Wednesday, March 31, 2010

City Center - 4 / 5 - PJs Lager House with High Places

City Center Blog

Stream a track from Spring St
- "Poolside" - from the Fader


Fred Thomas

"Maximized Sound Possibility"

Fred Thomas says he feels people are likely sick of bands that don’t throw them for loops. And that empowering climate is ideal for the wintery/summery blend of his (one of many) project(s), City Center – through which, paired with fellow Ann-Arbor-ite Ryan Howard, they stir up clattery bemusements of fried, fuzzy, acoustio-lectro pop songs that sound transmitted from sun-baked transistor radios left atop futuristic jet-cars languidly hovering over effervescent ponds of rippling reverb waves enveloping each other as synths and scraped guitars are ever present in the ether like the soft singe of setting sunrays.

Their 2009 debut shifted track-to-track, fuzz-layered 3-minute pop to more caustic dissertations, considerably less traversable then their past works – thus severing limitations of one genre and severing expectations from past works. “I’m not really concentrating on: ‘Okay, here’s the noisy part and here’s the sweet summer jam. I’ve always thought about music in terms of maximized sound possibility; whether it’s a full orchestra of strings or 17 different tones of noise at the same time. It’s all as many sounds as I can fit in there and still arrange and organize. If this song sounds like Wire and the next sounds like Beach Boys, fuck it, who cares! I like that.”

Thomas is the perennial Arbor/Ypsi sparkplug/collaborator/experimenter – best known for leading chamber-pop-collective Saturday Looks Good To Me; Howard played in folk-leaning A2 acts Canada and Drunken Barn Dance. City Center started somewhere in late 2007 in Thomas’ NY apartment (he moved back to A2 in spring 09) as a reaction to the strange and encouraging art energies sutured into that otherwise hectic environment. Howard became more and more involved through 08 and is now a full copilot.

“I was talking to a friend in Chicago, we’re both in bands, he was in Chin Up Chin Up and we’re reminiscing together, drunkenly albeit, about 2002-2004, this small window where we toured all the time and were in these mid-level bands that no one had really heard of but we also weren’t completely unknown; that was the era of the: ‘Well, what’s your band like? Well, we’re like…the Strokes! Oh, cool, we need another band that sounds like that…or that sounds like the Rapture. We need a band that sounds like this…’ I think that era is done. You can’t really describe anything right now…if it’s actually good.”

Rightly or wrongly, SLGTM was a band interpreted by means of journos or even listeners ticking off various palpable influences that seemed to be worn on each of its pop pleated songs: Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Belle & Sebastian, etc etc or what-have-you.

“I can’t honestly say that I didn’t think about influences or trends at the time," said Thomas.

"Being a band from the Detroit area in 2002 meant that you were very much conscious of your place in the garage-rock-schema. I did a tour playing bass for The Sights and came back from that and wanted our band to sound exactly like the Sights because I loved playing with them."

"But when it came time to make another record, I thought, well, I also like The Zombies a lot…maaaybe I wanna sound like that. Every single micro-second of most of the music I played in my mind is charted out as my various queues taken from other bands, because I am such a music fanatic. But, to answer your question succinctly, I don’t think I ever thought of it as: ‘Oh, because there’s a band that’s doing really well nationally, we have to be the Michigan or the Detroit answer to that band. Because, I never really felt like there were a lot of baroque-pop bands in Detroit in 2002…”

City Center released their self-titled debut full length in late 2008 – a collection of much of the subterranean serenities and kaleidoscope clangs and breathy fuzzed out vocals – songs mostly developed by Thomas with Howard’s augmentation. This month, via Quite Scientific (an Ann Arbor based label) they release the 4-song one-sided silk-screened vinyl record, Spring St.

“The music is four songs; I did two of them by myself, Ryan did one by himself and we collaborated on the last one; it came together seamlessly, almost like this dual-solo project. It was a very quiet, staid kind of rumination on our summer, because we recorded it this summer when I was living off of Spring Street (in Ann Arbor). Every day, I was walking around and Spring Street is actually the highest point in Ann Arbor, so you can kinda see a skyline from this park at the top of it and I was going there and looking out, thinking for hours and I’d be writing song ideas down and writing lyrics down and we just came up with this really meditative, sweet, thoughtful record as a result of it.”

Thus, the relationship with Howard and Thomas has strengthened considerably – through recording and rigorous touring. The two dudes pack their synths, drum machines and guitars into a van and wheel around the country—till now having self-booked everything. “At this point, if me and Ryan are in the same room, we make the same joke at the same time, we’re finishing each other’s sentences without really being that much alike. We’re actually extremely different people.”

“(Howard)’s presence is bigger than I could have imagined it to be. When it started, I kinda really pushed him, that, if we’re gonna do this I’d like it to be something where we’re both equal parts. I think this when this new record comes out, it will make itself really clear, it sounds a lot different than the last record, there’s so much more of Ryan in there.”

The forthcoming full length was recorded with Chris Koltay, here in Detroit. “And I couldn’t be any happier,” said Thomas, “with the results. Chris, in particular, is one of the biggest gifts the band has gotten and he made it sound really incredible.” They’re aiming for a September/October release.

I prattle out a metaphor of Howard’s joining City Center, coming aboard his experimental pirate ship as a stowaway, working his way up to first-mate, eventually redecorating the galley a bit and then nudging the wheel and lurching the mast a bit more to starboard until finally being pinned as a co-pilot.

“Oh, definitely,” Thomas says, “or, more like, if I fell asleep he actually re-routed the ship.” We share a chuckle. “All the songs we’ve made as a duo have come out of chance-jams.” Howard, says Thomas, is more apt to fiddle around with myriad tones and melodies while he admits he has a more meticulous, abstract or even overwrought process. “Two completely different approaches have somehow resulted in a really good duo.”

Thomas said he can’t wait for people to hear how hard they worked with Koltay, when the record comes out in the fall. I poke at him that, by that time, they’ll probably sound even weirder or more varying now, then ever. “…probably!”

Spring St. is available now (limited copies) via Quite Scientific.

Serena Maneesh - Thursday - Majestic Cafe

Do you like noises made by guitars, guitar pedals, pick-ups, wah's, distortion, reverb,...sorcery?

Welcome our friends from Norway - Serena Maneesh - info here - and new album review here

and this:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mission of Burma are coming 4/8 - Blind Pig, Ann Arbor - wanna go?

America's own post-punk aristocrats have slogged out hard hooking, meaty murky dark rocking slices of confrontational and enlivening rock-fired music for a quarter century. And they're making a visit to Ann Arbor on April 8th - paired with Detroit's own Chapstick.

The slight problem being - that, as most of you may be Detroit (or Metro-Detroit)-set and...thus, Ann Arbor seems like a long, gas-consuming trek for you, in these trying times of $2.80+ per gallon -

But what if, when you get there, you already have your ticket? What if you also had the chance to score a free copy of Mission of Burma's latest, The Sound, The Speed, The Light (dc review, here) - on vinyl + a 7" for their latest single: "Innermost." ???

Sounds nice enough right?

Contribute to the music dialogue - post your top 3 favorite MoB songs below and then send me an email (my contact's over there, to the left) and we'll get you situated.

4/8 - Blind Pig -Mission of Burma + Chapstick

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chapter 3 of the some-what-zine-y rant thing: this is our life

(continued from here...and from here)

Chapter 3: Life and Fantasy

This is our life. There doesn’t need to be extra drama. Not if you don’t want it – There’s no need for hyper-scrutiny and there’s no need for exasperating insecurities.

There’s no need to prattle on about this or that – just come see it, hear it, call it what it is, have a drink, get to know someone and keep on living.

But anyway – as I said to my friend Asim, who plays in an ever-evolving “rock” based quartet that has wavered between sensibilities involving “psychedelic” rock, “shoegaze” rock and is now dabbling in “trip/hop” – we get to talking about genres, the incestuous blending of influences and whether certain styles can actually die.

I tell him what I’ve already told you –that if an idea is good enough, it always lives on beyond it’s “death.” Christ died 2000 years ago and people still think Christianity is a good idea. Lennon died 30 years ago and people still think infusing Brit-pop’s dynamic hooks into their present-day songwriting styles is a good idea. (People still say, “Give peace a chance” and still think Lennon might have been onto something when he posited his group’s popularity surpassing that of Christ) – if ideas are persuasive enough – and punk rock is persuasive, just as Detroit’s potential (and Detroit’s tragedy) is persuasive, if not provocative – then they live on…

The actual “thing” may be dead. But the idea, and our love of it, lives…and we embrace it, and we try to live that idea.

Asim wonders aloud if, by playing on stages under lights to crowds while 99% of the world carries on and seems to never know (or for some, still not properly care) about music, about the beauty of art, about the rich histories, about the power of music…its phantasmal influence on our everyday lives.

Well. The fantasy goes right back to the writer – the blogger, the scenester in the back, the misanthropic and insecure ego-inflamed hipster, the bitter-ain’t-like-it-usta-been curmudgeon, the ones who only see the two extremes: It’s not as good or it’s better than ever. It’s bleak…and here’s a poetic and gut-wrenching metaphor. Or it’s hopeful…and here’s a lyrical and soothingly encouraging depiction. Life’s not too sides of a coin – that’s the real fantasy…a delusional fantasy.

Life’s back to that tire. The rolling wheel. The tilt-o-whirl. Cycles and circles. We’re just living. And we come back around. We fall out sometimes, or we get dizzy and throw up – but often we’re rolling too fast to notice or care.

And all of that, that I’ve just spewed out, may or may not apply to Detroit… or to music…in general. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I’m trying not to be absolutist and get comfy in the middle.

Again, this blog is not about punk rock, or about beating dead horses, or about cows who quote Plato; it is not about Chuck Klosterman or trip/hop, it is not about the Beatles; this zine is sort of about Detroit and definitely concerned with music and also with the people who read it; but this zine is manipulated, unabashedly, by its creators, as a reminder.

But this blog is not exclusively preoccupied with this “comfy in the middle” nonsense. It will be all over the place.

This zine/blog is not better than you.

This blog/zine is glad you read it.

End for now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Restated Mission/Vision - blah blah - Chapter 2: Circles

(continuing from here... the rest of the limited print zine thing - and just...a pondering look-around at idiosyncracies of music scenes at various levels - and preocupations with connections...revivalism... and whatever baseball-card mp3 type trip blogs might keep not to get to wound up - cuz we'll all whirl around again...and then again...and it keeps goin...)

Chapter 2: Circles

...Everything is dead after while – but…hmm, how can I put this without coming off exhaustively placid-egghead-asshole – If you could picture an empty tire rolling down a steadily slanting hill, roughly 30 degrees all the way down, enough to keep it rolling – well,, society, culture, seems to be, like a screaming laughing child propped up inside, inside this giant empty tire absent from some imagined monster truck, rolling down the hill, getting mixed around and steadily disoriented, always – we are progressing in some manner, yes, (and in my austere metaphor, downhill) but we continually come-back-around—to retreaded ideas and feelings and trends.

Picture whatever works best for you – a carnival’s rusty tilt-o-whirl, a tumble-cycling rickety dryer, a spinning vinyl record having its grooves widened and its form morphed with an endless, purgatory-esque rotation.

When I was young and naïve (instead of old and naïve), I asked Dan Kroha -(alternately known around Detroit as co-founder of the most sanctified band of the modern garage rock/neo-punk-rock music scene – the Gories and respected for his unmatched live dynamism, passionate, guttural musicality, and sharp wisdom and reverence for music history that’ll spin you off your stool)-- anyway…(sheesh)…I asked him, five years ago, what he thought of Detroit’s music scene – a question that can always only be applied to “what’s going on” within a six-ish month window...

…one gets asked this question and they think back to shows they’ve seen in the last four or five months and then they think in their head, quickly, about what they know their friends in the scene will be doing later on in a month, if they have big shows or if anyone’s recording a new record in their basement – who’s popular within our humble borders, who’s losing it, who’s beating dead horses, etc etc etc, ...all this flashes through one’s mind…at least, I think it does for me, when I get asked this question….

That said, when I asked Dan Kroha, he started into the distance (the distance-being the men’s room a dozen feet away from our standing positions at the side of a bar during a show), looked back at me and shrugged – which would have been an answer on its own – but then he said, “Scenes, ya know, they just go in circles.” And then he shrugged again.


Déjà Vu, again – like Groundhogs Day – you can get to one point in the circle and you can decide to feel frustration about something someone’s doing and about how that something is dead or how that someone doesn’t really know what they’re talking about –

Eventually, the wheel goes around – and that thing that you were mad about becomes popular again, or least conceded and shrugged off, because, damn it, we incorrigibly reproduce the things that inspire us –

If punk rock inspired us, then we’re gonna keep waving that flag or beating that dead horse. And the wheel goes around again – and that person who didn’t know what they were talking about – knows now, certainly, what they’re talking about and might even know more, now, than you, you who were so certain you had the answer to all things, by saying, simply, that this or that or this other thing or that next thing dead.

Now, what are we doing here? We’re just living.

Being a writer, or, at least being referred to as one, has lead to my becoming completely alienated with the middle-ground, the even-keel, the bland and the realist, the part that just shrugs and calls it what it is – the same muscle flexed by Kroha when he diagnosed the runaround ballyhoo of “scenes.”

I’ll get diary-esque again, and let you know, that while I type this, I have a copy of a fairly recent Chuck Klosterman book. Klosterman’s a writer that I’ve been told, every few months or so—by a different friend each time –that I, being a “music writer,” should read. He is a master at suturing musical tidbits and hipster knowledge into an everyday-man’s surreal travels through a world of people seeming unknowing of music’s influence upon their own everyday lives. It’s something I haven’t tried yet – because I haven’t gotten out of Detroit yet. But, that said, I just read a sentence that stuck in my craw –

Whilst writing about a macabre pilgrimage to the scene of a tragic fire that destroyed a hundred lives and an entire building in Rhode Island, Klosterman writes that the tavern had, now, become an “ad hoc cemetery,” immediately quipping that that’s pretty much the role most taverns play anyhow, in small towns. This is only after he wrote that each day on earth is like purgatory.

That’s the thing, (my longwinded point, apologies), about writers – is that we are tennis balls that can only bounce/land on (or near) the two extremes of the court– it’s a fault if we hit the (middle) net.

It's like...either: - Life is tragic; we, quite poetically, lay it out as a perversion or horror – bars are cemeteries…or American Idol watchers are zombies…or scenester assholes with big egos are smeared because they are defined exclusively by their on-stage behavior and not by their softer sides where they go visit their grandmas on weekends… or the scene is dead and we are tapping an empty keg and bands aren’t as good as they usedta-been…

Either that, or: - Life is glorious: it is flowery and inspiring and there is hope and reassurance…the spotlights present this soft, fuzzy hue upon the glistening eyes and pale skin of the passionate performer as the not-as-think-as-you-drunk-they-are crowd all stands rapt and quiet, swaying together in unity for this local band pouring their heart out on a Thursday while we all lighten our moods in this Michigan winter and look at each other, realizing how great the scene is and what a great community this is because there are five other shows going on somewhere else in the metro area with as many different genres on display and …we are in love with each other.

To hit the melodramatic extremes means we (writers)... are, hopefully, securing your interest, twisting it, manipulating it, leading it away like a pied piper. That’s why, as writers, it’s hard not to just sit in the middle and realize – hey – we’re just living.

We are living.

And in Detroit – that means that on weekends and a few weeknights, we pour into the local watering hole (most of ours have stages) to see and hear any variety of the army’s worth of local bands (there are likely more than 1000 in the tri-county area) …or, as is often the case, when “we” pour into the bars, “we” are probably amongst the musicians and we are plugging in, to play the songs we wrote back at our humble shacks, after days spent in offices or behind cash registers or in cubicles. We’re just living.

This is our life. There doesn’t need to be extra drama. Not if you don’t want it – There’s no need for hyper-scrutiny and there’s no need for exasperating insecurities.

There’s no need to prattle on about this or that – just come see it, hear it, call it what it is, have a drink, get to know someone and keep on living.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spoon - Deerhunter - Strange Boys - Mar 30 - Royal Oak

This should be a nice show for an early Spring's eve...

The Strange Boys

Two Texans and one Atlanta art rocker

Videos! (so you know what you're getting into...for their show togeter, Mar 30th, Tuesday, around 7pm, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre)... First up: The Strange Boys with "Be Brave"

Followed by Deerhunter's "Strange Lights":

And then, this interesting offering from Spoon - where they learn "Ted Leo's Version of 'Don't You Evah'" :

Spoon learns the Ted Leo version of Don't You Evah from Spoon on Vimeo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dead Horses Rant - Chapter 1 - or - Restated Vision and Mission

Ed. - ...what follows is the hurried and scattered scrawl I wrote and printed-in considerably limited quantity- as an experimental "zine..." (which, I'm still interested in starting one day, in a still-as-of-yet-pie-in-the-sky-type view) - but...this is chapter 1, (with 2 and 3 to follow)...

Fill-in-the-blank –is dead.

Zines are probably dead. (Blogs can be dead) Irony’s definitely dead.

Saying, conversationally, as some head-shaking, case-closer, feigning regret, that “...punk rock is dead…”…is dead.

Whatever awkwardly attempted, dorkily-projected ideas spring forth from these soon to be thrown away pages, will be dead, after a while.

And overly-esoteric, grandiose slop spewed in some late 70’s New York gutter-stuck art punk manner of pitiable poetics – is also dead, so I should stop.

But it all goes on – punk rock, the idea, goes on, because people are still quite smitten with the idea. Say “punk rock” and what do you see in your head? Torn, unwashed jeans, bandanas around your ankles, Doc Martens, green hair, sneers, saliva, pogo-ing, slam-dancing, fighting, yelling, blood-shot-eyes – well, yes, all of that, but also, a primal bravado, a tougher, broker, patchouli-free take on the original (and sadly buried) Haight-Ashbury-born Hippie-ethos of being one’s own hero, you see guys selling records out of their trunk for cheap, you see, amongst the gnashing teeth, sweat, blood and cathartic self-destruction, a democratization of rock n roll glory.

It still seems like a good idea, sorta – even when I rehash it; yes, rehash it the same way you hear it all day long on junk-food chomping hang-over-recovering Sunday afternoons where you’re half-passed-out with VH1-Classic left on…

And what do you hear? Music played…not very well…but with passion. It’s fucking romantic.

The salacious and lecherous soap opera of society will never be off the air – the show goes on – punk rock, psychedelic-rock, indie-rock – we can go down the list. No case ever gets closed. You can say blogs are dead. You can say music is dead. You can keep upping the ante. These things are still going to be here until the metal cages we pilot spew enough smoke to finally offset the ecosystem enough to fry us or drown us – all of this will still keep going. It all depends on which thing, which idea – be it a newspaper, the internet, a CD, vinyl, mp3 whatever whatever whatever – grabs you, inspires you, best fits you and feels closest to your true voice, regardless of what anyone else thinks... If zines/blogs are also dead, well, here’s another one, anyway. Enjoy.


Now, to continue. This zine is not about punk rock, exclusively. It’s about whatever it needs to be about; but, it is, inevitably, bound by the whims of its creators. And those whims are connected to the human limitations (faults) of said-creators: judgmental whims, philosophical whims and geographical whims.

I stress that last whim because I, like so many otherwise hearty and guileless day jobbing show-goers, noise-makers and music writers, am still, forgive the indulged melodrama of the word, stuck... quote-un-quote, in the metro Detroit area. Or maybe, I can’t bring myself to leave. Such is our characteristic paradox.

It’s not about Detroit, this zine/blog/thing, but, it’ll certainly be thinking about it, often.


I would say, er, goes without saying, ...only as prelude -to the same hyperbolic diatribe and impassioned speech that we, the underwritten, the masochistic day jobbers, the Detroiters, the show goers, will often shout to each other when we’re either trying to bring ourselves up or just trying to look smart in front of each other – that Detroit is…Detroit is… Detroit is…Detroit’s, well, how about this, Detroit is sort of the reason we’re all here. On various levels, exaggerated or otherwise.

French missionaries traipsed through here not long after the English settled on the coast in the mid 1600’s. Detroit, then, just a fort, acted as a gateway, (not to get too preachy on you), for settlers, (whose ancestors would, yes, kill off lots of the natives, but, eventually, wound up building what we now drive through and live in) and for trade (the profits of which, beaver pelts or whatever else, helped fund, ya know, the vital pillars of society).

Detroit’s like a mouth, also, maybe. Well, it’s like dirt, too. A gateway and/or a breeding ground. It’s both a portal and a petri dish. But, on the dirt metaphor, it’s deceptively fertile dirt; so many things bloom from its muddy porous conditions.

Well, maybe we’re more like a mouth, after all. Because a lot of the great things that uh, went through us, or came out of us, went off into the world and spread various influences.

Trend-setting vomit. Brilliant vomit.

I’m getting way off topic – but…if this zine/blog is, at all, concerned both with music and with Detroit – then I can't avoid rattling off, as we fellow showgoers sometimes do, to/at each other, all the various inventions you can find, either born here or evolved here – jazz, blues, funk, psychedelic rock, punk rock, house, techno…and…no disco. And you can attach various names to all of those genres – If we’re talking about blues, then we’re also talking about the booming auto industry – because that’s what attracted all the Delta blues players like John Lee Hooker, and we’d thus have to also emphasize the dirty/mouthy/peetree dish’s overly obvious engineering contributions to the world – but we’ll move right back to music.

We were dabbling in psychedelic rock right along with the rest of the world in 1966 with The Frost and the Mysterians and many more – while our own style of quirky swirling smoky rock went comparatively unnoticed by most of the squares throughout the world who just spent time gossiping over the Beatles and Paul’s admittance to dropping acid – my word, good golly – regardless, the psych-energy was here – and it lead to the founding of various culture hubs (and counterculture movements) like CREEM magazine and the Detroit Artist Workshop.

We also, if you believe the legends, birthed punk rock – with our Ann Arbor-nurtured “garage” rock bands: The Stooges and MC5 respectively. I’ll hurry it up since this is turning into a rambled and tiresome conversation – Funk? Funkadelic. Soul? Gospel? Motown Records. Fortune Records. Techno? Belleville three.

And I’m just lazily, inefficiently, blandly glossing – That sums up said-blog's more cultural fixation with Detroit, setting aside obvious geographic conclusions.

So I could get to the point and return to talking about people casting things off as dead. And move into "cultural cycles."

About how useless it is, to keep getting red over about punk rock (et. al.) being dead... – and I could go on...

As useless as a cow learning to form English words and studying Plato finally gathering the moxie and bravado to stand up straight, applying intellectual-affecting bifocals on his snout and reciting an argument for his life, right at the edge of the slaughter house line when the smasher is winding up for the hammer swing.

People are still gonna want their hamburgers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ypsilanti - April 2nd (....or Ferndale?)

If you're really bookin' it, ...70' and crusin... Pontiac is only a twenty minute drive... Much as its often lightly bemoaned by the 8 and 9 -mile set suburbanites who'd just as soon quickly wheel down to Hamtramck rather than drive through the corporate mini-scrapers looming at the sides of I-75 on your way up there. But all that really wears on you is the commute.

Get over it. Even, in these days of rising gas prices as the days get warmer...inching up to almost 2.85 by now (and, if you're reading this a few days later, maybe 2.94 by now)... Pack yourself some CDs (or...plug in your iPod--have it your way) and actually give yourself some musical meditation behind the wheel - make it part of your night.

Because, damn it, Ypsilanti, by comparison..., if you're really booking it, is only 30-35 minutes. That's an almost all of the Frustrations first LP, or about-half of Titus Adronicus' new trip, or at least most of the new Liars album - and more than twice over the Chase That Jackrabbit EP - by the Ferdy Mayne. Play 'em through and give yourself a drive - and listen to some great Ypsilanti bands who can't always find the time to visit you, here in Detroit.

Case in point, the Ferdy Mayne...or Nathan K., or Chris Bathgate - all Ypsi/Arbor-ites...

...whom, one always whines at the back of their head, that they sure wish would play Detroit more... ah well. It shouldn't be ignored if the three of them get together...for an Ypsi-set Elbow Room show...
- Well, technically - for Nathan K.'s official debut of his full length, Newspapers and Prayers (review here).

will put on a somewhat rare live show (he came out for this year's Mittenfest but is biding time between commendable work at Ann Arbor's Neutral Zone - more info on that, soon), and singer/songwriter Shane O'Malley Firek, the shaggy topped rail and dynamic showman, will perform a solo set away from his main band, the Ferdy Mayne, in support of Nathan and his rousing, communal clap and sing-along jangled folk fire.

We'll even get a visit from a Flint band, Morseville Bridge.

April 2 - Elbow Room

In other news, an endearing rock n roll band, close to DC's heart....for nostalgic and anecdotal reasons involving bowling and broken windows at a house party - please check out the Beggars new video - either here or here. (Not to run counterpoint to my Ypsilanti rant, but...let's say you're low on gas? Or you prefer the windmill barrage and charm of the Beggars for your Friday night - then you can hear all their new songs from their forthcoming record, at the Magic Bag -(-most of you can walk to this...)


...busy.......busy gettin' rad.....

more on the way

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Champions of Breakfast -interview- Kommie Kilpatrack - and vice versa

Cassette of Covers / Talk 'Band to Band' - Photos: Kenny Corbin (plus Real D article here)

Generically speaking,... I’m in a dusty, gutted, cluttered basement with five punk rockers on the anterior side of 25 and two electro-dance-poppers on the anterior side of 30 – and the collected septet are listening to each other’s respective interpretations of each other’s songs; sharing the freshly recorded covers before sitting down to interview each other, in lead up to a release party for what will be a split-cassette: Kommie Kilpatrick vs. Champions of Breakfast. - April 1 - PJs Lager House

Around the drum kit sit singer Teddy Stavridis, drummer Zak Frieling, guitarist Kit Sabo and bassist Mac Hyde, founding members of Kommie Kilpatrick, with their newest member, guitarist Eric Allen – and on the other side, singers/keyboardists/cardboard-guitarists and “digital artists” Val Hundreds and Moses Jackson, the Champions of Breakfast.

Stavridis, Frieling, Mac, Hundreds and Jackson all hail from the Flint area – where, from 03-07, they became closely acquainted through webs of musical collaboration – with Frieling and Mac working a local club friendly to punk acts fatefully seeing performances from Hundreds and Jackson’s ska-angled act The Hot Flashes. Getting out of high school in 04, Frieling and Mac had a band called Fucking Gnarly around the Flint area. Stavridis, meanwhile, was in a punk “rock band” called The Pulse with Bryan Summerset (who now records Kommie’s ravenous punk ballads in this same basement), and eventually had Frieling and Jackson join (keeping up so far?). All those bands came to an end – people get busy, people move around, you know how it goes.

All the while, Allen, through 08, was banding down in Detroit in punk-leaning bands like the Dial Tones, Jackson (a.k.a. John), meanwhile, was playing guitar in Empty Orchestra and Hundreds (a.k.a. Saul) was also playing with Canada. But their Flint-born dabblings continued, as Hundreds and Jackson, pre-Champions, had yet another band, a ridiculous low-end-roaring tribal punk rock thing called Rock n Roll Bass Guitar – which, yes, eventually ended.

So you had all this energy between them, a close friendship, and now individual inspirations between both tribes (be it Stavridis and Frieling on one end or Jackson and Hundreds on the other) to streamline their passion for fun, chaotic music via minimalist assemblages ideal for breakneck-speed creative output.

Thus – we now have the hardcore-slamdanced-rip-roaring pound-punk of Kommie Kilpatrick (starting up in summer 08) and the Casio-crazy computer surged mainstream mocking irresistible beat-heavy dance pop of Champions of Breakfast (which started initially as an experiment in internet-hype-building through late 2007). The quintet thrashes out fast, brief, noisy, hook-hinted rock ballads, shouted and shredded – the duo presents mellifluous sultry synth-showers with glitzy swagger—purposely performing with pre-recorded songs and audacious and ostentatious props, costumes, a light show (but still live, boisterously belted vocals).

And…now, each has covered four of the others songs and put it together. “How did this idea come about?” Stavridis asks, genuinely unsure. “I think when the word popped out of whoever’s mouth it was,” Hundreds offers, “everyone was like, ‘oh my god I just got a huge music boner right now. There wasn’t even any question…”


First question, boys,…go ahead
(KK): Did anyone think of those?

(KK): Where did you guys come from? -
Val (CoB): …the land down under.
Zak (KK): Why did you guys want to play our songs? –
Val (CoB): The thing we’ve always really liked about Kommie Kilpatrick is the unabashed, just, disregard for…basically everything. Which is awesome. You can’t see your band and not feel like you’re about to get into a fight for no real reason – to be able to illicit that type of response is really something.
Moses (CoB) It was like a songwriting experiment, it allows you to do all sorts of crazy experimental shit.

(KK): It was kind of the same for us. We got to make it sort of halfway our type of thing but it still kinda felt like a lot more structured-pop song structures, at least one some of them, and a lot of your songs are longer. Teddy (KK): …so many words!

Val (CoB): How do you guys decide what this next 30-second-opus is gonna be about? –
Eric (KK): …from hanging out with each other. –
Teddy (KK): We just take what we say, out on the porch.
Kit (KK): One of our songs… “Bad News Beers,” is so many drunk stories into one song.

(KK): It’s very autobiographical, …like Bruce Springsteen. Our new song that I’m most proud of, “Brain Stuff,” we wrote about Craig Brown from The Mahonies just getting a piece of paper stuck in his nose. A lot of party stories really. Kit (KK): But you can make it relatable to people. – Teddy (KK): I like when you write our reviews because you add things we don’t even comprehend…like, ‘no, that was just about our friend falling out of a window; or that was just about how one of us crashed the girl-we-like’s car…oops.’

(CoB): I gave your first full length to one of my co-workers, he’s like a middle-aged man, a dad…
Teddy (KK):…dad rock!
Moses (CoB): I was in his minivan, driving to see the Jesus Lizard with his iPod on shuffle and his friends, his wife, they were like, man, this is kinda great and my friend’s like, you guys gotta check this out, it’s Kommie Kilpatrick! How does that make you feel, that people you don’t know are actively enjoying your music? -
Zak (KK): We just got an envelope from England, full of money, the other day—someone wanted to order the tape, taking the time to go to the bank and trade their money for American and mail it overseas.

(CoB): Do you guys remember in 1985… -
Eric (KK): …when I was born? –
Val (CoB): They had put out Games Magazine, do you remember Games Magazine? –
Zak (KK): I remember Game-Pro…! –
Val (CoB): Yeah…whatever…so, 1985…Games Magazine! There was an advertisement, full page ads, for 12 LPs that were “banned” in the US, like: Municipal Waste, or Euro import bands, it was a big deal like, ‘Send us 19.95 and we’ll mail you one of these bad devils!’ I was looking at Games Magazine not too long ago…because I do that…and remember as a kid thinking (Pillsbury DoughBoy falsetto-)- ‘oh man, Municipal Waste that sounds really naught!’ It seems like rules have changed; when you look back at any type of media today, you can get away with a lot more, now, to put out Municipal Waste it would just be one more fucking drop in the bucket…

(KK): It’s strange for us. We never really expected anyone really to listen to it. We started in the Flint scene, just playing for each other. And now, we’re doing the same quality stuff as 5 years ago… - Zak (KK): - Meh… - Teddy (KK): Okay, less wanky now, but, knowing people in fucking Croatia are listening to our shit, it’s weird.

A lot of you grew up in Flint. Now you’re all down here, and most of you are in school…
(KK): I go to CCS for Illustration, Fine Arts and Art Education. –
Teddy (KK): I go to Wayne State for secondary education, major is English, minor is history. – Kit (KK): I study History, trying to get into Wayne Law School. – Mac (KK): I’m doing pre-pharmacy stuff right now. Val (CoB): I have a degree in Rockatudilidge.

(KK): How do you guys record? –
Moses (CoB): It started when the guy who records your stuff left his old recording equipment at my house. Basically we have like a 5-year-old, just, piece of shit computer and a Casio keyboard from… -
Val (CoB): K-mart. –
Moses (CoB): K-mart, you got when you were… -
Val (CoB):…16 –
Moses (CoB): 16-years-old and we use an older music sequencing program and some samples and shit. We don’t actually practice. We get together to just write the songs and when we actually need to practice the stuff, we rehears by listening to the iPod on the way to the show.

(KK): How do you get those tones from the cardboard guitar? –
Val (CoB): It’s custom made!

(KK): How did you learn all of the computer stuff?
Moses (CoB): A lot of people we really like have said, ‘Yeah, ya know, your last record (Pleasure Mountain) was o-kay, but, did you guys…get that mastered?’ And we’re like, ‘…heh, No!’ And then they’re like, ‘Ohh, you guys should really think about plugging in the…rockatudilidge-plug and hitting the compressor-7600…and it’s just like then, when you tell people ‘I don’t know what the fuck that means…’ they’re like…kinda surprised, but then they’re kinda not…

(KK): That’s what bands like us are both about! I think that comes from where we’re from, too. We just do this and we don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re just gonna try it out. –

(CoB): You just develop a method. For us, it was reel-to-reel, on our first 5-6 albums that we put out on different bands. We didn’t go out and buy new reels so you can hear the ghosts of all previous albums through the tape. –
Teddy (KK): Everything I learned about being a vocalist was from Val and Moses’ previous band, Rock n Roll Bass Guitar, watching Larry Trent… -
Val (CoB): There’s definitely something that’s always been intriguing about pushing the envelope and doing something that’s surprising and whether it’s really good or not; something that’s totally different – it’s not necessarily breaking down barriers or changing the world of music but it’s something that’s totally unique and I think that’s something that Mo and I wanted to do with whatever project we were working with, something totally different from whatever else was going on, something that exists only in the realm of our band.

(KK): That’s something I wanted to ask you about…the whole backlash that seemed to happen on message boards and blogs, people talking shit about you guys not playing music, do you even think about it or just say fuck it—ya do it because you love it… -
Val (CoB): You can’t really waste any time thinking about it becase they don’t know you as a musician—they only know what they see; they don’t know anything about the musical past that either of us have had, our musical abilities or interests, it’s easy to look at something and say, ‘Man, this is really poking fun at something that I hold dear, you’re really attacking my perception of music, kinda jerking off on it…’ and we’re doing this thing in this exaggerated cartoon falsetto where it’s humorous and in our minds is still enjoyable and in our minds is something very unique because the approach we’ve taken is completely turning the whole thing on it’s ear. The only thing you’re seeing that’s real is everything-but-the-music.
Teddy (KK): I feel like those people just don’t see it. They see a band as a band; they don’t see it as a separate project for each of those musicians. I feel like both of us are “…buzz bands…” and so it just means that eventually you’re just gonna get shit on but fuck those people. –
Moses (CoB): What surprised me, everyone is interested in doing different things and being experimental with experimental approaches, but…to a certain extent. The reason we don’t have a live band, a drummer or we don’t play guitars is because everyone else does. We had a list: We’re gonna start this new band and we don’t want to have year-long-recording processes, we don’t want to have huge practice schedules, we don’t want to haul around tons of gear. –
Val (CoB): We kinda fucked up that last one… - Moses (CoB): We needed to minimize the operation as much as possible. There were still a lot of people who were like ‘Oh we’re cool with your operating outside the realm of traditional music…’ but to a certain extent. Once you have flashing lights and you don’t have a live band, then some are like ‘Oh fuck this, whatever.’ –

(KK): And, what we’re trying to do is bring it back to the bare minimal.
Zak (KK): So…what about your new album? –
Moses (CoB): We’ve got a new record called Taming the Digital Frontier – kind of a concept record about a digitized world that is like the American wild west but with all these anachronistic kind of digital Nintendo villains who roam around. When you get the record, you get 12 or 13 tracks but also an insert that has cut-out masks of our faces and a download code so you can download the live mixes that we play-to and then you can book your own shows as Champions, so, literally, anyone can do what we do.

(CoB): So…Weird City is the most recent thing I have heard of yours… -
Teddy (KK): You’re behind! – Zak (KK): I’ve got to get you Life Sucks and then we just did Life Sucks 2 -
Teddy (KK): Our main goal is to try to put out a 45. Zak (KK): With the different mediums, we want to make sure it gets the recording process it deserves. Like, a CD-R we can record in 45 minutes, maybe a tape we can do in a whole day. But on vinyl…it’ll take more time. –
Teddy (KK): The songs are taking a step forward. Kit (KK): Which, is natural for any band. Eric (KK): We’re not going backwards that’s for sure. At least not until we default and start our dance bands.

Like breaking apart and doing separate albums like KISS?
(KK): And they’re all gonna be awful. –
Kit (KK): No, Ace Frehley’s was really good. –
Teddy (KK): ‘Cuz of ‘New York Groove!’ – Kit (KK): Yeah. –
Teddy (KK): Which is a cover song! –
Zak (KK): I think we’re learning today that sometimes cover songs can be good. –
Teddy (KK): I think what we’re learning today is that Kit-really-likes-Ace-Frehley!
Kit (KK): My guitar…I got it because it looks like Ace Frehley’s
(CoB): That’s so hot. Ace Frehley is so hot right now. – Teddy (KK): …right now?

(KK): What are some song titles on your new one? –
Moses (CoB): ‘1-800-Tumbleweeds’ is on it, ‘Tumbleweed Junction.’ –
Val (CoB): We have not played ‘Bits Got Lost’ live yet, which is a song we crafted about the male experience in regards to losing out on your opportunity to have sexual intercourse with a fine female due to FarmVille. We also have a hard hitting dance song called ‘Dirty Clothes’ centered around eating food you should not each in a mobile scenario, like while driving your car. Sloppy Joes…pie… I think we did do a nice cluster of songs, like Pleasure Mountain, they’re different styles, a variance between them; you’re not really listening to anything that’s super-like Pleasure Mountain; it goes to a different place.

(CoB): Do you guys have any touring plans? –
Zak (KK): We played Toledo one time, it’s hard because we’re all in school or are working. Teddy (KK): This summer we’ll at least have a few weekends-out.

And you, Champions?
(CoB): We’re gonna try to do 9 days, beginning April Fool’s Day, which is the tape-release-show. –
Teddy (KK): We should talk about how this came about… -
Moses (CoB): One thing I really like about tapes, for the same reason I like records, with records it’s an issue of fidelity. But with tapes, it’s not like as disposable of a medium as—here’s a CD-R, you can’t just listen to tapes while you’re doing something else. –
Zak (KK): It’s more active. You gotta rewind it…it’s kind of a hassle but… -
Val (CoB): I think it’s relatable to how you perform, which is almost an aggressive behavior towards the audience. Like, you are almost angry at them so you are punishing them. –
Teddy (KK): I guess, yeah.
Val (CoB): Alright? So, the cassette…is like a punishment in a way because you don’t want what’s on this tape to be so easily digestible. You want it to almost just piss you off a little bit…just a little bit…and I think that’s great!!

And so, we have the cassette release party, April 1st at the Lager House…
(KK): With the Kickstand Band – whose Allison Young played trombone on one of our Champion covers.

Which we heard tonight prior to the interview. Gentlemen, anything to add?
(KK): We’re all about rockatudilidge… -
Val (CoB): And the cassette release party…
Teddy (KK): …a music boner.

…A mostly-born-from-Flint collaboration of two different bands that went minimalist in two unique ways…
(KK): We all want to have fun, that’s why the covers worked well. We’re both about raw emotion and fun…

Monday, March 22, 2010

Border Crossing - 3/26 - Magic Stick


When I initially heard about this, I thought it might be inspired by the exasperating and protracted scrutiny that bands with their amp-gorged vans and these seedy smelling, dodgy looking artsy-type guitarists will often get...when they reach patrol stations at the Detroit/Windsor bridge...(...particularly in this era of heightened security/paranoia...particularly for the groups trying to come -in-to-the U.S.), maybe it kind of is - but it's mostly an innaugeral celebration brought to us via Windsor's CJAM - that mingles indie/punk/pop rockers of the Yankee and Canuck clubs respectively into the Magic Stick green room or slides them up to the bar together at the Majestic Cafe.

Up in the Magic Stick - from Detroit - we have Four Hour Friends (pictured by karlorbel)- Petal Shop - The Jet Rodriquez

from Ontario (in the Stick) - Adam Rideout-Arkell from Yellow Wood - James O-L and the Villains

Down in the Maj-Caf - from Detroit - we have Carjack - (pictured), who just roadtripped over to Chicago to play with Chicago-based Lasers & Fast & Shit...a band whose name not only has a jittery-finger-on-the-ADD-pulse ring to it (that also sounds fitting to a Tim & Eric type sketch), - but also have a song called "Mexico City Detroit Lions" - and hey, they're also on this Border Crossing Bill. Rounding out this weird, indie-punk-ish-electro thing in the Cafe is Windsor's the Peace Leeches.
Doors at 8
for more info
...go see CJAM

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday and Sunday Stuff

Science Rocks (at the Detroit Science Center) was a fascinating musical excursioin - Silverghost soundtracked a documentary about sharks - with film scrolling across a dome-shaped IMAX screen that drawfed the two players and their faint but resolute lamp set up - leading to acid-trip imagery of bubbles and schools of fish rolling over our heads to the swirly sounds of synthesizers and at times picturing 100-foot long Great Whites hovering just over the pair's heads. They played somewhat downbeat, more chill, unplugged-feeling versions of their songs - with 4-5 minute space-out atmospheric jams in-between...

The Prime Ministers impressed me - I'd never seen them, making this a fortuitous night - highly recommended; at times feeling like the middle ground of Sea & Cake and the Smithereens (pardon the lazy name dropping).

And The Electric Fire Babies were tighter than ever - covering Liquid Liquid and, still, getting the whole crowd to lay down on the floor.

Darling Imperial opened things up and Single Barrel Detroit premiered a 4-song video of Zoos of Berlin inside the Masonic Temple.
Also in the news: If you politely, non-bindingly suggest that Michiganders should try going one day (just one day) without eating meat - then we end up with some hyperbolic uproar (that wastes the state legislature's time, distracting from budget concerns)...all of which further fueling my already considerable paranoia at the, albeit perhaps somewhat-mild, prejudice to vegan lifestyles...if not, merely, tofu - as a national butt-of-a-joke.
Also, here's an interview with Ted Leo (at tinymixtapes) - and here's a review of his band, The Pharmacist's latest record, Brutalist Bricks.
Also, Saturday (tonight) is Phreddy Wischusen (of the Crofoot)'s 30th Birthday and he's offering you a free show - featuring Zoos of Berlin, Oblisk, Manna & Quail and Prussia - here's an interview.

That's all for now...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Minute: Moon Pool and Dead Band - Park Bar tonight

Info here - via MT and Doug Coombe
Tonight (Friday)

at the Park Bar in Detroit...

Wolf Eyes and Shettler and Dancing...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

um, is it friday yet?

videos to waste time and/or stimulate your mind (or disturb...or intrigue...) or

Caribou has a new album out April 20th - info here

CARIBOU - Odessa from Caribou on Vimeo.

Also, Yeasayer has a new album that's been out for a month or so - here's an interview conducted via TinyMixTapes - more info here - so...latest single, "O.N.E." - here...

Yeasayer "ONE" By: Radical Friend from ODDBLOOD on Vimeo.


R.I.P. - Alex Chilton...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scarlet Oaks - 3/25 - Bling Pig (Ann Arbor) w/Ultrasounds and The Wall Clocks

(Ed. - Real Detroit cut off the first sentence - so that the intro to the article doesn't quite make sense - so here's the sort-of-'uncut' version – with photo cred: Trever Long—both)

Interview: Scarlet Oaks

“We have a sound now.”

Singer/guitarist Steven McCauley accentuates the exclamation in a subtle sort of once-was-lost-but-now-am-found manner. But that’s not the case: anyone who’s checked out the Detroit quartet’s last two EPs or been able to catch a show could certainly, subjectively at least, qualify the sound: a toe-tappin, jangle-heavy, southern-rock tinged driver; a bit raw, a bit rootsy, a bit raspy and brushed with an urbane twang.

“Before,” McCauley explains, “we never really had a line-up that was established for long enough; we never really got tight. We’ve had three guitar players in three years, and two, no…three bass players, Joe (Lavis) is our third. This is the first time we’ve been able to dedicate a full year together, practicing and playing a lot more, so things come together more, and we have a good rapport with each other.”

McCauley started what would become Scarlet Oaks in the late fall of 06, with twin brother Patrick and drummer/singer Noelle Christine Lothamer. The McCauleys had essentially wrapped up the rock-centric Fifth Period Fever in 06 and enlisted Lothamer’s percussive participation for a handful of somewhat rough, kink-work-out performances through the winter of 07. Patrick would depart the band as they finished up the arduous piecing-together of their initial recordings (2007’s Innocence Isn’t Easy EP) and thus began the year long carousel of rotation shifts before finally solidifying in early 09 with Lavis and guitarist James Anthony. The two arrived in time to contribute to the more-swiftly-laid-down Canadian Dew EP.

“James is insane on guitar,” McCauley said, “he can play jazz, he can play classical and Joe’s just really solid and smooth on bass.” Lothamer, meanwhile, McCauley’s longest enduring collaborator, has banded around Detroit for years, with The Alphabet, Troy Gregory and more, and contributed writings and lead vocals to some of Canadian Dew. McCauley is still primary songwriter, but with Lothamer, he succinctly sums their shared evolution, “…she knows where to go. We’ve all become much better musicians.”

The band is “amped up” as of late: tight, together, flexed, confident and getting airtime on more than two dozen Midwest/east-coast college radio stations. “It’s long overdue,” McCauley said, going back to the rejuvenation of finally feeling settled. “We’re trying to make something of it,” he added, pointing to their upcoming out-of-state tours, his own songwriter-application for a Kresge Arts grant and an, admittedly “weird”-feeling foray into a new online arts-fundraising site called

Another indicator that they are, more than ever, at their most solidified, is they’re able to balance tenures in other bands. Most recently, Anthony collaborated with singer/songwriter Jason Croff, while McCauley plays bass with stately-popsters Computer Perfection. For McCauley, that’s a healthy collaboration: not only longtime friends with the group, it fits to his previous “riff-oriented”/synthesizer-friendly music of past projects (FPF for the former and Shuttlecock for the latter).

So what about that sound, that new found sound that the established quartet has been developing? “A little more rockin, I guess,” McCauley shrugs and follows with his characteristic hearty chuckle. “Kind of fuller, at the same time, more precise,” and then, offering, “less jangle, more punch! Obviously, in songwriting, you have a certain style, but trying to defy your own conventions is the most important thing.”

The band is working towards a summer’s recording of a full-length LP. And that, McCauley said, is “up in the air” on various levels; aiming to dress it with nuanced instrumentation and spice it with the recording touches of a handful of unique engineers.

“We have the material, we just need to lay it down.”

Scarlet Oaks – w/The Wall Clocks, The Ultrasounds – Blind Pig – 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor – 734-996-8555 – 8pm –;

Satin Peaches - Arsenic EP - 3/19

I’ve used myriad words to elucidate the shimmering rip-roar and slide of the Satin Peaches, and while “rock” would certainly fall into word-soups that I or other music journos spew out in diagnosing them, (space-rock, rock-tinged dream-pop, post-rock) the more straight up, clean and less nonsensical: “rock-n-roll” - has yet to be wholly declared – till now, I think.

Arsenic EP -

(photo: Allison Young)

The Detroit-based quartet flirted, back in the veritable sunset-days of the archaic/terminal “music biz” with international stardom and west coast wine and dines through 2006 – and their debut EP accentuated the flavors of the time: art-punk revival, high-in-the-sky-swirling guitars-tones, a mannered, almost listlessly-danceable, dreamy, shiny pop thing – beautiful tones, driving drums and hazy airy vocals. But with the re-addition of founding member Jesse Shepherd Bates on guitar/vocals, the band rolls around in the dirt a bit, scuffing up the sound with JSB’s more guttural chugging guitar flexing under singer/guitarist George Morris’ higher roaring gleam; the rhythm section seems to be physically pushing the band – almost like bassist Aaron Nelson and drummer Jeremy Smith are charging recklessly forward, bent-knees and pointy shoulders, hitting, shaking and shunting the duel-guitarist/singers up against the mics and almost clear out of the room. “Gojira” is the tone setter – tight, pounding drums, swaggering bass and guitars tough n grimacing – it’s a hook-fest, but recalls the blues-tinged psyche of Bates’ (Morris-collaborated) JSB Squad. “No Regrets” reflects the band’s maturity via an epic rounding ballad that burns ever brighter into an all-points-forward, shambled invigoration. “Red” will be the song that justifies the buzz often attached to TSP; Morris’ high wheezy coaxing leads the batch’s best display of intertwining guitars, both following their own bristly, pedal-fuzzed tracts and whizzing up into respective soloing. The sound is less tight-pantsed NY-glistened neo-space-punk and a bit more retro, fractured-pop, rootsy, brawny at points, much more dynamic with its punches.

Arsenic EP Release - Magic Bag - 3/19

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Science Is Real! Explore, Learn, Hypothesize, Test, Conclude and Rock!

Pattys Day - Science Day - Peaches Day

Wednesday - if one is willing to sacrifice one's whole self, physically, to the spirits of St Patrick's Day - be it Guinness or Whiskey or rock n roll - then one can camp out at The New Way Bar in Ferndale, Mar 17th - for Black Lodge (pictured) with The Luckouts, Pewter Cub, Pigeon, Almost Free and Karalavara - starts at 8pm - lotta music to cram in... more info here

Then, Thursday night - At The Detroit Science Center - Science Rocks gets a sequel - hosting another night of local music-infused-learning - Silverghost, Darling Imperial, The Prime Ministers - and The Electric Fire Babies (pictured below) - will perform throughout the interactive facilities. Info here and here

And, finally - on Friday - The Satin Peaches (pictured below) are releasing a new EP into the world - Arsenic - at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. Almost Free will also be on this bill - along with The Fake Take and...I take pause at this admirable band name, One Man's Opinion. More info here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Interview: Phreddy Wischusen - (Brothers Bonanza - Mar 20 - Eagle Theatre, Pontiac)

(Ed. - What follows was an original draft of what was almost a zine...attempted, anyway... but printing wound up being too much of a thorn in my wallet - so I thought I'd just share it here...and simultaneously save paper.)
(words: milo)

Who can sit still at a time like this?

Not when so many are convinced the world is ending.

It is spring time in South East Michigan – and an eerily early verdant green is already returning in this deceptive warm weather.

And I am trying to write about my dreams. And inspiration – and collective goals. And cynicism. And about being young and what does that mean. What do you want out of your writers in this age of dead newspapers, dying personal-computers and stoic Kindles and false-started iPads. Traversing the sterile, spiritless, solemnly glowing screens of whatever medium for which we daily nourish a Stockholm-syndrome engrossment—there are still words being transmitted, via online mags or blogs; there’s even someone, somewhere, in a noisily-humming basement or glass building writing up the copy for the advertisements leeching at the corners of your iTouch’s displays showing Google-map-returns of “Sushi Restaurants; near Royal Oak.”

Who’s writing all this internet-set nonsense now and who even cares? The bigger question it leads to – as this zine steadily eats itself with self-pondering – is how to capture a collective experience of culture when times have lead to such hyper-niche-separation – to the point where a humble zine such as this can happily tell you about an upcoming free show in Pontiac, MI – but its writer, a writer not unlike the many humans who write the fleeting texts we now all blur by on our computers – is driven to lunacy with questions of efficacy.

(pictured L-R: Adam Davis, Candace O’Lear, Phreddy Wischusen) (photo by: Thomas Matich)

One man who might be able to help find the answer is Phreddy Wischusen. Wischusen turns 30 this week. He’s only been in Detroit for five of those years – yet in that window he’s gotten to the point where, not only does more than half the “scene” know his name, but likely that same half is also well acquainted with the seemingly ever-grinning gray-speckled brown-beardy and his imposing presence, character and vociferous call.

Wischusen is the general manager at the Crofoot entertainment complex in Pontiac (1 S. Saginaw)– a role he rose to, steadily from his humble Michigan-set beginnings of dressing up in a giant teddy bear costume for a music video (prophetic, considering his warm demeanor).

Ever-driven towards forging communal collaboration, the Baloo-ish chap often claims you by spoken proclamation, as “Bud,”, or, if you’ve got a Y-chromosome, “…brother.” Thus, Brothers Bonanza – is celebrated this Saturday at the Eagle Theatre (next to the Crofoot) – a free concert featuring some of Detroit’s finest: Manna & Quail / Oblisk / Zoos of Berlin and Prussia – it’s also the big guy’s 30th birthday.

(video: Prussia, filmed by Trever Long)

On a day when I’m contemplating whether we should really expect more life, more zing, more get-up-and-go - from our writers in the ethereal technocalypse of 2010—I ask myself, what more would or should we want? Perhaps an accentuation of advocacy journalism, but– not the opinions-are-like-assholes exasperation of bloggers or the hidden-agenda-via-attention-grabbing-crazy-jabber-ala-loudmouth-TV-pundits – but, perhaps, an honest admittance from this writer could prove to be refreshing (not just for the writer but hopefully for the reader) that Wischusen, a beacon of enthusiasm in this sometimes indiscernible music community where the loudest/strident expressions are those of blogger-comment-posters, has registered inspiration in me – a soul certainly discouraged, but not ready to give up. But maybe, also, not only to document the, pardon if it sounds cheesy, the “power of art,” but documenting a group (that which Wischusen has settled into) that wants to build it to last – as opposed to downplaying/castigating it as fleeting…(…as fleeting as the blur of words through the internets channels…as fleeting as this zine, perhaps). But this writer still believes the power lies with the artists.


Wischusen was born and raised just outside of Snellville, GA. “In the 80’s, there were two t-shirts every kid had air-brushed, either reading “Gatlinburg” (Gatlinburg is the Panama City Beach of the Tennessee State part of the Smoky Mountains) and the other shirt read “Everybody’s Somebody in Snellville”…pretty special.”

“When I was young, there was not much there – a few new neighborhoods and a McDonald’s. Now, it is a suburban nightmare of fallow strip-malls, gas stations and restaurants owned by the Darden Corporation that are rapidly waning in national popularity.”

Wischusen graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University, with a degree in “Classical Civilizations.”

“Wonder what that means?” he quips, “…so did every prospective employer.”

After college, he lived in Atlanta, then spent six months out west in Montana and California. He was in Birmingham, AL for a bit before winding up in metro Detroit. “Some hitch-hiking, gluttony, making bad music and a lot of extremely pretentious pseudo-philosophizing characterize those years…” said Wischusen. “I guess not much changes, huh?”

He steadily entered the arts and music scene through 2005, via friends in Manna & Quail, while he day-jobbed in a fancy restaurant in the sterile and suburban Somerset Collection megamall.

“I started out in music here by appearing as a teddy bear in a Manna and Quail video, and then graduated to becoming their merch guy. Adam Davis (then in M& Q, now with Jessica Hernandez), Steve Saputo (still in M& Q) and Jared Groth (now part of Single Barrel Detroit) started a group called ARC in Pontiac as the result of post-teen/twenties angst, a few late-night conversations, and a genuine desire to get involved in making the kind of communities that we all wanted to live in.”

The group had strong support from the Pontiac Downtown Development Authority, the Crofoot, “countless friends, community members,” artists like Dan DeMaggio and Chris Everhart (the latter of design artists Silent Giants), and thus were able to “build an energy that is still resonating” for Wischusen, “in Pontiac, now.”

“From ARC, Jared and I went on to start PHONOTROPIC at the Crofoot with the help of Ms. Candace O'Leary and Mr. Dan McGowan and the rest as they say is history- I am now lucky enough to work at the Crofoot full-time! We all cut our teeth setting up weird experimental events doing PHONOTROPIC every week, which was an amazing opportunity to explore how much sensory info you can pack into five hours on a Friday! Once Chad Nicefield (M&Q, Wilson) joined the Crofoot team we kicked it up another notch.”

While working in that restaurant in the megamall, eventually edging up to its manager, Wischusen learned “how to talk to people and how to make everyone happy. Once you can spill salsa in a woman’s hair and have her come back again the next week raving about how good everything is, then you’ve hit a stride.”

“I also took a class in college called, ‘Theory and Dynamics of Race and Oppression;’ the class taught us to think critically and to identify, in any situation, where the power dynamics were. Just like in a car when you understand where the power comes from—you can watch how the whole machine works. So, you learn how to make things work.”

“Right now, the power of Detroit is in the passion and creativity of its arts community. I have been trying to learn how to harness that creative power and help it to empower our communities.”

After 5 years as propulsive, positive provocateur around Detroit, I ask, through all the myriad theme-mega-events thrown together at the Crofoot complex, what were some of his most rewarding or favorite experiences:

“The most rewarding so far has been the WOMEN’s Arts event that just happened – the synergy between us and the passion that came together to pull off that was beyond inspirational, it was transformative.”

The show featured a dozen bands (prominently featuring females) as well as art installations and craft displays (and DJ sets) from women artists of the Michigan community.

“Overall the most rewarding thing that has happened is the experience of becoming a part of such a glorious community and to be so embraced by it. I am a weird guy and in the 25 years of life I lived before I came to Detroit, I never felt at home. I never felt like people got what I was about. Here, for some crazy reason, everyone has been so accepting of me and so supportive. I have accomplished more personally because of the love surrounding us here than ever before. I feel like the city has pushed me to live 24-hours-a-day, to love beyond the boundaries of my heart, to enlarge my mind.”

Indeed. So now you see what I was rambling about on the first few pages. But then, I ask him about negativity. Arts apathy, if you will…or the haters of the blog-commentary boards. However ironic or purposely-provoking they are intentionally being…etc etc… When someone encounters such a positive force as Wischusen, one has to wonder…

“As for negativity, I am human – I can be an asshole, I have a series of awkward physical compulsions, body odor (I am definitely the most profuse-sweater in the city), and vacillate between having a monstrously huge ego and being terribly self-effacing. There are plenty of reasons to hat eon me and if I knew me, I would probably do so! …With that in mind it is somewhat easier to deal with negativity, because it is a great lesson: negativity is often a mirror-image of what I have been projecting!”

“It teaches me where I go wrong. It also sharpens my creativity. As for the blogs, most of them are so positive, which I really appreciate, but then…there is Eat This City…amazing haters. It never fails to amaze me how such nice guys can hate so hard and still pull it off so well and leave everyone hysterically laughing – two of the smartest guys in town….their fearlessness is really refreshing.”

“As for the hate-everything-people,” a phrase he repeats to me after I mention it via questioning, “if our society is only as strong as the weakest link, they become the litmus for how we can change consciousness, the measure of our success. Hate on, haterz, the hug-train won’t be missing your stop!”

That the success is a collective change of consciousness. Strength of spirit, open mindedness, positivity.
(pictured: Zoos of Berlin)

I ask him about his own philosophy, when approaching show-organization, or whatever highflying charge he’s apart of next…

“…Joseph Conrad said in the Heart of Darkness, ‘We live as we dream…alone.’ – I believe that is the most important concept in community building and promotion. In finding a way to live together that works, we need to make it so individuals are individually motivated to work together, and before that happens we need to educate and inspire and engage the silent singular dreams of each of us. Collaborative Self-Interest, I suppose is the way of the 21st Century. When each of our dreams, in their glory and ego, takes flight alone and merges with others, like wandering geese, then we will look towards equators of social progress.”

“Make everyone feel welcome and known and they will come back for more and contribute more. If it works at concerts, I believe it can work in our neighborhood and in industry.”

Let’s hope.

So now, Wischusen turns 30. “I feel like it’s a Bar Mitzvah year in an era of extended adolescence, a kintango for perpetual Peter Pans. It’s also coincidentally days from my 5th anniversary living in Michigan so I have a lot to be thankful for.”

(pictured: Manna & Quail)

Wischusen asked Oblisk, Zoos of Berlin, Prussia and Manna & Quail not only because they are some of his personal favorites, but also their strengths in visual presentation; mise en scene as well as music. Each, said Wischusen, “have a heavily visual or poetic style that makes them poster children for the creative community. If you listen to Trevor (Naud of Zoos of Berlin)’s lyrics and intonations, you can see it in his design work! Oblisk are the masters of bringing their music on to a screen and creating an almost Wagnerian majesty at a show. If you haven’t seem Manna & Quail’s latest show, I don’t want to spoil it for you, just get ready to be beamed into the future, it is so amazing.”
(pictured below: Oblisk)

He concludes: “I want this,” this free concert, March 20th at the Eagle Theatre in Pontiac, “to be an explosion of creativity and collaboration that will serve as my thank-you to everyone for making these past five years so wonderful for me.”

I myself, wouldn’t devote, similarly, five full years of writing about Detroit’s arts community, if I didn’t believe wholeheartedly into the insights shared, here, by Wischusen.



Zoos of Berlin:


Manna & Quail:

The Crofoot complex:

Silent Giants: