Sunday, May 1, 2011

Running like a strong motor... - Sparklefest (May 7-8) @ Northend Studios

Inevitably, there's unanswered questions:

What exactly's gonna happen?

Will it work?

What will it mean?

Sparklefest 2011 started out as merely an urge to celebrate spring time - -our return to the outdoors, the casting off of coats and the eventual igniting of BBQ grills- - but it's shaping up to be an exhibition of the gravity, the potential... of the group! Scene unity. Or whatever you want to call it.

Individuals, individual musicians, individual-bands...coming together to form this churning mass of arms and instruments, hearts and voices, minds and musicianship...

We're not saying anything - we're just saying that it's happening more and more often...

It's not a revolution - in fact, when you look at the verdancy of various other roley poley artists, musicians and cultural provocateurs germinating in a dreamy dankness beneath the stones of various other urban centers - like Baltimore, or wherever, Manchester, San Francisco, wherever you please...

Sparklefest is another chapter in the story of the underground, particularly that point where the collective temperature is rising; the modest ovens (diy venues, galleries, art spaces, basements--wherever we're spilling and stirring our spirits) are emanating their heat outward so that it's spreading out and steaming up the whole city's kitchen.

At least, that's the... hope? Or the natural conclusion? That the underground's oven pops, that the door blows off... ...that the kitchen catches on fire?

...It's a clunky metaphor.

Anyhow... Sparklefest is here - and it's time to open our windows, air it out, cool it down...

Sparklefest - @ Northend Studios (2937 Grand Blvd) a.k.a "the tall building with the baby blue/rainbow-splattered paint waterfall on it's western side..." It starts early on May 7th - runs through the afternoon and into the evening and, still, through the next morning of May 8th, winding down Sunday evening.

***with musical performances from 30 bands... ***split between two stages (inside in the space typically utilized for much of Northend's usual events and outside in the lot, which will be roped off)... ***with delicious food forged from an outdoor grill, care-of the team from Inn Season Cafe... ***with films being projected inside... ***dance parties steadily stomping and swaying through the whole night... ***and camping accommodations (tents scattered indoors/upstairs).

$5 for both day's combined.

Sparklefest was initiated/organized by multi-instrumentalist and mutli-band-enlistee, Sean Shea. The enthusiastic 20-something has been performing around the scene since he was a teenager and has been booking shows at Northend, on and off, for a full year now. He is aided by artist/promoter Jeff Nolan, who has developed a knack for managing mania...getting the by-the-seat-of-our-pants nature of unconventionally-situated / all-nighter concerts down to a tee with weekly engagemens, either at Northend or at the Commune (Bastone, in Royal Oak).

But, once Shea put the word out... it seemed everyone wanted in...

"I really don't know what I'm getting myself into," Shea said, "to be honest."

It should be noted, this is not Sparklewood-Fest... To make a long story short - Sparklewood was a gnabbed nickname of sorts for the Northend space, at least for a brief or bemused period, used for last summer and autumn's hosted string of first floor concerts and dance parties. Sparklewood came about because it was inhabited by rock sextet Macrame Tiger over last summer and, suffice it to say, "Sparklewood" is the name of that band's particular, personal philosophy of sorts... But after they moved out - the space, which is leased to artist Katherine Craig (from the Boydell Co--the same that owns the Russell Industrail Center) -and operates as a collective workspace for renting artists - -has become known through 2011, simply, clearly and definitively, as Northend.

"Sparklefest" is more of a wink and a nod...

"I know I can run it," Nolan said, but he admitted that adapting to the outside might inspire some improvisation. "It's up in the air," he added, of the nature of the venue and the location. "Nobody's there calling-the-shots, saying, like: 'No, you can't do that, or...I don't know if that's gonna work...' I don't know what to expect..."

Nolan, meanwhile, is collaborating with Steve Barman and a cadre of artists hard at work on set designs and pre-production necessities, to re-establish the Motorcity Rocks' local music documentarian's talk show, to be filmed on location at Northend. Stay tuned...

Back to the forthcoming Sparklefest - should any trouble shooting is required...don't forget you'll have upwards to five, or six dozen musicians on hand, who will likely know their way around an amp, a guitar cabel, or a PA system.

The group can collectively smooth any bumps in the road.

"I've been to a few parties there and thought the place was cool," said Jeffrey Thomas, singer/guitarist of psyche-pop quartet Gardens. "Not only what-it-was to start off with, the vaults upstairs and all, but what they did and have been doing with it." Thus, when he heard about Sparklefest, he and Gardens were one of more than a dozen bands that willingly jumped on board without being asked.

"To me, it just means that there's groups of people," Thomas continued, "that are creative and looking to have a good time. Hopefully people will walk away convinced that not all music performances and get-togethers have to be conventionally run the same way. That those bondaries are always being tested..."

"When I saw the line up," said Bryan Lackner (a.k.a. one-man MC Mister), "I was pretty taken aback by how big it's gonna be..."

"I don't even understand the magnitude of it," Lackner continued, listing off the affordability of the cover charge, the freedom that DIY-management provides in terms of "non-stop music" and, again, the expansive line up of notable local talent. As just a fan, not a performer, Lackner said, "It's a pretty wonderful thing. It's very inspiring to see only a couple of these bands on just on night, let alone 20 or 25 of them, all under the same roof... I don't wanna say: 'sensory overload' but..."

"It seems everybody is going to be as excited to perform as much as just bare witness to what this will be...I'm looking forward to the whole experience more than just my own performance - I'm just a blip on the entire weekend's worth of craziness."

"Only at Northend," Lackner concluded, "you'd be able to do this and have this constant stream of art and music and--more music...for a whole weekend. So, yeah, it's kinda gray, in the sense that: 'nobody knows...' and there might be some problems...But,'s gonna be someting pretty special, to Sean, to Northend, to all the bands, to this area...all of it."

Bring a pad and paper, Lackner suggested, because you might walk away with 15 or 16 new favorite bands, and you'll wanna jot their names down.

"Our music and art community," said Shea, "is developing into it's own self-sustaining society that is suppored by its members. it is with the help of the individuals and groups that make up the music community that brings things together, running like a strong motor..."

Shea and Nolan, meanwhile, are performing at Sparklefest (for the 2nd or 3rd time only) with their new band, Super Fucked - more of a sound sculpting, video-enhancing experiment. Shea is also reenergizing his first band, Polar Opposites, with his sister, as well as potentially performing with Macrame Tiger.

Thomas said Gardens is putting out a full length LP on May 10 on Alive Naturalsound Records, with a release show and U.S. tour dates to be worked out asap!

Mister, meanwhile has two EP's that are being wrapped up for summer releases.

More info from Northend.