Monday, January 31, 2011
Listen: Chris Bathgate - "Salt Year"
Charm. Ferocity. Sloppy, sincere, maybe a bit awkward. ...and...Gnomes.
Here's a music video featuring one of the performers from the bill above, and simultaneously, one of the performers from the bill below (which, itself, features a range of talented "front-ladies," spanning dark folk-rock, shoegaze and indie-blues).
Say,...is that Blowout Schedule up yet?
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Hear about it all - from this On The Media encore broadcast.
On The Media - 7am Saturdays and 7pm Sundays on Michigan Radio (91.7 fm in Detroit)
Dutch Pink has a new line up, (essentially) - and their focusing the components of its added vigor onto a live album.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
What can they get you?
Cafe Ollie brings you some of the usual subtle, homey, stimulating comforts - coffee - sandwiches - intriguing and charming staff - and an omnipresent vibe-(like the distant, echoing gregorian chant swirling through a cathedral's arches), -of appreciation for art and music. "50% meat-eater + 50% vegetarian + 50% vegan + 150% delicious"
And it's yet another sprig of vibrancy to sprout in Ypsilanti's Depot Town - oh so recently made just that much more electric by the well received opening of Woodruff's. Just down the street - at 42 Cross Street - stands Ollie's - a new music cafe for the curious, the cultured, the cool and clueless and the meandering iconoclasts.
On Feb 1st - they'll have a commendable launch party of sorts - featuring music from Dan Kroha (of Gories-fame), Hush Arbors, Jason Ajemian and Swimsuit.
Also inhabiting the cafe that night, besides the music and the whir of cappuccino machines, will be a group art show featuring Michigan artists: Matthew Bernick, Thelonious Bone, Spencer Bryant, Robert DiMaria, Tom Hohmann, Gregory McKeighan, Alexander Roskowski and Jeremy Wheeler.
More info here.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Songwriters Jim Cherewick and Reagan Sova open up about "'the Whisk'" - playing 2/4 @ Woodruff's with fellow Ypsi/Arbor area groups like: Lake Folk, Team Ethic, Gun Lake, Match by Match -
Caustic folk spread between the bread slices of bendy, suburban-surrealism blues and scruffy indie-pop. Lou Barlow's melodious existentiliasm and Dave Berman's low-to-mid-range sing-speak poetics haunt the edges of the sound.
LW started "during my most grizzly bout of depressino to date," said Sova, as his previous Bear Mountain Picnic came to a halt.
"I had become unnaturally obsessed with the soundtrack of a B-rate Wilson brothers' (Luke/Owen) movie called The Wendells Baker Story and a spaz-folk band from Austin TX called Pillow Queens. I wanted to make music along those lines, so I contacted two of the best musicians I knew, Jim Cherewik and Scott Hein."
This was 2008. Cherewick gathered that this new project would be "more acoustic and heavy on the words..." Sova and Cherewick split (or shared) lead vocals and guitars with Hein on keys. Abbot Daimler (of Team Ethic) joined on bass and Aaron Quillen (Lone Wolf & Cub) came in on drums.
Somewhere around 09, Cherewick said, the band kinda went into a limbo state. It was May, Sova said, when that line up disbanded, having played "memorable shows with Boywife, Hospital Garden, Morseville Bridge... -I ended up blowing most of my inheritance on medical tests (which always came out normal) but I look at that year as a time of tremendous healing. Whisker was a considerable part of it too."
Sova spent the spring/summer in France/Israel on scholarships. When he returned, it seemed he was all that remained of LW. Hein had moved to Lithuania, Daimler and Quillen moved to other projects and Cherewick seemed uncertain, figuring it was likely, just, over.
But Sova started writing some songs. Later, in 2009, he moved in to an Ypsi house on Grove, and his new housemate (Cherewick) was ready to continue "the Whisk." Secret Twins' Dina Bankole came in, momentarily, on bass and Elliot Daimler (who also moved in) took drums. They recorded Huge Power in summer '10. Elliot "unfortunately had to mosey on" but they met Kumiko Endo at their Blind Pig CD Release party. "Kumiko is the most amazing person to be around and she is an incredible drummer," Sova said. "Stef Chura, who is a fantastic solo musician in her own right, and a great friend, agreed to help us out on bass." This has been the line up since. "And we have played some of the most fun shows and have had some of the most fun of probably my whole life."
"If we were rocking harder, now, then we needed killer songs," Cherewick said, recalling the lead-up to Huge Power. On Grove St, "it was easier to bat stuff back and forth. 'No sleep till we write 3 songs tonight,' was kind of the mantra." Of the writing collaboration, "both our hands were in the soil, feeling around." They hooked up with Brad Perkins from Worm Farm Recordings to help record it at Grove.
The title came from scouring National Geographic for word-combos. "Huge Power fit us well," Cherewick said. "The Underdogs of Ypsi is how we saw it. LW was now a full kicking rock band yet at the same time not taking that so seriously and being able to poke fun of where we thought we fit in." HP was released on Joshua Barton's Arts Vs. Entertainment label.
On Ypsi/Arbor...and Mittenfest, Cherewick: "I dig seeing bands that make you think about your own craft. Bands helping bands, whether they know it or not."
Sova had no particular reflections upon Ypsi/Arbor's scene as a whole. But, simply remarked at the experience of growing older (and exceling in music) alongside his close friends: Fields of Industry, Secret Twins, Steve Smalls, Team Ethic... "...the list goes on..."
Next: A bit of uncertainty. Endo moves to Japan in May and Sova's not sure where he'll be come autumn. "She's an amazing drummer, we're gonna miss her," Cherewick said. "If we keep going? Sweet. If it stops? It was fun and I'll continue doing my own solo projects, be it Mouth Finger, me-and-a-loop pedal, or, my new project, Jamerson (-odd karaokee with a drum machine).
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Erin Shellman (vocals/double-bass); Danielle Gartner (cello/vocals/mandolin); Eric Anderson (banjo/mandolin/vocals); Bryan Mayer (guitar); John Nipper (percussion).
But, she added, bands playing/performing throughout what are two dueling college towns, can experience certain limitations. As is endemic to many music scenes, bands can wear of relying on their-friends-in-other-bands to be the core of support for live shows, which can (and sometimes inevitably) happen when your potential crowd (often students) can sometimes be hesistant to consistently head out for live shows, whether for their wallets emptied by student loans or maybe they're actually staying in to study. (Or, hey, some might not be able to get past that 21+ sign at the bar entrance). It can be a tough crowd to rack, Shellman said.
"But," Shellman said, "I think Ann Arbor and Ypsi have a history of supporting art and music and that the area can be a hub again..."
From here on out: "We're stoked about touring," Shellman said. Lake Folk is heading on a 10-day midwest tour this April, starting in Ann Arbor, down to Nashville and back. As the dead of winter passes, they eagerly await word back from the numerous festivals to which they've applied. "I can't wait for summer."
Monday, January 24, 2011
So, as a subjective documentarian who is all too aware of his own 78 mile round trip required of "Ypsi outings," I'm humbly attempting to document more of the bands out there, winding around South US-23 and 94. Here goes:
Sounds: Rousing indie-pop, with a strong rhythmic heart and the glistening harmonization of fuzzy guitars<-->whirring synth - It's a big, full sound, but instead of blowing it out or going down to much of a zealously fibrous "rawk" road, they never forget the sanctity of melody.
Formed in 2009, Team Ethic was started between college friends Abbot Daimler (singer/guitarist) and Joel Skene (keyboard/guitar/vocals) along with local band journeymen Ed Golembiewski (bass). Daimler's resume: Slow Dance Revival, Long Whisker). Skene's (Lone Wolf & Cub, Fields of Industry). Golembiewski, meanwhile, played in Invader, Boywife and, now, Fields of Industry. After over a year of writing (with a revolving drummer), they settled the line up with Carl Greene (of Royal), started performing in September and released a debut EP, The Great White North.
Skene said Great White was just supposed to be a demo/sampler for venues. "But Brandon Wiard at Pretty Suite Recordings offered to help us out, and the man can't seem to do anything half-assed." Pleased with the results, (it retained the vigor of its circumstances, having been recorded live in one night), they then had Jon Visger (of Mason Proper) master it.
"One thing that really unites us," Skene said, "is how much we all love Ypsilanti." Each member has bought a house in the area. "We feel that Ypsi is a lot more than a poor man's Ann Arbor, and we all actually prefer it (to AA). "There's a lot of young, post college-age people around and there's a great art and music scene here that's small enough that you feel like you can make a dent... There is a certain quirkiness to it that is really fun; I think it comes from the feeling, here, that there are so many possibilities and people are willing to just go for it."
For a non-musical example, Skene refers to the Shadow Art Fair community with it's costume ball/midnight parade centering around a demonic/mythological figure named Krampus, tagging along with Santa to punish bad kids. He also gave a nod to the eclectic range of performance artists enlivening Ypsi's Dreamland Theatre.
"Ypsi," Skene said, "is similar to Detroit in that the whole city can be an open canvas."
Skene remarked over another fantastic Mittenfest, expressing Team Ethic's shared happiness that former Elbow Room operator Andy Garris has set up "a great space that feels so cozy and welcoming," via the still-new Woodruff's.
"The scene in Ypsi has been turning it up a notch recently," Skene said. "Secret Twins, Lightning Love, The Juliets, Swimsuit and Drunken Barn Dance have really taken off, (even though some of them have moved to Detroit or AA), as well sa some acts that have been going strong for a while like Chris Bathgate, Black Jake & the Carnies, Jim Cherewick, and Todd Osborne. It's nice to have the Peters' brothers (at Ghostly & Qui Sci Records) be so involved in Ypsi and I think Team Ethic and our good friends Long Whisker want to fill the role of making lyrically smart, catchy pop rock. We've seen the crowds growing over the past couple years and the interest in music is definitely rising here."
2/4 - Woodruff's -
Team Ethic + Lake Folk + Gun Lake + Long Whisker + Match by Match
Allen's not about to throw out his guitar for synthesizers. Dinosaur Jr., Ted Leo, Guided By Voices, and Pinkerton-era Weezer are still his main galley of muses 's - he's been honing it for a decade now- (growing away from the 03-era spazzed-leanings of TAN), so he knows well the realms of instantaneous hooks and exuberant riffs.
So, he's uploaded a free 4-song-glimpse into latest opus - which range from self-affirming/repudiating pop-ballad middle fingers to the mostly annonymous gallery of blog-comment posters (oh, the blog battles)... - to breezier bop-fest ditties about, yeah, sure, wanting to slow down a bit, but being unable to stop writing.
One's not sure how nostalgic he actually is, dancing around the phrase of "old days" with "Headache Nights." Its fourth track closes with a few nods back to the originals' exasperation, pushing a what feels like optimistic existenialism. "We do what we do so we can do what we can..." yes, but...also, while we're at it, "Let's move ahead..."
Sunday, January 23, 2011
The High Strung are all over the world and internet now - via a recent local Chevy commerical and, most recently, thanks to their charming and spastic sounds slipping into the new Showtime show, Shameless.
Carjack continues his zany explorations/robot colonizations through our planet. He's re-settled into his former HQ and has started developing his own recording space to document and trasmit electro-punk logs back to...or out to... wherever.
Here's a picture of all the drummers from the bands - who play together, 2/3 at the Loving Touch.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Maray Fuego has the quintessential blues/country twang and timor to her pretty voice. Buzzy, blistering acoustic guitar switches out for a declarative accordion.
Del Brutto might become the lo-fi, more straight-blues counterpart to a Black Keys type trip - cathartic vocals, distinct guitars, and sparse, pounding drums.
And then, Brandon Wiard... the somewhat punk-ish / free-jazz jelly between the loaves of a mutated Dylan and Beefheart... and that's only on certain nights... unpredictable.
Friday, January 21, 2011
And hear an MP3 from Kickstand Band here.
Too Many Dudes
Kommie Kilpatrick seem to treat their songs as though their holding their breath the whole time, while punching bare knuckled through 2x4's and stomping on hot coals...or maybe it's more of an Indiana Jones having-to-outrun the giant boulder type of thing. - It's all this clenched, grimaced, fuzz-fucked, drum-blasted, 97-mph-riffage with hyper, yowling vocals. A white-light spark of energy that can only be let out of its cage for a brief period before causing too much damage... Or maybe they're actually into the whole brevity thing, man.
But there's love songs here - sure, they're about drunk boys, or about chasing that potentially mesmerizing young beauty your innocently pursuing on your bike on a Friday, ...and sometimes they're about not actually wanting to have romantic relations and, maybe, just stay in and watch the Simpsons.
At a five piece, with two guitars, bass and drums, the sound is full and, if one digs deep enough into its gnarly, mosh-elucidating grooves, can find some fine musicality blended into all the madness. - Psychotic surf rock, buzzsawing hardcore revivalism and irreverent, juvenile lyrics. Fun, fast, tumultuous.
Kickstand Band, meanwhile, set beside the tazmanian devils described above, are certainly pop - but more the realized paradigm of indie-rock ideals: delectably melodious, toe-tapping, and hooks so catchy they could yank you off your chair, yet rendered a more caustic sheen of blurred, jangled riffage and tinged with a keyed-up air, propelled forward by antsy rhythms.
Moments of their tunes may flirt with that almost-cutesy, daydreamy, surfy pop that's been mined by Best Coast types...but their edges are rougher, their tones explicitly less syrupy...in fact, that guitar's wrung to a tinnier/less-reverb-soaked, twangy gnarl, blurring by in fits reminiscent of post-punk pioneers like Wire. The drums facilitate a perfect middle ground between the tribal one-two punch of punk ("I Don't Care") to the more waltzy, shuffling style of pop/rock ("Baby Pictures") and that wavy bass struts with enough pizazz of it's own...think, not-quite-a-Pixies-thing, no no...but, almost, sometimes like a Young Marble Giants' type groove (free of any languor). Add all that to the immortal charm of well-matched boy/girl harmonized duets and their ability to weave indellible melodies -
"Still Thinking Of You" has been stuck in my head for two days. And it'll be that much more irksome when, after you finish listening to it on Gold Tapes' release, you'll have to wait an extra 30 seconds for the spools to rewind...
And you can hear these songs live, from both bands, free, at UHF - 4pm - 1/29 (...on Washington, in Royal Oak, a bit before the railroad tracks).
Gold Tapes was started within Kommie Kilpatrick, just a little while ago, after the band realized that, even though they'd been releasing all their stuff on cassette--that people were still buying it and seeming to dig the format. Why not start a label? Why not start recruiting your close friends' bands as the base for a roster?
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Their theatrical folk style may set a stark stage, of a boot-stomped, scarf-swathed, mustachioed Norwegian braving the bluster and danger of a snowy odyssey with turn of the century equipemnt, but the warm harmonized vocals wisp and patter atop a chilly guitar reminiscent of a songbird's cheery melody, counteracting the icy milleu. The woven harmonies and bouyant, barreling melodies are definitely the strengths (at least as evident from the two songs you can preview here); and there's a certain chamber-pop charm to the predominance of banjo and accordion. I know...concept album + eclectic instruments and you might think Decemberists or Arcade Fire - but you should hear for yourself... Detroiters might even hear hints of Zoos of Berlin in "At Polheim," with it's atmospheric guitars, and gossamer, crooning vocals (that seem to affect hints of a British accent).
It's out later this winter-
Monday, January 17, 2011
Well, it's time to warm up...
This friday @ Northern Lights: RAW SUGAR. Plenty of ear candy, good people and dranks... and best of all, this is FREE!!!
Sunday, January 16, 2011
- a track like "Your Laugh" feels like the tight, chopping, change-up drums of a Sea and Cake-ish John McEntyre; "Don't Look Now's" driving beat, sunburst guitars, wispy vocals and indellible pop melodies seem to bolster and behold New Pornagrapher's unabashed effervescence (combined with barbed/quirky lyricism). And "Call Me The Fool's" precious propulsion, acoustic strumming that dances along, pianos/organs sweeping in sepita-toned daydreams and disarmingly intricate guitar solos stitched between cooed-out boy-girl vocals, then, well, one conjures the inevitable Belle & Sebastian-type chamber pop -
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Jon Berz has kept himself busy. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Berz has been banding around the Metro area for ten years - most recently with the now defunct Blase Splee.
Yes No Wait
Friday, January 14, 2011
Download Chris' new single, "No Silver," from the forthcoming Salt Year LP, via his site.
Chris Bathgate’s forthcoming Salt Year LP covers much more than 365 days. One of Ann Arbor’s esteemed music mavens, the folk/rock singer/songwriter is transitioning from an “off-album cycle” to an “on-album cycle,” as he’s soon to release his first full length in four years, Salt Year. In the time between this album (coming on A2-based Quite Scientific) and 2006’s landmark gothic folk opus A Corktale Wake, Bathgate maintained a salaried job at the Neutral Zone (where he worked in music education and helped build, launch and operate a recording studio with a brigade of motivated teens). He angled for some touring, here (a bit nationally) and there (a bit in Europe) while also finding time to put out a limited EP (Wait, Skeleton).
Now, moving on from the Neutral Zone, his musical engines are revving at the starting line of another tour and another album’s unveiling. Guitar in hand and a new band beside him, he gazes hungrily down that long familiar road he’s been meaning to turn back down and thus return to the romantic roaming minstrel / diy-touring ways he’s thrived on through this past decade.
“My goal is to play music as much as possible and tour as much as possible and keep on recording as much as possible. Music is my priority at this point.”
For the last 2 years, Bathgate has essentially burned his candle at both ends, teaching youths about various aspects of music by day, then scrounging the fleeting hours of the night to write, spending days-off in Woodgrain Music with Jim Roll. He speaks of Salt Year as a document of about a two-year timeline, “while I was obsessively working on a project in a studio and obsessively working on a studio with a bunch of high schoolers. But I was missing the performance aspect.”
“Off-album cycle,” Bathgate repeats, “sounds light, but it’s a very heavy thing to say. I was recording, still engaged in music but it was frustrating to not be as active, like I was deficient on vitamins. I love to travel; I love to play music in other towns, playing music for people. That one-on-one connection, that’s where music really breathes, for me.”
He describes the slog of Salt: stressing yet inspiring, both trudging and propelling. Sometimes he’d collapse on Roll’s couch while hearing playbacks, “in and out of consciousness,” then later hitting fits of jumping and fist-pumped rejuvenation at the rewards reaped from capturing the magic he’d hoped for all along, (as some of these songs have evolved from previous versions or just traveled with him over the years).
Salt Year combines ideas of a year as “a place holder for a long time period” and “salt, like salt of the earth. It’s some definer of a year of struggle, which is actually longer than a year.”
The album explores the “weirdness” discovered when one analyzes one’s relationships and oneself. “The longer you know someone, the crazier it is and the stronger your relationship is; so many other things are unspoken between you, the subtlest thing can mean quite a lot, like a simple phrase or anything. Everything becomes more weighted because of all these shared experiences.”
Salt’s music was tracked (with initial mixing) by Roll, final mixing and vocals were wrapped by Chris Koltay in Detroit, and it was mastered by Gavin Lurssen. The first single, “No Silver” and music video drop January 11th (chrisbathgate.com). The touring (“super group”) line up (Graham Parsons (The Go-Rounds), Matt Milia (Frontier Ruckus), Matt Jones (the Reconstruction), Keith Kinnear (This Is Deer Country) & Jeremy Quentin (Small Houses)) play Rubbles Bar (Mt. Pleasant) and Macs Bar (Lansing) 1/13 and 1/14. They play the Dreamland Theatre (Ypsi) 2/4. Look for a proper album release show in April.
Bathgate performs 1/14 at Mac's Bar in Lansing
Salt Year Track listing
1. Eliza (hue)
2. No Silver
3. Poor Eliza
5. Fur Curled on the Sad Road
7. In the City
8. Own Design
9. Salt Year
11. Everything (Overture)
Thursday, January 13, 2011
DJ Mel Wonder will be providing a soundtrack full of soul, hip/hop and rock - while savvy rock institutions like The Sights and The High Strung trade sets.
This is a chance Vol. 3 of Motor City Special LIVE
as well as possibly win some Kid Rock tickets. Live Nation, Universal Music and Warner Bros are all offering up a bit of enticing swag via MCB... Come see what you can get. And come hear some music.
The High Strung are starting the recording of their seventh proper full-length, Possible-O-Impossible; while the Sights have just released a live 10" vinyl.
Fillmore @ 2115 Woodward Ave - Detroit
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
LG 5 - 2 Day / 2 City Festival/Birthday Party - 1/14 at Park Bar (Detroit) + 1/15 at Woodruff's (Ypsi)
In the summer of 1999, a band of outsiders, made up of about two dozen musical misfits, crammed into a basement in Commerce Township...where they plugged in amplifiers and took up instruments. They recorded a live album, round-robin style; jamming, drinking, rocking and rolling until four in the morning.
This ceremony was known as the “Wang Dang Doodle” and it’s where Loco Gnosis was born. The live album reinterpreted Willie Dixon’s bellicose blues cut and conjured their own battle royal of ballads; a rock n roll ricochet in the spirit of a saloon slugfest; it was the zenith of sporadic sessions through the 90’s, shared between old high school buddies from Walled Lake Central, including pitch-ins from other satellite songwriters.
Two days later, the White Stripes released their debut album, thus helping initiate this town’s famed garage rock explosion – Before it got going though, Jeff Howitt, the soon-to-be founder of Loco Gnosis, upped sticks and moved out to Phoenix.
(Pinkeye photo, above, by Chris Zagaki)
It’s galvanized a varied network of musicians throughout southeast Michigan to continue in what its chieftain Jeff Howitt reveres most: the hallowed/notorious lineage of Detroit rock n roll.
Fast forward five years to January 2006. “I guess I was just trying to light a bonfire,” Howitt said of organizing the Loco Gnosis’ “Township Revue” at the Masonic Temple. The event featured fourteen bands, from the then-established Scott Morgan’s Powertrane and Scotty Karate, mingled with then-up-and-comers like Oscillating Fan Club, Red China, Molly Jean and Carjack, (<-pictured below, photo: Trever Long)
“At that point, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I was in flux,” Howitt said. “I was more focused, then, on us building a fire together that night. It was interesting to see these people become friends. I intuited correctly that all these bands would get along and something would come out of it. It was a whole different cast of players.”
Loco Gnosis (translated: “crazy wisdom”), as a label (of sorts) would slowly take shape into a loose collective, an umbrella banner for a revolving network of ego-less/un-pretentious “music fans” (who happened to be musicians) steadily spurring each other on to start following their muses and put their songs down to tape.
Five years later, it’s helped forge forty releases, a dozen expansive festivals and a web of collaborators and loose affiliates spanning this city’s cultural movers and shakers, be they contemporaries or living legends.
“When the main man (Howitt) came back to town from Arizona,” said songwriter Lance T. Sanders, “he had this grand idea of documenting this strange music that was coming out of his hometown.” Sanders performed at the 1999 Wand Dang as well as summer 2005’s Wang Dang Doodle 2 (at Planet Ant). His flagship band, Bored Housewives (pictured above), co-headlined the January 06 “Township Revue.” “From that point on, (Loco Gnosis0 became this huge collective of musicians, artists, writers, picture-takers…and I’ve dug being apart of it.”
“All of a sudden, there’s this new breed of weirdo…” Howitt said, recalling his epiphany at the second Wang Dang in 05. “…that, I know all these musicians that don’t sound like anything that’s popular or like anything that anybody knows…but, (also), these pockets of musicians don’t hang out together.”
Howitt spent his first year with Loco Gnosis (06), “trying to whip this group of people into recognizing itself.”
“It wasn’t that there wasn’t a place for us…it’s that we had to create it.”
Loco Gnosis seems like it was never its own thing, but many things. Contracts were set aside early on and replaced with handshakes; there was no overarching style throughout its catalog (even if psychedelic and roots rock seemed prevalent); there was no ostensible cliquey quartering—LG would throw shows featuring Silverghost, Prussia or even Dan Kroha (Gories) and John Sinclair—it didn’t aim to be a repeating carousel.
“What I’ve always enjoyed most about Loco Gnosis,” said experimental recording artist Mike Ross, “and about the city of Detroit-at-large, is that anything can happen at any time and you can work without a rulebook to make what you want to make.” Ross, along with Bored Housewives singer/guitarist Lance T. Sanders, also contributed to both Wang Dangs, founded noisy art-rock trio Red China and now runs Algae Tapes & Records. “I think that’s true anywhere, but I think people realize and utilize this information more in Detroit, because there’s never really been anything set in place.”
Ross helped found the Pinkeye Orchestra in 2007; an ambitious, amorphous project serving as a freak jazz clinic / veritable Loco Gnosis all-star’s revue, exploding/destroying/rebuilding cover songs. Pinkeye recorded a live album with John Sinclair, at Corktown Tavern, on the eve of Tiger Stadium’s demolition.
“We’ve always had to make it up as we go along,” Ross continued, “and that sort of improvisation is what leads to real revelation. That’s the ethos that Loco Gnosis started out with.”
“Sometimes people can learn from failure,” Howitt said, “and sometimes people can learn from inspiration.” He references Whitman’s writings upon what waits “intrinsically” in oneself, when he recalls his own self-publishing of his poems from age 19 – connecting, now, 20 years later, to his musical pursuits and Loco Gnosis’ own relationship to the DIY-ethos. “Even if somebody might do it better, somebody still had to walk into the canyon first. I might have an idea and I might not execute it the best way, but if my failing in your eyes allows you to see your thing better, I’ll take it.”
“DIY is a great concept, but you still have to do the work; because if you haven’t done it, then you’re ultimately unchallenged and un-judged. Even if my shit sucks, I’d rather be known for it sucking, instead of: it could have sucked…”
Loco Gnosis could have happened; all of Howitt’s musical misfit friends could have started to finally mingle and collaborate on new projects; there could have been a loose label of sorts that acted as, interchangeably, a beacon of new ideas in psychedelic art & music, or like a base camp for a band only stopping along its way up the mountain. Well, it all did. Because each member, Howitt included, pushed each other out there, committing to it.
“(Howitt)’s always paid respect to the lineage, the tradition of great Detroit rock n roll,” said Lo-fi Bri, a.k.a. Carjack. “He and I, and all of our buddies around Walled Lake and Commerce, had been doing things under the radar for 10 years prior. Originally, he had the impetus to document his friends, to capture this stuff that he and his friends were working on, but it eventually blossomed into this whole other scene of musicians. Eventually it became…well, not a label, but, a collective of friends. We were always just fans of music.” Lo Fi Bri spent many basement sessions with Howitt, through the late 90’s; the pair of them sharing formative experimental writing/recording sessions to eventually help develop their own work.
Howitt points to 2007 as a golden year for the label. Original participants like Sanders and Ross started drifting away, one to raise his family, the other to develop other projects; while some, like the Hotwalls or Siddhartha, moved away or took sabbaticals.
Meanwhile, Lo-Fi Bri, was gaining steam with his project, Carjack; the Oscillating Fan Club had their debut EP released in what was a formative year for them and a band of mostly unknowns from the west side started showing up at Loco-friendly gigs, playing loud, exhilarating instrumental music and calling themselves Wildcatting (pictured below, photo by Lo-fi Bri) later to become Bars of Gold).
Other bands started drifting toward the label, either as official roster members, loose affiliates or just simply persistent LG-festival performers, from Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program, to Woodman, to Silverghost, to the Questions, Freer, and Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment, to Dutch Pink, Prussia, Marco Polio & the New Vaccines, and up to more recently, with High Speed Dubbing, Pewter Cub, Rogue Satellites, Eleanora and Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor.
Wildcatting’s arrival paired with Oscillating Fan Club’s surge through 07 seemed to galvanize the label, to finally make it “a thing.”
Wildcatting drummer Brandon Moss and OFC singer/guitarist Ray Thompson became “defacto generals in the field,” helping to further Loco Gnosis, in roster-size, in notoriety, in integrity, and in festival coordination. Other local musicians stepped up to add grease to the gears with whatever needed to be done, including Frank Lee and Jason Worden (who would go on to form Forget Recordings).
“(Loco Gnosis) didn’t require a hard-fast membership," Howitt said. "You could participate on multiple levels.”
Through 06 and into 07, Howitt had decided to sideline some of his other writing projects and go full steam and embrace his role as quasi label-head. “I became interested in trying to get bands from the outside—in, because we’re fans. We’re not trying to make something that you can’t get into…”
But as he gained assistance from more “generals,” he was able to foster his own flagship band, Duende. Duende, currently a four piece with Laura Willem, Joel McCune and Scott Sandford, formed indirectly out of an experimental jam band from 2005, called The Loco Gnosis Band. After that, in mid 2006, Howitt tried realigning that band and jammed with Ryan Milligan (of the Hotwalls) George Cortez, Sanders and Willem, eventually christening it Duende – a band that would go on to release two LPs, tour the east coast and collaborate with Matt Verta-Ray, Dale Beavers, the late James Semark – and perform on bills with John Sinclair and Jon Spencer.
“I love how the loose group of people who are with, or affiliated with Loco Gnosis are some of the weirdest, most kind and inspiring people around,” Bars of Gold's Moss said. “These are people who above all love and respect music and art (& have a good time as well). It was odd befriending all of these sweet people. Coming from being in a band like Wildcatting- a loud, kinda improvy-anti-band- (…and before that, with Bear Vs. Shark which never fared well in Detroit), to playing shows with these odd and awesome dudes, was just rad for me and rest of Wildcatting. We initially felt a bit out of place in town, but as music developed in this post garage rock-town, all the bands seemed more and more weird.”
“I didn’t ever want it to be like, an authority figure, that people feel locked into…it’s a collective. It’s naturally gone that way. It’s still a collective of bands that has access to a bank and a hand in how big shows are run; to look at it as a tool-box."
"It’s not that I don’t want Loco Gnosis to succeed; but, I want more for people to be successful and autonomous, rather than one canopy or banner. I want it to succeed but I have to leave enough room where people don’t feel that they need to rebel against it. I’m not saying we’re ‘mainstream,’ but, our name has been around enough that people may or may not know what we’re about; but they might consider us part of something ‘established.’ We’re really not that established. We’re more of a fluxing thing.”
And so, in 2010, new energies start fluxing in – including Macrame Tiger, Jehovah’s Witness Protection Program, Dutch Pink and Eleanora. The first three have very recently released work with LG (or, are about to), while Eleanora is currently in the studio. JWPP is a rock n roll sparkplug, a stalwart on the Ypsi scene – and it’s helped LG collude with the Ghost Family collective (with other Ypsi bands like Sharky, and Err). Macrame Tiger released their debut EP under a dual label, galvanizing their own Sparklewood Records alongside a bit of getting-off-the-ground help from Loco Gnosis. Howitt has likewise encouraged members of Sharky and Err to potentially develop their Ghost Family label.
As Loco Gnosis heads into 2010 it will shift from being a quasi record label to working as more of a publishing agent for bands. Moving beyond the label as facilitator of albums, with an online store, Howitt wants to nuanced means of collecting/generating income from LG roster bands’ recordings – thus, LG as a label, will focus more on singles (recently, the Beggars “Us Dudes Wee Get So Rad”) or legacy re-releases (forthcoming: Wildcatting’s How to Survive a Sneak Attack). Our goal is to move towards a publishing house mentality with quality sonic artifact printings and legacy releases from the Loco vault. As we leave much of the bands earnings to them the next step is not have them spend up their future but save it for travel and material projects.”
“It's still just a loose group of people,” Moss said, writing from D.C. “It's not exactly a record label, but it can be. It's not exactly a promotions company, but it can be. What it is, is a group of stoked people doing cool things. The next five years will be even weirder.”
“I think its natural for people to want to be part of group,” said Duende drummer Laura Willem, who is, altogether, bandmate/housemate/girlfriend/soundboard/collaborator with Howitt. “(LG) gives folks confidence and then lets them GO INTO THE WILD! And to a lesser extent, I think it makes people feel good about doing in their community.” Willem, as much as any, has helped to churn this creature forth, into the world of concerts, albums and promotions. She remarks, also, of the hard work Howitt himself puts in to keep LG going: “Most nights, I go to bed, and he is still up working to the wee hours. I'm not sure that people know how much time it takes up for him.”
Bands like Marco Polio, Woodman, Sharky & the Habit and Macrame Tiger have all, at some point, danced in the LG’s den, but neither are necessarily bound to LG or to Howitt – as he’s no dictatorial, fat-cat label head. In fact, Howitt has shifted to begin encouraging Sharky and Macrame Tiger to begin developing their own labels.
He speaks of the “waves” of bands flowing through Loco Gnosis over the years: Worden and Lee have gone on to join the label collective Axis Mundi, OFC had a quieter 09, then had their latest album released on Bellyache Records, and Wildcatting/Bars of Gold, signed to Friction, had its priorities shift when drummer Moss moved to D.C.
"I like that Jeff has an community-promoting attitude," Willem said. " What I mean, is that we are fans first. Sometimes competitive/negative attitudes are felt, Jeff is still a fan first and would rather collaborate. He has good relations with Bellyache and X Records folks, for example. Basically, there is room enough for everyone in this town. Also, LG is forward thinking which can be tough when a lot is going on around you (negative blogging, economy, jobs lost, competition). LG stays the course."
like that Jeff has an community-promoting attitude," Willem said. "
What I mean, is that we are fans first. Sometimes competitive/negative attitudes are felt, Jeff is still a fan first and would rather collaborate. He has good relations with Bellyache and X Records folks, for example. Basically, there is room enough for everyone in this town. Also, LG is forward thinking which can be tough when a lot is going on around you (negative blogging, economy, jobs lost, competition). LG stays the course."
Reflections and Memories
Reflections and Memories
“The first Blue Moon in June festival, in 2007,” Sanders said, looking back, “was definitely one of the greatest and most diverse shows I’ve ever attended or participated in.” The festival was Loco Gnosis main summer festival enacted as an ode to the Trans-Love Energies collective of the late 60’s in Detroit. “Most of all, it’s just been great to watch Loco Gnosis grow from this tiny germ into an amazing conglomerate and essential force in the Detroit underground. Vive le Loco Gnosis!”
“Another one of the best shows I can remember was the Blowout, a couple years ago,” said Ross, “when Pinkeye played Miles Davis, Yoko Ono and the Necks. There has always been a sense of Dionysian-drunken-revelry and flat-out insane fun at Loco Gnosis shows, and I don’t expect the five-year shows to be any different.”
Friday and Saturday, Loco Gnosis hosts two separate celebratory concerts, one at the Park Bar in Detroit, and the next night at Woodruff’s in Ypsilanti.
Going back to that base-camp role that LG can play for up-and-coming bands, Howitt said that, working as a label, that most of all, he’s enjoyed “helping someone get their first record together. We’re a cooperative of sorts, we show them the process which we think makes the results more valuable to them in the bigger picture. We’re not making the Monkees…you’re here because you’re working!”
~ 1/14 Park Bar (2040 Park Ave, Detroit): Duende, Hotwalls, JWPP, Scotch Bonnet, Dutch Pink, Electric Lions (SWE), Sey Lui, Spitting Nickels, Eleanora, Tomb Laser, Elbe, Jonathan Elkas, Crappy Future, Macrame Tiger and Bored Housewives 1/15 Woodruffs (36 Cross, Ypsilanti) Sharky & the Habit, White shag, Mini Movies, JWPP, Oblisk, Hi-Speed Dubbing, SOYSV, Mazinga, Carjack, Scare Bear and Woodman.
"I love feeling involved in community, Detroit, like we are writing our history," Willem said. "I love playing music and geeking out with my band mates. I feel a sense of accomplishment with LG and DUENDE! that I don't feel with my day job. ...I don't like seeing folks leave the "family," but also feel like Jeff is supposed to be the leader. He's a natural. I enjoy least the sometimes lack of freetime (wouldn't change it though!) and the toll it sometimes takes on Jeff. But I'm so proud of him."
"Woodman were lucky enough to be invited to play the first Blue Moon in June fest at the CAID June 30th, 2007," recalled singer/guitaris Frank Woodman. "We had only been a band for a couple of months. The Blue Moon was our 5th show. That day was tops and we met a lot of sweet, creative and hopefully life long friends. I'm very proud and honored to have my family band fall in with the musically passionate, intellectually pleasing, life loving freaks known collectively as Loco Gnosis."
1/14 Park Bar (2040 Park Ave, Detroit): Duende, Hotwalls, JWPP, Scotch Bonnet, Dutch Pink, Electric Lions (SWE), Sey Lui, Spitting Nickels, Eleanora, Tomb Laser, Elbe, Jonathan Elkas, Crappy Future, Macrame Tiger and Bored Housewives
1/15 Woodruffs (36 Cross, Ypsilanti) Sharky & the Habit, White shag, Mini Movies, JWPP, Oblisk, Hi-Speed Dubbing, SOYSV, Mazinga, Carjack, Scare Bear and Woodman.
More info: Axis Mundi Jason Worden (former Duende bassist) and Frank Lee (also of Jura) had formed their amorphous experimental rock orchestra, Forget, in late 09. This later led to 'Forget Records' - a vehicle to release their series of 40-minute live sets as albums. "Frank and I wanted Forget Records, and the band, to..." do it's part in furthering their ideals of sharing skills between artists and labels, for the greater good. The result was a label collective, that tied in Sonic Lullabies (ran by Paul MacLeod and Worden) and Jeremy Otto's Communist Daycare Center, along with Forget, alligning with Justin Walsh's No Money Records. Ross' Algae Tapes and Records ("...by far the weirdest,") soon joined. Worden said that he and Lee's move into Forget was necessary to nurture their own tastes, sensibilities, penchants, which had started to diverge from Loco Gnosis. Every last Wednesday of the month, one of Axis Mundi's labels hosts a night at the Berkley Front to showcase their swath of experimental/shoegaze/outsider/obscuro-rock talent. Artist Alana Carlson will host one in March, "the first visual arist curating..." - "We want artists (visual, musical, really any medium) in Detroit to work together and build something relevant and memorable," Worden said. "I think collaboration is the main idea behind it."
More info: Axis Mundi
Jason Worden (former Duende bassist) and Frank Lee (also of Jura) had formed their amorphous experimental rock orchestra, Forget, in late 09. This later led to 'Forget Records' - a vehicle to release their series of 40-minute live sets as albums. "Frank and I wanted Forget Records, and the band, to..." do it's part in furthering their ideals of sharing skills between artists and labels, for the greater good. The result was a label collective, that tied in Sonic Lullabies (ran by Paul MacLeod and Worden) and Jeremy Otto's Communist Daycare Center, along with Forget, alligning with Justin Walsh's No Money Records. Ross' Algae Tapes and Records ("...by far the weirdest,") soon joined.
Worden said that he and Lee's move into Forget was necessary to nurture their own tastes, sensibilities, penchants, which had started to diverge from Loco Gnosis.
Every last Wednesday of the month, one of Axis Mundi's labels hosts a night at the Berkley Front to showcase their swath of experimental/shoegaze/outsider/obscuro-rock talent. Artist Alana Carlson will host one in March, "the first visual arist curating..." -
"We want artists (visual, musical, really any medium) in Detroit to work together and build something relevant and memorable," Worden said. "I think collaboration is the main idea behind it."