Going underground

Jan 20, 2010 at 12:00 am

Think you've been to every music venue in the Detroit area? Think again. There could actually be a show going on in your neighbor's basement right now that you don't even know about. The Wonder Twins recently went underground, to some girl's house, to check out a couple of bands without a stage to call their own.

When you told me we were going to go to a show in some random woman's basement, I was pretty sure we were going to end up killed.

Laura: You read too many true crime novels. The "house show" is an indie-punk rock rite of passage. A lot of great bands got their start blazing across the country, city to city, not knowing if there'd be a venue for them to play in or even where they would sleep, essentially relying on kind strangers and fellow musicians to help out.

D'Anne: That's probably one of the main reasons why I didn't follow some rock 'n' roll dream. As my wife would say, I have a low tolerance for ambiguity.

Laura: Well, I do as well, which is one of the reasons why I couldn't imagine, despite my love of music, opening up my house for strangers to come and see some bands play.

D'Anne: Same here. So high-fives all around for Angela in Ferndale.

Laura: I wasn't sure what to expect when we got there. I had no idea what her house was like or what kind of crowd there would be.

D'Anne: Or whether or not we'd end up dismembered and stuffed into a drum in some storage unit somewhere.

Laura: That never crossed my mind, I'll be honest. It was actually just like Kid ''N Play's House Party, though.

D'Anne: Uh, no. Not quite. Or at all. I had never heard any of the bands that were playing there, so for all I knew, you were taking me to some booty bass show where people would be snorting coke off of each other. Like how it happens in my dreams.

Laura: You're sick. When we got there, I figured we'd hear loud music booming from the house. But we were instead greeted by the hushed sounds of a girl and an acoustic guitar playing in an exceptionally small basement to a very quiet and attentive crowd.

D'Anne: That "girl" would be Chelsea Lynn, aka Noria. She's local. I talked to her after her set and she was really nice. And it turned out we'd met before at Pinwheel Bakery when she sold me some really good cookies.

Laura: She reminded me a little of Joanna Newsom. But I've never seen Joanna Newsom play live, let alone in front of a washer and dryer.

D'Anne: There was a definite "laundry" ambience to the whole show.

Laura: Alan Scheurman, another local, played next. But not before he set up his little wolf cutout and dream catcher and various trinkets and charms. And lit incense.

D'Anne: Well, you've got to set the scene if you don't want to be upstaged by fabric softener.

Laura: He reminded me of Devendra Banhart meets Adam Sandler. His music clearly means a lot to some people, but maybe I'm just too cynical for his message.

D'Anne: I think a handful of magic mushrooms might have helped. Or some peyote.

Laura: Or a time machine that takes you back to 1969.

D'Anne: Don't be perverted.

Laura: The real reason we sought out some random girl's basement show was to see the two bands from Indiana.

D'Anne: Yes. Either/Or and Husband & Wife.
Laura: They were actually a mix of the same people shuffled around a bit. Both bands, in contrast to the openers, played plugged-in electric sets. They were loud. Considering Ferndale's noise ordinance, I was a little nervous the cops were going to come. But the show ended around 11 p.m. And with no law enforcement interference.

D'Anne: Either/Or is actually just James Mann. He had his friends from Husband and Wife playing with him on the tour.

Laura: He is really tall. He hopped up and down a lot while he was performing, and I was afraid he was going to jump up and put his head right through the drop ceiling!

D'Anne: He was very enthusiastic. I liked his air punches.

Laura: Either/Or kind of reminded me of Blink 182 if I didn't hate that band. Either/Or has shorter songs and more charm.

D'Anne: I wonder if he named himself after the Elliott Smith album.

Laura: The headliner was Husband and Wife ... who were not actually husband and wife.

D'Anne: And not just one man and one woman. You know, like traditional marriage. Husband and Wife are all dudes.

Laura: Right. If any of the members of Husband and Wife are married to each other, they're gay-married.

D'Anne: I would like to state for the record that I haven't been so happy to discover a band in a basement in my life.

Laura: They were really good. They reminded me a lot of Low meets Death Cab for Cutie.

D'Anne: I was thinking more Whiskeytown meets Jason Molina. They were good and, as you mentioned, loud. Way too fucking loud, considering we were in, you know, a basement and not Joe Louis. I actually plugged my ears so I could hear better.

Laura: Well, then you get a gold sticker for hearing safety.

D'Anne: I should be a workplace safety steward. If I had a job.

Laura: Husband and Wife's drummer was wearing a Jesu sweatshirt and at first I read it as "Jesus" and I thought, "Oh, shit. We just sat through an entire Christian rock basement show and that money people are putting in the Big Gulp cup isn't actually going toward the bands, but is going to go to Operation Rescue or something."

D'Anne: But it wasn't and we didn't. Though speaking of basements and religion, whenever religious solicitors come to my door, I always tell them, "I have my own church. It's in my basement. Want to see?" They never do.

Laura: By the way, although Angela and her housemates were really gracious hosts — offering up food, letting people into their home — they really should have salted their walk! But I guess that's rock 'n' roll.

D'Anne: Yes. It's a little bit dangerous. Holla! Roxette reference.

Laura: And if Roxette ever plans a reunion tour, maybe Angela will be kind enough to let them set up in her cozy, little basement venue in Ferndale, right in front of the laundry stuff. 

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