Thursday, June 30, 2011

Packed Daze


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Month's ~Current~ (Bad Indians + ARBCO)

From this month's Ann Arbor Current

Sounds From Big (and Small) Rooms~ Having Fun with Bad Indians’ new music and the ARBCO Co-Op

I’m always apprehensive about such phrases as: “new favorite (band),” but damn it all if I hadn’t said the same thing about Ypsi’s Bad Indians.

The thing is, I said that sensationally dubious phrase almost six months ago and, still, I return to the serrated shimmy and reverb-roiled tumbles and drives of their Don’t Hang That (On Me) cassette album on a regular basis. Which is heartening, firstly because it seems so many “new favorites” fail to stick-to-the-wall in the impermanence of the internet-music-world; secondly because I’ve gotten a chance to establish a reference point for their sonic sensibilities in time to dive into their next vision-quest, Sounds from the Big Room (currently available online, and at Café Ollie’s Ypsi Music Shelf

“We really aren’t a punk band,” said singer/guitarist Jules Nehring, “but I guess we’ve got some punk songs.” If anyone asks? Bad Indians are rock n’ roll. (

The thing is, each member, Autumn Wetli—drums/vocals, Erin Davis—bass/vocals and Ian Lannen—guitar/vocals, Morgan Morel--keys,) contributes to the songwriting process, each bringing their own approach and their own influences. Thus, their coalescing sound arches from swirling, scorched psychedelia, to spookily fuzzed-out blues, to deluges of reverb and hazy vox serenades mutating garage rock with bubble-gum pop.

One constant, thus far, has been their preferred means of recording, via their humble 4-track, often self-produced at their cramped recording space. “I’d really like to record on a reel-to-reel 4-or-8-track,” Nehring said. “It doesn’t always sound that great, but it works best for us because it isn’t any different from how we practice or play a show.”

Nehring shrugged off the gloss of big budgeted/premier productions, opting to listen to “a 4-track bedroom recording any day. I think recordings can be treated as almost-an-effect-onto-itself, to bring something new to a song. Reverb is a big part. I really like it and if we could practice or record in a cave, I would.”

The band formed, loosely, in early 2008, born from a trio of young players of whom Nehring is the only surviving-founding member. “It didn’t seem like a whole lot was going on in Ypsi or Ann Arbor at that point,” Nehring recalled, during which time the band rarely practiced and wound up eventually adding Lannen (who played in punk duo the Mahonies over in Detroit) and releasing Live from the Burial Mound. Nehring and Wetli moved to New York in 2009, where Nehring taught her drums while the band continued to write and perform. After a dizzying fluctuation of members, songs and potential trajectories, Wetli and Nehring wound up recording as a duo (the first proper cassette) and moved back to Ypsi in Halloween, 2010, having added Davis that summer.

The band have a 7” single forthcoming on Ypsi-based Ginkgo Records, as well as yet-another-cassette album on Ann Arbor-based Life Like Records.

~~ More and more, dedicated/DIY enterprises like ARBCO Records are demonstrating the feasible future of local music. ARBCO Presents is a joint-venture spurred by A2-based ARBCO Records wherein it aligns with dozens of bands under the banner of collaboratively cultivating the future of independent music through vinyl preservation.

Participating bands perform monthly (or bi-monthly) showcases raising funds (from door covers) into a collective pool to thus facilitate each other’s future pressings of respective LPs. Plus, fans benefit with an ARBCO punchcard that, after 12 punches, entitles them to a 12” vinyl record from their ARBCO Records. The bludgeoning metal/punk dragon-slaying quartet Blue Snaggletooth releases Dimension Thule this summer – seek it all at the next ARBCO showcase (

Not the "cutz" we'd like to see...

An addendum to John Dunivant's interview (below). Concerning Mr. Dunivant (current recipient of the 2011 Kresge Arts Fellowship), response concerning much of the friction wrought upon venues like Theatre Bizarre (or the Trumbullplex, or the Detroit Hostel) being due to City Officials "not talking to each other..."

Read today's Free Press ~ The Front Page bears a quote from Mayor Dave Bing reacting to the City Council's rejection of a budgetary compromise to restore $30 million to the '11-'12 spending plan, after having cut $50 million a month prior:
"The Time For Talk Is Over"

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing cuts off budget talks after City Council rejects compromise

Read Stephen Henderson's take from the op-ed section.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bizarre Doc Preview ~ June 30 ~ ~ Dunivant Awarded Kresge (Interview)

Meet John Dunivant. He just won the 2011 Kresge Arts Fellowship! John specializes in architecture, illustrating, graphic design and painting. He's also in to sculpture and loves to work with his hands (he built his own ferris wheel last year).

In 1999, John Dunivant built a cabin inside of his studio space, thickly blanketing the floor with crinkled dirt-kissed leaves and transplanting hundreds of trees that shadily framed winding trails through the cavernous room, thus impressively dressing the setting of a fateful Halloween Party.

And he didn't get one photograph of it. "And that killed me." If any footage exists, he hasn't had found it yet.

This build-your-own-haunted-forest soiree of his would, beside risk getting him banned from the Russell Industrial Center, clarify to him the sublimely macabre visions for "his largest artistic accomplishment" to date, a backyard carnival known as Theatre Bizarre, which, over the last decade would become one of the area's (and the nation's) most renowned (and most interactive) underground venues, bolstered by an equally visionary collective of enthusiastic avant-gardists, as comfortable in this more guerrilla-styled setting as they would be in a conventional CCS curated show.

Learning from his mistakes of forgetting his camera for that first "party," Dunivant and longtime partner Ken Porier, made sure they diligent about documenting the development of Theatre Bizarre.

Now, Directors Gary Bredow and Per Franchell, are piecing together a documentary film - featuring footage from 2009's characteristically freaky/fiery/ambitious -all-night-concert/celebration - as well as the more on-the-fly videos and candid photography culled by Dunivant and Poirer.

"I was telling (Bredow & Franchell) that I didn't want to sign off on it just yet," Dunivant said. "I wanted to get a couple more years out of it..." Theatre Bizarre went on from 00-05, but took a break, (much-needed, at that point, for the pair of organizers who had led the assemblage of this twisted theme park meant to emulate the physical representation of a psychotic mass-murderer's abnormal mind).

They returned in 2007 with a tacit "five year that point, houses behind ours (on State Fair Drive) kept blowing up or burning down, and land kept opening up for us so we kept getting bigger. The plan was to go as big as possible, in five years, but afterwards we'd have to figure something out -to either go legit or, something, because it was getting too big to hide..." There was a roller coaster, in 09, on top of the ferris wheel + the considerable stage, numerous carnival games and splayed trails, all of it set alight intermittently with spirit-spurring pyrotechnics and echoing with the howls of inebriated ghouls.

"When we stopped in 05 it was still just a Halloween party," Dunivant said. "Then, after the break, it kinda hit me that it incorporates everything that I've wanted to do with art: graphic design, architecture, illustrating, painting, sculpture..." not to mention some woodwork and metallurgy. "Theatre Bizarre was fulfilling all of those needs for me. We wound up quadrupling in size with the land opening up, it got really intense and there was this whole new energy. I just felt, I guess, unleashed!"

Bredow and Franchell had the film in pre-production as 2010's Halloween approached, but Dunivant had still planned to have his gorgeous, gruesome gathering on the grounds for at least two more years, thus he didn't want to sign off just then, since the exposure would accelerate any hammer stroke from City Officials who were already leering at it from the corners of wary, watchful eyes, suspicious of any "unconventional" venues.

Alas, "things all came to a screeching halt," after all, in 2010, when the powers that be finally reined it in with citations over code violations threatening a razing of the site without their compliance.

"It's frustrating," Dunivant said. Venues like Scrummage University (whose floated three, if not four times, by now), or the Trumbullplex, or the CAID are run and supported by "people who are trying to do positive, creative things in Detroit. But, then, you've got certain aspects of the city, because I can't say all (aspects) since Ken and I have been dealing with the City steadily since last November, through monthly meetings, and once some of them got past the point of thinking we were some fly-by-night rave party, they realized what a positive thing it was..."

"There's a lot of people (working for the City), who support it," Dunivant said. "But nobody's talking to each other." There's an older guard who are more obstinate, giving and taking with "a lot of positive people working for the city, for change. But, you've got decades of crap that they've gotta shake out to get to a better point."

The bureaucratic gridlock of progressive-vs-resistive elements in the city, Dunivant said, was evident as recent as the false-start for Detroit's Hostel. City Officials were on hand for the ribbon cutting, yet merely a few days later, the fledgling shelter received a cease and desist order.


Theatre Bizarre Documentary Preview - June 30 - @ The Crofoot - presented by Big Bang Films - a Launch Party for fundraising support for the forthcoming film currently in-production. (Attendees get "Associate Producer" credits and a viewing of the film's teaser trailer).

"This isn't necessarily a Theatre Bizarre event," Dunivant said. "The filmmakers are raising money because they'd like to take an extra year dedicated to cataloging footage and editing it together. It's tremendous, a huge undertaking."

To the community that sprouted around (and supported) Theatre Bizarre: "Thank you," Dunivant said. "For supporting and believing in it without even knowing what it was going to be, going through some backyard party and hopefully finding something unlike anything they've ever seen before...The amount of volunteers that have come out, doing everything from moving woodchips to being apart of builds, to whatever, that's been tremendous. It was overwhelming, last year, at Dally, when we sold out our tickets so fast. That's definitely part of what drives me too, is the reaction and the support. I don't wanna stop. I'm bummed, I wanted all those people (in '10) to go to the grounds and see what we did."

"I still want them too. So, as much as I can, I'm gonna try to get everyone there, back to the grounds, so we can celebrate proper."

"If I can pull it off..." he says, noting that he's conferring with a lawyer to make sure he can stay i bounds, as much as possible.

Meanwhile, the film is tentatively scheduled for a 2012 release, with this June 30th fundraiser being a key building block:

Performing live: The Ruiners / Los Minstrels Del Diablo / Death Lab / Flec Mindscape / The Shitesmen / The Weird Sisters Circus / Satori Circus / Hayley Jane / Sky Fire / Courtney Morningstar / ~the film trailer~ / + Roxi D-Lite

~Costumes encouraged ~Come get interviewed by the on-site film crew

Tix: $25

Monday, June 27, 2011

This Was Happening

Blue Moon + DC's New Center Nite (procession: Glossies, CaveMan, Fur, Oscillating Fan Club, DevilFish, Macrame Tiger~~Child Bite, Mister, Pupils, you)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not In The Face

Everything was everywhere last night.
Hopefully everyone was able to sufficiently (and satisfyingly) lose themselves at whatever song-pact-ceremony whereupon they settled...

It's uselessly maddening to worry about what you show you could have been at - when you can just as easily permit thyself to dive into proactively maddening experiences at the edge of the stage of the shack whereupon you wound up.

It's Detroit. There's noise and noisemakers everywhere. Don't look at the clock and wonder if you can make it to somewhere else in time for someone else's set, cuz inevitably you'll take yourself out of the moment(s) that's spasming live, right in front of you... (Like a CaveMan getting into a street fight).

I'm done proselytizing --

If you're just logging on - you'll need to know about a surprise show, just added to the Lager House - that features Not In The Face - a fiery, sweatin & spittin duo churning out clattering, yowling blues punk and pummeling/swaggering rockabilly bluster.

They played Ferndale's Hybrid Moments last night... packing their prettily paroxysmal balladry into that modest music boutique, along with the comparably vigorous High Strung. But it's understanding if you missed it - considering that there were two, count 'em, two other music festivals happenin at that same time. (and maybe another that I'm forgetting? ...oh, yeah, RiverDays...)
In any case, they just added a show tonight-- at the Lager House.

Back to those other festivals: One was the Blue Moon in June (pictures to follow). The other was the Woodbridge Pub hosted Merrick'N'Trumbull fest - which featured a particularly piquant new performer 'round these parts, called Phantom Cats. A singer with plenty of range, lofting up to playful falsettos here but digging down deep for throaty groans there, marries elegance to the guttural; with an uncanny knack for fusing the manic and lively shred of punk to the cerebral percolations of jazz. It's zinging with flavors - and sturdily outfitted with tight rhythms, scorching guitar splays and dazzling vocal displays.
They sound like this:

Summer Spirit by PHANTOM CATS

If you weren't at the Blue Moon, or at Woodbridge, or at Hybrid Moments - it's likely you were at Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr's release party...

Here's documentation of my favorite Prussia song (at least off the latest/still-technically-unreleased-album), compliments of photographer Trever Long

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tape Heads

SPIN finally gets around to treating the "tape" revolution in this month's issue... (though they're about eight months-or-more late since that bell started tolling).

In it, Spin remarks upon the ostensible big boys, like SubPop, licensing cassette singles from their roster of bands, out to the little guys of basement-set magnetic tape spooled scruffy bohemians (, say, Fullerton CA's
Burger Records). They also give shout outs to NNA Tapes, Captured Tracks, Gnome Life and Not Not Fun).

"When you devalue the physical aspect of music so much, you shouldn't be surprised when the most inexpensiev format comes back into style" - Mike Sniper, Blank Dogs, operator of Captured Tracks.

At first, it's a crazy idea...then it's a phenomenon... Then, when major labels and considerably regarded/renowned/(er, "hip") indie bands start dabbling in "it" as well..., then it's a revolution. (Oh, media sensationalism).

I don't mean to over-think this...but recorded music was seen as a novelty when it first came about a hundred-and-a-quarter-years ago - people were used to concerts. (Okay, set aside that it was the well-to-do, stuffy wig-wearing affluent's who were the ones shelling out dough for Opera halls).

But, it's funny when one puts oneself back into that mindset: What? Listen to my Mozart or my Handel at home? Through the crude crackle of this distended cylinder? Poppycock.

But, thought of another way - the recording, on some small, deluded level, could just be a substitute for the live performance... the live energy, the presence, the sweat and strain and swagger of the performer....the pulsing amplifiers reverberating your viscera...

I don't intend to go too far down that road. I'm just intrigued by what the advance of generations wroughts upon debates of sound quality. When the kids are coming up from behind, yet also bringing with them the same old busted equipment and dusty technology that the Gen-X-er's thrived upon, it stirs things up in a weird and refreshing way.

As the music world shifts economically-speaking, it also shifts one's potential prospects. (Basement garage rockers have hit the hills and mined their own nuggets! Now a bunch of fledgling DIY labels have propped up as veritable olde-timey General Stores hocking their wares).

Indeed, the music world shifts and more democratic, or at least made more wild and woolly by new generations' transmogrifying outdated purist ideals (these kids don't need to worship Phil Spector, or remastered Pet Sounds, that's well and good, but they also have room for the scuzzed-out/blown-out bluster of a Ty Segall or Times New Vikings).

All I'm saying is: It's interest. And it makes me wonder if we've gotten back to that late-Edwardian-era of thinking where we revere the live performance over the recording... Or, perhaps, more so, that the recording, now, is considered supplemental, or a means for listeners to further acquiant themselves with an artist's signature and perhaps their personality - so that they have a grasp of it on their way to the concert.

I've already overthought this more than I wanted to...
I really just wanted to give shout out's to Detroit-area purveyors of cassettes...

For instance - Ann Arbor based Zen Tapes is throwing a shin-dig on July 8th - >

Ypsilanti-based Bad Indians just released a new album, Not Having Any Fun, the 36th release off of Fred Thomas' Ypsi-based LifeLike Records. (If you're over in Ypsi/Arbor, also check out Ginkgo).

In Detroit, we have Gold Tapes (run by Zac from Kommie Kilpatrick), who just put out another KK chapter, Sex Party.
There's also Aglae Tapes & Records, as well as Leroy St. Records.

Songs From The Moon went and put out their own, a split cassette with Matilda: The Lucky Suite

And then, there's CA-based Burger, who has shown plenty of Detroit love, via their push for Conspiracy of Owls' fine debut. They also have stuff by the Pizazz and Magic Jake & the Power Crystals.

How many revolutions per minute do cassette tapes roll at?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why don't we do it in the road?

This is what living in ridiculously robust and flourishing music scene should be -all about: a shambolic Shangri-La-scenario of a summer party. A spilled-about, music-packed block party -where all you have to do is ask those who would otherwise be in attendance to simply load their amps and travel about transport them for a six-or-seven minute drive (or even just a six or seven minute walk).

Merrick'N Summer-Fest, hosted ostensibly by the Woodbridge Pub (the outlet that will be supplying the suds to thereby silly-fy all those for the 12-hour-long event) will be thrown (Saturday - merrick & trumbull) to celebrate the "essence and beauty" of "living in Woodbridge."

Here's a loose schedule -

1:30 - WOODMAN

7;00 - GOLDEN
10:45 - JUST BOYZ


'course... there's also this (tonight, down at 1217 Griswold)

Where you can see this:

...s'all for now, comrades - more soon

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Changing Landscapes - First Belmont, now Bart - (+House Phone / Blue Moon Scavenger Hunt)

The Belmont, of Hamtramck, location of many memorable Detroit rock n roll concerts, has changed owners and now its amplifiers are quiet.
"Cheers and tears..."

Club Bart closes on Sunday. Ferndale's humble hub for rock, jazz, blues and stand-up, was just beginning, it seems, to get on a roll (so to speak), with hosting special events (like tribute nights with crammed line ups of enthusiastic local performers for John Lennon and Hank Williams...and the special Duensedays-- Wednesday night specials hosted by Duende-as-veritable-'house-band' with a revolving cast of opening performers).

Ferndale's Patch has a story with readers sharing memories for this bluecollar bistro as renowned for its breakfast fare as it was for its ardent support of local music. Details of Club Bart's recent changing of owners were not fully available as of this morning, so just stay tuned to the Patch.

While I have your attention...

 happening, tonight @ the Loving Touch in Ferndale. Up for grabs: a 7" single from the lounge-conjuring, jazz-rock dashing, soul-popsters House Phone - (my personal fav cut from their first few songs)~Listen:


And in the meantime gear-up for a scavenger hunt - Saturday at 5pm (leading into the 5th Blue Moon in June).

There's some sort of secret concert occurring

(this is Scotty, -he plays in Crappy Future)

Current Musings...

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - who recently released the beautiful and haunting Diamond Mine LP -and are featured on NPR's 25 Favorites (of the first half of 2011).

Gillian Welch will see the release of her LP The Harrow & the Harvest (paired with producer Dave Rawlings), an album 8-years-in-the-making. She performs at Royal Oak's Music Theatre July 23.

No more White Stripes, recently divorced, Raconteurs and Dead Weather ostensibly in lowered modes of activity (at least not currently on tour) and singing along to "Seven Nation Army" as though it could hypothetically be a yogurt commercial... ...curious time for Jack White, to be sure - but Third Man seems to be the focus. (That, and helping Colbert become a deluded, if still charming, guitar god).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

View to a Kill(ing of One's Idols)

Addendum's to the preceding post (below), compliments of Scottie Stone (who drums for Pupils / Dutch Pink / Marco Polio / Eleanora / and I think a couple more that I'm forgetting):

Vainglory is the symptom, mediocrity the disease. - from The Observer.


The Crass film directed by Alexander Oey


Living in the post-everything/post-history world can often stir up melodramatically exasperated fits -which is probably symptomatic of my constant reading of history, or reading/re-reading of famous "music writing" by seminal scribes of the late 60's/early-70's - (my personal fav). If often results in elevated anxiety to experience (and thus, what? be cleansed? be reborn? have our collective consciousnesses shifted?)....experience the leap forward - the great reformation.

Don't tell me your a blogger. Don't tell me you have a punk rock sound. Tell me something completely different. Tell me you've mutated. Tell it to me in an alien language. Scare me.

Paradigm shifts --of sensibilities, styles, scenes, etc - do happen - What is the shape of this shapeless-internet-music-world--to come?

What are the monuments, anymore? Who is still listening to the Fleet Foxes, the Morning Jackets, the Bon Ivers... are they pushing it? Is Odd Future pushing it?


Get out thine hammers and pound out some new shapes, already...

Sorry, I'll try to be more patient.
And, rightly, to remind myself, that it's out there - in the crevices and often active at midnight, nesting in unassuming places perceived as shady or unconventional.

Being stuck in internet world, fighting frightening compulsions to keep-up-appearances on facepages and the like, leaves us so ready, waiting and hungry for something of substance that we sometimes let it slip by when it actually, finally gets "posted."
Or I don't know,--I worry about that sometimes...

Damned internet. Makes me jittery.

Punk rock died when the first kid said: "Punk's not dead..."



The explosive, belching roar is so imposing at first, causes you to hunch your shoulders, disorients you, impresses you...until it crackles away all too suddenly, a fleeting echo dispersing... ebbing.

Call me a romantic, but, like a fine summer night's rolling thunderstorm, I think we can be similarly enchanted with the brutish dynamism of things like, say, punk rock.

And, these last few days, I've been trying to remind myself about what that is, or rather, what that should still be. What does it (...'punk,') mean, anymore?

I want to tell you about the wads of mucus intermittently jettisoned from Shawn's mouth every six lyrics or so, or about the way Steve spasms his way away from the microphone, wriggling his way out into the crowd as though his long brown curls had transformed into serpents and he was trying to de-fang them with his hands whilst pugnaciously serenading them away with a yowled melody...
I want to tell you about Sheefy's audacious disregard for his own well-being by jumping off of walls and falling onto floors that are already soaked with beer while he holds a live microphone to his mouth. I want to tell you about cops busting in doors and pulling amplifier plugs or about Ryan drumming in a cramped and already cluttered rectangular room near the kitchen with only about five people in the "audience."

Why limit yourself to such passe adjectives: "Dude, this is so 'punk-rock...'"

Somewhere in this last decade, Punk rock become just another Wikipedia page; all but tamed into stale compartmentalization, or something like a now-lifeless wolf, frozen in its last growl, mounted on the walls of taxidermist executive-types who knew how to sell it for a year or two until it was exposed as more sheep-than-anything-else.

The real punk rockers don't know (or never knew) that they're doing it.
Influence is deceptive. If you're ready to say you're influenced by Radiohead, then wouldn't it be more purist-of-you to dig deeper and find out who influenced Radiohead? And subsequently worship/study/mimic 'them' more-so?

I have only a minimal (-say it again, minimal) inkling of the nuances of the songwriter's experience... But if it's anything (say it again, anything), like writing-about-music, then I'm sure it's quite difficult not to refer...

Refer back to what's come before... 'This Musician's current sound and style' is demonstrating behaviors and flavors and manners that seem to recall what 'This-other-Musician had done just a few years earlier with this-other-quasi-style/approach-that-was-also-thereby-mined-and-manipulated-by-a-whole-other-scene of songwriters.'

Put another way: This band has elements of "punk."

Well... give me more!

I don't want music journalism to be so lazy, anymore. (Did the internet make that hopeless?)

But...set that aside.

Here's the point: One hurried shuffle through any drug-store will wrought disturbing revelations into your ears - that the world is so numb that they think the drivel peddled on outlets such as 96.3 is actually legitimate pop music that thereby must be enjoyed.

Do I react (retch) to Bruno Mars' song about getting up one ideally-ignorant-boosting morning and deciding that he's "not doing anything" the same way that some (perhaps old fuddies from 1959 who yelled at stick-ball-playing tikes to stay-the-hell-off-his-lawn) might have turned their noses at the Silhouette's song "Get A Job (Sha-na-na)" (...which is now revered, if just in a quaint-PBS-580-memories-nostalgic sense as quintessential "doo-wop" and thereby "classic").

And worse - all the people here, in this drug store purgatory are singing along! Singing along to a song about not-doing-anything. This stirs up doomsday-paranoia in me matching that of soylent-green-pod-people-type levels.

Here's the final point: It makes me all the more glad to be at the edge of a stage (these stages, our stages) and have a musician fall off of it, and on to me. Or to be shoved from behind when a Kommie Kilpatrick song reaches it's third chorus (in under 58 seconds). Or to get goosebumps when Dan Kroha belts out a blood-curdling traditional gospel ballad under a summer night's sky.

To be here. To see and experience all of this...

It's just like that thunder-clasp... (call me romantic).
When it happens, I feel electrified. When the moment's passed, it seems to echo with a fading crackle. The audience regains composer, stands back up, looks around, rubs their ears.

Walking through drug stores and hearing the music they blare day in, day out, makes me want to go storm chasing.

Writing about music is a delicate act and needs to be respected as such; it should happen as soon as possible after the writer is struck by that metaphoric lightning -

If it lingers too long, you just start reaching back to the storms of your past, the big tornadoes you keep telling stories about, the ones that everyone remembers best (like 70's 'punk').

Don't discount the storm from which you just dried off - maybe it does have elements of "punk," but it's got to have an element all it's own. Doesn't it?

You just have to make sure you listened to it's distinctive belching-roar, closely enough.

Well...'s stopped raining for now. G'night

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts on Writing (Despair is Boring)

I tend to over-think things...often to a fault.

One hopes that it is an asset, when it's come to writing about music.

Anyhow - Author/historian David McCullough researched letters (you know, the snail mail paraphernalia?)- written by artists through the mid-19th century for his latest book. TIME Magazine recently interviewed him about the quaintness of letter writing.

We don't write letters on paper anymore. How will this affect the study of history?
-The loss of people writing--writing a composition, a letter or a report--is not just the loss for the record. It's the loss of the process of working your thoughts out on paper, of having an idea that you would never have had if you weren't [writing]. And that's a handicap. People [I research] were writing letters every day. That was calisthenics for the brain.

We often can't understand how people in the past could have owned slaves or not educated girls. What do you think people will wonder about us?
-How we could have spent so much time watching TV.


Before reading that, however, I had had an electronically-facilitated conversation with local musician John Bissa about the usefulness of: "considered criticism" in helping "raise up a lot of things" and potentially spur on the continued traditions of meaningful art and highlighting relevant new talent in the community.

"Certainly," I responded. "But, I worry that few things are considered in the Internet age -
too many writers will just look, briefly listen, load the chambers and fire off."

(Set aside that we now are sorely sated with 'writers' out here on the blurring, bohemoth Internet's icy, antagonistic plains).

"We also risk stumbling over our own shoelaces" by processing/half-analyzing a glutton of data, be it news, or be it music. "Jumping all jittery across a hopscotch/taunt and flaunt playground of sites and blogs."


So that made me dig up this story from NPR's Fresh Air:
"How The Internet is Re-shaping Music Criticism" - an interview with music writer LinkAnn Powers. Thus giving me insight and helping me relax a bit, with added perspective, when our state of literary intellect seems to be either dizzying or disconcerting.

Powers acknowledges the notion that the blogger brigade threatens sustained thought.

Forget having your life changed by a great music book, the way mine was by Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train in 1985. We can’t even trust anyone to tell us whether the new Justin Timberlake album deserves five stars.

"But," she continues, "I think despair is boring. It lands the worrier in the time-travel trap of longing for the past while fearing the future. It obscures the present. The present is unstable, but that’s what makes music writing—and all cultural writing, in fact—so exciting a practice these days. We have to dump our expectations and try to use our voices and our minds in different ways."

Listen to the story here.

At the end of the day, I try not to over-think myself-writing-about-music; since I spend too much time already over-thinking-the-music-itself. The internet is going to shape our habits no matter what - but nothing can change the interaction between a listener and an album; it's only up to the listener to how great an extent they open themselves to said-album (and hopefully long enough for it to have an impact).

"Music itself is a call that deLinkmands response," Powers writes. "It organizes desire, sorrow, and joy into a form both primal—the ear is the first sense organ to begin working when we are in the womb—and intensely communal; in every known culture, some form of music has been a constant in everyday life. Making music or listening to it is part of how we grow; sharing music is what helps us create community."

Let It Begin...

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Ted Leo has little to do with Father's Day. But, for the sake of "music news," I can tell you that he has a new song, ("The Little Smug Supper Club") recently performed (and produced) via something called Room 205 (...which, for the Detroit scene, could compare to our Throwback Media, in terms of mission, mode and mentality). + -a new song from Mr. Leo likely means that the soulful punk-folk/articulate agitator will likely be unveiling a new album within a season or two.

Now then, what does have-(plenty)-to-do with Father's Day is NPR's All Songs Considered's special program "Songs for Father's Day." Listen.
Listener's Dad's and Grandpa's cooked up personal playlists. I'm a sucker for such endearing things.


My dad's personal favorite? As always, for him, it's the Ventures.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lost in the Shuffle -or- (still) Listening

I'm actually writing this for myself. I've never gotten terribly personal on often I'm writing about someone else, something else, some place else...or even further into the intangible, writing about music.

Which, as Mr. Costello's echoing words in my head have never stopped reminding me, is about as feasibly translatable/comprehendable as "dancing about architecture."

I'd really love to indulge surreal satire here - and fabricate fantastically funny and frightening epilogue-esque explanations, -but motorcycle crashes aren't funny, alien abduction is a tired cliche and I've not yet made any LP's for you to experiment with playing backwards to decode secret messages I've left behind.

I'm not going anywhere. Yet. That I know of.

It's more of a "back-in-5-minutes" sign, left on the ye olde blogshoppes's front door.

I'm not taking off my writer's apron, but I am wandering out, away from the kitchen and out -down the street, for a little while. I'll leave some stew simmeirng on the burner for you...just make sure to stir it here and there and when you're done, seal up the leftovers and store em in the fridge.

I need some kind of vision quest. I need to just put headphones on again and listen to music for the sake of listneing to music. I don't ever want to become numbed or unfeeling; I don't ever, nor have I ever, just put a record on to churn out a review. But still, reviews can feel dirty, hollow - and writing too many of them can be anesthetizing to the tingly receptors in one's heart, the ones that palpitate when you hear that perfect sound...

The thing is: I've been posting every day (sometimes twice) for.....I've lost count. (Or was too busy writing the next thing to count). I just want to try, once, or twice, to listen to a record and not write about it. Oh, I'll be listening. But I'll be writing something else...

My self-examination was spurred by my being moved by passages from Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up, where he talks about the depression he fell into, in 1981, tied to a soul-crushing tour schedule. His words, like "exhaustion," "isolation," and "creative ennui" just happened to scare the shit out of me.

"I couldn't imagine abandoning something I had worked so hard to craft," he wrote, about his stand-up act. He admits that he "saw that the only way I could go, at best, was sideways. I wasn't singing songs that you hum forever, I was doing comedy, which is as ephemeral as the daily newspaper."

I'm not writing songs. And,... the word: "Ephemeral" also scares me. Or, it at least makes me want to go out into the desert and start sculpting something, ...or at least makes me want to seclude myself in a Paris loft with a typewriter and a bottle of absinthe and not permit myself outside until I'd churned 50 pages of mind-melting profundity and heart-swooning majesty, or at least makes me want to go to Vegas and have some kind of soul-searching lost weekend.

What I believe:
-in love
-in myself
-in Detroit music.
-and, of course, in my friends, (see, above).

I believe my dad is hilarious. And I believe my mom is inspiringly compassionate. And I believe in broken cliches like: music soothes the savage beast --and that music is the universal language.

But I don't ever want to even have a hinted inkling that what I'm doing, even here-now--as I type these words, is "ephemeral."

"Music is essentially what memories feel like," my sister once said.

It can, thus, give feeling to the ephemeral.

But...... the risk: "Oh yeah, I remember when I first heard that song... I was sitting at the coffee shop, in the middle of writing-about-that-song, when I first...heard it..." ....oh.

I'm going to go get lost in some delicious, psychedelic, transcendent, head-hurting, heart-wringing, feet-moving, eye-opening memories...

By just listening.

"In my 27th year I set out to confront my fears and found the role of a lifetime..." -Cass McCombs - "Hermit's Cave"


I'll still post here when the spirit moves me and that might end up being consistent, but it might also end up being more sporadic. I'm going up for air, that's all. But before I dry off, I'm cannon-balling back into the water.

I know I'll be writing about Urgh...
and more to come, still...

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.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(Et Tu,) Brute Heart

Wherein, I ramble about Brute Heart, Computer Perfection, and Bad Indians

Classical instruments... be it the violin or be it the human voice... can have an imposing darkness to them; beautiful, haunting, and, in a way that seems to conjure ancient demons or past lives or merely flicker with the gossamer glow of candles, can be primal.

(see: City of Music)

Brute Heart's brand of spooky baroque-punk, richly evocative despite its minimalist ingredients (violin/viola/drum/bass/voice), makes me consider it psychedelic - only in that these trips, buoantly rhythmic, droney, chant-like, with "serptentine melodies" wrapt with moderately macabre imagery of eclipses and dubious charms of evil eyes -make one feel like their on some kind of spirit jounrey. Dash in a little proggy art-rock takes on torch songs and you've got this trio from across Lake Michigan (Minneapolis), putting out this, Lonely Hunter, (their 2nd LP) out on Soft Abuse.

Listen: Brute Heart - "Blindfolded"


But also...

"Recording happens in fits and starts. There's no such thing as a quiet house. I like to think about the days when I'll be old or gone - that (our daughter) Penny will have our music. Maybe it will be a puzzle for her to try to figure out what was going on in our lives, or in our minds, when we were relatively young. Or maybe it's just for me, when I get old, to remind myself that I had strange things in my head..."

Singer/guitarist Gene Corduroy - speaking of his band, Computer Perfection, in an interview with The Patch, detailing their current work upon a "sophomore" LP, to be released later this year.

I Need a Serious Love by thestrangeecho

Computer Perfection - June 11th @ Isaac Agee Downtown Synagogue - with High Speed Dubbing and Car Parts.


But, ...but, also---

Bad Indians (who you can see, June 18th at the New Center Park Stage), just released a new demo-EP -- The Rebel Kind - Take a listen here.