Friday night found me catching the last few songs of Carjack's set. Beginning to like him more and more. As a wise man once said, you can't have Detroit without a good carjack. There was a brief moment where his backing track was a spot-on replica of Suicide's drum machine sound. I first had that feeling when some DJ in Europe played Dead Combo's "You Don't Look So Good" (an overlooked classic if there ever was) and you think it'd happen a lot more. But it doesn't. Good for us. Check out CJ's cd-r/demo/whatever and dig on the total Kraftwerk instrumental of "Carbot's Departure"...beautifully sparse and pastoral in an unexpected yet totally welcome change of pace or "departure." Get it?
The Terrible Twos wreaked havoc after that. I can safely say that the Garden Bowl lounge has, pound for pound, hosted an overwhelming majority of my favorite shows in this town. Greenhornes on Superbowl Sunday '99 (2 sets), Soledad Brothers where Swank handed me the drumstix, Clone Defects a billion times, John Gillis solo '01, a rare Patrick Keeler-Tim Vulgar-Jack White jam session from some long-forgotten date in 2001 as well as my first-ever vocal performance, while on drums, doing "Stormy" by the Jesters of Newport.
So the Twos were on and the freaks came out. Within the first thirty seconds of the first song the overzealous security goon had kicked out Colin of the Frustrations for punk shit...you know, pogoing, slamming, whatever it is the kids are calling it these days. More than a few people were awkwardly hoisted over-head in an almost stationary crowd surf precariously trying to avoid the ever-present ceiling fan. This is the way and place that I like to see shows.
And apparently the owners have taken note. I've been told the Garden Bowl will start having more consistent free shows in their lounge. It's more likely to be shows that would usually be upstairs at the Stick and draw 50 people. So instead of constantly reliving that miserable prospect, bands will get paid a flat fee, people will get in for free, the club will rely on bigger bar receipts and in the end EVERYONE enjoys the evening so much more.
The Go did their thing upstairs at the Stick. I kinda prefer when Bobby's just singing. His guitar playing is nothing bad, but the guitar itself is so unpowerful and forgettable. I can't help but worry that the rest of the world will never truly understand or appreciate the genius of these guys. I truly hope they discover their place, because the world needs more bands with their skill and determination. Seeing them in bigger spaces leads me to wonder whether their better-suited as a 5-piece. However, when the crash into "Meet Me at the Movies" no one seems to care and for a brief moment it's as if everything is perfect.
While my personal coney preference is clearly Duly's in Southwest Detroit, my after-show go-to is always American Coney Island. Forget that Mack Rice supposedly wrote "Mustang Sally" at Lafayette. Forget that Lafayette is supposedly where Fred and Patti Smith met. There's no feeling in that place. Too often an old restaurant or club or hotel is trumpeted for the fact that it hasn't changed, that it's been the same since the Thirties or whatever. Half the time that's a good thing. But on Lafayette, I call bullshit. It is uncomfortable, small and sub-par. And the place doesn't even stay open 24 hours! It's no contest. I prefer the sophistication that comes with American's Flatiron-esque vista of two avenues meeting at a V. I can get past the gaudy sports-bar decoration of the place and long for the time when a place naming itself "American" was a sign of pride. Disagree? Bring it on in the comments.
Saturday started at the CAID and the pushed-back scheduling left me having to endure the last half of the Nice Device. How do you type the sound a yawn makes? They sound like bland, sanitized 89x modern rock. Which is good for them, because that has to be what they're going for, as there's no way such mediocrity can be confused for anything else. Didn't the singer used to be in some Indigo Girls folk act?
Following that lameness was the long-awaited return of SSM. I was really slow to warm to this band when they started up two years ago. My initial sentiment was that I'd rather see each one of the band members in their previous/other band....John in the Hentchmen, Marty with the Cyril Lords and Shettler in the classic Sights three-piece line-up. I passed up a chance to put out a 7" by them because I just wasn't "feeling it." That was my loss.
With time, their self-titled album has grown on me like ivy at Wrigley Field. The first three songs (which were the proposed 7" tunes) are flawless and the memorable moments do not stop there. The craft behind songs like "Dinosaur" and "2012" as well as "Sick" is phenomenal and the whole thing is easily one of the best full-lengths to emerge from Detroit in the past 10 years.
Their performance was solid. All the old songs held their weight. Was glad to see Shettler without the drum machine, but then thought that the newer songs sounded a bit thin in the rhythm department. I'm also a fan of them without the light show. Focus on the tunes and the crowd will focus on you. Dare I say I'm excited to hear what their upcoming full-length has to offer.
Walked in halfway through the Mahonies' Garden Bowl set. I'd first been hipped to these guys last year when word on the street was that they'd be doing an impromptu guerrilla gig through an unguarded power supply at Tastefest. Some douche told me the wrong time and I missed it. So this would be my first time seeing the Mahonies and it was perfection. I'd missed the band-sponsored coney eating contest (won by Hunter Muldoon with a respectable four coney dogs downed) but was otherwise wowed with their otherworldly absurdly dumb genius. Like the Ramones, the Stooges, the Sneaky Pinks before them...you either get it instantly or are perpetually confused. And a song written about Clone Defects bassist Chuck Fogg? Unreal! I must've had 4 different people come up to tell me the Mahonies were their new favorite band. And I'm in agreement with them. I got to get them on Cass...it should be possible to fit 8 songs on one side of a 45.
Freer upstairs was horrid. Someone mentioned to me that they'd seen lots of bands lately with a piano-playing lead singer. Interested and thinking they'd meant local bands, I inquired "Really?" to which they replied, "Yeah. Coldplay, Keane..." And that's the unfavorable company I would lump Freer in with. And in a lot of ways, I love this.
I love the fact that I've been hearing about this band for God-knows how long and keep making that mental note that I still need to check them out. Even if what I've read about them has failed to intrigue me or spark my interest, I still gotta know what's up, in my own opinion, on my own terms, for my own sake. So to finally see this band and be able to say in my own voice that they are shitty...nothing beats that. Still on the to-see-if-they're-shitty list: Johnny Headband, Bang Bang, Ghost City and a ton of other shit that is most-likely shitty.
The unexpected (unexplained?) return of Ko and the Knockouts drew a sizable crowd at the Stick. The Decks crew were up front in full-effect and singing and dancing like the lovable fools they are. Eddie Baranek is surprisingly captivating onstage when he's not drunk off his ass. Ko was a little spotty at first, but eventually found her footing.
Good heckles heard were: as Ko said "This many people didn't like us when we were really a band..." to which some smartass replied "We still don't!" and when Baranek introduced a song as being "written in my US History after 1945 class" a razor-witted one remarked "Get your degree!" And that is my new favorite band taunt. Get a degree. Don't hesitate to use it. Steve Nawara joined for the last few songs and they ended with "Black and Blue" their best-known song as featured on the Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit compilation that no one ever got paid for.
Downstairs immediately afterwards were the Frustrations. While the crowd reaction was tepid (most likely in response to the same overzealous security guard from the previous night in attendance) it did not keep this collection of weirdos from destroying. When they cruised into "Exploding Mind" I moved more than I would all weekend. Dancy? Calypso? Is Dunkerly finally listening to some Fire*Eater drumming? Either way, shit was tits.
Random unsolicited Matt Smith comment:
"It's like (GI) meets Band of Gypsies"
And allow me a brief aside on the topic of unsolicited Matt Smith comments. Matt is always coming up with these zany pairings of bands to try and describe something. I think the first one I ever was privy to was him comparing the Buzzards to Motorhead and the Velvet Underground, and I'm sure they were doing something like having a tea party in Valhalla or some bullshit. The thing is, whenever Matt makes these distinctions, while he may be somewhat close to describing the sound, he just sounds so asinine that I can't help and discredit EVERYTHING he says afterwards. He's so immersed in obscure records and recordings to notice the obvious and likely comparisons for bands. And, for some reason, this really irritates me.
Anyway, to end their set, Colin from the Frustrations climbs on a chair and smacks his guitar down on a cocktail table. He breaks a few bottles, nothing crazy, but nevertheless a good ending exclamation point for the show that would ultimately end in utter mayhem.
The previously-mentioned overzealous security guard took this as an affront and overreacted. He was closely followed by an heretofore unmentioned security guard (it's worth mentioning both of these guys are pretty damned new to the job). One of them goes after Colin and the other grabs his guitar. Big no-no. Don't ever touch anyone else's guitar even when they let you. Let alone some burly dude who's probably never held one before and is likely to break the instrument that Colin built himself.
Chris Campbell of the Terrible Twos (essentially big brother to the Frustrations guys) calmly tries to grab the guitar back and this other security guard flies off the handle. He grabs Chris, starts unnecessarily pushing him out the door where Chris is clearly willing to do so of his own volition. I got in the guy's face for a second and said "You need to chill out" and was fucking scared to shit. He had the crazy-eyed stare and I backed off. While still being pushed out the door Chris spit in his face and shit went nuts.
The security guard immediately threw a punch at Campbell, grazing his head. The force of the blow jarred Chris' head backwards and that, coupled with the subsequent follow-through of the punch, shattered the glass on the front door to the Magic Stick.
Chris continued to leave (as it was clear he was already set to do) and the security guard was flying off the handle at this point, chasing Chris down the street and very audibly threatening to kill him. The other security guard at this point was attempting to restrain the unruly one. It was kinda funny, if only for a second.
A mass of people crowded outside but nothing much happened from there. Chris was fine, a small knot on his forehead was practically unnoticeable. The bouncer was rightly fired on the spot and the higher-ups at the club planned an upcoming meeting on how to deal with punk rock situations.
Aftershow back at the CAID and I finally got to check out this Charlie Slick that all the kids are talking about. While the performance was a tad engaging (flashing lights, bubble machine, confetti), the music was god-awful. I've got no stomach for the mid-80's UK fey electro-pop, let alone a tired re-hash of it twenty years late. I understand people want to dance and believe in something, but the singer's voice is static and unremarkable while his dance moves are high school drama club embarrassing. Too often something is touted just for being different or original without taking a step back for some perspective. And that seems to be the case with Charlie Slick.
As for Detour itself...I don't know what to make of it. It's basically a Detroit-centric website full of pop culture detritus. Movies, music, television...I guess they took their cue from the It Came From Culture City blog. It's cool to have a website that puts on shows and will be somewhat active in promoting cultural happenings in this town, but in the end, I still prefer Steve-O.