Local rock history should one day rank Human Eye frontman Tim Vulgar among the most consequential Detroit musicians of his generation. As leader of a hometown band that successfully combines the aural with the visual, Vulgar's heightened punk sensibilities and outsider art make his post-rock anthems exciting to witness firsthand not to mention part of a movement that feels much more important than the see-and-be-seen. They've got a Pere Ubu musicality and the bawdiness of a young James Chance. Update: Former Easy Action low-ender and Peoples Records owner Brad Hales has been tapped as Human Eye's new bass player. This event is a showcase for local musician Steve Nawara's new label, Beehive. At Bohemian National Home, 3009 Tillman St., Detroit; 313-737-6606. Cuckold, Troy Gregory & the Stepsisters and All Seeing Eyes (former Rocket 455) to open.
Even though we are forced to exist in a universe where knuckleheads like Dane Cook are considered funny and Mitch Hedberg is dead, Night & Day believes that comedy is one of the last remaining outlets for uncensored social commentary, and that it should be preserved at all costs. That's why we dig comedian Lowell Sanders, whose urban take on everyday drudgery actually is funny and at the very least attempts to nudge the status quo. At Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle, 269 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-542-9900.
'Folks Like Us' 20th Anniversary Party with Matt Watroba
Unlike your average rock 'n' roll show, live folk music is defined by its celebration of standards. Sure, the performers are usually singer-songwriters in their own right. But by drawing on the folk music canon songs a lot of people know, and are often happy to sing along with folk performers make their audiences a part of the act. And who doesn't like being with the band? Most of us know of Matt Watroba through "Folks Like Us," his Saturday afternoon program on WDET. But Watroba's a folk singer-songwriter too, and, in the proud tradition of the genre, his live performances blend music with storytelling. For this 20th anniversary celebration of the "Folks Like Us" program, Watroba is joined by multi-instrumentalist David Mosher, bassist Bud Michael and vocalist Katie Geddes; special guests are promised too. The Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-763-8587.
Scott Burnstein: Motor City Mafia
Posers, studio thugs and wangstas, please step aside. Local journalist and author Scott Burnstein's got the real thing. Burnstein's new book Motor City Mafia (Arcadia) chronicles Detroit's history of organized crime in the past and present century. Dating back to the infamous Purple Gang whose members included two of Burnstein's relatives and leading up to the Motor City's current mob presence, which he says consists of about 12 family members. "They're very businesslike and violence is only a last resort," Burnstein says, explaining why there's no John Gotti or Tony Soprano equivalent in the D. A former law student, the author also touches on the recently revisited murder of union boss Jimmy Hoffa, whose body was sought by the FBI in Milford this summer. Burnstein says the hunt was just protocol, since Hoffa's killers were "within a 20-minute drive of three incinerators." Now that's gangsta. Catch Burnstein's 5:30 p.m. book signing at Barnes & Noble, 3120 Fairlane Dr., Allen Park; 313-271-0688.
There's a something manic yet cool when Bill Heid sits at the organ, like he's attempting to transport himself to someplace else. So it seems fitting that he's also been a world-class wanderer who made the Guinness Book of World Records for 400,000 documented miles of traveling by thumb. Pittsburgh-bred Heid has backed bluesmen from Jimmy Witherspoon to Son Seals, and he decamped in Detroit for 20 years, working with Johnny Bassett et al. Now based in Maryland, he has a string of well-received CD releases to his name, and is hailed for keeping alive the memories of great Hammond B-3 grinders Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson and Larry Young. For his first Detroit gig in five years, he's joined by old friends guitarist Perry Hughes and drummer George Davidson. Cliff Bells, 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543.
Who knew that being mercilessly unfunny was a viable form of entertainment? Neil Hamburger did. He's that guy: Made semi-famous in subcircles of cult followings the world across, Hamburger whose greasy comb-over gives even Zero Mostel a run for his money is a master of the awkward. His shtick is one part blue humor and one part antagonism, and it's surprisingly delightful. With the help of Chicago's Drag City Records, Hamburger has gigged at rock venues for more than a decade now, gaining a piecemeal following of nerdy indie rockers, not to mention his errant appearances on Internet variety shows. At the Masonic Temple Theatre, 500 Temple St., Detroit; 313-832-2232.
The much-lauded 2006 release from twee darlings the Decemberists, Crane Wife, is based on the same piece of folklore as Detroit's PuppetART Theatre's latest production. The Crane Maiden uses marionettes to retell an ancient Japanese folktale about a young man who saves the life of a wounded crane. When the crane transforms into a beautiful woman, the young man falls in love with her, and she gives him a fabric woven from crane feathers. For this play, PuppetART employs live actors dressed in traditional Japanese costumes and masks who, as personifications of Good and Evil, literally manipulate the main characters. At the Detroit PuppetART Theatre, 25 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit. Call 313-961-7777 or visit puppetart.org for more information.
If aggression has a theme song, Napalm Death wrote it. Originators of the grindcore (they coined the term) music movement, these Brits to the dismay of parents worldwide and to the delight of longhair punks everywhere are responsible for the evolution of thrash metal, demonic vocals and jet engine-caliber rhythm sections. The band has endured revolving-door lineup changes over the years, but one thing's for sure: The mind-numbing speed and the so-far-left it's-off-the-page politics make these guys significant, not to mention important to the modern yawn. Its 2006 release, Smear Campaign, features a guest appearance from Anneke van Giersbergen, vocalist for the Dutch rock band the Gathering. This is guilt-free way to blow 15 bucks. At the I-Rock, 16350 Harper Ave., Detroit; 313-881-7625.
A recent interview with author Brian Evenson found him extolling personal truths about the science of writing, "Like religion, language does violence to the immanent world by forcing objects of that world to be understood in terms of generalities." Because of his philosophical views, Evenson, who is Director of Literary Arts Program at Brown University, was asked by the Cranbrook Art Academy to be guest editor of Listen Up, their literary arts journal. This week, the O. Henry Prize-winning scribe will travel to the art academy for a special reading from his new novel, The Open Curtain, a psychological thriller about family secrets and the antiquated Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice. Cranbrook Academy of Art, 39221 N. Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills; 248-645-3300.
Dysfunctional Holiday Revue
The Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue, along with the Groundlings and the relative young blood of Upright Citizens Brigade, is famous as late night television's favorite farm system. For nearly half a century, cast members and casual readers alike haven't been able to read a blurb about the place without seeing names like Belushi, Radner and Murray (John, Gilda and Bill, respectively, and all alumni). Well, the current cast ain't nothin' to sneeze at, and they count a couple of Michiganders and the guy who scored Strangers With Candy among their crew. The "Detroit" cast's current show, actually the 28th version of the holiday revue, promises improvised Christmas carols and reunions with beloved holiday film characters. Now if they could just work in some more "Novi" puns. At 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-348-4448. Ends Dec. 31.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]