I’ve started and stopped writing out this page six or seven times.
Maybe it’s never gonna mean anything, really, at all, ever,
…and yet still wind up feeling like it meant everything. The surreal and invigorating poignancy, out-of-body-ish-- akin to watching some vibrantly dressed panorama from the movie of your life; the gooey stuff of splattered morning after recollection where you center yourself in some summarizing scene surrounded by grinned mouths and glistened eyes in some giant edifice that would otherwise feel like a cold hollow warehouse if not for the zooming blazing purples reds yellows and soft blues from a ceiling already flanked with dozens of booming speakers with bass rattling the wooden floors that are cluttered with the celebratory litter of confetti and empty brown bottles; while the people, the singers, the players, the artists, the ones you’ve been growing up with over the last 5 years parade across this still resolute yet already heavily trafficked stage exerting performances that, by mere measure of our collective progression, could, even through (my own,) the system of a sober person’s blood stream, feel like some of the best performances they’ve ever given; this was the Crofoot…Phonophest 3
…some kind of culmination or perfect postcard, no, a mural, a metamorphosing mural, from Detroit, of Detroit; a splattered mural of southeast Michigan, of middle Michigan. Given, it risks the feel of a private party's snapshot, as we are known as the somewhat (or the incorrigibly) familial, homer camp, a hitch-post of gangers, a coterie, a clique of camaraderie; that maybe we could be an island from the rest of the nation or the world when it comes to some sort of arts or music community – that maybe we support our own to a fault and it sucks for touring bands –
...but flip that coin and we are then something like the Atlantis of arts... that people search for all their young (or under-50) lives to find (when they’re still romantic and idealistic and believe in the wild wild wildness of music).
BUT STILL I REMEMBER… Maybe we have our own stigma, yet still, I remember 5 years ago when there wasn’t this kind of energy. Hyperbolic as that seems, I think I’d qualify it that, maybe, we are finally adapting to the chaos of the internet music world. A music world where we have, bizarre as it seems, maybe embraced some level-headed role, more of an acceptant or easy going realist, and not stress over turnouts or album sales or compete with each other to get something out first or to get signed first; our albums go up online for free downloads…we play Thursday nights…we don’t stress over who plays first… we just support. Or we play house parties. (Leroy St., or Sparklewood, or Commonwealth)
Maybe facebook has helped (be it better or worse) to garner, even more so, that high school-ish vibe amongst all of us…We "like" each other - whatever that means. But, now, "high school"-but- not in the sense of disjointed, juxtaposing cliques, but "one big squid" as the High Strung lyric goes, together, "sweating dancing" inside one big "barn party."
It's like we’re all at the same cafeteria together. Some of us may sit a bit down at the ends and murmur and doodle anime, some still wear pink and some still have Judas Priest stickers on their trapper keepers, some jump up and strut down the table like a catwalk, some may start food fights and others are sorta making out... but it still feels like the same table.
But on facebook, I don’t see it as being as bellicose as it once was, round these parts, when blogger hate seemed to seethe this way and that… And yes, this is all just a long way of saying, the more things change the more they stay the same.
Because, from a pinhole view – I’m still just writing about bands or just writing about music; I’m still just writing about yet another quirky artist or band with anecdotes about meat sculptures or nonsequitor stories of hot-rodding woodsmen on a 30-pack beer swilling cruise through the woods of Pennsylvania, or cute admissions of loving early Ministry...
...it’s the same old song all over the place: Blowout will happen every year – Fucking Awesome Fest is going to happen again – the Magic Stick and the Lager House are still going to slide those PBR cans and High Life bottles cross their smeared bars to the ear-failing masses on late late nights – it’s all still just like that…
And yet it’s getting…what, I don’t know, bigger, warmer, more exciting, more level headed, tighter, more talented, more inventive?
Does it pique? Is it a summer fling? Is it fleeting? Will we always be an island?
Four years ago I sat in an empty, tired, beiged-out chicken and fires joint in Royal Oak on a Tuesday with some guys from Milford calling themselves Wildcatting and I listened to them speak, a bit bowled over, of the way they had been so swiftly accepted into a steadily tightening couple of quilt patch bands around Detroit. They spoke of many bands that would become the first (of many) pillars for the Loco Gnosis label. Now that label counts more than a dozen bands as satellites—has worked with Heavy Trash, Powertrane and Dale Beavers—and has begun work to release (or already has released) recorded works bymany of the bands performing as part of the Motor City Special 2 – live recording show that happened last night in the Pike Room (of the Crofoot).
Wildcatting, meanwhile, became a band called Bars of Gold – transitioning from apocalyptic-feedback storms and 100-mile an hour drives of spindly guitar tricks and jazz-mutant-spill-out drums into an even more eclectic indie-leaning art-rock thing of tighter flexed, clearer clanging guitars, more emphasized rhythms and guttural barked vocals – like the Talking Heads if they were Vincent Black Shadow riding moutnainmen with Fugazi cassette tapes in their knapsacks and thriftstore t shirts fading on their chests. And they tore the fuck out of it, (with some damage done) across the main stage of the Crofoot.
I watched from the third row as a few bodies at the edge of the stage convulsed in such a way to bring a grin to my face and remember the rewarding beastly transformations these glorious rock flare-ups can cast upon us – and even more heartening when you know it’s ALL LOCAL. Now, Bars of Gold has become known for one of the most staggering live performances around, building local anticipation for their debut full length. Yet, they’re not “technically” local anymore – if you count their drummer’s move to D.C. Yet they forge on – even camping together in the woods of southern Pennsylvania for 3 days: some 40-logged hours of playing music and rehearsing, with likely 15-ish hours of actual sleep. Pure musical bonding.
And... just about four years ago… I sat inside the nauseatingly corporate feeling Coffee Beanery in Royal Oak waiting for Steven Saputo (Manna & Quail) to arrive for an interview, but was instead, initially, received by a tall, broad shouldered, fiery eyed fella with a poofed, shaggy hairdo, claiming to be, essentially, Manna & Quail’s merchandise vendor and quickly, readily admitted that his entry onto the Detroit music scene was donning a giant teddy bear suit (for a M&Q video).
This was Phreddy Wischusen. He’d dabbled in music. He still dabbles in writing. He managed a restaurant. He moved up from the south. He somehow wound up in Pontiac. He met Saputo. He met Adam Davis. He met the boys of Prussia and the artists behind Silent Giant and SingleBarrelDetroit…
But that was all gradually over the subsequent 4 years. He got enlisted-by and soon rose to managerial command of the Crofoot.
And last night we saw the fruition of the third incarnation of the Phonotropic Wicked Awesome Barbecue…and now he’s transitioning into a somewhat less-involved role with the Crofoot. And maybe the gravity doesn’t set in yet for the revelers who lost themselves in the heat of that movie-scene moment at the stage’s edge for the Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr set – but the “Crofoot shows” – as grand and ostentatious as they sometimes could be – may not be the same (or maybe the will?), but that specific flair of magic might have blazed brightest last night...it would take a lot to top it at the least. But, we'll see. Never say never...especially with on our "island."
And what a night. Between the poignant chilled-dance pop and liberating laid-back jumpsuited manner of Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr (and their endearing, dreamy, funny video), to the sultry strut of the big booming electronica from Lettercamp (and their nicely-set screen-lit aesthetic), to Bars of Gold’s ferocity, to Bear Lake’s stately folk, to that contest band we all know from Pistons and Red Wings commercials—Victorious Secrets… to the more rootsy, ravenous, garage-leaning psyche (Black Lodge) upstairs for the MC-SPECIAL 2, with the good old soulful rock of the Beggars, the nuanced goth metal of Wolfbait, the ever-more keyed-up but yet-more focused stomping electro-rock of Marco Polio and the New Vaccines and the ever-baffling, refreshingly confrontational and somewhat anthemic electro-punk of Jesus Chainsaw Massacre…
We were all here four and five years ago.
But now we all know each other. It was the family reunion; the beer-guzzled grin-fest and volleyball trash talk tournament under some perfect red maple by a pond – only we were in that purple light glitzed warehouse – our clubhouse where we’ve been ruminating, stepping, drinking and dancing for the last three years.
We were all here five, six, seven years ago. But now, in the last year – the more things change… Lettercamp and the Cold Wave move forward as Friendly Foes stops…Fur trio now will try out being a quartet…Black Lodge (hopefully) continues with a new guitarist (even though its dynamic and disarming frontman quipped cryptically as they left the stage, “Black Lodge is dead…”, -well, even so, that’s more change…) –and Five Three Dial Tone puts out another record as Bars of Gold get their release ready and Prussia puts the finishing touches on their own new work – while Marco Polio (who hopped downtown to another Detroit show with Silverghost) finish a forthcoming record (as does Silverghost, soon, too). And Black Lodge has an album in the wings…Jesus Chainsaw continue writing and recording with ever inventive presentation…
And, as usual, in one night, I come under a deluge of things to marvel at, locally; things to feel good about…even if, in the end, it seems to mean nothing in the grand scheme…nothing to the grand spinning spherical rock out in space…it still happened, it still meant something. And for a night or two, or for a week, it’s going to mean everything.
Right now, it’s everything.
Here’s to the class of '10.
and maybe that all sounds like kool-aid drunkard talk... but I really don't care. It's what was going through me in the middle of those live sets from all those bands. And if it provides momentary escapism from oil lines breaking in mid Michigan or phytoplankton going extinct or war efforts being followed despite futility and faults - if I can block out horror and revel in the beauty of my friends - then that's what all this local music does for me, why deny it...
(all photos: Mike Milo)