Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Theatre Bizarre - Squared Circle Revue (8/1 and 8/2) + Stolen Media V (8/7 and 8/8)

The entry into August becomes Theatre Bizarre's incomparable summer blowout -
with TWO individual TWO-day festivals...on the first TWO weekends of the month.


The first - Squared Circle Revue - August 1 and August 2


Starting in the mad, mutated, spontanaety usually held with events at Theatre Bizarre (namely it's Halloween Party), but extending it even further into the realms of a damned three-ring circus - a "Music / Magic / Burlesque / Wrestling - Carnival!" - This event features "human oddity" Glenda The Bearded Lady, the "amazing strength" of Gunther T. Strongman, the "death-defying dives of" The Flying Gambinos, the magic of Scarboni the Great, Pogo the One Legged Boy, and...the "pie to the face-attack" of Clowntown (the latter being described to me by performing musician Drew Bardo as "an army of clowns that cause trouble wherever they go...")

The zany odyssey is brought to you by Thomas Foolery (either alias or conjured contact of Casey Miller, a close ally to Theatre Bizarre, whose been putting on wrestling-themed/musical gatherings for a few years now). The main event (wrestling-wise) is the "Zodiac Battle Royal" between Snake and Cat. (more info:

Along with fire jugglers and sword swallowers - there will also be the burlesque dance enchantment of Roxi DeLite - and, travling up from Mexico - Polka Madre - there's also Miss Chantel and Haley Jane and still more

Doors are at 9pm
visit their myspace for more info

Bands include:
The Terrible Twos / The Glass Orphans (originating as house band for Theatre Bizarre's production of "Wonderland") / The Gepetto Files / Downtown Brown / The Casket Bastards / The Amino Acids / The Questions

and more... - with a promised surprise of freakifying proportions
$10 for one night - $15 for both!

(pictured: The Glass Orphans)



The next weekend - August 7 and August 8 - the Fifth Stolen Media Festival (V) - filmmaker Jason McCombs creates a mash-up of contemporary video culture - and invites hundreds of friends and interested parties to come join in the visual viscera. This film and music festival took the last couple years off, but is back in full force - with hours of film-art featured between a line up of a dozen bands!

Friday night features "The Best of Stolen Media" along with bands: HafLife / Sultry Surfers of the Apocalypse / The Rue Moor Counts / The Beggars / and a Surprise Guest (!?!)

Saturday night features the proper "Stolen Media V" along with bands: The Electric Fire Babies / The Potions / Silverghost / The Questions / Gardens / Friends of Dennis Wilson / and The Electric Lions

$10 per show $15 for the weekend

(Silverghost - featured - photo by Trever Long)

Zoos of Berlin - Taxis LP (playing 7/31 for Phono-Phest at the Crofoot in Pontiac)

“Just madness…” Dan Clark says, shaking his head.

Zoos of Berlin recorded their forthcoming full-length in what may has well have been an elevated mountainside base-camp. Or, maybe that’s a stretch for describing their six week residency on the 4th floor of the Russell Industrial Center. But bassist Dan Clark, rolling eyes and sighing, recalls the tiniest errands becoming arduous expeditions, involving lengthy bike rides through dark, cluttered street-like factory halls, boarding freight elevators, biking over freeways and lugging the loot back up to his band mate’s station, where they often recorded until sunrise.

Collin Dupuis, drummer and sound engineer, ribs Clark over never bringing a back pack while biking down from the mount, to which Clark sensitively shouts back that his car was dead. Indeed, his trusty steed of a minivan “truly gave everything” to this band, acting as custodian for amps and human musicians for years before expiring.

When I meet Zoos, they’re in the process of enhancing their new rehearsal space to accommodate recording, led by Dupuis’ knowledge of positioning sound-traps, testing with frequency sweeps and setting up sound-proof walls with oriented strand board. It’s not anything new for the band – as they had to build their own makeshift studio inside their dauntingly dusty and cavernous, 5000-square-foot space inside the Russell.

“A massive cavern,” says Clark, with keyboardist Will Yates to his left and singer/guitarist Trevor Naud just entering with this new space with a light clatter. “Within that cavern there was a caged-off area, a rectangular area, that we built floor-to-ceiling walls of wood pallets.” The moveable walls (made from scavenged wood) sound-proofed the cyclone fenced rectangle. Their own private shop inside the former auto parts factory was also equipped with a sink, a table/kitchen area, and another room, which former member Kevin Bayson designated as sleeping quarters. Food consisted of various organic treats from Trader Joes, salsa, sandwiches, pickled garlic and hummus.

“So, clearly this mountain has a nice delicatessen,” Clark submits, “and a gas station where I can buy ice, and,” his tone begrudgingly bristles, “…a Coney Island that will not let me bring my bike inside.”

Dupuis said the trick was gaining control over “the decay of the room” leading to sound bleeding through. Dupuis also notes the red, thick velour curtains hung around their recording space, (acting as sound barriers). I imagine their own personal Twin Peaks-ian red room.

Plus, with all those bike rides in the wee hours of the morning through a hallowed out factory, Yates said “it was like The Shining, basically.” Indeed, as Naud put it, “very Kubrick-ian.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that it would take considerable time and elbow grease (dusting, mopping, moving) before even pressing the record button. The Detroit quartet is the first to admit that they have a formidable and sweeping scrupulousness – particularly when it comes to the sculptor-esque diligence in approach to their recording. (After several years as a full band, they have only released an EP – Taxis is their first proper full length).

“We definitely got to make the album that we wanted to make,” said Yates, “by doing it ourselves it allowed us to make it a little more idiosyncratic.”

“That’s really what came out of it,” Dupuis says after rehashing all the Russell prep work, “would the album be as interesting…” if the band had gone a more traditional route? “In our minds,” said Dupuis, referencing the inspirational atmosphere of a spooky, crumbling cement factory, “it’s a whole psychological aspect.”

Dupuis used the space to capture all natural reverb, to add swooning warmth to the sound’s fuzzy accoutrements. Dupuis “re-amped” the vocals through a guitar amp, then recorded the sound of Naud’s wispy vocals wobbling through the halls of this unsung monument, or lachrymose reminder of former automotive prominence.

“The silence of that space,” says Naud, pausing, “this all sounds…poetic. That entire building is so expansive, you can site Kubrick, it just had this really strange quality, the building itself is an entity or character.”

For Zoos, it’s understandable that their anecdotal regaling of Taxis production would become consumed by the quirk of its setting – for one, some of the songs collected here have been written for six years – giving them an almost Gene Kelly like muscle-memory discipline in mastery of their chugging guitar riffs, bouncing keyboard buzzes and tightly locked rhythms.

Naud and Clark began collaborating in 2002, with Dupuis soon joining to provide the drums. This eventually turned into what would be finalized as the current make up of Zoos of Berlin (with Yates). Guitarist/trumpeter Bayson played with the band for few years, up until last fall, and contributed to both recordings.

The sound is a swirl of gossamer baroque-pop and cinematic poignancy, pulsing with reverb and a waltzy punk-shred – a delicious blend of weird and pleasing pop, with a reverence for tone and precision, but healthily balanced by a jazz-like spontaneity; stately splendor with burning guttural coarseness.

“I will say that I am very difficult to please when it comes to the music that I make,” said Clark. “(That’s) one reason that the projects I’ve been involved with over the years have taken so long to finish anything. And, I can say unequivocally, that I am completely satisfied with this record.”
“To me,” said Naud, “it’s an album full of periods. It’s not like, a span of time. To me, it encapsulates a lot of the last few years of life, which is a great feeling and you can listen to something that’s completed and you go through each one of those (songs) and remember feelings of when that track was being worked on…”

“Recording the way that we did, we captured something that would have been impossible in any other way,” said Clark. “It’s always going to be…” he trails off after his plastic cup of microbrew spills onto the floor.

“I feel really satisfied,” Naud picks up. “Maybe (Taxis) has a sentimental quality to it…that sounds so fucking cheesy though.”

“It’s been preserved,” Clark offers.

“…Documented,” surmises Dupuis.

“This space that we’re sitting in,” Naud glances around us, “it’s a result of, maybe, the mania leading up to the completion of (Taxis). We kinda went the long away around everything,” (here, Naud’s speaking literally, but I can’t help picturing Clark on his expeditious bike rides as metaphor), “we operate as a band very differently than a lot of our peers, because we…and I’m making claims here…the route (of recording at Russell) is certainly not on the pie chart of things to do ‘the easy way.’”

“But it’s our way,” Clark says.

“It’s our way,” Naud echoes.

Yates laughs, warmly, “We are, like, the most preposterous band, in some ways, that I’ve encountered.”

But Dupuis notes that the days of painstaking preparation, whittling, rehearsing, and taking “the long way around” will come to an end thanks to the space they’re currently setting up, thus that recording is “less of a process.”

“Post Taxis (recording) has been the sort where we’ve been asking questions later, and just getting them down,” says Clark.

Indeed. Fans of Zoos, myself included, as well as their friends in other bands, often prod them beside bars on random weekend nights, or catch them off stage from a local performance and ask, almost nagging, when that next record is going to come out!? This definitely “fuels the fire,” Yates says. “We haven’t even put out the first one and we’ve already started writing and recording the next one.”

“It’s never been a lack of confidence,” says Clark, “or lack of ideas. We have a very particular goal in mind and are willing to set aside other considerations to satisfy this one requirement…which is, that it be…just so!”

“Well, it’s about to change though,” Dupuis assures, then quips, “it’s about to become like Motown (in the 60’s). Zoo of Berlin’s about to become Motown.”

“We are putting it out ourselves,” said Naud, who does much of the band’s artwork in-house. “Which follows the Zoos template, DIY for now…”

“…very different from what DIY usually connotes,” says Yates. Indeed, the quartet’s adroitness and chemistry aside, you also have Dupuis’s skill at the boards and their ceaseless dedication (and/or obsessive crafting).

“There’s a pride when someone comes up and says, ‘When’s that record coming out?’” says Naud. “That’s a generous comment, like, ‘Hey-here’s a kick in the ass, I wanna hear what you’re doing!’”

“Nobody else could have made this record,” says Clark. “Nobody else would have chosen to make it the way that we did…”

“…with dirt and grime rubbed in our skins,” Dupuis exclaims and their eyes all twinkle with a reminiscence of breaking their backs in that cage. Dupuis and Clark both agree though, that with this new space, with the new songs being written and recorded with comparative quickness, that they haven’t given much thought to Taxis.

“But we haven’t forgotten,” Yates says mock-ominously.

“We're relieved that it's complete--and especially excited to move beyond the walls,” Naud said. “We intend to move quickly and release a second LP in the near future. And we're self-releasing everything at this point... which is very en vogue, right?

Oh, and by the way…, Taxis can mean:
1.arrangement or order, as in one of the physical sciences.
2.Biology. oriented movement of a motile organism in response to an external stimulus, as toward or away from light.
3.Surgery. the replacing of a displaced part, or the reducing of a hernia or the like, by manipulation without cutting.
4.Architecture. the adaptation to the purposes of a building of its various parts.

Medicine The moving of a body part by manipulation into normal position, as after a dislocation, fracture, or hernia.

Or... just the plural of taxi.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oblisk - CD Release for Weather Patterns - Playing 7/31 - Pike Room (Crofoot)

(photos: Trever Long)
(words: milo)

Before you move in with someone, you should talk music. Extensively.

Oblisk singer/guitarist Asim Akhtar and bassist Dave Cheal skipped that vital step before becoming roomies last year – so when Cheal joined the Detroit quartet last November, he had no reference point when, Akhtar, charmingly esoteric, told Cheal that he needed to find “the groove” for the band.

A spoon clinks, timorous, against a metal pot in their kitchen. “I’ll get to that interview once I settle this chai,” says Akhtar, as the five of us, with guitarist Nick Baran and drummer Roy Elturk scoot their chairs up to the table.

“This is the real reason I came here,” Elturk says, aside to me, referencing the freshly poured tea.

“If you’ve got just 10% Pakistani in you, you’re going to make chai for your guests,” says Akhtar.
Cheal, the newest member of the band, modest and shrugging, describing himself as just a guy “who moved in with someone who needed a bass player,” discusses his first few rehearsals with the trio – who have played and performed a range of atmospheric-psychedelic rock music as Oblisk for almost eight years – and how he was given the task of excavating the “groove.”

Akhtar and Baran are the dueling guitarists whose shimmering sheens of pedal charged shooting star guitar shreds intertwine in beautifully head-spinning cavalcades of feedback, while Elturk’s tight, pounding drums fit the epitome of propulsion. Needless to say, last year’s Tune in/Tune Out full-length was top heavy on the driving, atmosphero-space rock – thus their enduring inside joke at rehearsals of “the endless search for the groove.”

Cheal proved to be malleable, if only because the longtime guitarist learned the instrument he now holds for his current tenure. Cheal is the third bassist, coming in after Akhtar’s longtime friend Manan Desai, who was filling in first bassist Kyle Babcock.

Desai toured with the band through the summer (a jaunt they earned through the support of their label, Candy Colored Dragon, from Philadelphia) and also helped record portions of the band’s forthcoming full length, Weather Patterns. Cheal became acclimated in the winter, and finished the album, alongside the founding trio, this spring. The release party is hosted in the Pike Room, at the Crofoot, coinciding with momentous Phonophest Wicked Awesome Safari Barbecue, (Yesss!).

“So what can we do to define that groove?” Akhtar repeats the tacit goal of recording. The guitars, billowing, swooning, had to embrace a more aerodynamic tear, along with the drums created a backdrop. “You guys are the core,” Akhtar says to Elturk and Cheal, at the table, “you guys drive it and then (Nick and I)’ll build it up.”

While Cheal found the groove, Elturk felt he “was leading a double life.” He’d moved to North Carolina in May of last year, but devotedly flew back for every show. Before leaving he splurged 10 drum tracks only to feel “out of the loop” by his return for the holidays, where things had been chopped up and re-done, requiring 7 or 8 more fresh takes. After a year of being introduced around NC as “Roy, he looooves Michigan,” the drummer returned a couple weeks ago to the mitten-state he apparently couldn’t shut up about during his time in the south.

Baran, adding his distinguishing touch, contributed more to the songwriting, while Akhtar embraced the reclusive mad-scientist-y tweaking role of mic’ing the hell out of their Ferndale practice space.

“I was a little more attached to this record,” said Baran. “I came in after Tune was already in progress, so Weather Patterns feels more, not to be cheesy, like an Oblisk record to me. Asim obviously wrote most of the songs on Tune, I came in much after that – but this one definitely felt like every one of those songs is an ‘Oblisk-song.’”

Baran described their song formation as “taking one small idea and pushing it to its limits.” But Akhtar admits, there were often times when they had to “strip the hell out of it, and take away all the madness.” While Elturk entered his initial takes picturing “more sonic annihilation blasts,” while also knowing when to dress the backdrop with the beat.

“We were talking about how Tune was a darker record,” said Akhtar after we toast our tea. “This one is a little more colorful.”

Ironically, their practice space (whence they were guided to by fellow psyche-rockers Red China), is a narrow, cluttered room with no traditional lightning, in the corner of a reconstituted storage facility. They chose it over another, larger room. “We’d rather just be in our own zone,” says Akhtar of the comfort in reclusion.

“I’d say (Weather) is more colorful,” says Cheal, “there’s more of an up-tempo feel.”

“The songs are more eclectic,” Baran adds, with Akhtar running through a laundry list of moods and styles they embraced, including “alt-country.”

Propulsion, however, “music to drive to,” will always be a “raw concept of the band,” Akhtar said.


“Well,” a pause, “that’s…you’re riding a horse!”

“Or, you’ve got a slow-dance,” Baran concurs.

“Oblisk gets waltz-y?” I ask, disarrayed.

Baran smiles and nods, “It’s in 6/8 (time).”

The slower, swirling song they’re referencing is, if nothing else, a more bewitching style for the band. Akhtar says, “I couldn’t tell if it was a beautiful, engaging…be with another human being type song or…”

“It’s very haunting” Baran offers.

“Yeah,” Akhtar agrees and, “or…” he finishes, “…like, haunting, accepting disconnection.”

Dream or dirge. Driving or waltzing. It all won’t come to light until July 31st, since the band has not let their friends, nor I, any early listening.

Weather patterns, also serve as an influence to the band – along with the vigor of driving and chai tea. Baran notes the obvious connection of making “atmospheric” music.

“I just realized two years ago,” said Akhtar, “that I finally learned how to appreciate Michigan weather. It’s all sonic versions of weather patterns, I guess. I remember thinking, this album is going to take at least a year (to make), and within a year I thought about the weather, I’m going to experience all these things.”

For Elturk, who spent time away while Akhtar tweaked and mixed only to work his tail off on fresh takes upon each return, is eager to hear this record – which will assuredly be a revelatory experience. For Baran and Akhtar, they’re excited to release a record they both feel strongly about, and to show their friends what they’ve been up for the last year. Cheal remains modest with a more tamed excitement, refraining that he “fell into it.”

“And you’ve done a helluva job,” Baran says before downing his last sip of chai.

The band will tour through August and return for Detroit shows through the autumn.

7/31 - Pike Room - with The Oscillating Fan Club and Friends of Dennis Wilson

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - at SingleBarrelDetroit's Phonotropic Phest

(interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr)


It is no longer about cruising in, fashionably late, to catch three songs of the headliner while you stand in the back. The Crofoot (in Pontiac), since last year's Phono-Phest, has been, on almost a bi-or-tri-monthly basis, redefining “events” by exploding the concept into an all-night campout parade of band, after dance, after drink, after art, after band after band after…phew…

Phonofest 2 - is brought to us by SingleBarrelDetroit, an online artist community created by filmmakers Jared Goth and Andy Martin, acting as proponent for Detroit’s local music and film scenes, while also documenting the beauty of the city itself, by featuring local, live, impromptu performances filmed in different locations.

This year’s line up includes: The Friendly Foes (indie/punk-meets-indie/pop); The Great Fiction (stately, swooning, cinematic pop); Millions of Brazilians (guitar-heavy power trio, shreds and sincerity, reckless abandon) Will Sessions (soul, hip/hop and staggering funk revivalism); Aran Ruth (avant-garde folk and psychedelia, haunting, hypnotic); Charlene Kaye & Her Heroes (pretty baroque pop – with a video featured on

Upstairs in the Pike Room – you’ll find the Oscillating Fan Club (surfy, propulsive, classic pop) with Friends of Dennis Wilson (psychedelic shoegazin’) supporting the CD release of Oblisk (profiled below/above).

Meanwhile, epic dream-pop/space rock outfit Manna and Quail debut as a two-piece, while hyper-eclectic reggae/punk/psyche/folk-rockers Prussia return from a 3 month tour. Also notable, Zoos of Berlin are celebrating a new album.

DJs include Sicari, Spin Champion, Dwntm, and Sucker DJs Tom Matich/Mikel O.D. Local masterpiece-makers Silent Giants have a poster retrospective, and art by Daniel DeMaggio, Derek and Candace O’Leary. The Factory and Single Barrel Detroit also have video presentations.

Also on the list is a new project featuring The Great Fiction’s Daniel Zott and The Silent Year’s Josh Epstein—self proclaimed middle ground of folk and hip/hop, the duo performs as Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. (pictured) - tribal-atmospheric-pop, with electronic swells and danceable beats. The band performs in Nascar outfits, with equipment sprawled on an ironing board and a nearby labtop rockin the rhythms.

“I had heard (Zott)’s stuff and was a huge fan,” said Epstein. Both prolific writers, Epstein eventually called Zott up and offered an avenue to galvanize their respective extra songs. “There’s definitely better band names out there, but nothing’s been meticulous about this. In general, we just wanted to do something people could dance to.”

Indeed, it's danceable - but after two experimental-introductory shows, what's shining through is the power of their harmonies (the true engine of this aerodynamic electro-pop). It's not far-fetched that the warm swell of their melding voices would not only recalls Beach Boys, but also warrant a fine cover of "God Only Knows."

"I think we, surprisingly, have quite similar tastes," said Epstein. "Danny's stuff, a lot of instances, it's very moody and pretty and stripped down, and he's got a really nice way of creating space in his arrangements. I really like that. But, at the same time, he loves hip/hop and he loves making beats."

"I like to describe it as hip hop meets folk, both of us have distinctive styles but at the same time we tried to have there be a cohesinon among everything."

The vocals coo and sigh, the melodies are wavy, soothing, lightly swelling, the beats keep things moving (and basically shakeable) but never overpower.

The duo have demos ready and are currently writing and recording. A release is undoubtedly on the horizon, however undetermined. "We're both excited about the idea of just making things that, hopefully, for people to enjoy. That's pretty much the extent of our goals for (DEJJ)."

And I would hate to use the cliche of 'Summer Jams' but... see for yourself, 7/31.

all photos: Phreddy Wischusen
1 South Saginaw - Pontiac

(For Zoos of Berlin & Oblisk - this weekend's big soiree also acts as CD Release shows...(sort of, we're pretty sure Zoos' debut Taxis is just about ready to go, while Oblisk's Weather Patterns will be available)
(more interviews soon!)

Phono - Splurge


And, if you head over to Will Yates' myspace (keyboardist of performing band Zoos of Berlin), he's got a remix of "Vermont," -originally from another fellow-Phono-booked band, Millions of Brazilians.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Transition Storm": Johnny Headband at Smalls + "Lively Guests at (a) House Party (of sorts)": The High Strung at the Berkley Front

(Smile Derek, you're on Deep Cutz)


Scattered glimpses...
Both of the documented shows - Johnny Headband's show at Small's (with Office and the Pop Project) and The High Strung's CD Release show at the Berkley Front (Friday, with Matt Jones & The Wrong Numbers) were very well-attended, with a lot of love and excitement pulsing through the room. For The High Strung - it was to celebrate the release of their fifth major record--one produced with David Newfeld--and the acknowledgement that their live shows are often tight...and, since they're on the road often, local appearances are sporadic.

This being singer/guitarist Josh Malerman's birthday, also, meant that there was a lot of Early Time Kentucky Whisky circulating through the crowd like bad, brutal acid - sending many, particularly Josh, on unprecedented tears of bracing, perceived invincibility - brought about by the swirl of drunken joy.

Not as invicible as the crowd thought they were - as apparently a fight broke out a dozen or so feet from the stage. I didn't see it, nor remember it, since I was perched to the side taking a few of these shots...(with Mr. Mike Milo snapping most)... The devil whisky may have lead to a uncharacteristically loose, or zany performance from the characteristically consummate live band, but, considering the birthday and album release, it is more than forgiven : )

I got to Small's about 10pm, thinking I was early, but the populace had already reached "decent" levels in number. Office tore through a fine set, featuring their new line up, with Kip Donlan on bass, Jackie Phillips on drums and Jeremy Freer - singer, pianst and dabbler from other bands such as eponymous soul/pop band Freer and newest baroque-pop-leaning The Juliets, joining on guitar and back up vocals. The central figure, Scott Masson, son of Michigan, remains - whose works from the past 3 or 4 albums were interpretted through more of a rough-hewn shred than the previous Chicago line up - which was heavy on the glitzy, the pretty, the stylistic, -whereas an older song on this night, "So Cruel" recalled something closer to grimier post-hardcore trip - but still catchy as all hell.

The Pop Project brought their usual devestations -in palpable on-stage chemsitry, tightness of presentation, and word, the harmonies. A few new songs came through - I was too fried to remember the titles revealed to me by singer/guitarist Dave Lawson, but it strutted like funk, with the atmospherics of a more jazzier pop.

Johnny Headband strode out to a warm and welcoming crowd. That they hadn't played since last September, and, only one other time in 2008 since...set a mix of celebration and gladness for the future (which holds an forthcoming EP release, and another show...) and nostalgia...I mean, damn...when that funky, buzzy guitar shimmy and hip-shaking beat of "Tell You" dropped, the aura of the room grinned, it was just like old times. At points, bassist/singer Keith lunged himself around the stage, not entirely reckless, but focused, cat-like, as though he knew where he'd land, but still with the boisterousness of releasing long pent up energy. Singer/keyboardist Chad went to town on his instrument with some intracte, coiling melodies gushing out from the synth on some of the newer songs (to which we'll all learn the names soon enough) - and that endearing/fearlessness-mixed-with-what-looks-like-shyness that Chad pulls off in his embrace of the crowd with his singing style, has only sharpened. Now with a full-time guitarist in Pan!c, drummer RGS is freed up to go nuts on the skins. I was just trying to describe it to Josh Malerman...when you actually talk it out to someone, to try to explain Johnny Headband, it's often difficult. You were there. You saw it. You know...
It's escapism, it's endearing, it's theatric, it' it's shirt is also unpredictable.
Phase 3.0 is in effect. We're glad they're back. The next show is in September at the DIY Street Fair - more info:

Photo Recon from last weekend

So..., just waknig up after a weekend of: The High Strung's CD Release Show - and the Return of Johnny Headband.
(Photos on the way) - but, first things first...I should clear the vaults from last weekend's adventures.

(all photos: mike milo)

...just a couple of those classic, cozy-yet-wild, matter-of-fact yet surreal weekends

with The Beggars playing a rainy, muddy, schizophrenic day/evening at the Old Miami. With the dedicated crowd sloshing through soggy grass and rain pouring down, Steve was still able to pull his spectacular antics, windmilling the microphone, sliding down butt-first into the mud and catching the microphone.

The night before (which, was last week Saturday...) we caught (the CD Listening Party for Rogue Satelites) featuring Carjack storming through the Trowbridge House of Coffee, with new songs, yet the familiar cracked bravado.

Then weilded over to the Lager House to hear a few new tunes from favored freaks, Child Bite

Friday, July 24, 2009

extra thoughts - High Strung (7/24) / Johnny Headband (7/25)

Heartfelt sentiments, including a fine recounting, regarding Johnny Headband's development and upcoming show, 7/25 at Small's - with Office and the Pop Project.

Also..., a few more rambled thoughts triggered by my conversation with Josh Malerman (of/and The High Strung--who play 7/ The Berkley Front, with The Wrong Numbers and Matt Jones)

You'll forgive the grandiose narrative, as this was a scrapped draft for a column in Current Magazine:
"You find time to get laid, you find ways to get paid..." - Bob Pollard

The label sat the singer down and showed him some album sales. Wait a minute, he thought, this -so-and-so-band has sold more than 200,000 copies and I’ve never even heard of them?

Oh yeah, the label head nodded, that’s a Christian rock band. And then, they uttered the words, “There’s room for everyone.” Words he’d never forget…

Throughout the many jittery days and nights I’ve spent speaking to local artists and musicians, the reciprocal ramblings often draw towards the frustrating unfeasibility of fruitfully forging art with commerce.

It is often a question of sacrificing integrity, or just being able to look at yourself in the mirror and knowing that the art you’re pouring out is for you and not for an agent, a label, or a venue. (By extention, also not for a girlfriend/boyfriend, editor...or, sometimes, a fan). Because those specific cogs of “the biz” just want to try to sell you or shape you to be sold, to sell your work, to feed the monkey. So what’s a band to do?

Meet in the middle. Find the middle ground.

I had a sobering back and forth with Josh Malerman, singer of Detroit-based indie-rock/power-trio The High Strung, regarding the release of their newest album Ode to the Inverse of the Dude. We covered the sacrifices he has had to make while shopping a novel he'd written recently, for a (hopefully) future publication...and a generic airing out of irks puts into the artist, over how he/she feels about his/her work.

Malerman and his band-mates Chad Stocker and Derek Berk aren’t on the cover of SPIN and they don’t have 1 million download visits on myspace and they may not be hitting gold-level record sales. Yet, the band is their day job, its how they support themselves.

It made me realize that there was a middle ground – I’d gotten swept up in blue collar garage bands and beer league blues bands and young punks, all who were commendably thriving on the local level in the realm of DIY through self-released albums and a few runs to Chicago or Cleveland and back. But the next level beyond that is not some gold medal pedestal with confetti and paparazzi and Jack-White-World. The High Strung, The Hard Lessons, Mason Proper, Chris Bathgate, most recently Prussia and Child Bite, are groups of musicians who have effectively (albeit not dominantly) penetrated the national and world-touring aspect and have found “the room” that which labels and agents and “art-peddlers” are so aware. It sounds dirty to put it this way, but local rock bands in the basements of Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb, imagining that idyllic Almost Famous-tour bus and trekking across America, can find a…and I know it’s gross to say…a system…that works for them, to allow them to continue what they love (music) while serving the need they so begrudge (money). The answer, so far seems to be... to, simply, tour your ass off and live cheap. Smell bad, eat bad, drive hard, play hard, and hopefully drink--medium/hard. Hit the road and use all your funds for gas, coffee and cigarettes, live like a blue-jean nomad and stink up vans with your friends. Even in this internet-blurred world, you will be heard by those who didn’t know you before – thus...progress.

So...looking back on this draft, I'm not sure what my thesis was...something close to--a label, or a magazine cover, or album sales, shouldn't define the reward, for you...the reward should be, simply the continuation of why you started playing the first place.

High Strung interview (Metro Times)
7/24 - Berkley Front
(headband photo: JHeener)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The High Strung - CD Release Show 7/24 at Berkley Front

with Matt Jones and The Wrong Numbers

Josh Malerman and I bond over whiskey and we get tangential. We rant about writing, women and tarantulas. We spend just four hours together in two different breweries, but by the time the fifth cigarette is stubbed, we’re both nodding slowly at each other with newer eyes. We skim the looking-yourself-in-the-mirror cliche and we posit the possibility that someone in a small town in Kansas will give a shit about you. We think about everyone else trying to make it and we dissect the need, or search, for approval or vindication, ( in any artistic pursuit); for being popular but having integrity, being artists, but being bankable.

The High Strung singer/guitarist, scrutinizes possible effects of enlivening the band’s characteristic sound for their latest record, Ode to the Inverse of the Dude (out now on Park the Van) - from soulful, whirly indie-rock to a more avant-pop sort of prog-rock with dressy production. The Detroit-based trio, Malerman, with drummer Derek Berk, and bassist Chad Stocker, have known each other since before they could drive, growing up in West Bloomfield.

After eight years of life on the road, more than 1600 shows and now, their four full lenght album, Malerman only shrugs, "Let’s keep going."

Read The Metro Times Interview
or more info:
(CD Release show, 7/24 at Berkley Front (doubling as Malerman's birthday party))

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weekendz (this and that)

This Saturday:

A listening party for a forth-coming 7"
(Rogue Satellites / Carjack / Marco Polio & the new Vaccines / Underwater Monsters - THC in Hamtramck on Caniff and Trowbridge)


This Sunday:
a good ol' rambunctious, sweaty summer BBQ
(Colossus / Electric Lions / Black Irish / and The Beggars - at the Old Miami)

And then NEXT Friday: (7/25)
Johnny Headband and Pop Project / Office (DJ Proxy) - celebrate (...also featuring music from a forthcoming recording)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Johnny Headband - 7 / 25 - Small's

Chad: “It’s not like it dissolves…it’s always in our heads…”

Keith: “The basis of it is…that we are brothers and we play music together and there’s a name for it that we made up…and we’ll always do that.”


Johnny Headband:

Chad Thompson / Keith Thompson / RGS / Pan!c

Johnny Headband return to the Detroit stage...7/25

The sibling duo who wield a flavorful, multi-angled electro-pop, shimmered, shimmyed, crooned and rawked their way into many hearts through 2006 and 2007 (with allied drummer RGS). They were the total package – as aurally engaging (with propulsive rhythms, sleek synth shines and bulging bass grooves) as they were visual (with matching bright white outfits, that were often halved to shirtless stomps that explored the stage and swelled with the sweat of an ever-giving performance.) They self-released the ­­­­Happiness Is Underrated LP and toured the states twice before Keith’s bassmanship was enlisted for the industrious touring and recording necessities of the Electric Six two years ago.

When it comes to the (er, local scene, or, the) Detroit stage, we in the audience seem to often focus just on what’s framed between the pulled curtains, and disregard what’s happening in the wings. We see and register bands that are out, around Detroit, Hamtramck and all the other more unconventional venues between and get bimonthly updates of what their show is like, and what kind of tweaks, tricks and tracks they may be experimenting with at their recording spaces.

It’s been eleven months since Johnny Headband graced our eyes and ears (at the Crofoot, during 08’s Tastefest), but some bands don’t need constant weather reports to detail their creative jet streams – for Chad and Keith, the wind never stops blowing.

Johnny Headband - The Deep Cutz Interview:

Over the winter and spring, Keith and Chad have been developing new songs for a forthcoming EP (out this fall).

But say, on some random weekend night in the middle of another show, you shout at your friend at the bar that Johnny Headband “…are back” and playing a show next week and the common response is “OH!??...what have those guys been up to?” Or, depending on the volume of the nearby amps, “… ...WHAT?”

Don’t underestimate what an Electric Six tenure can do to a man’s yearly routine. In Keith’s case, though his heart (and so much more) is always with Headband, E6 has recently hit a stride of recording a new album just about every year, on top of two and often three touring stints up to 3 months, often to Europe and beyond.

But the Thompson duo simply never stops. They “farm things out” to each other constantly. While Keith is on the road, Chad sends him any and all of his own musical dabblings, video ideas, song ideas, lyric ideas, and garage-band trouble shooting ideas, via email, phone, or through any kind of potentially perceived telepathic brother mindwave send out. Vice versa for Keith, who is always spawning and storming through song ideas on the road, then writing and recording like a man possessed during his brief windows of downtime from the road with E6.

“We take time off from rehearsing with each other,” says Chad, noting the obvious gap that Keith’s obligations create, “but we don’t take time off from making stuff up.”

Frankly, they can’t help it. “It really doesn’t matter what medium it’s in,” said Chad, noting video, show posters, on stage performance or on record. "If you can run photoshop, protools, an editing program, (if) you can run a camera, you can use a paintbrush, you can use a guitar, it’s all an outlet for creativity.”

The boy’s background (in both education, and freelancing/day-jobbing) is in film production and editing – a love they found before they both could drive. They’ve both been playing music most of their lives, but at age 13 and 15 respectively, when they discovered video, they found it brought them the same satisfaction and happiness…and excitement, as music. When the band started in 2004, they knew they’d eventually be making music videos – that was just a given.

Through high school and college, when presented with the avenue of drama class, or performing in plays, reading Shakespeare and all that, they turned away and reverted to similar antics they’d done as teens (for example, taking soundtracks to musicals like Fiddler on the Roof and making up their own version). “We just wanted to make our own stuff,” said Keith.

In fact, it’s a struggle to keep it manageable, because the pair want to do it all, to be firing on all cylinders, creatively speaking, from all angles. This, vitally, includes the strong (and engaging) live show they became known for around Detroit through 2007. One often didn’t know if he/she had fallen into some long lost Neptunian disco/aerobic sugar-high blend of action, sincerity, heartbreak and seduction.

“One thing that won’t change is our goal to be entertaining,” said Keith. “We want to get that across in all mediums. How we get there may have changed, because you get sick of doing what you’ve been doing, the way you did it…”

Indeed, the new show, the new songs, will be considerably different. Outlooks, approaches, ideas naturally mature. Chiefly amongst the updates is the addition of multi-instrumentalist Pan!c (from Pas/Cal), freshening the soundscape with his own dynamics, (along with RGS on drums/guitar).

“If you’re going to perform in front of people, you want them to feel apart of something that’s beyond maybe what they walked in feeling,” said Keith. “And, the way to get there is to break down walls and that’s a big thing…”

Another big thing is there brother-ness. It subconsciously pours out on the stage as another visceral effect – It once got a dude at the bar a bit misty and proclaiming he was going to call up his bro's right then and there after seeing Headband.

“You know who your allies are in life,” said Keith. “That doesn’t really change, you hope it doesn’t. And, you know who you’re related to,” he looks over at Chad, “that can’t change. So, we’re going to keep…being related…and keep making music.”

Ah, brotherly love.

Johnny Headband play Small’s on 7/25, an all ages show with Office, The Pop Project and DJ Proxy.
More info:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Photos: Blue Moon In June (and, some Deastro)

Lots of photo-recon to catch up on...
Last week's ill-advised essence-burning tear through the city, with what felt like a different show every night - wound up on Sunday night with Deastro performing for Jay (from fivethreedialtone / Eat This City)'s birthday...
To honor his friend, singer Randolph Chabot donned a striking purple graduate gown.

Then, we move on to the always epic-in-scope but often spilled-out-bbq-vibe-in-layout - BLUE MOON IN JUNE festival - with donations going toward the Hugh Timlin Foundation - The 2-day 20 band event celebrated its third year, with as many in a row at the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. I think once you've made it past your third year, you can consider yourself a tradition, something solid, an institution, a beacon to look to..., ah but I get away from myself. Hopefully Blue Moon is around to stay - because whenever I try whittling out some overly philosophic screed of what-it-all-means, this swath of the ravenous and the rollicking, the synched-in and the un-hinged, the expression and the sharing, the body-heat and the summery intoxication...I can only come back to the one conclusion--that it's a beautiful celebration of all the selfless crazies in this town with so much devotion stored up in their hearts and a love for music bursting from their pores - bands bands bands... and a coming-together of all these souls.
We're all in... ~

I missed the first night, but DC Photog Mike Milo was able to catch some of the acts from Friday - including High Speed Dubbing and Electric Fire Babies. Also Troy Gregory & The Stepsisters, SSM, Johnny Ill Band, Isles of ESP, Pigeon and Olivia Mancini & The Mates.

Saturday's line up included: Sik-Sik Nation, Heavy Times, Motor City Midwives, Grande Nationals, Pinkeye (rendition of "War" into "Billie Jean"), Oblisk, Bars of Gold, and Silverghost - (Saturdays pics by both Mike, and myself).

thanks for reading...