'Beat It'

D'Anne: Well, we went to the MOCAD's "Midsummer Nights in Motown" show, but obviously we're now going to have to turn this column into a Michael Jackson tribute.

Laura: I don't think people are looking to us to pay tribute to the King of Pop. Let them grieve the old-fashioned way, by digging out their Bad cassettes and listening to "Man in the Mirror" again and again as they reflect on their own mortality. Just like I did.

D'Anne: That song is for men, Laura. It has "man" right in the title! My grieving song of choice was "Dirty Diana," because it speaks right to me. Or at least to someone with a name vaguely related to mine. 

Laura: Everyone grieves in his or her own way.

D'Anne: In any case, I think it was the spirit of Michael Jackson that brought out so many people to the MOCAD Friday night. 

Laura: Probably, because when I think "Michael Jackson," I do think "musical robot."

D'Anne: And I'm sure the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots probably built their music-making machines in his image.

Laura: Oh, it's League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots? I thought it was the Musical Robot Liberation Front. That's why I was concerned the FBI might be there and why I insisted we have a clear exit strategy in case things got out of hand.

D'Anne: No, you're thinking of the Earth Liberation Front. Is that why you were wearing that face mask?

Laura: Oh, no. That was just a Michael Jackson tribute.

D'Anne: You worry me. The robots were pretty cool, though. Especially before the show started, when folks could go up to them and make them play just by waving their hands around and stuff.

Laura: I was having trouble figuring out if that was technology or magic.

D'Anne: Oh, it was definitely magic. Which basically makes beat-boxer Adam Matta a wizard.

Laura: For serious. When he started with his solo beat-box freestyling, I was like, "Robots who?" He could have done the whole show by himself and I would have been happy. But it was pretty amazing to see him literally have an interactive jam session with a non-human backup band.

D'Anne: Well, it wasn't completely non-human. There was the dude in capri pants working the MacBook. Which I'm sure is 100 percent what Steve Jobs had in mind when he started Apple. The capri pants, I mean.

Laura: The robots reminded me of Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" video, but without the creepy automatonic mannequin legs.

D'Anne: Although the robots didn't look like humans. They were music machines but more Short Circuit, less Chuck E. Cheese Band. They were sculptures that made funky sounds.

Laura: But Adam Matta brought it all together. He went beyond beat-boxing. It was as if Girl Talk's music lived inside him. At one point, he even busted out the fucking Tom Tom Club!

D'Anne: There were a lot of samples of things I thought I recognized. Like at one point, I could've sworn he worked in DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Summertime."

Laura: That would certainly have been appropriate. It was really hot in there. 

D'Anne: The place was packed. Every available seat was taken and there were about as many people standing as sitting.

Laura: Then everybody moved into the next room to see Slavic Soul Party. A room that started out void of chairs.

D'Anne: But the room was not chairless for long.

Laura: I was really surprised when people started dragging their chairs into the next room, as if being offered a chair in one room entitled them to use it anywhere they'd like in the museum at any time. 

D'Anne: Well, there were some elder folks there.

Laura: Don't stand up for old people. Besides, the name Slavic Soul Party doesn't really inspire a strong desire to sit.

D'Anne: But there were a lot of people dancing. 

Laura: I bet there would have been even more people dancing if the Ass Plant Squad hadn't marched in with their fucking chairs.

D'Anne: But standing is hard. The human body wasn't designed for it.

Laura: Standing or sitting, people sure had a hard time resisting Slavic Soul Party's music.

D'Anne: My favorite was the clarinet player. His solo was amazing

Laura: Later he switched to sax.

D'Anne: He did. It looked like the oldest sax in the world! Like he just took it right off the wall of a T.G.I. Friday's.

Laura: Totally. My favorite was the third song they played. I'm pretty sure the guy said it was called "Sanjay Gupta."

D'Anne: I don't think that's what he said. But it was kind of hard to hear.

Laura: You're right. Maybe it was called "Sanjaya Malakar."

D'Anne: Yes, because of how completely Slavic that would be.

Laura: Whatever. I did hear him say quite clearly, "We think Detroit is a really cool town and we like what we see going on here."

D'Anne: Well, he's right. 

Laura: It was really cool to see a show at MOCAD. I remember when emblazoned on the side of the building used to be "Everything is going to be alright." Every time I drove by, it made me feel hopeful and optimistic about Detroit.

D'Anne: But then it changed. 

Laura: Yes, I looked up one day to see my hopeful message and instead was greeted with, "Nothing will be alright."

D'Anne: It was probably a message to you, personally.

Laura: It sure felt like it.

D'Anne: Well, the purpose of art isn't just to make people happy. Sometimes its purpose is to destroy the soul a little bit.

Laura: Maybe that's what Nickelback fans tell themselves to justify their lives. But "Midsummer Nights in Midtown" at least gave people a chance to step out of their mainstream comfort zones and experience some really awesome stuff. 

D'Anne: Like robot drummers, amazing beat-boxers … and kilt-wearing tuba players!

Laura: Which is not something you'd see at a Nickelback show. But I'll bet all of those things were slated for Michael Jackson's upcoming shows.

D'Anne: Too bad he's dead. I'll guess we're now going to have to wait to see what Britney Spears pulls together.

D'Anne and Laura Witkowski are music critics for the Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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