Beats and meat

Michael Doyle and Bethany Shorb look a bit tired, understandable given that they've just returned from a New York weekend hopping from ballets in Brooklyn to museums in Manhattan followed by parties, afterparties and after-afterparties in each borough. They saw daylight only briefly, they say, as they walked at murky sunrise across the Williamsburg Bridge.

But the pair — who call their Detroit-based performance project Dethlab — should not be mistaken for mere rave- or rock-culture vampires. They say they'd rather be known as bloodthirsty carnivores — and prove as much by each ordering titanic identical half-pound burgers topped with bacon and blue cheese. They look resplendent, if pale, dressed in layers of bruise-colored clothing, biting into juicy meat and ketchup-soaked fries, as they sit against the dark sapphire upholstery in the lounge of Royal Oak's Redcoat Tavern.

Dethlab is all about sonic and visual art. It has formal roots in design and sculpture — Doyle is an industrial graphic designer and Shorb is a sculptor with an MFA from Cranbrook — but the vibe created is pure pop culture mayhem and the duo's academic seams are hardly visible.

"We think of ourselves as artist-curators ..." Doyle begins "... who make no apologies about eating meat," Shorb finishes. "Excuse us while we devour this," Doyle says.

Dethlab hosted a string of successful club nights called Sex & Sedition at the now-shuttered Oslo. And last summer they launched Machines That Feel, a multimedia party-exhibit which included experimental indie bands, DJs and films at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID). The second part of the expected-annual series takes place this Saturday at the same location.

The night will feature Chicago-based Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, whose raw, homemade synth-pop has drawn comparisons to the Postal Service; Spectral Mornings, a trio from Grand Rapids that combines elements of shoegaze rock with ambient electronics; and Thirty (Over) Thousand, another indie-tronica group from Grand Rapids.

Joining Dethlab at the DJ mixer is special guest Cowboy Mark, whom Doyle describes as "one of New York's best DJs ... and a total foodie."

Why is that not surprising? Pass the Dijon mustard and fire up the amps.


Machines that Feel is Saturday, April 14, at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd., Detroit; 313-899-CAID.

Walter Wasacz is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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