Monday, February 29, 2016

Raise Your Shields for BERSERKER III

Berserker Fest returns to Detroit with all forms of intensities involving amplifiers and demonic-sounding intonations. Ears will bleed. Your viscera will lurch, your soul will flounder in the forceful waves of sound... Varying degrees and philosophies, approaches and composites of metal music, or whatever you'd like to call it...will be performed, exorcised and unleashed...for three days in downtown Detroit at the Masonic Temple.

Whatever you wanna call it, you gotta admire the passion of each band on the bill. This monster of a music fest certainly has its own legs, now, having started just three years ago, spearheaded by Child Bite singer/guitarist Shawn Knight...Yeah, now it's got crazy-strong legs and its running at full tilt.

BERSERKER IIIMarch 3rd - 5th
Doors at 7pm (each night)
Masonic Temple
500 Temple St., Detroit
$25 (or $45 for a Weekend Pass)

There are dozens upon dozens of bands I could single out, tonight, from the Berserker Fest. I'm going to go with a Detroit-based experimental post-prog outfit that just put out a new single and is planning on an album release in April via Bellyache....

Voyag3r might not match the ferocious/spasmodic nitroglycerine of at least half of the other bands on this lineup, but their vigor is one of a more transportive concentration. 
Imagine a monster movie if it were in another galaxy, 300 years into the future, dotted with telepaths shape-shifters, celestial beings and plasma-waves, nebula clouds and hot-rod-rockets,...a journey inside your mind...bending said mind, twisting said mind, and shuttle-launching said mind warp-speed through another dimension. Instrumental soundtrack-sounding psychedelia at its very finest.... 

Enjoy Berserker, everyone...
And stay tuned for more Voyag3r.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Attempt To Explain: The Imaginotron

Photos by Nick Hagen 
I'm going to try and decipher and translate the recent conversation I had with singer & musical agitator Steve Pivalsky.

We discussed The Imaginotron.

Milo:  "Can it be explained?"

Steve:  "It's such an important thing. That's the main thing, for me. I know you know what it is, and I know you've experienced it. But, we haven't really talked about it, or explained it..."

Pivalsky will be programming electronics and singing, along with channeling some amorphous monster known as The Leviathan, during his performance with multi-instrumenalist Nik Landstrom, during the Hamtramck Music Festival-- Friday Night at The New Dodge. 

Steve:  "It's weird to think about how important this performance is to me."

Steve used to perform in two agit-rock/art-pop/post-techno/spaz-punk outfits known as Marco Polio & The New Vaccines, and Pupils. Both very distinctive projects, yet emitting comparable energies: detached (or barely tethered) bullet trains dense with ideas and flourished phrasings. In both endeavors, Steve would speak about "...the Imaginotron."

Steve:  "Nik (pictured right) is like a conduit. I'm not even sure he's a normal human. He's very adaptable. I've already asked him: Are you ready to feel uncomfortable? Are you ready to be in danger? ...Not in danger...but, out of your comfort zone? He is. He's bringing something entirely different to The Imaginotron."

Steve:  "There are no distractions, now. The Imaginotron hasn't changed, but it's the center of it for me, now."

Milo:  "Can people actually witness you play this thing? Do you carry it into the venue like an instrument in a case or is it already there? Is it here, now?"

Steve:  "People start to see it materialize as the set goes on... Like with a synthesizer, you have to warm it up. The more it warms up, the more you're going to get from it, you close that gap a bit. People can see it, but not everyone will seeit or feel it as the same thing."

Milo:  "They feel it...that, at least, is conclusive."

Steve:  "They feel something...I've seen others find it before during their performances. I witnessed Matt Daher find it, during the release of his tape (for Tool & Die). Whereas, other people I watch perform as if they're controlling something like a video game, with that kind of precision..."

Milo:  "And that's not what finding the Imaginotron is like..."

Steve:  "No, it's performing as if they're playing Street Fighter on Nintendo, just, removed from a screen. They are outside of themselves. But they're definitely adept. Others, meanwhile, might be less proficient, but when they find (the Imaginotron) BOOM...they're THERE...they get it..."

Milo:  " a tremor."

Steve:  "Tremors! It's channeling... You do things that you don't know you're gonna do until you see them happen, yourself..."

Milo:  "Something intangible that can't be understood until it actuates itself..."

Steve:  "...yeah. I want to see people sweating at shows again. I want people to feel something. It doesn't have to be some poignant, life-changing experience, but when you're just all together and you stop thinking about everything and just sweating together, not worrying anymore...I try to provoke THAT..."

Milo:  "But, coupled with channeling the Imaginotron sounds like you need to be explosively mindful on a galactic sense, taking in everything to your consideration, the planet, the stars, the asteroid belt, all of existence, all at once..."

Steve:  "I'll do all of that thinking at the start of the show for everyone... Cuz when this ceremony starts, we're all going to be thinking too much. It's all going to just do its thing and come in and stir us... We'll be synced up because we won't be thinking about it as hard. It's this intense focus, then, in a way, because I'm performing a play of what I want people to be like, I'm trying to show how I want people to be. I want to shift it to: No, you're not 'watching something...' you're in it.. And then they wonder: 'What do I do once I'm in it...?' But there is no logic to it. You've all been taught to seek the logic of something your whole lives.."

Milo:  "But this is just purely immersive...abandon...yet with mindfulness.."

Steve:  "And people can't do things that are destructive... That's not part of it. You can still do crazy stuff once the Imaginotron starts, but you've got to reel it in sometimes if need be. People hear crazy music and they think it's time to start moshing, that's definitely what it's not-time-to-do, here. There's so many ways to dance and be crazy and to lose yourself, really, as much as possible, but it's a different kind of '...abandon...,' it's not reckless abandon..."

Milo:  "It's careful-abandon..."

Steve:  "Mindful-abandon... well-intentioned-recklessness. Because you still have to live here when it's over..."

Milo:  "Not that the Imaginotron ever ends..."

Steve:  "Right. It's still in the air, at places where I've returned to..."

Milo:  "It's social..."

Steve:  "It's very social. It's going to be a matter how many people show up. And, if we have to take it outside, we will..."

Steve had been away from the music scene for a full two years, since the dissolving of Marco Polio & The New Vaccines and Pupils. He was invited to a variety show by Tool & Die's Chris Butterfield last summer, encouraged to do either stand-up comedy or spoken-word art. Instead, Steve set down to compose a couple pieces of music... new, weird, wiry, spring-loaded psychedelic-pop excursions.

Since syncing up with Landstrom, he hasn't looked back.

The Imaginotron never left. It never turned off. But you'll be feeling something this Friday...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Episode 6 of the Milo Show..... coming soon!!!

While you wait, acquaint yourself with the effervesce that is: Episode 5.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Codgers' MASHR Elegies

The new Codgers' album has an excess of heart. Surplus of soul...a full cache of character. Such a richly rendered and transportive music, with its care for old world charms balanced by a contemporary, city-set narrative tone, can be scarce these days.

When a Codgers CD such as MASHER Elegies comes along, it stops you in your tracks. This sextet appreciates the necessary depths required for those journeying into aesthetic realms of folk & Americana, keen to create a world of characters and a multifaceted milieu of moods and anecdotal evocations, atop a resplendent instrumental plotting of regal accordions, atmosphere-augmenting lapsteel, sunray-ribboning banjos and violins and skyblue harmonies.

Codgers CD Release Show
March 5
Gaelic League
(2068 Michigan Ave, Detroit)
w/ Larry Larson, Mike Galbraith and Erik Alan

The band features John Freeman (guitar/vocals), Matt Balcer (mandolin), Terry Murphy (banjo/guitar/vocals), Jake Dimmick (bass), Patrick Carey (bodhrán/vocals), Nick Mansfield (bodhrán/harmonica/coals), and they take their name from an Olde English slang for an elderly man, an eccentric and nostalgic rambler with old-fashioned proclivities.

The group formed 10 years ago, out of Corktown, brewing a blend of traditional folk from America and Ireland, the raspy croons of Appalachia with the honeyed brogue of heather-filled moors. But there was always a bit of Detroit blues to their brew, something signature cement chips found only along curbs of the Motor City that wrapped a bit of midwest rust around their mahogany melodies...   

When I hear these tunes, I feel endeared to the players, who seem to imbue their evocative arrangements with a novelist's composite of wistful revelry, heavy-hearted retrospect and raconteur-ish regaling. I also find the charms of cellos, violins, dobro and mandolins to be ineffably welcoming. This is the kind of music, like a rolling fireplace, that you want to spend time beside. Transfixed. Ruminating. A thaw for the soul! 

Codgers CD Release Show
March 5
Gaelic League
(2068 Michigan Ave, Detroit)
w/ Larry Larson, Mike Galbraith and Erik Alan

The 3rd Hamtramck Music Fest Starts Next Thursday

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hip In Detroit's 4th Anniversary Show

Hip In Detroit always goes big...! It's reflective of their characteristic levels of enthusiasm for local music, really. They've been promoting concerts, profiling artists and featuring new works by local artists for four years, now!

To celebrate, their throwing another big party with some of their favorite artists, like TART and Ancient Language. 

Also on the bill are Cheapshow, DIRTWOLF and Young Hunger...

Take a listen

And here's TART's latest music video, while you're here...

Saturday, February 27th at Zeke's Rock And Roll BBQ9:30 p.m. - $5 gets you in and gets you a raffle ticket. 

Per usual, the ladies behind Hip In Detroit display a keen appreciation for cross promotion and cooperation with several local organizations, buisnesses and artists, with a slew of special prizes available via raffle read-offs, including treats from the Crofoot, Royal Oak Music Theatre, The Public House in Ferndale, Jett Plastic Records, Zander Michigan and more!

All this, from Hip In Detroit, just to send their thanks to you for supporting their blog! For more details:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pressure is dumb: An interview with Johnny Ill Band

"I’ve also been on a boat a couple of times since we last talked..."
-Johnny Ill

John Garcia asked me, recently, to throw a few words around to describe his band: The Johnny Ill Band.

Sardonic Space Grunge...Post-POST-punk...spiced with situational enlightenment, with sophisto-cryptic lyrics...

I thought I hit the nail on the head^

But then, the metaphoric plank of Johnny Ill Band's music was always inherently unhinged, it never swung snugly toward the rock latch or punk latch or whatever else kinda label you wanted to hammer onto it. How far can I take this wood-metaphor? Can I talk about how "knotty" this music sounds?

Johnny "Ill" Garcia started this band about seven years ago. He's not needed to stay consistent with his live appearances because the band's performances, along with their sporadic output, have consistently been works of thought-provoking satire and ferocious art-pop theater.

There is something elegantly anti- about their whole aesthetic. Paul Derochie is on guitar, with Pete Steffy on keys and Chris Campell on drums.

There's some sandpaper distortion over notes that bend a bit flat here and there, while our reluctant frontman, a punk monologist and rock 'n' roll prankster, sang-spoke or shout-crooned a lyrical batch of curious thoughts and veiled commentaries. Sparse structures give space for plenty of entrancing keyboard weirdness and some near metal-tinged guitar acrobatics.

Anyway, before I get off on a tangent, here, let's make sure to point out that Johnny Ill Band are "back..." again! It seems like we only hear from these guys a handful of times throughout any given year. BUT... This time, Johnny Ill has news of a new album on the horizon.

FRIDAYJohnny Ill Bandwith Pop 1280 / Brothels / Private DancerUFO Factory9 PM / $7 (2110 Trumbull) INFO

Interview: John Ill 

I feel like every time you guys start getting a string of shows together, after a period of time, there's a flare of excitement in the scene. Like it's another come back... Does that ever create any pressure? How do you guys respond to pressure?  
The only pressure was the pressure the band and I put on ourselves when we decided that we wanted to make a new record. It definitely took longer than I wanted, and we still haven’t finished it. But I don’t think it changed the outcome or anything. As far as music goes there shouldn’t be any pressure, that’s dumb.

So you've had some new material that you're recording...How do you feel? 
Yeah..., so here we are, almost a year later and we’re about to finish a full-length record. I didn’t have any expectations when we started getting together more frequently and I started writing more. In my mind these new songs are a departure from what we were doing previously and I knew going into writing that that’s what would happen so I’m happy about it.

What about your feelings toward the spotlight, in general... How have your feelings evolved over the 6 years that you've been a "frontman..." Were you ever a "frontman"? 
Lately I’ve been trying to learn what it’s like to be a “front man,” I guess. It’s weird how not having an instrument in front of you makes it more intimidating experience on stage. People probably expect me to jump around more but I don’t really do that. I’m not sure what I do... but I think it’s more than just standing still so it’s not the worst. Wait -- I might have already talked about this the last time we spoke.... But, I've also applied for the Kresge grant and we’re almost done writing this new album so... I have been doing more things as well, for the band. I’ve also been on a boat a couple of times since we last talked.

How has the band begun to operate over the last year, compared to the way it once did....? What have you.... (Oprah Winfrey interview moment)....what have you learned about yourself, John....?
Well..., I took singing lessons recently, thanks to Katie Else. And that was for a few months last year and the first couple of lessons were completely terrifying. Here I was, standing in someone’s living room I had just met while her husband was in the kitchen, trying to remain calm while I was forced to walk funny and sound funny all in the name of being a better singer. That was definitely harder than singing on stage in front of lots of people with a band, so that’s something I learned. I also learned that I had some bad habits when I sing and I guess that was the whole point.

Future plans, then? For yourself or for the band? 
Sometime in the near future I want to start taking singing lessons again. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Last River Street Anthology Post (...maybe)

The performers....

So... Some closing thoughts and additional perspectives from several Kalamazoo (and Ypsilant / Grand Rapids-based) artists, contributing to The River Street Anthology. 

Read all about it here, via The Detroit Free Press
'River Street' captures Mich. music in historic proportions

Lisa Moaiery– singer/songwriter
Hometown: Kalamazoo
Song “Kalamazoo Gals”
“I was inspired to write this song after listening to a program on Michigan Radio, in which Irene Stearns talked about getting her first job at Gibson. During World War II, when Gibson was still here in town, they continued making guitars while the men were away by hiring women. Gibson claimed they weren’t making guitars at this time, because it was thought of as unpatriotic if you weren’t making something for the war effort. Each guitar made by these women had a small little banner on them, “Only a Gibson is Good Enough,” and they turned out being some of the best guitars Gibson ever made. This song just came to me. It’s about all those women, but, really, specifically about one woman, Irene, who’s 94 and still lives in Kalamazoo. John Thomas is the author of ‘Kalamazoo Gals,’ and he recounted how (on Michigan Radio) how he had been so intrigued with a wartime photo he found of a group of women in front of the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo.  I feel like (the Anthology) is a very important project and that this song can represent a piece of Kalamazoo history.” 

Nick Vander Vliet singer/songwriter (of Who Hit John?)
Hometown: Kalamazoo
Song “Hopkins Creeks”
“Some of the singers on (this Anthology) don’t really have any recordings; they’re just folk singers in coffee shops or around campfires, so they might not have otherwise gotten a chance to be heard without this. To be part of Michigan history is just a small part of this; I think it’s more about finding another way that the music community can come together, and I’m all for that. There’s so much great music around this state, and trying to archive it all would be a huge feat, but still admirable. (Jones) has his heart in it, he’s so passionate about it; he puts in 12 hour days sometimes. I’m interested in what he’ll do with it. I know he wants to get it archived in the Library of Congress, but I just want to see where he goes from here, after today, if he ever gets done.”

Laurie Laing – singer (of Belfast Gin and Northern Fires)
Hometown: Kalamazoo
Songs “Where Do We Begin?” / “Space That We Made” (Northern Fires)
“Nancy Whiskey” (as Belfast Gin)
“(Noah Nigg) and I had no idea going in that (Northern Fires) would receive such a response to our song. You could hear a pin drop afterward. It’s wonderful. This is an amazing snapshot in time of Kalamazoo music and there’s still an amazing amount of recording that’s going on today by so many other bands, here, that adds to that flavor. I really want to see (the River Street Anthology) continue. The word “framily” is tossed around quite a bit around here, because Kalamazoo is an amazing network of colleagues, friends, family, and this sense of togetherness, its fiercely defended. It’s beautiful.”

Bruce Ling – singer-songwriter, performing with singer Becca Ling
Hometown: Grand Rapids
Songs: “Diamonds In The Rough”
“I understood this project to be about Michigan music. I felt that I should give something original, not some Appalachian tune or an Irish fiddle tune, but something that came from my heart. I don’t want to say I wrote it, it’s more that I channeled it from an ethereal source outside of myself. I was born in Chicago and started gigging on the south side when I was eight. I’ve always lived by rivers, my entire life, couple of lakes, two oceans. When I heard about this, “River” Street Anthology, that name grabbed me. With rivers, they’re continuous, it’s just rolling And I know (Jones), we have mutual music friends in the Ann Arbor Scene, so I knew, from him, that this would be some kind of quality project.

Sarah Elizabeth Campbell – sketch artist
Hometown: Ypsilanti
“I’ve had to capture these brief moments, so I embrace simpler, or less detailed, or more dreamlike images. My style can be a bit cartoony, anyhow. There are lots of things here that strike me, the altar, the stainglass windows. Before, I had been doing portraits (of Ypsilanti singers, musicians) for a while. But (Jones) asked me to try drawing (River Street Anthology sessions). I’m like the courtroom illustrator. (Jones) and I talk about this often, exchanging ideas about documenting it. He just wants every aspect of it covered, especially some of the behind the scenes stuff. (Jones walks by and indicates, with self-deprecating levity, that Campbell even helped safety pin an embarrassingly positioned tear in his denim jeans). 

Megan Dooley – singer/songwriter
Hometown: Kalamazoo
Song: “Seven Below”
“I think this is amazing. I’m happy that someone is documenting it all. This region…, not even just Kalamazoo, but the entire state, is just really coming up to a different level, musically, and I’m’ glad someone is putting it all down. I feel like we’re doing something special here, something different than the rest of the country. Not only is the level of musicianship topnotch, now, but the attitudes and the effort people bring to this, it’s collaborative, we’re all working together.

Tony (T-Rex) Roth – Kalamazoo music encourager/scene participant
Hometown: Kalamazoo
 I think that (through the RSA), Matt has learned as much about himself as he has learned about the musical community. The fact that he is giving so much of himself through this project makes him one of the most important players in the community. It is just this sort of example that keeps the river flowing. I use the metaphor of a river whenever somebody tries to say that we started any of this in Kalamazoo. We certainly didn't start anything, but we are involved in enough music related stuff that people who don't know better can be confused. I feel like we  simply stepped into the river that was already flowing right through here. Musical communities like this don't have a single starting point and they have to be fostered by a whole bunch of people regularly in order to keep it flowing. I think we are continuing a tradition. I think that's what Matt is doing extremely well.

Gregory McIntosh – singer/songwriter (of Loose Teeth)
Hometown: Ypsilanti
Song: “Doppler Shift”
I was lucky enough to be the first person Matt recorded for the RSA. I've been very close friends with Matt for a long time, as you may know, and this project is one that's blowing my mind and, I think, fundamentally changing the way Matt sees the arc of his life. My enthusiasm for his project has only intensified as I've seen him develop and refine the concept, so much so that I asked if we could scrap my original solo guitar performance and replace it with a full-band Loose Teeth performance, which Matt obliged. "The Doppler Shift," is basically about fighting negative self-fulfilling prophesies within a relationship; find the doubts, then use some logic and reason to sink them so you can get on with enjoying the greatness that is inherent with caring deeply about someone. I used the term Doppler Shift as a metaphor for this (i.e. change your tone, young man!) but also as an inside reference to the proximity the railroad tracks to my house, which is also on River Street in Ypsilanti.

River Street Anthology - Kalamazoo Edition (The Songs)

I've been posting quite a bit about my visit to the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo last January. I was essentially a fly on the wall for a special day-long recording session produced by singer/songwriter Matt Jones, as he coordinated dozens of musicians, several bands, and various songwriters upon the chapel's altar to record a couple of songs for his River Street Anthology.

If you've been following this blog, or if you read the Entertainment Section Cover Story via the Detroit Free Press, then you already know most of the story.

But there's MORE...

photo by Andraya Croft 

Below, I have the bands and song titles of five songs that were recorded in the chapel during the RSA session. I encourage you to visit THIS PAGE (for the FREEP feature,) where you can stream these five performances, live, as they happened, on that day...

Northern Fires – “Space That We Made”
This song was one of the particularly powerful moments from the Church, where time seemed to stop and everyone in the room realized they’d been holding in a sigh. Kalamazoo duo Northern Fires (guitarist/singer Noah Nigg and singer Laurie Laing) capture that ineffable alleviation of the soul typically derived from a good cry, but their signature folk style is anything but melancholic, it’s just speaking to this collective chord of human emotion, how we’re all seeking  and hoping for love and an overarching amity, wherever we are…

Loose Teeth – “Doppler Shift”
Gregory McIntosh, the lead singer/songwriter of this Ypsilanti-based quartet, was actually the first person to be recorded for the River Street Anthology, more than a year ago. Loose Teeth thrives in the understated ballads of gothic-country and indie-folk, with heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics and resplendent harmonies. The group features Jones on drums, with Tom McCartan on bass and Mary Fraser on keys.

Megan Dooley – “Seven Below”
A tattoo on Dooley’s left shoulder reads: “Made In Kalamazoo;” that’s also the title of her latest album, which we recommend you check out a.s.a.p. Dooley’s voice can go from smooth silk purr to a soulful, gritty growl with a sinuous and melodic swing, strumming a banjulele to bring in flavors of rootsy blues, New Orleans jazz and charming, pitch-perfect whistles through the buoyant bridges. 

Go Rounds – “Pet Cemetery (La La La)”
The Go Rounds blend twangy Americana with a soul-dashed space-rock. Singer Graham Parsons hit some pretty impressive falsettos but he belts a pretty hearty midrange on this one, experimenting with a playful water-splashed effect over his vocals. Adam Danis (drums), Drew Tyner (bass) and Mike Savina (lead guitar), find a way to make vigorous indie-rock tremble into a charismatic danceability. 

DC - "America The Beautiful"
DC is a spoken word artist and teacher based in Kalamazoo, who has been writing and performing for several years. On this breathtaking performance, she starts out utilizing her splendid singing voice to serenade us with a beatific ballad, before switching gears into her spoken word poetry, at a fierce and measured cadence, that shines the light toward the uglier truths that go unacknowledged in that song; disconcerting, hard truths, delivered with an aim toward compassionate enlightenment, rather than incitement.  

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Du Nord - A Right Response (out 2/26) / Interview with Caitlin Drinkard

Friday, Feb 26
Du Nord releases A Right Response (on cassette via Tool & Die)
Hatch Art
(3456 Evaline, Hamtramck)
with Jeremy Waun and Andrew Barrett
More info

Caitlin's songs compel you to halt, your nerves settle and you muscles ease because you are no longer conscious of whatever your next task or busied action would have been... In fact, the beauty of her voice and the pleasant pureness of those bare acoustic guitar strums seem to permit you this all too scarce mental sanctuary, serenading to you that it is okay to stop, to daydream, to breathe slower, to listen harder, to take a second... I think spellbinding is a perfect word for this...


Caitlin Drinkard has been contributing her breathtaking voice to several Detroit-based music projects over the last six years or so, most prominently with her sister, Bonnie, (as The Drinkard Sisters).

Recorded during Summer 2015 at a family cabin off the shores of Huron, Caitlin Drinkard's proper debut, "A Right Response," is a lo-fi serenade bursting w/ color and imagination.... --Tool & Die 

I wish there was a word for that dizzy kind of mellow-stimulation or mesmerized swoon when the intonation of the vocals sutures so sweetly with the somewhat rough and rustic rustle of an acoustic guitar... If there is one word for it, then apply it to each of the tracks, here...

About a year ago, Drinkard found a little travel case inside a thrift store in Lansing; it was full of Baptist sermons from the mid 1990's, recorded to cassette. She knew, within moments, that she wanted to make recordings over them...

"I hadn't played out in a couple of years, but I'd been writing songs again at that point and wanted to get them down," Drinkard recalls. "I knew I just wanted to do it myself, as simply as possible."

Drinkard took a small cassette portastudio up to Lakeport, where her family has a cottage just a stone's throw from Lake Huron. Her great grandparents built this abode for their honeymoon and Drinkard has always considered it a place of "deep relaxation and healing" for her family, stretching four generations.

This cabin "is my favorite place on Earth," Drinkard said. "(It's) a sacred place. It's a place I feel like my truest, best, most relaxed self and I wanted the songs to come from that kind of zone."

Du Nord means "...of the north." And Drinkard indicates that the Native American Medicine Wheel has North as the direction of the ancestors, the direction of clarity, of rest and renewal of the physical body.

"When I am 'up north,' I am saner, calmer, freer, wilder..." Drinkard says. But with that, we all collectively, as Michiganders, regard "going up north" with a special connotation of fun...canoes, bonfires, beaches and lakes, novelty T-shirts, fudge, breweries, lighthouses... "I wanted all that on there, too," Drinkard said.

The songs themselves were written over the last couple of years. The older songs are darker - White Quail and Believers were written in 2011 before I went through a pretty brutal personal loss and my world caved in on itself and after a few months in the pit of despair, I spent a summer doing some major healing work at the cottage and went in Lake Huron one morning and came out a different person. Ever since then I just want to make songs that feel good to sing...they are mostly about finding the sacred spaces in everything - in others, in yourself, in cars and on dance floors, in songs and in silence, in good days and bad days. 

So, going back to those sounds of sacredness...and of recording over old Baptist sermons...
Drinkard said she'd grown up in a fairly religious household, with her parents catching onto the tail end of the Jesus Movement in the early 80's. Her and Bonnie went to church in an old barn and then went to summer camps on Clear Lake. Her journey went from working as a teenage missionary in Mexico, to moshing at the "Christian Woodstock" of the Mid-South and eventually being recruited by an evangelical cult in college...

....but she wound up becoming "...the New Age liberal pantheist..." that her parents were afraid of... "Recording my own versions of sacred music over these sermons on sin and temptation felt really good, with this tiny tinge of guilt. It felt like a fair trade for all the years I spent afraid of accidentally summoning Satan....which, incidentally, I was not able to do on these recordings, even with a good amount of slow backmasking and spooky sound effects."

From here, Drinkard is looking at eight more cassette tapes of sermons that she could potentially record-over, with dozens more songs just as splendidly guilty and blissful as these on A Right Response. 

"Music is my joy and my fun and my freedom, so I don't worry too much about what comes next," she said, indicating that she's not in any hurry as of yet. The plan is to focus on writing more songs with Bonnie and the full band behind The Drinkard Sisters, which, she's indicated, has turned into "some sort of cosmic country band" over this winter. "I want to write and record with this band, because if there's one thing more fun than playing music alone, it's playing with other people: Bonnie, Ryan Harroun, Dan Clark, Nick Landstrom and Matthew Milia." 

For now, look to Tool & Die for the cassette release of A Right Response. 

Friday, Feb 26
Du Nord releases A Right Response (on cassette via Tool & Die)
Hatch Art
(3456 Evaline, Hamtramck)
with Jeremy Waun and Andrew Barrett
More info

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Detroit X Detroit

The sixth Detroit X Detroit happens this Saturday... 
These mini-festivals have consistently featured a dozen or more bands and solo singer/songwriters lovingly embodying their favorite Detroit artists in appearance and sound, be they long-disbanded icons from decade's-past or, more often, contemporaries in the modern scene.

I caught up with the festival's organizer, Melissa Rowe, to ask her about six-year's worth of DetXDet, going down at the Loving Touch at 8 PM, with two stages.  

The lineup
(Headlining Main Stage) ESCAPING PAVEMENT as Madonna
(Side Stage) STEVIE SOUL & OMAR ARAGONES as The Temptations
(Main Stage) WOLF AND THE CRANE as Wilson Pickett
(Side Stage) ZANDER MICHIGAN as Rodriguez
(Main Stage) GO TIGER GO as My Pal Val
(Side Stage) THE MESSENGER BIRDS as The White Stripes
(Main Stage) SIX AND THE SEVENS as Was (Not Was)
(Side Stage) FIVE POUND SNAP as Mexican Knives
(Main Stage) JET BLACK BLONDE as The High Strung
(Side Stage) ANCIENT LANGUAGE as Sufjan Stevens
(Main Stage) JACKSON & THE POOLSHARKS as Against The Grain
(Side Stage) THE BRUISED REED as The Great Fiction
(Main Stage) WILLA RAE & THE MINOR ARCANA as Blanche
(Side Stage) JOSH, JARRETT, and J WALKER as The Gories
(Opening Main Stage) SCHOOL OF ROCK as The Stooges

What are some of your particularly favorite memories, or specifically memorable cover-performances? 

I will never forget – in our first year – Jen David (from Illy Mack) throwing back her hood to reveal close-cropped, freshly-dyed blonde hair for her performance as Eminem. At DETxDET II, The HandGrenades performed as The High Strung – and after seeing their performance, Josh (Malerman, from The High Strung) actually recorded and posted a rebuttal video on YouTube (! 

Mike Galbraith & Don (Doop) Duprie both performing hauntingly stripped-down sets from Motown legends. Six & the Sevens playing for one night as a 13-PIECE, covering Edwin Starr. George Morris and his DAD on stage as Alice Cooper. A beatboxed Mayer Hawthorne set. I could go on. And on. It’s impossible to choose a favorite. With over 70 performances these last 5 years, we’ve made so many incredible memories!

And what's the biggest reasons you've continued to curate DETXDET, year in and year out? What you've found to be most fulfilling/rewarding about it?

This event is such a passion project for me. The whole thing started as a playful April Fool’s idea, and after finding 12 amazing acts willing to give our crazy idea a shot…and drawing over 200 people in our freshman year, I thought, hey, we could do this again. And again. And again. Our second year, we connected with the School of Rock as the recipient of our event proceeds, and they orchestrated a special scholarship for our donated funds, to go toward a future Detroit rock & roller.

It seemed like a natural fit, with an event whose primary purpose is to celebrate Detroit music. Our third year, we began inviting the SoR students to open our show with their own cover set – and that’s been truly amazing. I love that they have the opportunity to share the stage with so many of our local talents each year – and they’ve wow-ed the audience so much, they’ve even inspired some folks to inquire about volunteering at the School. Our musical community here is so incredible – I’m not convinced a show like this would be quite the same, anywhere else.

To have 15 bands each year take the time to learn 3 new songs (just for this show)…I think that’s really something special. It speaks to their immense talent and dedication – but also to their own passion for Detroit music, that they’d even want to. I love hearing about folks in the audience gaining a new appreciation for either a local act (or a covered act) after watching a DETxDET set….and I’m also so happy each year, seeing the bands connect witheach other during (and after) the show. I’m so thrilled each year when people sign up to play, and show up to listen. I love our bands. I love our music. And I love this show. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Milo Show -- Episode 5

On this month's episode of The Milo Show....

Frontier Ruckus

The Kickstand Band (LIVE)

The Hamtramck Music Festival

Deadbeat Beat (LIVE)

That's right. I started a Talk Show with director/videographer Kristi Billings and sound-master Chad Stocker. Tune in March 1st for Episode SIX.... with Stef Chura, Doc Illingsworth, Sugarcoats and The Mythics. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

River Street Anthology: Gregory McIntosh of Loose Teeth

This is the last essay...(at least for a while) that I'll be sharing on The River Street Anthology. 

Kalamazoo's T. Rex Roth shared some thoughts, as well as Graham Parsons from The Go Rounds. But, today, it's Ypsi-based singer/songwriter Greg McIntosh, of Ypsilanti.

Whereas my previous posts (and my forthcoming Detroit Free Press feature) sprang from the special all-day RSA recording session conducted by Matt Jones, this is an opportunity to get an even deeper perspective on not only the project, itself...but the man, (Jones), who started it out of his basement. McIntosh and Jones have been friends for several years, so the former would be an even more reliable interpreter of the latter's recent transformative experiences behind a modest Tascam....

For those of you just joining us... Matt Jones started recording singer/songwriters and bands in his basement, each laying down one song for a fledgling "anthology" of local (read: Ypsi/Ann Arbor) music... It has expanded to become a state-wide project, aimed at capturing as many (read: 300 or more) songwriters from across the state of Michigan. 

Stay tuned.

Gregory McIntosh (Loose Teeth)

 I've been very close friends with Matt for a long time, as you may know, and this project is blowing my mind. 

I think (RSA) is fundamentally changing the way Matt sees the arc of his life. 

I was lucky enough to be the first person Matt recorded for the RSA, and so, was excited about it from the get-go. My enthusiasm for his project has only intensified as I've seen him develop and refine the concept, so much so that I asked if we could scrap my original solo guitar performance and replace it with a full-band Loose Teeth performance, which Matt obliged. 

When (Jones)' vision for the RSA expanded to a larger, statewide scale, it was hard not to immediately make the comparison to the historic field recordings of which I was obsessed in the late 1990s: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Alan Lomax's incredible collection of recordings from around the world, and John Jacob Niles's renditions of songs he learned from several Appalachian musicians he met while working as an assistant photographer in the 1920s and 1930s.

That a similar project hasn't happened, to my knowledge, since the 1940s or '50s probably has something to do with musicians realizing they had to keep the rights to their music closely guarded if they were to profit in the industry. 

Now that the industry model has been in a decade long reconstruction, seemingly without any financial benefit to the creators of the content, and that the current musical culture is one that is carved out through countless independent Soundcloud and YouTube accounts, homemade demos, and house shows, it seems appropriate to have Matt curate this compilation not only as a record of what Michigan music sounds like in the early part of the 21st century, but as a way to filter the massive amount of content available to us in the digital age to a manageable compilation. 

Also, just hearing music that's recorded live in a totally vulnerable state, untouched by any musical editing suite, is always exciting and while that aspect of the industry has always thrived, the RSA is unlike the Peel Sessions, Daytrotter, La Blogothèque, or Tiny Desk Concerts in that it's not a platform for artists who've invested in marketing and management to further climb the ladder, it's simply a snapshot of the current musical climate and therefore includes people who cannot afford to buy influence.

Anytime I read literature about the old days of the music business, local radio stations playing local artists is always a centerpiece. Hall & Oates were on Philadelphia stations before they broke nationally, Motown was played first in Detroit, Stax in Memphis, etc. Each city had its unique chart, but in the modern day, with Clear Channel et al owning the majority of the, we no longer have a readily available snapshot of what a place sounds like, which makes me think what Matt is doing is so important on another level. 

A sense of place has always been present in the music all of my friends and I make, even if it's not directly mentioned and I love hearing records from other areas that evoke a vibe or make reference to landmarks that I can associate with a place. It's the reason people make pilgrimages to Strawberry Fields.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Turn To Crime - Two New Albums

At the end of January, Detroit-based songwriter/producer Derek Stanton released two Turn To Crime albums, a storied collaboration with Dorian and Alejandra Foerg...(in fact, the pair actually fell in love as these two albums were being made and the release of this music is timed perfectly to the birth of their son). Sounds & Silence has more info on that... an interview with Turn To Crime's Derek Stanton that I conducted two years ago that never made it to print...
The Detroit trio released 2 free albums online last week...

January 2014

New York never challenged Derek Stanton. The place always energized him, he says, even if he was sleeping in a cubby hole made of plywood.

When he was younger, he’d go days without sleeping during whimsical weekend road trips to Brooklyn or Manhattan where he’d catch concerts of his favorite bands. Incidentally, the Detroit-based singer/songwriter wound up moving to New York and he eventually opened for (or toured with) many of those same “favorite bands” through Awesome Color, a rock n’ roll trio he played in that nearly broke into the big-time (at least by post-millennial/post-Internet notions).

But he’s moved on… Stanton’s just not easily discouraged. He’s also uncommonly patient. Both qualities helped him establish his own record label, along with his latest project, Turn To Crime, which he’s been developing over the last several years, out of his home studio right back here in Detroit.

When asked if starting a label was an ultimate goal, he says no, not really. “For the longest time I didn’t want to; I was totally fine with just being a musician that just recorded songs every day and that was that.” In fact, for years, Stanton would record songs and stream them on bandcamp, for free, only to take them down and throw them away forever after just one week.

For Stanton, it seems, as we inquire further, it was never about self-aggrandizement, never about showing-off, never about hustling people to share and tweet about his new songs.

“I don’t care about anything other than just the process of recording, other than just writing.”
Turn To Crime, which just released two free albums at the end of January (on Mugg & Bopp), actually started more than six years ago as just one of Stanton’s numerous side projects. Through the mid-late 2000’s, Awesome Color seemed, from the fans’ perspective at least, to be a big deal: ostensibly getting praise from the noise-rock Ceasar, Thurston Moore, when they were signed to Ecstatic Peace while attracting a considerable bit of blog buzz as they toured constantly, (notching up to 200 shows a year). 

But Stanton would still busy himself with other projects, particularly writing and recording. “(Awesome Color) was a very natural, easy band and it just consumed part of my brain. But, I didn’t have enough time to get any of the other things out, solo albums or whatever, because we were touring so much. But, the reason why that (AC) started was I had set up a practice space in New York and we could record there or do whatever.”

But jump back about 11 years or more, as he arrives in New York, still undaunted. He got a loft and built rooms out of plywood and drywall, turning it into a practice space first and living space second, (the “beds” were burrowed into cubby spaces above the studio.) “I guess people might see that as a challenging living arrangement, but to me it was awesome. In fact, I never lived anywhere that wasn’t like that: ‘homeade.’ Those scenarios, the practice spaces, lofts, the homemade drywall, wherever I lived in New York I had to be able to play and record music.” New York wasn’t a challenge to Stanton. “No, it was fun.”

Towards the end of Awesome Color, Stanton was living in South Williamsburg, above a popular venue called Glasslands. He had his usual set up, a loft that served as practice space/recording studio/bedroom (in that order), and helped book shows, work sound, bartend or monitor the door, as bands like MGMT and The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s came through, substantiating it as a premier venue. “Suddenly, I start having 5,000 roomates a week, sharing bathrooms with tons of people…”

It was time for a change. “I had done everything I could in New York and I realized that all the sky-rises were going up on Kent Avenue, where I was, and everything had changed in the seven years I was there. And…I didn’t expect to stay in Michigan for more than a couple months when I came back…”

The problem was, Stanton moved back home to Detroit during the peak of the Great Recession. “And I realized that this was my opportunity to do something more with my life: buy a house, set up my future and just wait for the apocalypse.” That house that he bought, of course, was soon outfitted with a recording studio.

The joke was, of course, that if Stanton couldn’t figure anything out by the time he moved back to Detroit, then he’d just have to… “…turn to crime,” instead.

Now, Awesome Color’s sound was fast, vigorous and loud; it was heavy on guitars and grit, bass and bellicose undertones, with drums that wanted to just keep on driving…There were distinct dynamics to the grooves though, with fills and seething solos that might set them apart from just another MC5-inspired ruckus-type rock band, even if, to no avail, that’s how they were often categorized.

But Turn To Crime, particularly here on its debut, is a ganglier creature, something fantastic and weird that grimaces as it grins, fogging melodies with distortion and sandblasting its hooky guitar riffs with reverb. It’s not new-wave, but it’s almost like Industrial-Pop. It’s nihilistic, yet has intangible charisma.

Stanton’s raspy vocals seem to surf upon the rhythms and the guitars flit into impulsive bursts at the refrains. You’d have to go back to the primordial muck of The Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run” or maybe a more melody-insistent Thee Oh Sees to find any comparably unconventional psych-sounding schema.

And yet, Turn To Crime’s first initial releases back in 2013 were being categorized as “garage rock.” Maybe that’s still just a Detroit thing. “Turn To Crime’s only inspiration is to be different from anything I’ve ever heard. It’s not even taking influence of other bands; I’m just taking my personal experience and doing the opposite.”

Still, the whole process of songwriting and performance, for Turn To Crime, “…is crazy.” Stanton is currently working with his longtime friend and collaborator Ian Saylor, along with Chris Campbell (from the Johnny Ill band). 

Click here to download 2 free albums from Turn To Crime

It was a significant change of lifestyle for Stanton, re-situating back here in Michigan a few years ago, away from the big buildings and bluster of Brooklyn and into his first actual house (that he’s made into a home recording studio) in Southwest Detroit. No more tiring tours, no more sharing bathrooms, no more subways. Not much to be distracted by, really – so he’s been able to slowly, patiently save up and set up his record label, (Mugg & Bopp). He had his first records pressed at Archer (on Davison St) and printed the covers at VGKids (in Ypsilanti), later packing up the cover art himself.

“If I was going to do this, I thought, I wanted to keep all my money local and do everything in Michigan,” said Stanton.

Towards the end of our interview, he says something, with a subtle, confident smile, what sounds like a modus operandi, “there are no rules.” Turn To Crime, he said, is always subject to change and will be whatever Stanton wants it to be; consistently stretching in every directing as a means of Stanton and, now, by extension, Foerg and Saylor, stretching (or challenging) themselves. There are no rules.

 “I have no ambition to just sit down and write a rock song,” he says. “I have no ambition to sit down to write with any preconceived notion. “ The Crime, you could say, is not premeditated.