City Slang: Don Was Talks Concert of Colors

Jun 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

As announced in this week’s Metro Times, the bill for this year’s Concert of Colors is out, and as ever, it covers the gamut of local music across the genres and touring world music artists. The event, taking place between Thursday, July 14 and Sunday, July 17, has been extended this year to feature acts performing on four Midtown stages. ‘60s Grande Ballroom artist Gary Grimshaw has designed a poster (below), and he will be at the Concert of Colors selling and signing artwork alongside fellow artists Carl Lundgren and Leni Sinclair, among others.

As for the music, Bettye Lavette and Don Was are headlining, with Was bringing his annual Detroit All-Star Revue. Was told City Slang that picking the performers for his jam is not at all easy. “Every January, Ismael Ahmed (founder and mastermind of the Concert of Colors) and I put together a dream list for the Revue, and then we whittle it down according to our ideal of a broad based, Ed Sullivan-esque musical variety hour,” Was said. “The magic that holds the show together is that there is this mystical Collective Detroit Consciousness that permeates everything that comes out of this town. Stylistically, there is a huge jump from Wendell Harrison to Billy Brandt & Sarana Verlin but, over the years, we've found that they flow together seamlessly. I can't put my finger on why. Y'know, Wendell and Sarana have lived really different lives but they both got their weather information from watching Sonny Eliot, which is to say that there is a sense of community here that transcends diversity - there's something unique about this city that binds folks together unlike any other place in the world. The All Star Revue is really an annual celebration of that phenomenon.”

In addition to Wendell Harrison and Billy Brandt & Sarana Verlin, this year’s Detroit All-Star Revue features Martha Reeves, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Cobras, Melvin Davis & the United Sounds, former Iggy Pop and Patti Smith guitarist Ivan Kral, Jim McCarty, the Muggs, Black Irish and Carolyn Striho. With Ryder and McCarty both on the bill, there may be a slight possibility of a minor Detroit Wheels reunion. We’ll have to wait and see. Was is certainly looking forward to getting up on stage with everyone. “I really look forward to playing bass with the cats in our shit hot House Band: Luis Resto on keyboards, Brian Roscoe White on the guitar and Terry Thunder on the drums,” Was said. “We're all old friends - Luis was still in high school when he played on the first Was (Not Was) single 31 years ago. I produced an album for Roscoe's band, the Buzztones, in 1983. It means a whole lot to me to be able to get together and make music with these guys every July. The Detroit All Star Revue is a warm, emotional gathering of the tribe. It's my favorite night of the year.”

Outside of Was’ Revue and Lavette, the Concert of Colors bill also includes garage folkie Audra Kubat, Detroit and Cleveland poetry collaborative the Doll Hairs, jazz multi-instrumentalist Faruq Z. Bey, East Lansing-based Arabic musician Wisaal and many, many more.

The full line up, as well as any other information you might need, can be found here. For those that have never been to the Concert of Colors, really make an effort this year and have a good wander around. Each year, it serves as a reminder that there is a lot more music out there than that which we have the slightest clue about. Who knows what you might end up enjoying?

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