So the city's crammed with Labor Day fests? Go see these bands.

Aug 31, 2011 at 12:00 am

Its summer's end and school's still out, which can only mean it's time to freak on three non-jazz fests this weekend — Panic in Hamtramck, Hamtramck Labor Day Festival and Arts, Beats & Eats. Here we chose, with few exceptions, the killer local bands playing this weekend that you need to see. 


Arts, Beats & Eats

Three days, 250 bands, Royal Oak


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. 

Friday, 9:15 p.m., Michigan Lottery National Stage

This show marks the band's first back-home show since impressing 10,000 fans at Lollapalooza. If you've had your nose in our pages, you'd know about the breakout year Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein are having. Almost a year to the day, these Detroit dudes, both multi-instrumentalists, were playing in front of a couple dozen tastemakers in West Coast bars. This September, with a full-time drummer, sometime horn section, and rotating skeleton choir, they're off for another national tour, with stops at Austin City Limits Music Festival and Popped Fest in Philly. Then they'll head abroad, with multiple London shows already booked and an appearance at Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik. 

Why You Need to See 'Em: Kid and Em aside, they're Detroit's biggest band at the moment, and rising. 


The Hounds Below 

Saturday, 5 p.m., Soaring Eagle Stage 

Jason Stollsteimer's Hounds Below has fast become his best group, and that's cool, because it's driven by songs that are at once beautiful and weirdly sentimental — but like some experience you've yet to feel. That's hard to do. See, Stollsteimer's songwriting has evolved at an eyebrow-raising rate of late, making much of his Von Bondies work sound like kids' stuff, which it probably was. More, the Hounds lineup has changed drastically; what began as a local super-group of sorts, with some hired guns, has become a proper band, including bassist Gjon Gjevalini, guitarist Skye Thrasher, drummer Brent Nagy, and keyboardist Allison Radell. 

Why you need to see 'em: Because, by next year, you'll have to be crammed in for a blurry view from a distance. 


Amp Fiddler

Monday, 8 p.m., Ford Alternative Stage

OK, Detroit. We're being fucked with. There's a conspiracy. Who would book Amp Fiddler at the same time as George Clinton? Amp cut his chops playing with Parliament Funkadelic. And old George has more than a few things to do with Amp's distinguished yet excitable stage presence. C'mon, that big ol' floppy hat Amp wears has P-Funk written all over it. Nonetheless, we are made to choose between the master and the disciple. But if you're perhaps looking for a smoother and sexier R&B approach, Amp is the Man. And his showmanship is among the top tier in Detroit. 

Why you need to see 'em: Dude, this world class soul-infused funk torch-carrier is a legend in the making. 


Kidz Klez of Michigan

Monday, 1:30 p.m., 

Mirepoix International Stage

This ensemble performance is a one of its kind in the area. For years, these kids have klezed it up hard, honing their horns on an ancient sound, one reminiscent of the Mediterranean basin yet also of the jazz born of New Orleans. It's a non-narcotic mood elevator. Its funk is subdued, but there, and the trombone slidin' bewilderment is addictive. And it's performed mainly by 13-to 18-year-old young adults. 

Why you need to see 'em: Really? When was the last time you saw a klez band? 


Dutch Pink 

Sunday, 5 p.m., Soaring Eagle Stage 

Think a smoke-grimed piano bar nuanced with poetic lyrics, soulful rhythms and atmospheric feedback. Dutch Pink has steadily developed a signature sound — a growled, twanged take on blue-collar blues — and further honed it into a kind of rock waltz. 

Why you need to see 'em: Because Dustin Leslie (vocals, piano, guitar), Clyde Mashinter (bass), Joel McCune (guitar) and Scottie Stone (drums) have a knack for stitching the poignancy of Americana balladry between rousing crescendos of piano and fuzzed guitars


Eliza Neals 

Saturday, 8 p.m., Ford Focus 

Alternative Stage 

MT cover-girl Neals is making a bit of a name in no small part due to her strangely sultry blues voice that's as raw and authentic as it is honest and powerful. She's handily bridging the idea of a blues chanteuse, the classy, sexy singer, to a genre that seems to be overrun with style-over-substance singers. Neals will likely light up Labor Day.

Why you need to see her: Because husky crooners don't come along like this very often. Her band includes horns and Sunny Payton, the Four Tops' Lawrence Payton's daughter. 


Misty Lyn & the Big Beautiful 

Monday, 5 p.m.; Soaring Eagle Stage

This Ypsi quintet established itself as one of the more dynamic delegates of that area's folk community with its '09 debut, the chilly, cathartic and achingly autumnal For the Dead. That richly dressed album (purring pedal-steel, sighing violins and chirping banjos) never bogged down in overly rootsy contrivances and supported the leading lady's warm, breathy vocals. 

Why you need to see 'em: Well, for one, Matt Jones plays with them. Also, they're electrified by a less melancholic muse as of late, which translates better live. So the group — Misty Lyn Bergeron (vocals, guitar), Ryan Gimpert (guitar), Jim Roll (bass), Jones (drums), Carol Gray (strings) — won't go breaking your heart; nay, this is just fun, classy folk rock. 


The Handgrenades 

Friday, 3 p.m., the Budweiser Rocks Stage

Over the past year or so, these young dudes have grown from a fairly standard indie-rock outfit into a brilliant live band. Tunes just fly from their guts,but their real gift is their complicated but ear-sugary harmonies. Three of four band members are songwriters, and there's always a gaggle of screaming girls at their shows. 

Why you need to see 'em: Frankly, the Handgrenades — Andrew Pawelski (vocals, guitar, bass), Tom Pawelski (vocals, guitar, bass), Nick Chevillet (vocals, guitar, bass), Joby Kaslowski (drums) — are a perfect fest band. 


Billy Brandt & Sarana Verlin 

Friday, 11 a.m., Made in Detroit Stage 

This duo were fantastic during Don Was' Detroit revue at this year's Concert of Colors. Brandt is a great guitarist, Verlin's a jaw-droppingly sweet fiddler. They don't play folk exactly, and they don't play rock 'n' roll either. Folk-rock isn't right. But that's the ballpark.

Why you need to see 'em: Because the fiddle is terrible thing to waste!



Friday, 2 p.m., Ford Stage

Are you ready for the country, computer-popsters? Though they set an intricately wrought techno-y groove, when you dig into the vocals you'll discover the heart of these click-clattered, feedback-flumed nocturnes. See, they've a reverence for the outdoors, capturing similar vibes as Eno or Boards of Canada; they can oddly blur the electronic with the earthy.

Why you need to see 'em:Rising stars, to be sure. And curious newcomers may chance upon Christopher Jarvis (synth, sampler, guitar, vocals) and Lianna Vanicelli (vocals, percussion) still bandying their unique Neil Young cover 


Howling Diablos 

Saturday, 9:30 p.m., the Budweiser Rocks Stage

Tino and his funky rock 'n' roll combo are on the top of their game right now. God bless 'em, 'cause these lovable bastards have punched their times cards enough. It's that never-say-quit 'tude that has seen them through some tough times. Now they're getting rewarded, and their new "Mr. Right Now" single is getting mad love.

Why you need to see 'em: Tino Gross (vocals), John Evans (sax), Mo Hollis (bass), Erik Gustafson (guitar), Johnny Bee (drums), Jimmie Bones (keys) can strut like motherfuckers. Because nobody screams "Detroit" like these Howlers. 


House Phone 

Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Bud Light Stage

A distinctive lead vocal needs the proper backing. James Link isn't some arena-rocking yowler, or a wispy folk weaver; nah, his creakily crooned falsetto can scat and soar, making it a fine match for the quartet of jazz-trained musicians, which include drummer Steve Boegehold, guitarist Matt Callaway, keysman Taylor Pierson and bassist Jeff Cuny.

Why you need to see 'em: Indie R&B or straight groove-pop, your call. 


Deep See Sound System 

Friday, 4:30 p.m., Mirepoix Cooking School International Stage 

Eric Hoegemeyer can do and play most anything. He has played drums with Crud and the recently reformed Charm Farm, he has fronted a band (Gold Cash Gold), he works as a producer and engineer at Royal Oak's Rustbelt Studios in, and he also has this little project — an electro-dub-reggae thing called Deep See Sound System. 

Why you need to see 'em: You'll feel bass rumble deep inside your kidneys. 


The Infatuations 

Sunday, 8 p.m., Ford Focus 

Alternative Stage 

The Infatuations shouldn't be as good as they are. Hairy white guys playing soul?

Oh, hell no. But, somehow, they are on the less hyperbolic side of fantastic. Is it the super-catchy mid-'70s-y soul-disco tunes? Part of it. There's also merrily self-effacing about this crew, which is Caleb Gutierrez (vocals), Lacy Baby (vocals), Christian Draheim (guitar), Jeff Lee (drums), the Wolf (bass), Chris Polite (guitar), Bobby Myers (percussion), Nick Behnan (guitar). 

Why you need to see 'em: Because Earth, Wind & Fire ain't playing. Plus, there's a dude named the Wolf.


Hamtramck Labor Day Festival

Two stages, Three days, 

Downtown Hamtramck 


Mexican Knives 

Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Casmere Stage

It's a "weird kind-of psyche/gospel" guitarist-singer Zachary Weedon reluctantly surmises, "but I don't wanna term it that yet, that's just what I've been listening to." A half-dozen shows in, this group (with guitarist-singer Loretta Lucas, drummer Beren Elkine-Huett, and bassist Billy Lennox) has already started growing away from its initial sound — an almost-off-the-hinges surf-punk shimmy and rattled-up guitar pop — and into a bit sparser, soulful and atmospheric realms. 

Why you need to see 'em: Well, 'cause they're probably winking at later VU, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Staple Singers. 


Danny & the Darleans 

Saturday, 4 p.m., Caniff Stage

The Danny in this band is, of course, Señor Kroha, he of the Gories, the Readies and the Demolition Doll Rods, an attitudinal bluesman wrapped up in punk rock. Or maybe it's the other way around? Anyway, the dude's a sick and tasteful guitar player who evokes rare and raw bluesmen, such as Doctor Ross. And Kroha can blow some alright harp too. The Darleans are bassist Colleen Burke (who may or may not have learned bass to be in this band) and the savvy drummer (and total mensch) Richie Wohlfeil. 

Why you need to see 'em: Post "garage" boom Detroit blues-rock done in the least douchiest way possible. 


Pewter Cub 

Saturday, 1 p.m., Caniff Stage

Drifty, dreamy shoegaze, surfer- skateboarder indie-rock, shadowy hybrids of brit-pop and even dashes of new wave: Suffice it to say, Pewter Cub brews an effervescent blend — pouring enough fuzz and echo for the psyche-pop klatch, enough radiant, heart-wringing vocals for the wallflower romantics and enough angular hooks for the post-punkers. All of that, deftly strung together by a mere trio (Regan Patrick Lorie (vocals, bass, keys, guitar), Scott Sandford (guitar, bass). Dave Jennings (drums). Swoon your head and heart simultaneously. 


The Sugarcoats 

Sunday, 8 p.m., Casemere Stage

What evolved from an accordion, acoustic guitar and inebriated inspirado between longtime-collaborators Corey Weedon (vocals, guitar) and Todd McNulty (drums) has gone through some lineup shifts, some strange hybrids of punkified Stones struts, and has aged nicely into a healthy amalgam of styles that doesn't stray too from the duo's punk roots (Lee Marvin Computer Arm). It's all bolstered now by guitar hero Joey Mazzola (guitar) and Neal Simms (bass). "One song will be a gritty blues stomper, then a fast punk song, then another will sound like," McNulty pauses, "I dunno, Wire, or something." 

Why you need to see 'em: Mazzola's in the band and because we say so.


The Contours 

Monday, 5:30 p.m., Caniff Stage 

OK, so there are couple of different versions of the Contours gigging the cruise ship circuit. This version, with early Contour Sylvester Potts, (as well as Kim Green, Darrell Nunlee and Tony Womack) might or might not be better than the others. What's important is that, if the Hamtown sun's out, those Motown classics will be as welcome as a beer at Paychecks or some yummy goo from the Polish bakery. I mean, c'mon, it's not as if they're all set to release a great new album anyway.

Why you need to see 'em: Because it's the Contours and, unless Aretha shows up, this will be the best soul heard all weekend.


Panic in Hamtramck

One venue, three days, a dozen (more or less) gnarly bands


The Johnny Ill Band

Thursday, Painted Lady, 2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991

Led by Johnny Ill (aka John Garcia, this paper's fill-in proofreader) on guitar and vocals, the band's evolving lineup now comprises Chris Campbell (Terrible Twos) on drums, Pete Steffy (the Beekeepers) on keys, Paul Derochie (once of Fontana) on guitar, and Matt Larson on bass. Don't expect a wild stage show; instead, the band's energy gets channeled into a straight-up sound. And that power comes through on their new 7-inch on X! Records.

Why you need to see 'em: The band's variety of stripped-down garage rock has been pleasing dive bar audiences for years, earning comparisons to the Modern Lovers and Pavement, perhaps due to Ill's amusing throw-away lyrics, which hold the hard-rockin' together with a certain naïve charm — for those who are really listening.


SROS Lords

Friday, Painted Lady, 2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; 313-874-2991

Every picture of this band — Jamie Cherry (drums), Phil Dworzecki (bass), Al Adams (keyboard), Morgan Blank (guitar, vocals) on their Facebook profile sees them all sweat-soaked like a group of alcoholic tree-trimmers. There are a couple reasons for this: One, they are very sweaty dudes. Two, they play every show like they've a shotgun pointed at the back of their heads. It's like synth-stoner-noise. We're not quite sure what SROS stands for, but let's take a shot in the dark: Suck Rancid Old Socks? Nah — too easy. 

Why you need to see 'em: Because they sweat.