A local 10-band bill to bring the house down 

Bands to do battle in the spirit of competition, but without winners

Jeff Howitt says he has a cleaver in his hand. OK, so he's referring to his hollow-body Gretch guitar, but still. "If you wanna know what this cleaver is about, come talk to me," Howitt says, "I want to sonically worry you."

The chieftain of the Loco Gnosis multimedia collective (and Duende! singer) has a new concert planned, this one's set to recall the heyday of Chicago blues, specifically Muddy Waters and his band the Headhunters. See, Waters and band would jump on stage for impromptu jams and "behead" various house bands on Chi-town's south side. Howitt's latest theme night will give Detroit bands a chance to headhunt each other. While Howitt says he'd be more than ready to headhunt a few other rock bands, he decided to mix all genres (from rock, funk, psychedelia and hip hop) and create a show about healthy competitiveness — a "kick-out-the-jams" style night, like emcee battles. 

Here's how it'll work: Each of the 10 bands will perform two 15-minute sets each, but not back-to-back. Because there are two stages, bands will alternate, one starts when another ends. Though there's no voted-on winner, it's all about the spirit of competition. 

Brent ("Blaksmith") Smith of rap trio Passalacqua says competitiveness, or "alpha-doggery" is part of any music community. He and emcee partner Mister (Bryan Lackner) might have the edge because, as Lackner says, "showing your ego is celebrated in hip hop. The only reason people say we're as good as we are live is because of all the other bands we've seen in this city. It became us constantly asking: What more can we do?"

J.R. (of funk-punk quartet Ferndale Acid Scene) says there's mutual respect between most of these bands — but cautions that such attitudes can "move the scene backward. The 'my band is better than your band' cliché is based on some preconceived negative opinion used as a weapon."

Like a cleaver, or a Gretch? —Jeff Milo


Starts at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, at the Park Bar, 2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933. Bars of Gold vs. Duende! vs. Electric Lions vs. Ferndale Acid Scene vs. the High Strung vs. Joey & the Traitors vs. Lizerrd vs. Passalacqua vs. Phantom Cats vs. the Ruiners; $7.

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