Sunday, June 12, 2011

Urgh's the Word

Jen just told me she wanted to read this piece... before I'd even started writing it.

"Because, at some point last night, everything started moving too fast."

I tell her I wish I'd gotten to the compound in time for her band's set...but I was begrudgingly waylaid by the jackassery of gridlocked 19-year-olds with self-stenciled t-shirts ga-ga-ing their way towards Ford Field for the Taylor Swift concert.

She assures me it was fun. "Crazy-loud guitar," she says, "(a) crunchy tone."

And then she speaks for almost everyone involved last night in the Urgh! Detroit Music War extravaganza: "Felt really good to play all sweaty too..."

It was probably not even above 71 degrees on this summer's eve, but the more than 200 bodies giddily sardined inside rose the Lager House's collective temperature to about 94 - making it thus that every performer (upwards to 70 if you split up between the 18 bands on the bill) came up on the stage still looking their hipstobohemiothrift best, dry, kempt and cool, and wound up coming off the stage as though they'd taken multiple face-first belly dives across a slip-n-slide; hair ruffled, voice crackly, shoulders arched and heaving.

The camera crew - the vital videographers of the Urgh crew - needless to say, were pretty well sluiced with sweat before the 3rd band had even finished.

It was a beguiling scene - if you stood in one spot, perhaps out on the patio, for a moment, you could attain relative inner tranquility and observe around you the not too uncommon sequences of a serenely spilt-out house party. But if you turned to the rest of your periphery or just took six steps toward another corner, you saw the surged scuttling of camera holders, eyes bulged with fitful squirrel-like glints, ducking between circles of talkers and imbibers, under arms or between legs, to get into position as the next band hauled gear on crossing the last band hauling gear off...

Having met their Kickstarter goal just a day or so before the actual big night, the Urgh! crew set to deliver on what they'd originally dreamt up - merely capturing energy; the energies of a decent spoonful of Detroit's current crop of musicians--their styles, sounds and performance manner - and thus mirror/honor the cult documentary of similar titling, from 1982, which documented the rise of New Wave (and it's intermingling with punk, psychobilly, reggae and satirical novelty).

"I don't's just great though..."

"I don't know...but this is amazing..."

"I dunno, but, man, the whole night's been really amazing..."

"I,, it's crazy...I don't know... It's exhilarating."

300-ish people. 18 bands. 30-some-odd guitars, 6 or 7 film cameras... ricocheting like flourished corn kernels in a steamy kettle cooker... And those^ were the answers one would get - as one lily-padded from one buzzed circle of revelers to the next and asking for thoughts or reflections.

That they, we, didn't know quite what to make of all this, didn't know quite what it all meant, didn't know quite what to say... Still don't know. And that's crucial to preserving a delicate purity.

Needless to say, we all got drunk off each other. We got drunk off of the energy of the night. It was, let's admit it, a legitimate house party. Everyone's inner-22-year-old came out and conjured their own weird mutant endurance levels (for dizzy and distracted sprints deep into the two o'clock hour as well as for a disconcerting amount of downed beers-per-person), -and yes we were giddy idiots....who wouldn't be with a camera in your face? These aren't rock stars with images who are already tired of in the room has an inner geeky-fan-boy-or-girl inside...and it was turned out in many of the jovial faces shunted together last night.

Yes it was gruff and un-graceful, but it was surprisingly...well... efficient. It was as smooth as chaos could be, I suppose. Set times were kept and stage breakdown was fluent and no amps exploded and no one suffered dismemberment...maybe just a sprain or two and an epidemic of hangover-headaches. And some broken eye glasses.

A caveman played atop an 11-ft wall; Darth Vader stumble-danced in front of Carjack; the Satin Peaches performed a ravenous set for what could well be their last Detroit appearance (ever?); there was body surfing and swigged-beers-between-snare-hits and numerous other heroic, hellish or sloppily swaggering antics one expects at an undeniably jumpin' rock n' roll concert. (Lots of people jumped, from stages, from walls, from chairs and from car roofs).

But we shouldn't have to know what it means...we're already self-conscious enough about what we have...we shouldn't give it a name yet to thereby scrape its sanctity...

Because it will be over, at some point...and who knows when?

It felt climactic, in a way; like white blocky credits would start rolling across our eyes, in real time, when last call let out and the sun started to rise.

But talking in absolutes is just for people who are too easily overwhelmed or perhaps too intolerant of the unassailable hope of courageously naive inspirado - Too many fests? Too many bands? Crowded scene?


You live (or near) in a city where it seems like there's a music fest every three weeks to accommodate the spillover of bands... Anyone feeling exasperated about that might be wise to be-careful-what-they-wish-for... We could just be a town with a multiplex and a bowling alley and a shooting range.

Instead, friends get together and play music for each other. To what end? Hopefully Urgh! helps us find out.

But back to it feeling climactic - I think the word should, or at least could (be considered): paradigm shift. Forget 'fests' - because this is just how Detroit's rock music scene operates now - Forget 'scene' while you're at it - because a funny thing happened in the last two years leading up to Urgh! -the bands seemed to stop caring about edging each other. Last night felt like a ferocious family picnic - even if it has aspects of self-glorification, why not? That's what every family does at their great gatherings or reunions or shared outings - they celebrate what they have...

We may not know what it is we have, but it's weird how familial it's feeling.

Total family picnic, though, the same way you'd wig out and start making fish-faces and distend your popsicle-stained tongues, roaring wildly when your crazy uncle brought his Super 8 camera over to your side of the swing-set... These bands poured their hearts out, obviously trying to match the zaniness of their heroes, the Cramps, or Gary Numan, or Pere Ubu or whoever else from the original, but then, also giving nods to the other bands in the crowd.

Friends and family.

No comments: