Love thy music

Like any good flack, Stephen Cramer enjoys what he’s doing. An organizer by proxy and a fan by definition, this pasty-white lover of indie rock has just completed his fourth foray into the world of music promotion.

"Since I am not really a musician myself, this is one of the only ways I can put my two cents in," he says of the three-day concert called Summersmash.

"I first got the idea after I attended a Kindercore Records showcase in Athens, Ga., back in 1998. It was probably one of the best times I had ever had in my life."

A year later, Detroit’s Summersmash was at full throttle.

Summersmash has attained a profit rating that only a terminally broke indie rocker could love, but the ego-free/kinder-gentler/DIY ethos that comes from a promoter like Cramer remains.

Past Summersmashes have proudly welcomed then-unknown bands such as Pas/Cal, the Sights, Slumber Party and the now-defunct Moods for Moderns — all whom have achieved some commercial success over the past couple years. And in a city like Detroit, where the survival of the musically fittest is sometimes more an exercise in scene stamina than a true gauge of genuine talent, Cramer’s attention to detail is what makes the difference.

For example, Cramer says, "It is important to make this show all-ages. We don’t want to be exclusive."

What a concept.

For Cramer and fellow Summersmash organizers — Monday Busque (Indie Kids of the Damned dance parties), Chris Tusciuk (former music director of Ann Arbor’s WCBN-FM) and freelance writer and music wonk Mike DaRanco — putting together a good show is essential.

"I am excited to see the Elevations," says Cramer of this year’s schedule. "I hear it’s quite a show."

Like a proud pop, Cramer goes on to mention all of his performing progeny, including Saturday Looks Good to Me, Thunderbirds are Now!, Midwest Product, the Singles and many more.

And in case you don’t get your fill of pomp and melody a la the stage shows, each evening will be closed by a dance party, courtesy of local DJs.

At 29, Cramer has done his fair share of music-watching. He’s inspired because "it’s rare that a concert comes along that I get super-excited about."

But Summersmash takes place for one reason: his basic love of independent music. Cramer has never made a dime from Summersmash. All proceeds from previous shows have gone directly to the bands or to charity.

In years past, Summersmash has funded the detroit contemporary gallery’s "Got Art?" program and the Chris Kempa Memorial Scholarship Fund. This year’s beneficiary is the Michigan Lupus Foundation.

"It's good, clean fun," kids Cramer.

Good? You’d be hard-pressed to get a finer cross-section of local performers and DJs. Clean? C’mon, indie kids are a six-pack away from straight edgers (and a lot less annoying). Fun? If you can’t have fun at a live-music fest/dance party/benevolent fundraiser, where can you have fun?

His parting words: "You are coming, right?"

Summersmash lineups are:

Thursday, Aug. 21: The Recital, Like Tigers, The Dusk, A Thousand Times Yes, Thunderbirds are Now!, Midwest Product and DJ Gold Soundz.

Friday, Aug. 22: Great Iron Highway, the Riots, New Grenada, the Trembling, Eric Weir & Tiny Steps, The Elevations and DJ Soulboy Jon.

Saturday, Aug. 23: The Rapatz, Kalkaska, Tenley, Kiddo, the Singles, Saturday Looks Good to Me and DJs Jeremy and Jason of the BANG!.


See Summersmash at the Detroit Art Space (101 E. Baltimore, Detroit). Call 313-664-0445 or visit for more information.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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