In One Ear

Dec 23, 1998 at 12:00 am


So the riddle goes: What happens to ska kids when they grow up? If Detroit's Porters have anything to do with it, the answer is, simply, "have a lot more fun, later at night!" The outfit -- comprised of former members of horny ska -punk monarchs the Parka Kings, and party ska faves Old Spice -- eschews much of third-wave ska's righteousness and ups the emphasis on first-wave ska's righteous '50s & '60s R&B tail shakin'. Though together for less than a year, the Porters have managed to convert formerly skank-only fans into two-legged groove machines through rollicking live shows that resemble, in many ways, the underdog soul of the semifictitious film band, the Commitments. A recent show at Detroit's Magic Stick found a Tuesday night dancing crowd of 60-or-so kids shaking with the band through a somehow seamless transition between James and Bobby Purify's "Shake a Tail Feather" and a cheeky semicover of Prince's "Sexy Motherfucker." These parties at the weekly "Soul Shakedown" Tuesdays (where the Porters and the Sights play every three weeks) have honed the eight-piece Porters into the kind of good-time band this town sees far too infrequently. This Tuesday, work off the holiday haze with the Porters at the Stick, 4140 Woodward Ave., as the band celebrates the season the way it knows best: by getting your lazy ass out' the seat. Show up early, too, and catch mod wunderkinds, the Sights,working through a set of stripped-down, punked-up R&B as though the Jam never recorded Setting Sons. In the immortal words of Mr. Kevin Bacon in his classic film Footloose, "I thought this was a party! Let's daa-aaan-ce!!!"


Detroit coffeehouse Ascension UK ushered in the holiday season with last weekend's Caelum Bliss "classics" performance. The show found the Blissers performing songs -- in a sort of chamber ensemble setting including harp -- written before the band took its current turn toward a more indie-Brit-pop sound. The performance was so successful and the band was so pleased with the happenings, says singer Melissa Emily, that the group is discussing recording songs in the lush, ethereal, 4AD Records vein for which it was initially known, while still moving forward, mining the land of indie-pop for other recordings.

The late-night vibe venue that so ably gives atmosphere to Detroit's surprisingly vital late-night dark wave, ambient and Goth scene -- and that's not a vampire pun! -- hosts New Year's Eve's most tasteful display of celebration. For a touch of after-dark class and a peek at deceptively civil Victorian-era gentility and manners mixing with black-tie-and-every-other-article-of-clothing-too, formal Goth-garbed grandeur, head to Detroit's Ascension UK for the annual New Year's Eve Victorian Ball. While period costume is encouraged, you need not go the full corset to enjoy the relaxed formality of a night at this late-night coffeehouse. Ascension UK is located on West Grand River between Woodward and Griswold (look for the "Oriental Express" marquee sign). Call 313-201-9613 for more info or visit


A new year means, well, a new year for the Detroit Music Awards. The annual celebration of all things musically great in the Motor City and environs is rolling into 1999, planning what organizers hope will be the best and brightest music awards this town's yet seen. The actual shindig -- the awards ceremony and live performances -- goes down this April 23 at Detroit's State Theatre. But, before the houselights go down, the Motor City Music Foundation needs the help of you, fans and folk working and playing in Detroit's vibrant music community. There's much planning yet to do and the MCMF is always seeking new voices, perspectives, feedback and fresh ideas from Detroiters concerned with putting the best face forward on our musical heritage, present and future. To that end, anyone reading this column is cordially invited to attend the first Music Awards planning meeting of the new year, January 5 at 7 p.m. The meeting will take place at Southfield's Onyx Plaza office complex -- 29777 Telegraph Rd. -- in the conference room. Help plan a show we can all be proud of and get in on all the behind-the-scenes action by attending and voicing your two cents -- and then some. For more info, call Sue Barnowski at the Motor City Music Foundation at 248-554-9939.