed beauty here, like how the Beautiful South did all those years ago. Inspired indie rock is enough to differentiate.
Midnight — I Love Lightning Bugs: They may or may not have the best name on Blowout's bill, but their Pixies-meets-the Cure concoction is the new classic rock.
11 p.m. — Patrick Herek: Herek prides himself on being Tori Amos' male alter-ego. We like to think that Amos is the chick-Herek.
10 p.m. — Forget: A collective that enjoys John Cage as much as playing shows with little mapped out, not even songs. It's the kind of spontaneity Blowout hinges upon, of course, but this is soaked in a kind of desperation that lapses into aural art.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
From Chick guitar heroes and apped-up hipsters, to butt fetishists and salt lick
by Travis R. Wright & Brett Callwood
1 a.m. — Butt Babies: Sometimes the music's better than the name behind it. Take this troupe. They're not out to make a mockery of the expression "as smooth as a baby's butt." Their manic indie rock hides the demure in the deranged. Dirty minds; clean diapers.
Midnight — Derby Mama: These Ypsilanti rockers plant bluesy notes in fields of American grain, making pickup truck make-out music for the blue-collar dude whose record collection outweighs his toolbox.
11 p.m. — The Wolfs: Expect trash bags packed with piss, vinegar, beer cans and bong water. You can practically smell the filth spilling out of their amps. Oh, they're a two-piece from Ypsi.
10 p.m. — Bright Echo: Holy shit, it's the early '90s! And not in a bad way. Actually, think J. Mascis fronting a less refined version of the National and you'll be close to hearing the trebly pop treats of Detroit's Bright Echo.
It's the Loco Gnosis Showcase!
1 a.m. — Macrame Tiger: Oddballs love rock 'n' roll. That guy in the library looking up Midwestern fowl-fish ecosystems? Lives for playlists. That girl at the comic shop who likes to pull spaghetti through her nose at dinner parties? Music encyclopedia. Your uncle who only eats hydroponic Bibb lettuce? Blog-hound. What do they all have in common? They totally dig Macrame Tiger.
Midnight — Woodman: Small-bar folk rock from Detroit's white version of the Wynans, subbing beards for Sunday hats and guitars for collection plates. It should be noted that Frank Woodman is a force of nature. It should also be noted that Kings of Leon are pussies and Woodman's DNA could kick the Followils' genetic code's ass up and down Joseph Campau.
11 p.m. — Crappy Future: Unions are under attack. Social Security's running out. The only jobs out there begin with hand or blow. Yeah, the future looks crappy. But this band's no bull; rather, out of the depths of student loans and Detroit City parking violation notices comes a delightful experimental synth-rock outfit. The children are the future. They are not crappy.
10 p.m. — Pewter Cub: Remember when we called these guys Pewter Club — with a "C" — that one time? No? Well we did. And it's only because we were hoping there was a place to sign up to be in this band. But alas, they are cub, like a 19-year-old version of Zach Galifianakis. Someone you wish you knew, hairy, and wild.
12:40 a.m. — Big Mess: Here's the deal, we heard that Big Mess describes its music as "athletic dad rock." The Big Mess guys make music for the drive home after a 35-and-up basketball game at the Y; for staining the deck; for caulking the tub; for cocking your mom. Really though, there's something sorta Wilco-ish going on, or Bruce Cockburn: maybe the soundtrack for cleaning up after rubbing one out in a Grand Caravan?
11:40 p.m. — The HandGrenades: These gents are gathering fans with minor key rock swoons and major-chord melody making. Primed to be played on the River. We wanna see 'em pull it off live!
10:40 p.m. — The Displays: The truth is that, for the last few years, the Displays have literally grown up in front of Detroit's bar-going public, from boys to men, they've cut chops without cutting corners. Like a $100 an hour dominatrix, they know the ropes. They got the riffs and snarl to prove that Detroit garage rock ain't dead. There's just other shit going on now too.
9:40 p.m. — Atacama: Class is in session, punk. Did you know that the Atacama Desert is a virtually rainless plateau in South America? Ken Jennings did. But that nerd's ignorant to the fact that when you're wandering the Atacama, you're desperate for a beer and a band. A set from these guys will leave you parched.
1 a.m. — The Detroit Cobras: Hey, sailor, those tight fittin' jeans do your boner no good at a Cobras show. Bounce your body and tuck your bulge, son, 'cause here they are, the world's greatest cover band. Nagy's got enough swagger and sex appeal to make your dead granny blush. You do know what the "Cha Cha Twist" is, right?
Midnight — The Parting Gifts: Greg Cartwright is a bad mutha. Bands sound better if he's taking a piss in the bar next door, so you can only imagine what happens when dude picks up a guitar and hollers out song. Someone thinks they sound like Big Star, but fronted by Ronnie Spector. Someone might be on to something.
11 p.m. — The Jay Vons: This New York outfit is in with Brooklyn funk and soul torchbearers Dap Tone. Recently, they've opened for Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. If you thought Mayer Hawthorne was where it was at, this should be your show not to miss. You know, because they sing on key and actually play instruments. Just sayin'.
10 p.m. — Conspiracy of Owls: You'd almost do better to just look up the music video for "Ancient Robots" than read the rest of this sentence. Oh, but you read, didn't you? The band's big on talent, and irony. Don't let the sweatbands and short shorts fool you, they take this shit sorta seriously. Give a hoot.
12:20 a.m. — Electric Fire Babies: The semi-salacious disco rock joy from this female-fronted trio says, "Forget fashion, just dance." In fact, forget dancing, just convulse. But, seriously, try staring someone dead in the eye while convulsing. Let it linger.
11:20 p.m. — Old Empire: Save your posturing for something else, there's fun to be had at Blowout. Remember fun? Try doo-wopin', surf rockin' outfit Old Empire, who, with two female singers now, plus Dave Knepp on the skins, might sound like a fucked up version of the Grease soundtrack.
10:20 p.m. — Amy Gore & the Squires: Whether it be with the Gore Gore Girls or Gorevette, it seems that the lovely Amy Gore always manages to pull something awesome out of her Gretsch for Blowout. This year, she's playing a set with Jackson Smith, Joe Leone and Leann Banks.
9:20 p.m. — Bill Bondsmen: Ever just wanna break something? This is real pencil-cracking music right here, boy-o. Here's what'll happen: You show up and these recent MT cover stars will scream at you until you fucking listen and learn. They're not messing around. They will snap your fucking No. 2 right in half!
12:20 a.m. — The Ruggs: If you're into the Velvet Underground but lack the energy to give a shit about much, you might dig these wigged and frocked kids who, obviously, also lack the energy to give a shit. Maybe they'll show up in prom gowns? Moobs or GTFO!
11:20 p.m. — Snake Oil Slick: This punk 'n' roll is served up by some of the city's truest old-school punk 'n' rollers. Shit, even if you're 18, you're going to feel like these bastards the day after their set.
10:20 p.m. — Vamonos: Based solely on their Facebook pics, these guys sound like a caveman throwing rocks at a disembowelled wooly mammoth's dick. But someone who actually heard them called it "Roseville noisy joy." Same difference?
9:20 p.m. — Whigville: Straight outta mutha crunkin' Grand Blanc comes Whigville! Seriously, they have the whitest name on the Blowout bill. For those who were wondering, this is what happened to all that semen Jerry Cantrell donated in 1990s to pay the bills after Layne Staley swapped heroin for life. Harsh? That's how Whigville like it, bro.
12:20 a.m. — The Great Tribulation: Straight up, now, tell me, who's this fucking spectacular Americana quartet with pedal steel flourishes and female vocal nourishment? Their songs amaze!
11:20 p.m. — Legendary Creatures: Already having a very winning winter, the female-fronted, alt-roots brilliance of Legendary Creatures is one of Blowout's most anticipated shows. They might not get your blood pressure rising, but they'll make you contemplate love and humanity, for what that's worth. Also, Nathan Burgundy doesn't associate with mediocre music. And his name is Nathan Burgundy. And there's a gnome on the cover of LC's EP.
10:20 p.m. — The Ashleys: Oh, the Ashleys? You don't know? Duderino, this noisy-as-fuck, tin-lidded two-piece has been working crowds into sweat frenzies for a year. Why stop now? Free pot, that's why. But God knows good bud costs. And so do good tunes.
9:20 p.m. — Golden: For a time, they were Captain Jerry & the Mermaids. We love most anything aquatic-themed, but we love precious metals even more. Name yourself Golden and you'd better be good. Thankfully, this chamber folk bunch is actually kinda great. Also, if you don't Phreddy, get out more — for your health.
12:40 a.m. — FUR: Warning Grandiose Music Critic Claim Ahead: Call it what you want. Fur is kind of a mashup of Low-era Bowie, Joy Division, and just a touch of vampish Brits Muse. Kinda badass, really. These aren't daylight tunes. Rather they go good with black leather and daddy issues.
11:40 p.m. — Mean Mother: It takes balls to call yourself classic rock in 2011. Takes an even bigger happy-sack to have your record cover depict an American Eagle flying with a Gibson SG. So, yeah, this is totally unironic Southern rock. Someone said, "Nugent jamming with the Black Label Society." Not quite. But not bad for Grand Rapids?
10:40 p.m. — Robin Parrent: This Parrent bloke makes it his business to fuck with your head. Don't take it personally. Just when you get into a tune, it ends. Move on. Don't live in the past. When you think he's going into a chorus, he throws feedback at you. Just go with it.
9:40 p.m. — Galactic Vacationer: This dude could totally crank out Korean torture flick soundtracks. That's a compliment. Seriously though, we didn't know Mount Clemens kids were this awesomely weird. Blip, fuzz, video game noise on a mushroom trip teetering paranoia pop. Yes, paranoia pop.
1 a.m. — Neon Escape: Have you ever been trapped inside the confines of a mid-'90s Dodge Neon? Yeah, me too. Sucked right? But if you had some saccharine, overarching chorus-friendly pop rock to sing along to, to get lost in, maybe you could find a way out. Anyway, these dudes want to go stadium huge.
Midnight — JTX: Apparently, JTX, a self-proclaimed disco metal dude (wha?), worked as a PA for Marilyn Manson, at least until he was fired by Sharon Osbourne for trashing a dressing room during the OzzFest. Now he records pop ditties like "I'm Going to Party Like a Rock Star" and sings about hardcore shit, like sucking helium and making mac and cheese. It seems he learned nothing (not a thing!) from Ozzy.
11 p.m. — Odayin: Radio riff-rockers Odayin put down some brutal prog hooks: In "The Last Fight of Chaos" they sing about "cataclysmic scenes, tearing at the seams, whatever does it mean?" We were pumping our fists, bro, wondering the same shit.
10 p.m. — Blockhead: No, not the famous hip-hop producer. Quit asking. Detroit's Blockhead is the female fronted Devo tribute band, featuring members of Crud and Stun Gun. Admit it, you're intrigued. At the very least, they promise smiles and fishnets and that Crud hottie.
It's the Human Eye Showcase!
12:40 p.m. — Terrible Twos: Remember the song "Pipe Bomb" from '08. Yeah, me too. Terrifyingly brilliant Detroit punk for the new millennium. If your computer could kick your ass, physically, this would be the sound of the wreckage. These synth-driven crazed punkers rarely take a track beyond the two-minute mark, because who has that kind of time?
11:40 p.m. — Liquor Store: This band is from New York, obviously. What are they doing playing Blowout? If they were local, they'd be called Lickher Stove or some shit. Anyway, if Timmy Vulgar digs 'em, we dig 'em. Tim-MAY!
10:40 p.m. — The Rads: Grosse Pointe's finest proponents of zero-production gee-rage rock not only have a killer moniker, but they're dropping a record this summer. A band with a name will get you a girl. A band with a name that plays will get you in her backseat. A band with a name and a record? Dudes, hold on.
9:40 p.m. — DJ Tim Vulgar: You want us to tell you about Human Eye frontman (and, ahem, Kresge Fellow) Timmy Vulgar? All we can let you know is that you're in for something original, weird, cool and eclectic. Enough adjectives. Timmy's shit is and always will only be Timmy's shit.
It's the VIC Showcase!
1:20 a.m. — Lord Scrummage: It's OK to dance. It's OK to just stand there and wonder if it's OK to dance too. The Lord Scrummage guys pride themselves on the fact they make weird dance music. C'mon, let's get awkward.
12:20 a.m. — Bird Names: Virginia's Bird Names make music not for the faint of heart, but for those more curious what their heart would look like if they could hold it in their palm and sing into it.
11:20 p.m. — Salt Lick: The sex-obsessed trio Salt Lick puts down something sorta funky. Imagine if Barry White had just sung exactly what was on his mind rather than pussyfooting around. Says Salt Lick of, er, themselves: "They lube up their sonic shlongs and violate your ear pussies." So, if you're into that ...
10:20 p.m. — Aphasiacs: Submit to the more surreal realms of synthesisers and beat sequencers. Let the digi-waves flow over you, like a bed sheet on the clothesline in the breeze. A dirty bed sheet, made from 0101011000110 patterns.
9:20 p.m. — Bad User Experience: Exactly what kind of bad user experience is this band alluding to? Flesh lights? French press coffee? Gosh, drugs? Maybe the Facebook profile? We're thankful they don't sound like help desk hold music.
12:40 a.m. — Rogue Satellites: If we said that some one of the best sets of the weekend would come courtesy of Jaye and Regan at Skipper's, would you trust us? The Rogues just keep getting better.
11:40 p.m. — Perennials: Sitting somewhere between T-Rex and Suede, Perennials are stunning in a glam-meets-gunk sort of way. And if none of those bands resonate with you, and if you think glam is an STD, why are you so interested in Blowout? Glam out with your wristband out, love.
10:40 p.m. — The Mantons: Hazel Park's favorite indie roots band, the Mantons, deliver contemporary tunes with that old-timey feel. Great stuff.
9:40 p.m. — The Grateful Dads: With Metro Times scribe and no stranger to Blowout Chris Handyside on deck with an armful of covers and this name, how can the Grateful Dads fail? Seriously, if they do "Shakedown Street" ...
1 a.m. — The Satin Peaches: Rock 'n' roll the way it's supposed to be: hairy, sexy and thrilling. The Satin Peaches have it all. If you're looking to mainline the music into you, this is a good place to start, or end.
Midnight — Destroy This Place: Ryan Allen from Thunderbirds Are Now! has a new band. No songs online yet, but Allen's track record is stellar. The band name sounds a lot like that one blog, which is identical to that one TAN! song. Ah, the cyclical nature of things.
11 p.m. — Wolfbait: There's not a whole lot you really need to know about this band — aside from the fact they're name is fucking Wolfbait, they cut their sleeves, and they rock power metal tracks with names such as "Cannabis Haze" and "Lords of the Universe."
10 p.m. — The Cold Wave: Fronted by Allan James — you gotta hear this guy sing! — the Cold Wave brings a set of atmospheric and tight indie rock. A less frenetic Great Fiction with more linear poetry.
12:40 a.m. — Gun Lake: If there were a current band whose sound summed up what it is to bike around Ann Arbor in mid-October, you'd want to pull the trigger on Gun Lake. Somber folk pop here, honest and deep without being turgid in that cheese dick (Citizen Cope?) sorta way.
11:40 p.m. — Amateur Anthropologist: Love the name of these mid-fi Dearborn garageists. They might've missed the Detroit circa 2000 boat, but they wear it well.
10:40 p.m. — Jeremy Porter & the Tucos: You might recall Porter from bands past, such as Fidrych or the underrated Off Ramps. He's back with a new rootsy blues-rock outfit, the Tucos, producing toe-tappers topped with welcome guitar chops. A little more rock 'n' roll than honky tonk. Unpretentious, digable.
9:40 p.m. — Roofbeam Rye: Opening up the evening is this fresh batch of uncompromising indie from some peeps who are passionate about the shit. And since when is that so much to ask?
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