Monday, December 29, 2014

Tuesday: Grand Design Release Party: Mic Phelps & DJ Kage

"I'm not what you think..." 

The Grand Design Release Party: Mic Phelps (of hip-hop quartet Cold Men Young) has stepped up to the mic as a solo MC, backed by producer DJ Kage

Phelps, with his guttural voice and blistering delivery and Kage, with his knack for classy throwback styled production with modern flairs for heavier electronic atmospherics, have certainly forged a fine album and it’s been a longtime coming for both to step into their own spotlights. 

The stand-out track for me has to be the ferocious and stark electro-rap exposition of "Reparations," with Kage affecting a nervy, nocturnal vibe with percolating synths striking ominous, hollow chimes over a grinding buzz that evokes a building tension; following are individual cameos from  Passalacqua. 

A demand for fairness, for collective enlightenment, for reparations and for a "new administration..." These "are blood songs...buried in our bones..." for a time when nothing else seems to work, for when impunity from corruption and abuse of power is the status quo...  A dropping of tired rhetoric and a call for a chance, a real chance, to change things. With each guest rapper sounding enlivened by Phelp's passion and in-tune with his restlessness and his resolve and matching his characteristically fast and fierce delivery. 

This release party, produced by ASSEMBLE, is an excellent showcase for Detroit's contemporary hip-hop scene, with Guilty Simpson, Erno The Inferno (with Lisa Stocking), Macs The Realest, LaRon Ronco, DJ No Chaser, light shows by The Prince of Darkness and visual art by Ashley McFadden.

Indigo Black and CrackKillz Da God will be co-hosting with WDET's Travis Wright. 
8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Tangent Gallery, 715 Milwaukee Ave, Detroit.

More from Microphone Phelps

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Secret Friends Fest (Part Deux) Spotlight: Valley Hush

The Secret Friends Fest Part Deux is a two day music festival hosted at The Loving Touch on Jan 9th & 10th 
Featured bands include: Twin Peaks, Nigel & The Dropout, Mexican Knives, Blaire Elise & The Bombshells, Vamos, Siamese, Little Animal, Eleanora, Max Jury, Moonwalks, PONYSHOW, Cold Blood Club, Nox Boys, Dead Broke, Darn Wishes, Pines, Mover/Shaker, Valentiger &...
Valley Hush (Interview, below)

Doors @ 8 PM Friday / 6 PM Saturday
Full Line Ups

Valley Hush 

Valley Hush wanted to keep things minimal. The very first song on the Detroit-based duo's debut EP started with just a vocal melody and the intent, inspired from how pure it sounded at the outset, was to keep true to the sweetness of spareness. Melody is "extremely important" to both singer Lianna Vanicelli and producer Alex Kaye. Even if they're a duo and even if they're going for a minimalist trip, they're still spreading on a mixed milieu of genres and sonic shades, from dream-pop, to acid-lounge to a bit of laid-back space-rock.

The pair started collaborating two years ago on a previous project of Kaye's inside Rustbelt Studios, happening upon a natural chemistry. Valley Hush, predominantly charmed by the melodic curling of Vanicelli's fine and formidable voice, finds Kaye melding the cool, fuzzy hums of synthesizes, intricate percussive possibilities of drum machines, warming bass and a gloss of guitars.

The evocative title, To Feel Small, combined with the daunting imagery of those majestic trees looming large amid a green-curtained forest bathed in celestial sunlight, suggests a proclivity towards the outdoors and a consciousness to be present, in the moment, experiencing the world around you. The sublime splash of major keys, soulful bass, ethereal synth chimes and soaring guitars under Vanicelli's airy vocals and contemplative lyrics, along with the word "Valley" appearing in their name, further invites an embrace of an appreciation of the organic world.

"Much of our inspiration comes from the contrast of our presence within nature to our existence withhin present-day society," Vanicelli said. "Our intent is to bring these ideas togehter with much in a form that's ultimately accessible to many people."

The duo are currently wrapping up their second EP. More info:

Valley Hush performs @ Secret Friends Fest Part Deux on January 10

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Scene Histories: Chapter 3 - The Beggars (Playing NYE @ Loving Touch)

No more clichés, no more cynicism. Rock’s not dead. Never was. The Beggars are here to save the day. Rock’s redeemers, Steven Tuthill, Jim Faulkner, Pookie Grech and Chris Krez… each understand that rock n’ roll can be more than just music, it can be something to live for…

Photo by Bob Alford
(L-R)  Jim Faulkner, Pookie Grech, Steven Tuthill, Chris Krez

And don’t you dare doubt their powers. Attendees of Beggarsconcerts are often quickly converted by their charms: a combination of the wild and the raucous with the wholesome and the nostalgic; it’s head-banging, fist-pumping, guitar-shredding, ballad-belting music, but it’s done with this charismatic grin and studded with a classy (if half-crazed) showmanship that conjures the most glorious of rock’s glory days.

The Beggars perform on New Year’s Eve at The Loving Touch with Broadzilla and White Shag. Doors 8pm – more info at: /

Last month, the Ferndale quartet released their second full length record, a self-titled album produced by a powerhouse team, Eddie Spaghetti (of Arizona garage rock legends The Supersuckers,) Andy Patalan (guitarist of Detroit-bred alt-rock group Sponge) and local producer Tony Maisano.

The album is their most definitive work to date, with the versatile Faulkner’s driving backbeats, the dynamics of Krez’s cascading riffs, and Grech’s subtle coiling bass licks. It’s a rock that has a lot of heart and gets a floor shaking, rattles windows and brings bodies to move, dance or jump, spurred on by Tuthill’s trilling baritone lead vocal.

“Genuine rock and roll,” Tuthill calls it; “…the Good-Time Rock.”

That means drums that get you moving, blurring guitars bellowing those electric growls and bass that sweetens with a soulful crest. Tuthill, meanwhile, a former football player and wrestler, is keen to throw his whole body into his performance and that’s key to the infectious energy of the Beggars, assuming a larger-than-life presence on stage, ready to back flip off of turnbuckles, if they could. 

When rock n’ roll can seem heroic, like its participants, the performers on the stage, evidently appreciate that certain kind of caution-to-the-wind sacredness that rock deserves…that’s when you know you’re at a Beggars show.  

“We’re normal guys, most of the time,” Tuthill says, as he digs a Frisbee out of the bed of his truck. 

“But, when you get on that stage,” he stops to set his coffee down at the foot of an oak tree, “then it’s no time to be normal. At that point it’s like…” he tosses the Frisbee over to me, “…like you’re from a different planet, ya know?”

He nods, his long curled hair blown back by the late autumn breeze. “Not a better planet! Just…a different planet. It is a lot of fun.”

Tuthill meets me on the last beautiful day of the season, strolling through Geary Park in Ferndale on a weekday morning. “I couldn’t find my football,” he admits. “That’s like a low point, for me. I have to use my Frisbee…”

The Beggars have been a Ferndale band for a longtime now. Tuthill’s second show with the band was performed at Club Bart’s (where John D now operates). “I always love bringing up Club Bart’s cuz I have such fond memories of that bar, so many great shows, particularly with Duende.”

Indeed, Tuthill, and the entire Beggars alumni go way back… The band was started in the early 00’s by Jonny Wilkins, Jim Hansard Joe Senac, Jon Epstein and Keith Thompson. That’s right; the current line-up of the Beggars technically has no original members. Though, to his credit, Tuthill, the longest-serving Beggar, joined the band ten years ago. The album’s liner notes give respectful shout-outs to all former members, including Johnny Miller, Jim Hansard, Jeremy Cybulski and Rod “Pool Party” Jones.

“Awesome dudes all across the board,” says Tuthill with his characteristically easygoing exuberance. 

“And everyone still gets along great. All classy dudes, from start to finish Everybody’s still a family, it’s good. And that’s rare (for bands).” I can see a glint of contented nostalgia in his eyes as he pauses, “Man,” he says, “it’s been nuts, all of the great venues we’ve played at through the years. The Majestic, The Magic Stick, The Magic Bag…a Woodward Dream Cruise Party back in 2002,  a Homecoming Dance or on a Pontoon boat, or the Pig & Whiskey and DIY…”

“We plan to rock from here to eternity,” Tuthill assures.

The Beggars are performing at the Loving Touch on New Year’s Eve. How perfect: the ultimate Good Time Rock band performing right down the street from most Ferndale music fans to facilitate what should be the party of the year!

Their live show has always been, suffice it to say, a spectacle (sometimes capped with choreography or tricky human pyramid formations). The microphone is swung this way and that and each player’s body, head and instrument is constantly slung, shook or shredded, just the same.

Both Maisano and Patalan helped mix and master this album, with Patalan serving as engineer and Maisano as its executive producer. Tuthill was heartened by the teamwork of everyone involved in The Beggars production. “That’s what I’m excited for, just to feel thankful for that support. (Krez, Grech, Faulkner) and I all had fine performances. We were relaxed 92% of the time…well rehearsed, too. (Maisano, Patalan & Spaghetti) were a super team. All genuine, with one goal: an exciting rock album!”

Finally, we ask about the closing track, a fierce, riproaring rocker called “Good Love,” with breathless vocals and a speedy tempo. The former wrestler in Tuthill nods to the iconic Ric Flair, 
“The Nature Boy,” as part of the inspiration. “He could get his ass beat, thrown around a turnbuckle and flipped over for the sake of show-biz! He did everything he could to make it look great. The last lines of ‘Good Love’ are about new generations coming up, while that passion is still in his heart, that good love. It is about a passion, something to live for…whatever it is…”

Is that what the Beggars live for? Tuthill responds that they live “to remind people that it’s about fun, it is escapism. It’s preserving Good-Time rock. Let’s have some fun. It is a little tongue-in-check here and there but it’s still a serious message.”

The Beggars perform on New Year’s Eve at The Loving Touch with Broadzilla and White Shag. Doors 8pm – more info at: /

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Local List 2014: Michigan Music

So here we are...
A list of close-to-all of the music made by Michigan artists that I really dug... At least 94% of it.
This is essentially a giant thank-you note to all the local musicians/songwriters/bands who produced all these songs. It was never about a ranking, even if I did have a favorite... It's more an expression of gratefulness for how much great music has been made (and continues to be made) from the crop of Michigan musicians (in just one-year-alone...)

Extremely Honorable Mentions! 
(...Because I don't want to turn this WHOLE post into a ratings-game!) 

Varsity Rats – “O.G.” ~ Watermelon Bananarama

Kickstand Band - "Under A Bad Sign" ~Halloween Special

Jim Roll – “For You” ~The Continuing Adventures of The Butterfly Kid

Hollow & Akimbo – “Singularity” ~Singularity Single + remixes)

Beast In The Field – “Wakan Tanka” ~Sacred Above, Sacred Below

Heavy Rotations

25. Voyag3r – “II Guanto Nero” ~Doom Fortress”

24. The Blueflowers – “I Can’t Let Go” ~At The Edge Of Disaster

23. The Beggars – “Your Love Will Rot My Brain” ~The Beggars

22. J. Walker & The Crossguards – “Never Say Die” ~single

21. Caveman Woodman – “Gimme Some More” ~S/T EP

20. Mexican Knives – “Nightmare” ~single

19. Child Bite – “Ancestral Ooze” ~Strange Waste

18. YUM – “YUM” ~YUM

17. George Morris & The Gypsy Chorus – “Girls On Parade” ~Black & White EP

16. No Body – “The Valley” ~The Uncanny Valley

15. Frontier Ruckus – “Darling Anonymity” ~Sitcom Afterlife

14. Gosh Pith – “Waves” ~single

13. Tunde Olaniran – “The Raven” ~Yung Archetype

12. Sleepless Inn – “Karl Simon” ~Rainbow Room EP

11. Johnny Headband – “Leave Me So High” ~single

10. Duende – “Mezcal” ~Mezcal

9. Passalacqua – “The Baptism (w/SYBLING)” ~CHURCH

8. The High Strung – “Point Of View” ~I, Anybody

7. Scott Masson – “St. Vina” ~ Pink Oil

6. Doc Waffles / Eddie Logix / James Linck “Lights On Rider” Anthem ~Portrait Of A Gentleman

5. Protomartyr – “Come And See” ~Under Color Of Official Right

4. Rebel Kind – “You Are Free” ~Today

3. Pink Lightning – “Postcard (Image)” ~Blue Skies

2. Prude Boys – “Piano Keys” ~Cassette Demos

1. Matt Jones & The Reconstruction – “Darkest Things”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Milo's Bests

Get your Spotifies out, folks.

Deep Cutz 
I don't have enough time (yet!!!) to expound further with avalanches of adjectives and descriptive deluges... (I'm sure you've had enough of that from all your other regular stops in your shuffling music blog-feeds).

I just made some fun mixes for you to stream... At work. At home. Wherever.

The year in music, at least in how it sounded, was pretty invigorating.

........and PART TWO

STAY TUNED....coming up next:
Top Local (Detroit/Michigan) Songs (singles) of 2014

Pink Lightning - Blue Skies

A Murmuration: Beautifully Risky, Madcap Music 
Blue Skies LP : Record Release Show this Saturday
PJ's Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave) with Beekeepers and The Potions, with DJ Bill Spencer

An Interview (of sorts)

 “We often feel we’re creating a new language entirely when we’re writing these songs…”

Pink Lightning’s drummer, Neal Parks calls the band’s latest album “an awesome collaboration between many talented people,” and proclaims how he loves playing music with these four other “great humans” that he calls friends.

photo by Andrea Zarzycki

The Players

Chris Butterfield sings (as much as he surges) up front, slithery and snapping his body as much as he does his voice.

Leo McWilliams’ dynamism on the accordion invites adjectives usually reserved to describe the wild valiancy of punk-rock styles.

Parks, meanwhile, back there on drums, is pure frenetika, keeping time but pummeling in some fierce fills with limbs like a pinwheel, usually overheating himself to the point of necessary shirtlessness.

Tom Bahorski is simply the wizard, a guitar hybrid of blurring punk shreds and oozy blues, psyche-rock sensationalism with tasteful atmospheric distortions.

That leaves Everette Rinehart, on the bass, the heart, the pulse, the soul, standing cool in the eye of the Pink Lightning storm, (with his own eyes behind sunglasses),nodding lightly, focused, deploying the grooviest waves while the rubbery Butterfield pingpongs off of him and into Bahorski.

But what’s it sound like? Tweaked rock. Dark pop. Weird punk. It waves here and there to nuanced extremes of mutated genres: a sound with vigorous rhythms, vibrant guitar effusions, and soaring accordions under warbled falsettos and bellowed crooning.

It’s a sound that only the players comprehend fully. Even if you think you’ve decoded it as you’re 
taken with the tumbling fervor of the varyingly danceable tempos, you still might not speak the special “language” developed between the five players in Pink Lightning.

“It’s constantly challenging, our process…” Butterfield says. “It’s not a paint-by-numbers sound. There’s never conversations about ‘what needs to be there’ in a song, for the sake of the listener or for listen-ability. It’s more intuition; we make it how we intuitively know it should be.”


The signature cohesiveness of Pink Lightning’s collaboration, when writing, recording or performing, is something altogether erratic, forceful and yet, in unison. “Yeah,” Butterfield nods to that as I suggest it to him. “It feels like that…like how starlings get into those massive cloud-like formations that wave here and there across the sky…” He pauses to Google the right word for it: 

“Murmuration!” he shouts.

Murmuration aside, says Bahorski, the album, Blue Skies, went through “…a lot of permutations!” 

Because it took two years to be completed, Bahorski says, that opened the door to “gradually ease in some more ideas,” says Bahorski. The specific “door” that opened was Scott Masson’s door, into his home studio in Ferndale, where the band did post-production work with the certain “permutations” enhancing your listening experience including pianos, organs, mandolins, banjos, along with some saxophone, tambourine and Rinehart stand-up bass.

The listening experience evokes a sense of being right up by the amplifiers, close enough to feel the singer’s sweat or to have to duck a pivoting bass neck. Kinetic and tension-building, as rock should be, rickety and rabid, as punk could be, grappling with catchy hooks, ebullient rhythms and enticing melodies, as pop needs to be…but, just, weirder, wilder. Always in formation, though.  

Canned Energy

“We all write as a team,” says McWilliams, “that’s why things might get really frantic, sometimes. Our process is very energetic to begin with. We’re all trying to get our ideas out and it all comes out at once, allowing for lots of different influences and styles to come out. I think we weave all those things together and it turns into some weird Pink-Lightning-tapestry.”

“It’s definitely a challenge to try to can energy, like that,” says Rinehart.

“We’ll tweak a song over the course of weeks so when we sit down and play we merge ideas,” says Parks.

“Slow…” Bahorski nods, “…long…not painful, though! Just painfully slow, maybe?”

“But even then,” says Parks, “another song was written and recorded in just eight hours…”

“I’m so manic I don’t know what I think about anything,” Butterfield shakes his head at himself. “I work so slow! This album should have been completed last year, but, it is what it is. But, really, there has been an evolution since the last album.”

This band was formed on a baseball field near midtown Detroit. But, really, it grew out of McWilliams, Rinehart and Parks busking as a jazz-trio (complete with washtub bass) on the corners of Eastern Market, where they fatefully encountered Butterfield. The official vows, some Musketeer-like raising of arms and bats to show their commitment, happened later during a pickup softball game. The group, with guitarist Matt Paw, recorded and released 2011’s First Rodeo EP (a post-punk inclined declaration of their angsty-waltzing styles) followed by the somewhat scattershot, if still potent full length Happy To Be Here in 2012.

“I think with (Happy), we were just trying to get it finished so that we could start working on (Blue Skies),” Rinehart says. “Not intentionally, though. We learned a lot making that first record, we were looking for our style and it came through at a few points, but (Blue Skies) truly defines what Pink Lightning is, as a band.”

The tracks were laid down in 2013 at Tapwater Productions in Detroit with Dilan Wade. The energy was then enhanced by Masson with instrumentations later “tinkered” with by Bahorski.

Led By Intuition

Rinehart: “We’ve certainly improved individually as musicians.”

McWilliams: “We’re getting more comfortable as a band with taking risks. We think music is beautiful like that and I think we’re getting better at harnessing those opportunities.”

Rinehart: “And (Bahorski) seems to truly live to create music and that’s certainly challenged the rest of us to keep up.”

Bahorski: “I like to tinker! Song cycles! They’re vital! But, I don’t’ know, I still feel like ‘the new guy.’”

Rinehart: “More importantly, (Bahorski)’s become one of my best friends.”

Butterfield: “I don’t know what else I can say about (Blue Skies) other than what I put into it, what I’ve says on it. It does feel cohesive, the whole thing. Pushing in different directions together to see what comes of it, still being led by our intuition. That’s a good place to be.”

Pink Lightning performs Dec. 13th @ PJ’s Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave, Detroit) with The Potions, Scott Masson, DJ Bill Spencer and visuals by State Bird. 9pm/$8 -

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Scene Histories: Chapter 2 - Duende (Thee Last Duendeseday - 12.10.14)

Thee Last Duenseday will be THIS Wednesday at the Loving Touch -
w/ The Wrong Numbers, Davila and All The Wild Children. Info here:
AN INTERVIEW with DUENDE's Jeff Howitt on DUENSEDAY (below)

In some ways it wasn't about the music but in another way it was entirely about the music. 

It wasn't about one band, even if one band was always involved. There was never a spotlight. The illumination was throughout the room, shining on every player; a revolving cast of 2-3 new bands every month, loading into a pool hall, just a pool hall (not a concert venue) to commemorate another Duendeseday

It wasn't about a scene, or the scene or whichever scene...even if its existence, it's organic design, it's natural vibe struck a blend of easygoingness edged with healthy-competitiveness, helped to evoke a collective sense of a scene. Duendeseday was like Fight Club for the prog-rock crowd, or a gang for garage rock ruminations, or a symposium on the philosophies of punk and psychedelia. 

Duendeseday became a monthly residency back in late 2009 with local everything-at-once-rock outfit Duende holding court atop the 4ft high pie-piece of a stage in ol' Club Bart's. The band (Jeff Howitt -lead vocals/guitar, Laura Willem -drums, "Jelly Roll" Joel McCune -lead guitar, Scott Sandford -bass,) would perform a set every first Wednesday of the month while inviting 2 (and...eventually 3) new bands from around SE Michigan's musical regions to perform. Free admission. A hat was passed around to collect voluntary funds from generous audience members, busker-style. 

"We just tried to create...a situation..." says Howitt, "that you could walk into... Not many people were doing exactly what we were trying to do, so we had to continue trying to create a certain...circumstance. The situations that we would want to be in weren't being offered to us so now we had to make them up." 

Duendeseday could transform the vibe of the room, be it Club Bart's (or, eventually, The Loving Touch,) into that of a club house. The stage wasn't a stage so much as it was almost a boxing ring or something cruder, purer, sweat-splashed, almost like a splay of mats on a gymnasium floor. It became a place, an event, a night, where a band could step it up - a collective injection of encouragement from the hosts of the night, Duende - for their invitees to either experiment... or go for broke. Try something new. Or try to top anything that's ever been done before. 

          Howitt: "It always had a party atmosphere That corner stage of Bart's just invited quirky behavior. It was hard to keep people off of it. Onetime a gal came up and licked our bass players face mid song then did her bet Stevie Nicks into the mic. We started to invite more bands to play and it only brought more people. 
                     "I guess at some point I realized it became our "big gig" each month when owners of other bars would come and check it out and ask "So, how do you set this up?" Or promoters when they started picking up the other Wednesdays between the Duendeseday's because people thought something was happening every week."

This sense to erect a clubhouse, a gathering place, a commons -for other bands- came when Duende themselves lost their practice space. They had cozied into quite a cool little spot in the somewhat ghostlier side of Ferndale where it's old, half-abandoned industrial zoning, sharing a comfortably cluttered up spot with various local groups including Red China, Wildcatting and many more, from 2006-2009. This was horrible timing as the three bands were just about to go on tour together. "Real high drama," says Howitt, recalling the "mad rush to deconstruct and relocate what took three years to horde into that space." 

Duende had started rehearsing twice a week in preparation for the recording process of Remnant Of A Remnant at N.Y. HED in Manhattan's lower eastside six months prior to this and they'd realized how rewarding that intensive regiment had been for their playing. "When we got back from tour we wanted to keep up that kind of 'endurance training.'" 

Club Bart became Duende's personal "endurance training," but it also harkened back to the respectable lineage of rock n roll residencies like MC5 at the Grande Ballroom or The Ramones at CBGB's (...or even McCune's former Phoenix-based band The Hypno-Twists, with their respective weekly residency). 

There definitely was a kick-out the jams ethos to the eventual incarnation of Duendeseday, as it was throughout 2010-2013, as it transitioned into The Loving Touch.
          Howitt: " think every band wants to be the best one on any given night. Most bands are buddies to some degree so it's no ill will. You just are trying to out rock everyone. A good band does that from the inside of their own group first. You have to out rock yourself and your bandmates. If you can get your act together all of a sudden it communicates. The love light is on. With that though we are right up front for each band in support but in hopes also of getting melted!"

THIS IS Thee Last Duendeseday.... WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10TH

10:00PM The Wrong Numbers 

10:45PM Davila


12:15PM All The Wild Children

Even if you never attended a Duendeseday, it's an important part of your local scene's history (and I do mean the Ferndale scene...). 

The Loving Touch really was just a pool hall (that hosted occasional...once/twice-a-year concerts). But with Duendeseday, setting up a stage over by the where the Foosball tables are, now, (with the band providing their own PA....that's right, no sound systems yet), it became a thing... Live music could work inside the Loving Touch on a regular basis. Duendeseday helped prove that... 

          Howitt: "It definitely grew beyond it's intention but always kept the party in it. I think we all at times had hit a wall with it. Suddenly it's the first Wednesday of the month AGAIN and we have to break down our PA, our whole practice room and see about backlining some of the gear. It's snowing. It's raining. It's close to a holiday. But once it's all set up and the bands are arriving and faces you know and don't start smiling in the door, it's really easy to give over to it."

"There is still a back log of groups we never got to, sadly."

It wasn't uncommon for bands, zazzed-up as they broke down their set having just finished a Duendeseday set to say they'd like to get on another one as soon as they could...

"I remember one show with The Wrong Numbers where Woodward Avenue blacked out," recalls Howitt, "and that left them stranded on a dark stage. Adam Stanfel was in his car when the lights came on and Laura got him to come back and finish the set."

          Howitt: "There was also a great St. Patrick's Day show with The High Strung. Stephen Palmer hadn't been in the band all that long and they were almost lifting off that corner stage. Another time Telecollision did their Jon Spencer Blues Explosion set and treated the stage like a killing floor. Hard to follow something like that.....Other great times were when it was someone's first gig. Like Cloud Social or Futurebabes. Both alumni from Beggars. So much excitement like it was their first band even. The Savage Seven and Sharky and The Habit also has their last shows on a DUENDESDAY

No matter what... "All the dates had some flavor. Onetime a couple dudes dressed in Egyptian Pharaoh head gear and walked around. Many times it was someone's Birthday. People would come early then leave or just for last call. But came. Some to play pool and just not know what was happening. Drinks have been thrown in faces. Heads buried in laps. Frank Woodman ending up in the MC role spontaneously...."

You can't force a night like this, with all its energies, into existence and meticulously mold it's vibe to how you want it. As Howitt put it, you just "create a circumstance..." and open a door. The music that's made after that will be steadily inspired by the vibe that naturally emerges... 

{pictured above, Duende at an early incarnation of Duendeseday at Club Bart, circa 2010}

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Albums Of The Year (part one): Rebel Kind

Part of a weekly online column for the Washtenaw-area's ANN ARBOR CURRENT Magazine

Part One of Five:
This local trio perfectly combined noise-pop, surfy-psyche, dark twee and a bewitchingly cloudy paisley-folk balladry. That sounds like a lot for what’s really a quick collection of two-minute ear-worms, most of them lo-fi janglers with playful/wistful melodies breezing looped and lain by a breathy, winsome lead vocal.

Sift through the faint distortions and coarser atmospherics and you’ll find pure, perfect pop songs, tunes to bob and weave to and tap your toes to, songs with melodies substantially sticking in your brain even if they’re just 100 seconds long, like a vibrantly glowing burst of warmly-fuzzed summer-stung nostalgia that’s gone too soon… Some of its most charming moments are simply the contrast of singer/songwriter Autumn Wetli’s wispier voice with the rougher hews of the music.   

Autumn Wetli premiered her initial demos for Rebel Kind about two years ago. For more than a year now, scene stalwarts Shelley Salant and Amber Fellows have joined (on bass and drum respectively). There are numerous stand-outs: the wavy bass grooves and delicately dissonant riffer “Motorcycle Man,” the swiftly swaying up-and-down melody and spurring, eagerly-sped drum hits in “I Wanna Be,” the gritty kick and strut of “All Of The Flowers” with its cool use of minor-keys, flairs of feedbacks and exertive howls.

But I still can’t get “You Are Free” out of my head…

Rebel Kind’s first full length as a trio was recently released as an LP on the Detroit-based label, Urinal Cake Records. Earlier in the summer, they released a music video:

If you’d like to see (&hear) them live, you’ll get your chance Saturday, Dec. 20 at Northern Lights Lounge in Detroit, part of the Found Sound Holiday Revue (a Ferndale-based record store that’s curated the bash), opening for Melvin Davis & Mama Roux. Shelley Salant, meanwhile, will be performing solo (as SHELLS) next Wednesday, Dec.  10 at Canterbury House in Ann Arbor w/ Evan Haywood, Fred Thomas.

More info:

Weekly What's Up

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 in 21 songs

A random playlist composed of what I liked most or found significantly good from this year.

Some debate continues regarding the impact of Spotify. Personally, I find the potentially infinite access it grants to music is helping the art and its creators become more -- accessible.

Spare me the conversations on technology, audiophilia and royalties. Pressing play is still pressing play.

~Thomas Matich

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Art Show Six - Dec 6

Art Show Six

A showcase of six Detroit artists on December Sixth
Russell Industrial Center
1600 Clay Street, Building 1, second floor.
 (Gold door across from the stairway when you walk up.)


Detroit- Brush Park -by Brian Rozman

Art Show Six is a multi-media one-night event featuring the work of Eric Geiner, Nico Heart, Mike Ross, Brian Rozman, Scott Sprague and David Winters.
The exhibit opens at 5pm.

At 8pm, there will be a live art in motion performance showcase. Changling: Emotions & Emanations features art on living human canvas by Nico Heart.

Eric Geiner is a mixed-media artist that uses natural materials such as bone, wood and clay to create tribal, earthy sculptures that invoke primal instincts.

Mike Ross is a painter and woodworker whose work explores repetition, patterns and the disruption of patterns.

Brian Rozman is a photographer with an instinct for capturing the energy of a moment in time through Detroit’s music scene and beyond.

Scott Sprague is a photographer with a background in fashion photography. His specialty is capturing the essence of a person in portrait.

David Winters is a painter, illustrator and digital artist whose engaging, thought-provoking graphics cross the boundaries between ancient culture and modern pop culture.

Each of these artists will be exhibiting a selection of their work, as well as providing musical selections throughout the evening. Refreshments will not be provided but patrons are welcome to bring their own.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Ill Itches' Record Release Show

The Ill Itches

-----------------------------------Record Release Show - 12/6 - PJ's Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave) w/ Caveman Woodman & Bam Bam Moss, YUM, and Prude Boys----------

Rhythm and ruckus, that's Ill Itches. Raspy howls lash and lurch over punchy beats and distortion storms, a local Detroit quartet of rockers following in what's already a long tradition but gnarlifying in their own way. There's hints of garage and some of the hearty heavier psychedelic, tightened and sped-up with a tremulous, clenched fist urgency that rocks the trajectory into stranger, noisier dips and dives. It has rawness and aerodynamic zip, yet furls with this fuller feedback growl behind it. 

Stephen Schmidt (vox, guitar), Matt Mruzek (vox, bass), Josh Woodcock (guitar) and Matt Livengood (drums) joined up in early 2013 and quickly established themselves as an incendiary, if uncouth, live act. They went out on tour last October after a sensational summer that saw them opening for punk icons like Dead Kennedys and The Buzzcocks. You can hear the rock n' roll in these creatures' hearts, that's the pulse, certainly....But its manner is something more of a melding of 80's indie-punk, 70's soul and 90's garage... in a blender, sparking.  

New 7" vinyl single comes out on Dec. 6 ("Hallelujah" b/w "Revolving Door") via Jett Plastic Records.  $7 at the Lager House door includes a copy of the regular version on solid red vinyl. But, special edition variations of the single are available via Jett Plastic. 

Interview: Frontier Ruckus' Sitcom Afterlife

Here’s the thing with Frontier Ruckus:
It’ll be heavy. It’ll be peppy. It’ll be provocative and it will be catchy. And, if you really wanna bend your ears in, you can parse all the particular instruments the Ann Arbor-born quartet deployed to renovate the alt-country rock archetype, (something that’s becoming part of their M.O. after 10 years). And, if you’re listening closer, still, you’ll fall under the waking-nightmare nostalgia-spell of the lyricist, with scribbled words of weary weight from pages of packed with potently evocative, potently wistful and potently symbolic imagery.

Now based between Detroit and Ann Arbor, with Mathew Milia on vocals/guitar, David Jones on banjo, Anna Burch on vocals and Zachary Nichols on trumpet, they’re set to wrap up a tour that supports their fourth full length album, Sitcom Afterlife, with a performance at The Loving Touch in Ferndale tomorrow night.

Jones and Milia have been writing music and performing together for well over a decade. Their haunting and heart-swooning debut album The Orion Songbook conjured the specific Frontier Ruckus spirit into a nearly full formed apparition, over atmospheric organs and prickled banjo, heavy booted bass trudges and cool autumn-stung gale guitars, with those ever-trilling nasal voice, quavering as though it’s always just about to break and breeze away like birch bark over a Great Lake, gutting itself with vulnerably confessional words of the sweetest poetry (that only an English Major could muster) that dazzlingly mythologizes the eerily universal nostalgia of Midwest coming-of-age-ness…

                LISTEN: Frontier Ruckus – “Crabapples In The Century’s Storm
And here we go, with Sitcom Afterlife. Listen:
Milo: How’s the autumn been going for you guys? How did the release show go at the start of the month?
Matthew Milia:
To be honest, playing these songs from the new album live is some of the most fun I've had onstage in a really long time. And they were, in a way, intentionally designed with that in mind; I wrote them two years ago when I was in a bit of a dark place. So, somehow the tunes and melodies and song structures that were coming out of me began to work in a sort of antithetical way to the bummed-out lyrics they were supporting. The songs sounded upbeat and classically pop. Poppier than anything I'd written prior. It was like I was allowing myself a sort of escapist vent to feel good vibes within all the grief. Coming up with catchy tunes really gave me something happy to cling to and rattle around in my brain.

Milo: This is your fourth record. I don’t know why, but, to me, that feels like a time when a band has really turned some kind of corner or made their mark, ya know? You’re establishing a canon, at this point, right? Are you getting there, does it feel that way and what’s been the key to keeping you together, keeping you going?
Four albums in, it definitely feels like we're riding a vehicle a bit more substantial at this point. We have a really diverse catalog to choose from each night when we perform. People who have been following us for a while seem to appreciate the different albums individually and the eras they represent within an overall project. It's very gratifying to have that sort of established mythology at play—everything new that we create enters that world and interacts with preexisting characters and places in contrasting or complementary ways. And on a personal basis—the fact that we've already been doing this together for so long, as best friends lumped together in cramped spaces in constant locomotion, whether physically on tour or creatively within the music, we've learned a lot about how to keep the thing on the rails. We all respect each other so much and believe in the overall concept of the band so dearly that all that typically wins out over inevitable petty daily grievances, etc.

                LISTEN: Frontier Ruckus – “Darling Anonymity”

Milo: Have you ever thought of or worried about maybe overwhelming your audience? Or, by now, is that maybe what you’re known for – all these montages of memories kinda swooning over the song? Can you talk about how a lot of your songs wind up going toward more epic scopes that paint these rather vast and rather vivid pictures…
The only consideration for that I've ever really had has been a result of external whispers into my ear. Not from anyone in the band, obviously, but from like, previous people we've known in the "music business" or whatever. People who thought we have an awesome thing going on, but that maybe we'd sell some more records or hook a more general fan base if I were to streamline things a bit. Left to my own devices though, as I think is pretty evident at this point, lyrical density and image-overload is pretty much my default setting as a writer.

Sitcom Afterlife, though, does deliberately rein it in a bit. It's the most to-the-point and direct I've attempted to write songs to date, if you can believe it. Still, I gave myself little indulgences like "Crabapples in the Century's Storm" and "A&W Orange and Brown".

Milo: We spoke before the release of 2013’s Eternity Of Dimming. You’d mentioned anticipating this next record (Sitcom Afterlife) being more of a college-rock throwback with 3-minute pop songs. And, yet, you’re still flirting with 50-minutes and a couple of six-minute jams. Tell us about how this album grew, as you made it, and how your vision for the lyrics came together.
It's very much a break-up album. Of our albums it's the most to be concerned with one specific catalyst or event. So the songs came very quickly and all sort of represent different approaches to one situation. What I like about it is that the tunes deal with something quite heavy or acute at the time with varying degrees of gravity or levity or humor or bitterness to help me cope and move on. When you're working through something harsh, you kind of fluctuate day to day on where you are with it, how you feel.

The various lyrical tones of expression reflect that temporarily fractured mental state—different aspects of my psyche vying for primacy: pride, compassion, guilt, love, jealousy, lust…. I wrote all the songs out of self-therapy, on long anxious walks feeling kind of desperate. It's been two years since I wrote them and I can't fully associate now with how I was feeling then—time works that way—but the songs remind me that it, at least then, at that time, felt quite dire.

Davey, Zach, and Anna were all instrumental in helping me turn these painful documents into more dynamic and well-rounded tunes. They helped me emphasize the intrinsic pop elements which transformed the confessional subject matter into bright melodic escapes, for me at least. Zach layered so many amazing counter-melodies on synths, horns, saw, etc. Davey introduced this new instrument that sounds like a shimmery Tele but has a banjo head that added great jangly texture. And bringing Anna's harmonies back to prominence on this record added such a needed feminine balance.

Milo: That must be part of the key to keep you going, back to a prior question, that collaboration, the friendship, the cohesion you find on stage and in a studio…
Having friends that can enhance your work so intuitively is a real blessing. We recorded it in Corktown at Chris Koltay's studio, a block from where Anna and I now live. It's the first record we've done outside of Ann Arbor and it really has a distinct sound from our other stuff.

Milo: Let’s just dive in. What is the “Sitcom Afterlife?”
Sitcoms to me represent these very safe, comforting eras of time and place—insulated, vacuumized capsules of extremely reliable if not taken for granted setting and company. A collection of seasons in which you always know who will be waiting for you on the proverbial oversized coffee shop couch when you walk through the double doors. And the finales of these worlds typically involve the dispersal of that cast, those friendships, those romances, and an abandonment of the place they all held communally identified with and revolved around.

The title refers to some vague emotional space we all inhabit post-evacuation of those lovely and tender situations. Whether it was due to a gradual distancing or abrupt divorce. Finding oneself in a strange present tense, very adult and alone. An afterlife that follows small accidental heavens we once stumbled into and thought would last forever.

LIVE: Frontier Ruckus perform Saturday night at The Loving Touch (22634 Woodward Ave, Ferndale) with Mexican Knives and The Kickstand Band  - 8PM - $12 / 18+ -

Scene Histories - Chapter 1: Carjack.

We all have that story of how, when or why we started considering ourselves as feeling...apart of a scene.
Into it. Part of it.
In the know. Running with a pack.
At that show and this show and the other show and jumping off tables and waking up hoarse and bleary eyed and counting down the next six days until you can go out and get weird again...

For some people, that story of the how, when and why... is another person. Someone who acted as adhoc gatekeeper, kicked it open for you, showed you around the place, gave some directions, gave some cues... An invitation; an initiation.

For me, I count myself lucky to have had that gatekeeper be such a magnificent weirdo as Carjack; a.k.a. Lo-Fi Bri... He had already been to every glory day's concert that I would could never dream of attending (... Pavement and Guided By Voices and Brainiac and Sebadoh and Nirvana and on and on...), he had already collected every vinyl record that I wanted and he had already written and recorded 200 or so of his own songs onto 4-tracks in blended the moods of Barlow-ian cloudy day art-gallery/coffee house folk troubador with DJ Shadow-styled breakbeats and scratch samples, It was a cool kind of coarseness that I was all-too-digging at that time; raw punk with a hint of pop, electro-laser effects with hip-hop's groove...

Photo by Mike Rozman

Carjack was about 30% performance art. When so many other formats, genres and songstyles had been tried-out and tired-out by the time he finally formally presented himself to the scene, his M.O. became more about engagement, something where people attending could be weirded-out and charmed-- at the same time. A similar response is often evoked from your prototypical cult film... Something that's astonishing in how subtly bizarre it can be, yet endearing in its clearly homemade props, costumes and spray-painted aesthetics.

Carjack was always about the crowd stepping back during the first minute of the first song with a raised eyebrow...then having each attendee close-up to the end of the stage (or maybe even climbing on the stage, with him) by the end of the last song. Like any great cult sci-fi film, you feel endeared into some awesome-weirdo club that's made cooler than anyone else by measure of it's own mutation.

But it all goes back to Lo-Fi Bri...and his tapes, his old recordings, his turntable experiments. The man, the songwriter, the performance artist, has evolved over the years, from producing E.P.'s for Carjack and his other band, The Electric Firebabies, to now having solidified a new stance in the arts community as one of the go-to concert photographers. Who better to capture the chaos of a rock show than a veteran of kinetic, here and then there, venue-sprawling performances... Somehow he wound up growing into the role of documentarian, the one who freezes the blur.

But Carjack LIVES....
New Way Bar - 23130 Woodward Ave, FerndaleVOYAG3R / Carjack. / WarhorsesDoors 9pm, $7, 21+Warhorses 10pm, Carjack 11pm, Voyag3r on at midnight

So, my chapter 1 would have to begin with Carjack. He took me to my first shows in early 2004, sneaking me into some of the sketchier places, if need-be... It was an education... And eventually, November 2005, he gets up on a stage and I, like young Arthur following Merlin, get up there with him to join in what could only be described as ... antics! But those antics built the archetype!

Cheers, Carjack.