I'm not talking about quality but about commitment. About courage, really. Because let's be honest, the rest of us are just hiding -- underneath layers of detachment, irony, silliness, whatever. Our lives are ruled by fear and our music shows it. There is a ridiculous amount of talent floating around in this dying city of ours and there's no need to diminish the worth of what everybody else is doing in the name of fun and fashion. But Randy Chabot has really drawn a line in the sand, whether he knows it or not. There is Deastro...and there is everybody else.
I'm not talking about genre. Like dramas vs. comedies. I really think it's more than that, because even comedies have to commit to work. Even dance-punk, afrobeat, space rock and bar blues bands need to give themselves over to pure physicality. The Deastro performance I saw last night was of a man completely losing himself --and I can't remember the last time I saw that on a Detroit stage, whatever the style. When I watch the cutest of the cute hipster detachment rock band, when I read the coolest of the cool ironic and above-it-all inside jokey blog writing (God, can that tone just die already?), I see fear and insecurity. I see people short changing their own expression because they're afraid of what people will think if they put their real feelings out there. I see this because I feel it, too, and it holds me back. And when I watched Deastro last night I saw fear there, too, but also someone confronting those fears, and themselves, and writhing with it in the musical moment.
It all seems to be about distance, and about needing less of it. This was my first chance to see the new Deastro full band lineup and I was a little dissapointed at first. As I watched from the back of the semi-cavernous K of C Hall, I felt no connection with what I was hearing. If the band has a weakness, it's that it's always on 10 -- all four members playing at full intensity all of the time. Randy's baritone could barely peak through a sea of sound like that and only crested occasionally over the mix like some kind of joyful dolphin. But then I walked through the crowd to stand five feet from the stage and the show became a living, sweating thing. I could see that I and everybody else in the room were merely peripheral to him and that he had gone somewhere else. And so then I got lost, too. It was that simple. And it hit me, how fucking sick I am of detachment culture.
Randy might not be the most brilliant or original artist in my city (or maybe he is; it doesn't matter) but he gets lost in what he does and that puts him in a separate class from the rest of us. It's not a new idea. Commitment is the engine of the stuff that lasts and if we're honest with ourselves, we prefer emotion over style every time. I am really glad that there is at least one band in Detroit to remind us of it.
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