Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Woodruff's Last Waltz - 4/24 - 4/27

Hasan Mihyar - Woodruff's Operator: "My family is broken and I want to do anything I can to find a spot for them again...."

Back in January, Woodruff's went up for sale.

It was only one week after hosting the annual Mittenfest music festival where the live music venue and bar helped raise more than $25,000 in funds for non-profit education organization 826Michigan). This nightspot was (and will, for a period of time, continue to be) regularly populated and fueled by the talent and enthusiasm of Ypsi/Arbor local music scene’s fans and performers.

This is the "...Last Waltz"
Photo by Doug Coombe

Doors at 7 PM every night, music starts at 8 PM
THURSDAY APRIL 24thLost Boys 8:00 PMAbe!Maybe? 8:45 PMDouble Weirdo 9:30 PMPING PONG 10:15 PMGhost City Searchlight 11:00 PMDave Menzo 11:45 PMDragon Wagon 12:45 PM

Full line-ups below. More information here.  

“I don’t remember much…(after hearing the news)” responds Jake Zettelmaier, lead singer/banjoist of regular Woodruffs headliners BlackJake & The Carnies, “…between just telling myself to keep it together and later when they found me wandering around in a daze, in my boxer shorts, covered in ash with tears streaming down my face.”

However facetious Jake was being, he gets earnest when he acknowledges that Woodruffs, just like the Elbow Room before it, “was our home base. We tried out new stuff there and knew we could always come back to our home crowd to be recharged.”

FRIDAY APRIL 25thSalt City 8:00 PMThrill Train 845 PMAll the Wild Children 9:30 PMAbsolutely Free 10:15 PMChild Bite 11:15 PMThird Coast Kings @12:15 PMAyinde Audio DJing between sets

What does it mean for Ypsi?

“It sucks,” responds Zettelmaier, with no other way to say it, really. “This place is turning into a ghost town.”

But the space, which was operated by Hasan Miyar (initially collaboratively with Andy Garris), will not stay empty. Woodruffs valiantly (and swiftly) moved in to 36 E. Cross St in Depot Town at the end of Autumn 2010 just in time to provide an ideal hosting venue for that season’s Mittenfest. After three and a half years, Woodruff’s, “the venue,” the “home” for so many musicians and of so many memories, is gone… 

A Mexican restaurant, Ann Arbor-based Maiz, moves in this month, obtaining the furniture and the liquor license but completely refashioning (or burying over, if you will) the lingering ambience.
“Woodruff’s was one of those places,” says Robbie Bolog, lead guitarist of Ypsi-based Captain Ivory, “those hard-to-come-by venues that’s responsive, supportive and really understands what it takes to make live, original music work.”

SATURDAY APRIL 26thModern Lady Fitness - 8:00 PMDanny Kline 8:45 PMCaptain Ivory 9:30 PMWicker Chairs 10:15Congress 11:15 PMBlack Jake & the Carnies 12:15 PM

Even Mac Davis (singer/songwriter of Double Weirdo and Nightbeast), despite his qualms and memories of frustrating experiences, can’t deny that it “…was the last legitimate venue in town.”

“The bookers did a shit job, the shows were disorganized and the sound guy didn’t give two-shits how you sounded, but, it was our clubhouse. A place where we could easily book and put on a show for our friends and local music enthusiasts.”

At the end of the day, Davis says, “…it was a venue…” He goes on to say that, “it was a place where it was comfortable, a place where people could do their thing.”

But the simplicity of that declaration bears repeating: “it was a venue.” The bedrock of any functioning scene if to have that “place” or a hub, a meeting ground, a main stage for the local talent to get their chance, to communicate, network, commiserate, collude, collaborate…all of it. It’s the cafeteria, the arena, the breakroom and the playground, all in one…

Or at least it was…

But, the owners of the space made it clear that, despite the success of Woodruff’s, they wanted something more “long-term.” And if music scenes are inherently short-term, these happenings or bursting “eras” of inspiration and creation that have a beginning and an end, and your business depends on the fickle coming-and-going of said-scenes, well, then… One might want to bank on something more like a restaurant.

Not every venue is going to be CBGBs.

“That is gone,” says Davis. “And until another venue gets going somewhere, Ypsi will have a major void for a lot of people. For me, this was the final sign that it is time to leave town.”

SUNDAY APRIL 27thWhite Dwarf 8:00 PMThe Understorey 8:45 PMTruman 9:30 PMThe Jols 10:30 PMNausea Valley 11:30 PMDisinformants 12:15 PM
TUESDAY APRIL 29thElbow Deep Meets Boylesque 9 PM until 2AMLAST WOODRUFF'S SHOW!

Hasan Mihyar's take:
"It's driving me insane, I'm trying to find a spot in the area..." (to open what would ostensibly be Woodruff's version 2.0.

Mihyar: "I approached a couple places around here with no success. Building or  renovating a spot is gonna cost a lot of money. Some friends tell me to take a breather and focus on the next step, but all I want is just move into 3000sqft spot, and keep doing what we did. I will keep a smile on my face no matter what and I'm determined to bring that huge and wonderful family back together. Again we don't get big national acts, my focus is to cater to every artist that would like to play here, as much as possible

Favorite or lasting Woodruff's memory?
Jake (/Black Jake & The Carnies):
That's a tough one. We've had so many good shows there... I always enjoyed doing Jenny Harley's birthday shows until she got sick of us.  :) But I'd have to say our last Halloween show with Chris Dean and the Gepetto files was a high point for me.  The Miss Pumpkin Princess Pageant was a last minute addition after 1/2 of the Doppelganger's  unexpectedly bailed, and we pulled it off with everybody's kind indulgence.  There was blood. Worked out well.

Robbie (/Captain Ivory):
 In one recent instance, we were playing a benefit show at Woodruff’s for a local boy who was diagnosed with cancer. Two hours before showtime Ypsilanti was hit with one of the biggest blizzards of the winter, and there was talk of canceling the show. Instead, Hasan grabbed a shovel and spent the next two hours clearing over a foot of snow off the sidewalks, parking spaces, and digging out our van & trailer. The show went off without a hitch. If that’s not a testament to his love of Woodruff’s and live music, I don’t know what is.

Both Black Jake & The Carnies along with Captain Ivory are working on new material to be released in the next year or so; the former is wrapping up its first formal LIVE album while the latter is performingg on May 3 at Ann Street Music Room in support of its debut LP on Gangplank Records. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Splitting The Scene? Speaking Too Soon? More inclusiveness? Let's just "move the tradition forward"

Likely you've heard about the Blowout at this point.

I know most of this site's traffic are people living in Michigan. I know you've likely already read three (four?) other blogs based around the scene who have already uploaded the posters and the MP3 streams and the line ups ....
(You can get all that here)

This is the second year that the annual music festival will be an "expanded edition." In fact, going from being hosted exclusively in Hamtramck (with a kick-off party in Detroit) to being an event spread across three cities (including the northern neighboring suburb, Ferndale) seems to be the new norm for Blowout.

"Blowout was born and raised in Hamtramck," acknolwedges Chris Johnston, co-owner of the Woodward Avenue Brewers and co-coordinator of this year's Blowout, (year #17). Singer/songwriter Jeff Howitt (of local post-Beat/post-surf/post-psych outfit Duende), refers to it as "...a young adult," now. 

"Now ..." says Johnston, "with Blowout in its teenage years its 'parents' separated ...and one moved to Ferndale. Now it gets older it finds out it has ties to more and more places. I'm always disappointed to read one parent say something bad about the other, and now have other relatives take sides. This kid still needs support from everybody. I feel the same way about the music scene. I'm excited that Ferndale is making a stand as great live music town, but I don't think the goal is to do it at the expense of any other cities. I'd like to believe that the bar is being raised everywhere. I'm strongly in favor of a vital music scene in the Detroit area, and work hard to promote good shows and great bands in far more places than Ferndale."


I have fond memories of going to Blowout's just as many of you do. I think this is my 10th time attending, if not just the 9th, for certain. It was (usually) always three days, hopping from a dozen different bars in Hamtramck to catch as many 3- and 4-band line ups performing live, simultaneously. It was like our own CMJ-fest or SXSW-fest. (In fact, it started out as a launchpad-type event for the local bands of the late 90's to gear up for ambitious road trips of their own down to SXSW itself...but...)

The whole event flowed by like a movie montage - sometimes sequenced for perfect visceral sublimity and sometimes cut, staggered or disoriented with pauses, blips or blow-ups -all, nonetheless, giving the attendee a profound sense of nowness - bursting into one venue, and then another, just as the band that you wanted to see and hear was already midway through their set and essentially hitting their performance pique - beads of sweat showing, every instrument warmed up nicely, the vocals hitting their proper pitch - the nowness, the fun-ness of each band, their energy and overall electrified enthusiasm was often just popping at all those instances where you brushed, elbowed and impolitely-toe-stomped your way to the front of make-shift audience spaces in front of makeshift stages. 

At least, that's part of what I remember...

Some history from Mr. Howitt: "I remember during the first couple BLOWOUT’s I’d just go into any bar and see what was happening. There wasn’t a sense of who you had to “see” but who you could. I didn’t know who any of the bands were beyond The Hentchmen or Murder City Wrecks or trying to figure out who Mick Collins was playing with. My first gig was at The Hamtramck Pub, that I think had closed by the first BLOWOUT even, so I was hip to that enclave, but to see the streets flooded with so many people I had never seen really made you feel part of something that still is so surprising and unclassifiable as our the Detroit scene."

In fact, as I was going around interviewing various performers and event coordinators for another story published recently, some had a lot more on their mind, than others. Howitt painted a vivid picture of Blowout's primordial days...days some of the newer bands might not remember, if at all, or least have only heard about...(in instances such as these)...

Mr. Howitt continues:
"For the most part leading up to what became known as BLOWOUT it seemed you either went to The Gold Dollar or Magic Stick which wasn't really developed yet with a couple bowling lanes still there, a stage on the other side of the room and a bar that you almost immediately bellied up to when you got to the top of the stairs. I remember a rumor that Jack White was quitting all his other bands, The White Stripes and Two Star Tabernacle, to focus on The Go who had just signed with SUB-POP but at the show Willy Wilson announced them and said “This is not their last show”, and you know the rest. 

After all this, though, Howitt still believe The Blowout to be an effective barometer of what's happening in the contemporary scene, despite, as he puts it, how random it can be as far as style and presentation. 

Howitt says that Detroiters have always rebelled against something if it felt like a bait ‘n’ switch, acknowledging those who were disconcerted by proceeds rolling into the Detroit Music Awards, he recalls the uproar spawned by protest experiments like the Anti-BLOWOUT (or "Mid-by-Midwest" hosted, once, during the actual Blowout at the Majestic Complex. "Another time," Howitt said, "a former organizer of BLOWOUT started a blog and tried to run another competing festival the same weekend which got beat down as “splitting the scene”. That person learned the hard way that you can’t play people against one another. Especially Detroiters.

What's it all come down to, though? What's the takeaway?


"Some forget that BLOWOUT had become slightly stagnant in the post-Garage Boom-era (03-06-ish) and to some degree, somewhat of an insiders game, where it felt like you had to have the pedigree or blessing of those who had come before." 

Which is completely opposite of how it started, he concurs. 
"I think the expansion into two weekends spoke to that and attempted to settle that issue by being more inclusive, which I do think it accomplished. I think it is still solidly representative of how many people love as well as play music around here, and to continue to level the playing field so the newest bands can share stages with those who has stuck it out over the years is part of our living musical tradition." 

And so... The Blowout seems to be here, in Ferndale (and elsewhere) to stay...for now. People will always beat up on the 'burbs, Howitt says, but "...we should see all these neighborhoods and smaller cities as boroughs of the larger Myth of Detroit. It’s Spirit."

"... and then move the tradition forward." 

Further thoughts shared HERE via the Ferndale Friends Newspaper

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Record Store Day (FOUND SOUNDs)

Two years ago nearly to the day...
FOUND SOUND in Ferndale wasn't open yet...
Co-Manager Chris Butterfield was walking me around the basement of their current space at 234 W. Nine Mile Rd. Boxes and boxes, rows and rows, like the closing scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark... A blur of cardboard containers packed with sheaths of vinyl. Everything was here - to the most obscure guitar instrumentalists from Indonesia to Michael Jackson's Thriller, some shredded copies of The White Album along with that one rare import version of Safe As Milk.

(Here's a new jam from Scott Masson, while you're here... He's performing inside Found Sound this weekend.....

....read below)

The records were just waiting... Renovations were going on upstairs. The store was readying itself. Well, Chris, along with Ray Hayosh, were readying themselves. It was an exciting time - a new vinyl record shop was going to open in downtown Ferndale - just after receiving the news that our very last retailer The Record Collector was going to be closing soon.

Chris looked anxious though. He couldn't be sure, back then, just two years prior, whether this record store, or any record store, would pick up, take off, survive, sustain, thrive, flourish... in this economy, with this fickle type of fan frazzled by the degrading whims of Facebook-isms.

But lo and behold... Call it the local love, the store has survived! There's probably substantial scientific studies out there to verify my theory, but if you're interested in what I think...then I'll tell you that it's likely we get so dried out, so parched, so suffocated by the airlessness, the ubiquity, the vacuous, soundless, blase splay of the Internet's sleek dystopia, that we want to hold onto something, hear cracks and scratches and slide through grooves, we want to watch the sound as it comes from the spinning disc and resonates into our rooms, warming it up. We want to shake hands with the guy or girl at the register after we buy that one record.

And on Record Store Day - Found Sound will be packed. I can already guarantee it. It's like St. Patrick's Day at any bar or New Year's Eve in Times Square... It's tailgaters outside of Ford Field or the electric crowds of Tiger's Opening Day - you just know that the support, the fans, the listeners, the local love...will be there.

Better get there early... The shelves will be scoured. We're all gonna show some love for Record Stores...

“Actually it’s like 10 Christmases in one,” says Chris Butterfield -- Read more from The Detroit News

See and hear some live music inside FOUND SOUND on April 19th - the day of days--for music collectors

Monday, April 14, 2014

Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment -

Headphones are a necessity, for here...transcendence is the hopeful effect(/affect). Speaking of effects - there's plenty of fuzz, echo, muff, loop, delay and varied further distortions of tone - but measured meticulously like a pensive diarist's slow, steady pen-strokes, making sure never to scribble, blot or smudge any of the ink as it pours upon the page.

     Imagine a summer storm at twilight. There's a dim radiance, glowing purple through the massing clouds at the horizon and the winds are kicking up into light, humid gales as dark cumulonimbi build ahead of you... You're walking next to your singers and their words, their heartfelt expressions, muffle against the wind...
          And the air feels electric. The sun's going away but you want to stay... There's all sorts of rumblings around you, filling up your ears, grass whips and thunder, only momentarily distant as it hovers towards you, is thrumming softly...
               Everything feels serene, almost meditative, yet simultaneously on the verge of some ominous tremor, a quake...an crescendo of mud and cosmic-slop, a shower of acid rain and stardust, a splitting of the Earth beneath you or a disorienting funnel gravitating you upward in a swirl toward the celestial neverneverlands gaping borderless above you.

At least, that's where my brain can go...when I listen to "Landshark" by Electric Lion Soundwave Experiment (from Falling On The Sword That God Gave Us).

You're tired of shoegaze but you want shoegaze? You want druggy-sounding music that aims for cerebral lyrics to stew over while you're ostensibly "dropping-out"? You want a sumptuous sonic trip that actually takes you somewhere, as opposed to lulled gazes into the corners of your paint-chipped basement?

It's here... Muffled by the FX... Whispered at times, hauntingly belted at others... Resonating. Resonating.

Blowout 17 Schedule

The Metro Times has announced the final schedule (line-up / times / venues) for the 17th annual Blowout Music Festival - (happening in Detroit, Hamtramck and Ferndale - 4 days, dozens of venues, hundreds of bands...a big deal for the Detroit scene, as always).

Click here for all the details

And stay tuned here, for more information.

Friday, April 11, 2014

You Wake Up And... (Album Review / Life Review)

Scott Masson - Pink Oil 

And you wake up one day, hey, you’re 30.

What’s the big deal? It’s un-nameable, intangible; it’s some phantom perception foisted upon you from the eerie echoes of media detritus, dry crumbles of bad movies and petty magazines and dastard marketing mechanisms zapped into your brain now tumbling out of your ears and onto your pillow case as you wake up on this day, the day that you’re 30… And you feel some kind of excision… Youth, right? What was that, anyway…if just the time were you were excused for being foolish, patronized for being capricious and condescended for being romantically thoughtless in your waltzes onto alcohol-stained floors where you would be slowly and unknowingly fostering your own nostalgia-projects to later to look back upon, like on this day, the day that you’re 30…

…But I’m really here to write about a new album that’s coming out, made by a man who lives down the street from me. Beauty forged in a basement. Bewildering blends of varying emotions –all of them invigorating if at times turbulent – driving rhythms charging smooth, creamy new-wave-feeling synthesizer swoons that tide against samples of regal strings, moody pop melodies come down like warm sunrays and settle so easy upon the ears, true earworms that can bewitch you into carefree movement, your hips, your feet, your shoulders just loosen and your head just starts bobbing but then…what’s with that vocoder crinkling up the pitch, what’s with that Tin Pan Alley-inspired jazz ditty that cuts in between the verses, what the hell is with that Whitney Huston sample?

This album speaks to the delirium and the peace I feel today, the day I turn 30. I’m happy in a strange way that helps me understand the difference between sureness and smug self-satisfaction and I’m upset in a fresh way that doesn’t feel negative or panicky.

There’s a song on Scott Masson’s new album called “Blue Valley Fog.” Just let that title evoke its daydreamy phantasmagoria in your brain before I go into it. The bass buzzes with such instigation, churning along with punchy beats bidding you to run before the hook on those cymbals rears you into the rhythm and it becomes this sublime dance-pop comet streaming a radiant tail of icy space-stuff shimmering through the quieter bridge… “Everyday I fall apart… diving through the loudest silence…”

You wake up and you’re 30 and you start thinking about life because that’s how the culture has conditioned you to thusly react… But what’s life? Precisely. You wake up and you’re 30 and you have no fucking idea what to think of life which is why you can’t get back to sleep.

And you’ve been a music journalist for 10 years now and stagger at reflections upon your anthropological documentation of melodramatic, cool, crazy, tireless, uncertain-yet-certain, surrealist-inclined creative-types and their recorded creations cut in 3 or 4-minute increments varyingly following or defying a style or a formula or a tradition known as… What? Rock? Rap? Dance? Pop? What do you call all this noise? What do you call life? You don’t know why, truly, precisely, scientifically, chemically, evidently…why…you still love music –just like you don’t know why,  still, you still search for some kind of enlightenment in this strange show called Life.  

But you know singers and musicians and writers and producers who have been dancing their way through the same tempestuous ballet…

…and WAIT A MNINUTE. Track 8 (“Grimsby’s Silver Circus”) just started playing in my headphones and an eerie pipe organ grinded its wispy way from my left ear bud panned into the right and now I’m tromping my way through a murky opening verse set to a slow waltz and drums and guitars boom above, sounding gigantic, while the melody swirls around like cotton-candy and then things get really crazy… More of an oompa-rag beat and jingling pianos shuffle under a carnival barker invites you to join “a world of magical splendor and horrrrrible chaos…hurry hurry hurry!”

Splendor…chaos. It’s that sense that I’m feeling today, that this record: Pink Oil –is encouraging me to embrace. I’m finding a kinship to the surety of its strangeness.

But yes, this is mostly a pop record; there’s measured pours of purple goth and fogged shoegaze, there’s charms of dreamy new-wave with those inviting dance-if-you-feel-like-it grooves, but there’s also straight-up blazing guitars and revving drums leaving one no other recourse but to bang one’s head or just stomp one’s foot.

Oh…and the vocals? Rich, like the dark green of late Spring’s suburban lawns speckled with dew glistening against the sunrise, inviting like the breeze of a summer night coaxing you out for one last bike ride just before midnight when most of the city’s turning in and shutting the hell-up already and you can have the street to yourself. The man knows what’s catchy – but it’s not contrived; he knows which melodies just hum like sugary ecstasy but it’s not insipid… There’s a time and a place for a good ol’ “Ooh Ooh OOOOooohh” to loop around your guitar riffs and he knows just when to sneak it in…with subtlety. And wait, did he just croon into the faded sample of a baroque sonata …

But yeah, the album’s all over the place. You fall into scenes of shining cities, strutting through parking lots and floating through memories and shuffling through tweets in the span of three verses. 

You’re “Making The Rounds…” a perfect closer and appropriately spanning nearly 8 minutes. “I turn the page / I change my ways / and started to come back around…” If you listen closely, you’ll hear his confession of basement breakdowns and party freakouts… but it isn’t quiet, you hear his heart poured out as though the you’re capsized under a cresting wave carrying a full ensemble of an orchestra’s instruments roaring their varying timbres in a musical squall. Or something like that. Scott Masson’s donning a wardrobe’s worth of musical tropes – it’s a crazy costume party, derby hats, spats on the shoes, torn denim, mouse-spray and boas, ray ban sunglasses and maybe some flannel… cravats? Glowsticks? Yes…but through it all… heart.

You’ve heard all this before…like you’ve never heard before………

What is the ode, the melody, the anthem, of a sensitive and sentimental heart beating its way through a ruthless and all-too-short life of #EverythingAllTheTime-isms. What’s expected of you? To be as strange and as sure of yourself as you could ever be… to put the puzzle pieces together in a way that’s not overtly defiant or childishly sarcastic…

You wake up and your 30 and you listen to a perfectly wonderful and emotional pop record that splashes together a lot of disparate musical elements in a staggeringly meticulous balance (it closes out with a techno-beat but fades before the rave sets on…) and then…the puzzle starts to make sense… Not to you, reader, but, to me…and to Scott Masson.

So that’s that…

…for now. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

4.10.14-- Dean Wareham in Ferndale

A longtime favorite of mine... Luna - Galaxie 500 - the nucleus of indie-psych n' folk, shoegaze and C-86-sweetened dream-pop - Dean Wareham! Here in Ferndale, MI at the Magic Bag!

"Bring back the magic and light the match / There is a spark that I'm hoping to catch... Now that we're here, I'm ready to leave...this whole wide world behind..."
Ahhhh, sigh
A song about the twilight of the psychedelic years, intriguing to be sure... But also packing a video fitting for our area - feels like we're at some retro-charmed Auto Show of yesteryear, under the stars!

The Dancer Disappears from Dean Wareham on Vimeo.

Dean Wareham -a proper solo album with 9 new songs produced with (My Morning Jacket's) Jim James, comes out on Double Feature and Sonic Cathedral. There's an interview with The Detroit News'' Adam Graham that you should read, here.

Info about the show