Beyond the Kid's Zone

You can find fun about any night at Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue. But for three days in mid-September, at least for the past two years, that intersection has turned into a street fair, complete with local music, local beer, and local arts and crafts. The Wonder Twins were on hand for the second annual DIY Street Fair in search of matching macramé owl vests and loud, loud sounds. Pics on Pages 54-55.

DIY may stand for "Do It Yourself," but I'm really glad the art at the DIY Street Fair was handled by other folks and that all I had to do was show up. I like to leave things like "work" and anything involving felt and hot glue guns to professionals.

Laura: That's because you are lazy. And not particularly crafty. Mad props to the organizers — a Kid's Zone, a local-brew-filled beer tent, 50 bands and more than 90 vendors … it was really fun.

D'Anne: I like that the Kid's Zone included a SWAT team vehicle that kids could crawl around in. Because children should familiarize themselves with what may one night show up at their front door.

Laura: Agreed. Also, leaving the DIY-ing to the professionals was best, based on our personal artistic talents — remember when we were little and you screwed up our He-Man Shrinky Dinks?

D'Anne: I did not. They were screwed up to begin with. We probably have tumors in our brains from the toxic gases they emitted as they baked. Thanks a lot, '80s!

Laura: The DIY art opportunities at the fair were much better than Shrinky Dinks anyway. There was a "decorate your own cupcake" booth. You could silkscreen your own DIY Street Fair T-shirt. And at the Detroit Comics booth, kids could make their own bookmarks.

D'Anne: Yes. Between the DIY Street Fair on the east side of Nine Mile, and the Funky Ferndale Art Fair on the west, there were a lot of arts and crafts to be had.

Laura: One of my favorites was the knitted winter hat that had a knitted beard attached! Sometimes guys grow out their beards to stay warm in the winter. Now ladies can have the same experience.

D'Anne: I wish I had seen that. I would have bought it for you. 

Laura: Well, there's always Christmas.

D'Anne: The Hard Lessons should totally incorporate the beard-hats into their merchandise line. 

Laura: Agreed. Between Augie [Visocchi] and some of the dudes from Lucero, there was a lot of beard action going on in Ferndale on Friday night.

D'Anne: The Hard Lessons played a great set, by the way. And they had lots of fans there. I saw people on both sides of me singing along.

Laura: I was excited to finally get a chance to see them. I've only ever been able to catch a live song here and there before.

D'Anne: Same here. They are really incredible performers.

Laura: Augie is one of the few players who has definitely earned the right to do the "windmill" guitar move.

D'Anne: He's pretty awesome. The interplay between Augie and Koko Louise is so genuine and fun to watch. Can I say "adorable"? Or will you yell at me?

Laura: You can say adorable. But we do have to talk about Augie's crazy helium voice.

D'Anne: I'm assuming he did that through some kind of effects pedal. But I'm not going to lie. I would love it if that were his real voice.

Laura: He sounded exactly like Cyndi Lauper but without the Queens, N.Y., accent.

D'Anne: I think it really heightened his message. Thanking the crowd for showing up, saying how excited he was to be playing in Michigan again. And how he'd been worried that nobody in Detroit cared about them anymore.

Laura: And then he got out the Michigan flag and started waving it around.

D'Anne: Yes. Because in Michigan, the feeling is forever.

Laura: Augie said that the Hard Lessons had played with Lucero at South by Southwest and he'd invited them to come up from Memphis to play DIY.

D'Anne: I've never seen Lucero before, either. Though I do have one of their songs on my iTunes and am not quite sure where it originated.

Laura: I saw them this past April at the Magic Stick with Titus Andronicus. 

D'Anne: That's because your girlfriend is in love with them.

Laura: Correct. After seeing the kind of crowd they attracted at the Magic Stick, I was a little nervous about how things would go at a free, family-friendly festival.

D'Anne: Thankfully, we didn't see any big dudes crowd-surfing into strollers.

Laura: We did, however, see plenty of the Lucero faithful. They wasted no time in ripping their shirts off and forming a pit. Slamming into each other and trying to crowd-surf even to the slow songs.

D'Anne: Ben Nichols [guitarist, singer] said more than once, "Feet stay on the ground or the cops shut us down." I think it freaked some folks out. Especially since we're not talking about some kind of thrash metal punk band. Lucero is more whiskey-soaked country music with a touch of punk.

Laura: It is certainly very loud, though. This isn't modern "young country" shit. Seeing them is like drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels and having a bomb go off inside your skull while getting kicked in the face by a mule. Who wouldn't love that?

D'Anne: Well, probably the people who came to see the Barrettes play on Saturday afternoon.

Laura: True. I don't think you'll ever see a mosh pit when there's an all-female barbershop group performing. 

D'Anne: The Barrettes were really cute. They were wearing matching blue, A-line dresses and pearls. At one point during their set, they thanked everybody for inviting them to the annual parish picnic.

Laura: Barbershop music is, of course, written for men, but it sure is a lot more fun for some reason when ladies sing it. Especially with the Hard Lessons' KoKo as a key member.

D'Anne: We also caught Gorevette, who I'd describe as grrl power take on the Ramones.

Laura: They were a lot of fun — they also made me want to get more familiar with the Gore Gore Girls and Nikki Corvette. It seems there's a new band popping up every day in Detroit, but there are plenty of others that have been around the block and know the score. They're worth getting into as well.

D'Anne: That's right — also rock 'n' roll isn't just all about dudes in Detroit. Power to the ladies!

Laura: Amen. When we got there for the third day of DIY fun on Sunday, Allan James & the Cold Wave were onstage. We've seen them several times now, and each time they get better and better.

D'Anne: Very true — and this was the first time we've seen them where AJ's vocals weren't lost in the mix. The sound was really great and you could actually understand the words for once. It makes a difference.

Laura: I loved that they had a "Record Shoppe" right next to the stage — it's great to make the music and merch of the bands easily accessible to those who are watching.

D'Anne: And Scotty from Bellyache Records was really patient with your inability to make up your mind about which T-shirt to buy. 

Laura: I know, I know. It was much warmer than I thought it would be and I made the mistake of wearing long sleeves. So buying a T-shirt was the only logical decision. 

D'Anne: It was either that or taking your shirt off and trying to start a mosh pit. But the Lucero fans had all gone home, so you wouldn't have had much luck with that.

Laura: You're probably right. And the police would've surely sent that SWAT vehicle over to stop me.

D'Anne: Either that, or the DIY security officers would've taken you down with glue guns and bedazzlers.

Laura: The whole incident could've been the premiere episode of DIY Cops.

D'Anne: [singing] "Bad boys, bad boys — what'chu gonna do? What'chu gonna do when they bedazzle you?"

Laura: I think we all know who'd do the theme song to that show.

D'Anne: The Barrettes?

Laura: Exactly.

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