Friday, March 30, 2012

¿Possible o’ Impossible?

Josh has an earnest urge to get weirder.

This is partly why meeting at the Penguinarium of the Detroit Zoo seemed a sensible place to start an interview.

“Smells like a Chihuahua farm in here…” He shuffles inside, his cowboy boots echoing off the scuffed linoleum.

It’s dim and completely empty and our voices bounce off of the awkwardly arched ceiling above the viewing platform. We lean against the railing and merely glance at the stumpy, tuxedoed birds, stiff, flightless, sad and sealed. 

Josh Malerman’s mind’s going a mile a minute and he has his own way of rambling it out: starting out with his own anxieties stirred from the stigma of dating a stripper, to the inanity of  meeting a dare from two young vixens to blend shots of vodka and tequila into one glass, and then quickly to the potential book deal that the lead singer of Detroit’s rock quartet The High Strung could be scoring any day now (because when he’s not writing songs and singing them, half-zozzled, on stage, he’s writing supernatural suspense novels).

“Our song, ‘The Luck You Got,’ has been getting thousands of downloads a week…” he holds one hand out, acknowledging that this song of their's is now featured as the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless. “So, then," he holds out his other hand, "‘Okay!, does that then mean there’s a growing fan base? …Probably…so, at what point do you test that out?"

And then he brings both hands together as he answers his own question, "Well, we have a new album coming out….We'll test that out, out on the road."

The album's called ¿Possible o’ Impossible?, their seventh album and it’s arriving during a bracing time of possible convergence – a new album, a new tour, and, finally, for Malerman, after 13 completed works, a new book deal? Things are looking pretty good.

“I want to go further…”

“I feel like we are at a crux now,” Malerman says, as we traipse through an empty Zoo. It's the end of January, the middle of the working week. It's a quarter past 4 pm, the chilled airs keep almost every animal hunched into their inclosures, (except for the sneering alpacas). It's after hours by Zoo standards and a few bicycle-coasting uniformed gents give us a "buy something or get out" look.

It's a random weekday swathed in muting fog, we came here on a whim, it seemed like a better alternative to a coffee shop. "There's nobody in the's OURS..." Malerman sings on an o’ Impossible? song titled "Sometimes It's Odd, Sometimes It's Like God."

Our hour-long conversation charts the development of this band, back ten years to a trio of 27-year olds out of their minds with nervous energy and voracious appetites for open roads, all too willing to wail their rock n roll stylings on weeknights in watering holes on aloof Monday nights in the Randomness of the rustbelt, to their eeked-out-livings between New York lofts and Detroit suburbs, to their 3 albums churned out through a whirldwind's worth of a 4-year-long just-about-non-stop tour... and all the way through to their addition, two years ago, of guitarist Stephen Palmer (noted shredder from Detroit band Back In Spades) and, then, finally to their steady crawl into wider national attention (i.e. Shameless).

“I feel like there’s something different now..."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Aftermath...

The aftermath of listneing to The Aftermath may find the listener in a state of shakey repose that may seem disquieting to anyone happening-upon said-listener... anyone left out, out on the outside, situated on the exterior of the headphones of said-listener who is -listening-to-The Aftermath (by Lizzie Temple Black) will not understand, may not want to...or may not be ready to...understand...

...the entrancing disturbance, the massage of madness, the detachment that the listener feels as dischordant xyolophones and curdling, cawing violins clatter the listener even here, still, now, the table, with his headphones on, or does he now feel like he may not yet have even woken up... intense visuals thunder in, stirred by the kaleidoscopic haunt of the poetic spew, and one starts to fully appreciate whimsically thrown words like -avant-garde- one starts to wonder, really, if this is just noise, or if this is something more nuanced... Are all bets off? Does the chaos of these... "songs" actually follow a system that the listener is trying to jitteringly crawl his way into... Wavy-gravy-grooves from a lucid-dream of musical monstrocity...

Yes...look over at me and see me, with my headphones on... I'll look ...bothered and bewitched... I'm listening to the new noise... Zappa, Beefheart, Cale, Sun Ra... the provocative dream of dissonance is alive - LIVE in Berkely, tonight....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Little Things" / "Dunes" / "The Chase"

This could be the Summer of SelfSays...

...then again, it might also become the Summer of Phantasmagoria

will there be Pan!c on the streets?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pictured: Detroit Music 3.30.12

Opening Exhibition
1250 Hubbard
DJ Carjack spinning

The works of:
Doug Coombe
Trever Long
Marvin Shaouni

Friday, March 23, 2012

Detroit Music

So much so... that it is happening....again...

The wave rolls forth....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make Much of Time: ("We Are The Ones")

“I haven’t really met any assholes…"

Tom sips his black coffee, gives me a second to let that sink in. He’s just summed it up perfectly.


Succinctly snaring and summing up the sentiment of… that all too platitudinous and played-out subject of –the scene. And why everyone seems to be feeling so damned inspired right now.

“No assholes…(Not) in a long time…” says Tom Bahorski, a multi-engaged guitarist who strums for three different bands around here. “And the people I have met that were assholes, like, (who were) doing shows and music and stuff like that…they’re nowhere to be found anymore.”

“It’s weird.”

...Oh, that’s right, we must all be drunk on each other’s dynamism, goaded by seeing the familiar glowing faces at the stage’s edge, eye’s at our kneecaps, nodding us on; made boastful, even, by the chemical cocktail bubbling in our brain that’s swilled from the static-charged-touch of creative collaboration – man, you gotta hear this song we just wrote…

This is the same old story, right?

“It’s interesting, actually…” Jesse Shepherd-Bates was on the phone just the night before, “seeing the people who are playing with everybody…Gordon Smith of Kickstand Band is now with Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas, and Nik Landstrom from Phantom Cats is with Legendary Creatures and I’m with the Hounds Below…and Tom, from the Ashleys, is in Pink Lightning now…”

“Music,” Bates says, audibly struggling to find the right words, “…is just music and Detroit is beautiful…because everybody just wants to play (music), it doesn’t matter who-has-gotten-where with their music…All these musicians coming from totally different places, taste-wise or style wise, and just embracing whatever we, each of us, bring, we all trust that we love the same thing deep down, because there’s the same kind of energy as was a year ago…”

But, Bates says, it feels more potent now, than it did. More energized too, and yes, maybe more tense. Angst and enthusiasm and some strange inspirational footrace to keep up with the rolling spark of everyone else’s powder lines…do they all lead to the same explosive keg?

Act I

“Okay, so…We’ve got seven bands to the table so far…”

It’s 2pm on a Saturday. There’s a loud quiet on Michigan Avenue, the calm before the storm of St. Patrick’s Day. Bryan Lackner (the rapper a.k.a. Mister) has just ordered a beer to wash down a basket of catfish, the first time he’s ordered something like that. He’s not worried, he tells me, worst comes to worst he can just drown it out with sriracha sauce…

Chicken wings mingle with coffee mugs and PBR cans…and more than a dozen sleepy-eyed musicians seated around this cluttered table.

In a few days, it will be the birthdays of two local songwriters and incorrigible band-bouncing collaborators: Jesse Shepherd-Bates and Tom Bahorski – both will be 25 – and Tom’s pretty sure he’s just a few hours older. Last year, at the Lager House, 11 bands performed at the Lager House for the duo’s 24th birthdays – but this time it’s going to be a “Sweet Sixteen…”

Ungrateful Daughter / Sound and Fury / Pewter Cub / Ronny Tibb’s and the 305’s / Patrick Davy and the Ghosts / Citizen Smile / FUR / Phantom Cats / The Kickstand Band / The Hounds Below / The Ashleys / Lightning Love / Jesse & the Gnome / The HandGrenades / Good Cop-Good Cop / Passalacqua

Somehow everyone of those bands – made up of anywhere from 47 to as high as 63 separate musicians (not counting the crossovers of shared members) could get that night free, free from any late-stretching day job shift, or free from any other show they could have done – so that they could all avalanche their amps into the 150-some-odd-capacity of PJs Lager House to play for fifteen minute stints… for free.

What causes that?

Lunacy, probably. Right? Something like it…

Pure enthusiasm? Sure, on a level, yes. Camaraderie – that too. But perhaps all these bands, all sixteen “groups” of musicians at this show, themselves just one beaker’s-full sampling of the soupy sea of creative music churning throughout the metro-area,...are caught up in a kind-of lunacy, because, really, aren’t “__waves” the best/most common way to delineate the nuanced character of any cultural movement.

It’s a wave or a craze. And this Battle Royale of bands are just rolling along the cresting tides of the next one… responding to some gravitational exertion from the moon or some other ominous glowing cosmic rock…

Who knows?

When we got 8 or 9 bands, FUR, Citizen Smile, The HandGrenades, Passalacqua, the Hounds Below, Pewter Cub…Phantom Cats…whoever could make it, to come out to the Lager House for a late-late-brunch, the interview wound up being so cacophonous that transcription proved to be indecipherable. It didn’t help that dogs were trotting around barking on occasion and that 7 elegantly-dressed models came in from a fashion show and set up for their own lunch date right next to our humble clattered-platters.

But, yeah... so who knows? At that Brunch meeting I wound up giving up on asking questions about this scene…
…A few days later I was walking past a music shop’s front window and saw a sad-looking Washburn round-neck Resonator guitar, pawned by its last user, now, sitting, quiet, still. Dust settling on its strings.

One day, for most of us, even here at the Lager House, our own Resonators will meet the same fate. Magic moments end but that’s axiomatically the best part.

Music writers can or cannot allow themselves to be caught up in the same mad tide carrying these bands – can or cannot allow themselves to become fans. But waves crash and roll back. Bands break up.

The trap of it is – you roll along the wave and lose yourself and you think you, you all, these bands, have the collective might to –spill-over, as it were…break the dam. Something too strong to evaporate…

Are we? Will we?

Those answers won’t come until long, long after the Sweet Sixteen show… No need in asking any questions now.

Act II

So Bates calls me the day after the Lager House. I’m in an ice-rink watching beer-league hockey and he’s…well, still at the Lager House, swept up in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and feeling nervous by the leering looks of trotting police officers.

When everything’s been done, or tried, and every thought has been explored, how, then, does that benefit the next (namely, this) generation (of, say, local music talent?)? Did lessons subconsciously seep in to these bands, the younger-siblings-of the Detroit garage explosion of ten years ago?

Can we appreciate that “spot-light” is an oxymoron in the Internet age…Have we mellowed ourselves into letting that guard down – to be music fans, instead of all vying to be rock stars?

“I really think the special thing bout music in Detroit,” Bates says, “is…it’s…it’s pure love. It’s people loving playing music for each other, with each other and it has nothing to do with fame or getting the hit single.”

Maybe he’s had a beer or two at this point, but hear him out.

Bates latches onto the phrase “unabashed-dorky-enthusiasm…” Because one of his bands wouldn’t have started had he not seen now-defunct pedal-flanked guitar-heavy trio Millions of Brazilians and their own experimentation – or the Ashleys for that matter, and their progressive utilization of splitting guitar signals through three amps.

Bates, who used to play in The Satin Peaches – locally -a post-White Stripes / pre-Danny Brown era band – now hears guys like the players in the HandGrenades, telling him how the Peaches were considerable inspirations for them, early on...

Bates, just like Bahorski, is like some new breed of scene-actors who can be personified-gateways – guys who are so plugged-in to the, let’s call it a network?, scene? ...that they unknowingly secrete clue-ins, tips, or introductions to other local bands just by talking about their daily week's worth of music-making. Bates plays in a group called The Gnome, but he just joined Jason Stollsteimer (formerly of the Von Bondies) in his latest band, The Hounds Below. He also books shows at Simon’s down in Allen Park.

Bahorski started with his cousin Steve as a garage-rock duo, The Ashleys, but now he’s shredding in the funk-tinged dance-rock gales of Pink Lightning while finding time here and there to develop instrumental accompaniments to hip-hop duo Passalacqua…

Passalacqua’s got Bryan Lackner, who opened a door for this writer to tumble down the rabbit whole of the local rap scene.

These are the spark plug types. Like Frank Woodman, who fronts his own band (bolstered by his family members) or, really, any member of the Phantom Cats, or Chris Butterfield from Pink Lightning, or J.R. of the Ferndale Acid Scene who runs his own cassette label...or James Linck, even, from House Phone - whose got a studio at the Russell... I could go on... they're something akin to connoisseurs or anthropologists, out there, mining local music and spreading it back out, the enthusiasm for it. It's partly why Barhoski and Bates have 14 bands rallying to their casual call. It's gravitational.

What it feels like, whether we’re deluded or drunk on our own coolness or what, that there’s no more cliques, or at least genres – so much as there’s: “oh, have I introduced you to ___ yet? Have you checked out ¬¬¬__ yet?”

“It’s interesting to watch this happening,” Bates says… “not sure how to express it, but…”


“No assholes…not in a while…”

And so I’m back to the coffee shop with Bahorski, a few days later.

“I just like the people I’ve met,” Bahorski shrugs, not sure either, just how to express it. “I’ve never met this many cool people that were creatively…of the same mind-set, being open-minded, who just want to do cool creative things, and willing to do these things, together.”

That’s any scene, though, right?

“When we all first started up, we all felt that faint possibility, the rock star idea…but then after a year you start to realize that there’s no way that that dream is still possible in this world.”

“It’s liberating, then, in that way you can do whatever you want and not worry about: is it gonna sell, is it not?”

Every three months or so – we have an overstuffed show, some mini-Blowout, and that’s not counting the medium-sized and –extra-large-sized local festivals we have… A show like Sweet Sixteen is just like last summer’s Detroit-version of Urgh: A Music War.

But at something like the Sweet Sixteen, it’s like there’s no show anymore. The light isn’t one spot anymore. Imagine if wrestlers or boxers didn’t stay away, shut into their locker rooms waiting for their respective match to begin…and, instead, came out to ringside and cheered along every other competing athlete.

“It’s not like: ‘Hey, we’re better than you…’” Bahorski says. “You get motivated by seeing other bands’ momentum and not in any nasty competitive way, not in a I-have-to-be-better-than-you, way, more in a I-want-to-be-as-good-as-you, way…”

From there, the conversation drifts…
...and I mean drifts... to Catfish…to hip-hop…to the Rolling Stones…to Spinal Tap…to pursuing a career as being a professional Extra in the film industry –just to score some free bagels from the catering tables.

“That’d be really heartwarming if everybody just brought me a bagel on my birthday show…”

We ramble about bagels for a while and almost strike upon a profound metaphor about it representing scenes, bands, people, growing, “in full circle” …the circle of life. Circles…waves…crazes…lunacy.

But then somehow Tom started talking about futons and then I started bugging him to do a Prince cover at the Sweet Sixteen show…But then its back to seafood, craw fish namely. And, then it's onto time travel...and, again, bagels come back up...

…At some point we were talking about music… Oh well… Everyone bring a bagel…

Epilogue –  Scenes are scenes and they’ll always keep waving along… The excitement, for me, is charged by the ever-present possibility that what IT –is—per se, could grow into a movement…even foster its own philosophy…Really, really, leave it’s mark.

But...I guess what I'm getting at is...
Scenes always come and go... Really, more than that - bands come and go - but for years' on end, the scene sustains - If Prussia ends than its lead singer and guitarist start a new band...or members of the Satin Peaches go on to different things...
We've got this window of time...and any/every scene does die...because inevitably: priorities change, living circumstances change... Or maybe the world will end?

Make much of the poem goes... Here we are, gathering our rosebuds each weekend, while we may, at any various venue, in any various studio or practice space.

You've got all these rosebuds, is my point - what are you going to do with them?

Brunch photos by Lisa Marie Krug

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Monomania 3.30.12

A year ago (almost to the day) I stood out on the puddled curb of Michigan avenue (it had rained that morning, but, then again, it was St. Patrick's Day... was some beer mixed in? Inevitably...vomit?)...and laughed as Child Bite posed in front of leering police officers in their squad cars, slinking by while a consortium of authentically-costumed Star Wars characters triumphantly marched nearby... Read the Interview and see photos by Amy Palomar -here.

They were just wrapping up the last mixes at Christopher Koltay's High Bias studios for a handful of songs that are finally seeing the light of day - via their 10" vinyl Monomania (out March 30th).

Take a listen:
Child Bite: "Smear Where The Face Was..."

Now... Victorian-era psychiatrists employed the term "Monomania" for diagnosing patients with what seemed to be a "single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind."

One listen to the first track of this latest release (particularly with headphones) and you'll feel as though you're (gleefully) losing your mind...such a knotty swirl of feedback and cracked-half-laughed/half-howled guttural vocals... But that's not a streamable track, here, sorry... You'll have to seek out the full release...
...will be on hand, physically, at Child Bite's release show:
March 30th
Old Miami - Detroit

 No hope for audible conversation - show up, have a sip, bang your head, grab some vinyl - it should be an awkwardly hunched, yet invigorating blender of cacophony...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Twos, Cats, Houses, Jones

Terrible Twos - Detroit's new-punk vanguard gives you all the tricky, limited edition tracks they dropped here and there over the last five years (plus a couple no one, if just a few, have ever heard) -via Gold Tapes.

Meanwhile, eclectic/operatic indie-pop reconstructionists The Phantom Cats are making some subtly noble moves (at least judged by scenester politics) by taking the spotlight and casting it out to the suburbs. Next Friday they invite a bunch of bands from the burbs to come pour their sonic hearts out upon the stage at the Magic Stick Lounge. Maybe the regulars aren't In with these bands, but at the same time - anyone going to this show can't be complaining about seeing the same old bands circulate throughout the regular stages/bars. 
Get acquainted:
Two bands from Romeo-- Wolfe and Teto In The Bounce House along with:
Seven Birds One Stone from Rochester 
and- Photo Shoots by Dillon B. Photography - and Face Painting by specialist Heather Sejnow...
and of course - the Cats...
Sounds zany and zesty - and not the same ol same ol...

 And then...
a few inspiring/intriguing local kickstarters for your consideration:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Legendary...Pupils...Beehive.... & the Unfaithfuls


Legendary Creatures
Listen: Legendary Creatures - "We Are The Ones"

The bands listed above have one thing in common...well, maybe two things, actually - but the most obvious is a shared member/musician - that being the disarmingly dulcite-voiced blonde bassist/guitarist, Matt Luke

We're in the throes of Blowout-week, so everything is inevitably referred to in terms of if they're playing it or when they're playing it -or when they've played...

Legendary Creatures, the re-inventors of Americana by way of a strange jangly ambient blend of electro-and-folk styles, played the Blowout just last night - inside the dim clatter of Paychecks. Legendary Creatures recently added Niklaus Landstrom (the spindly, shredding guitarist from Phantom Cats) on synthesizer, allowing Nathaniel Burgundy to move from that instrumental position back to bass (the instrument he started his Legendary journey on...).

*The Legendary Creatures are headed into Beehive studios next week to lay down 3 songs for a forthcoming Beehive Recoridng Co. digi-EP release.

Luke: "We're super-excited about that because our sound has changed considerably since the Bonfires EP last year; we're eager to have something tangible, then, to reflect that."
YesRock quartet Pupils, in which Luke plays a mean, grooving bass, will be playing The Blowout tonight - 12:40 pm - @ Mars Bar, Hamtramck.

Pupils has their proper debut Not Another Boring Bone Avenue Evening (an EP on 7" vinyl) coming out March 24th at the Old Miami - with Phantom Cats and Growwing Pains.

Both of these groups plan on touring, Luke said.

Luke: I'm gonna tell you my favorite memory from Blowout:
--It was two years ago, The 13th Blowout, and Black Lodge was scheduled to play the Gates of Columbus Lounge at like 11:30 or something.

Our then new manager, Ryan and I decided to take the Night Move shuttle before the show to catch Bloodbird play at Bakers.

Of course when we got there we ran into a bunch of friends and at some point I realized we had lost track of time and Black Lodge was scheduled to play in 10 minutes and the venue was a mile away! Ryan and I ran north down Josef Campau and continued east down Caniff in desperate hopes of finding a Night Move en route to G of C.

Nothing!  I checked the time: three minutes to showtime!

I was panicked and cursing at Ryan for allowing this to happen, for "managing" to get us into this mess. At the corner of Caniff and Conant I spotted my friend (John Spurrier) Spurzo getting into his car. I flagged him down and he managed to get us there literally right when we were supposed to go on. Ryan and I pushed our way through the crowd, I got onstage, grabbed my bass and Black Lodge immediately proceeded to play what would be our best show to that date...

This writer was at that show... and can validate the concluding sentence of that anecdote.

Another band that is performing tonight (whom, this writer can thank Luke for bending-my-ear-towards) is Heartbreak Dallas & the Unfaithfuls - 9:20 pm @ Kelly's Bar, Hamtramck

Heartbreak Dallas & the Unfaithfuls


One more thing about tonight's proceedings, since I mentioned Beehive Recording up there^ - the online Detroit music label is hosting their own showcase this evening (3/2) at the Polish National Alliance Hall / Lounge: Skinny Wrists / Growwing Pains / Bad Party / Sros Lords / esQuire / The Mythics / The Blackman / Body Holographic / Kenny Tudrick / Duane The Teenage Weirdo

And if I can say one thing about Blowout last night - it would, inevitably and predictably, be:

There was fire in them-thar -dead-fish-eyes...