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Hamtramck Music Festival 2017 has stuffed itself into nearly two dozen venues with 180 musical acts. In its third year, the festival, which runs from Thursday, March 2 to Sunday, March 5, has grown to become the premier locals-only music festival in metro Detroit.
The festival celebrates Detroit's varied and vibrant local scene, while also serving a cool cause. Whether you see 30 acts or one, entrance is $10 for a wristband that covers all four days. All proceeds go to Ben's Encore, a local nonprofit that provides instruments, music lessons, and scholarships to inspired young musicians and underserved school music programs.
Food trucks will be on hand, and there will be shuttles between some of the venues. For full venue and show information, see hamtramckmusicfestival.com.
Rising up (like a 16-inch deluxe with everything on it) from the ashes of a failed prog rock band, Doctor Pizza emerged in 2010 when bandmates Steve Ponce and Elliot Rovinsky began to play on their own. Soon spontaneous, informal jam sessions turned into actual songwriting and what was once just a strange, unique bass and drum duo transformed into a "garage jazz" band, adding in keyboardist Jim Stevenson (who looks, according to the band, like Luke Wilson; they're not wrong, though) to the mix, and culminating in 2015's Doctor Pizza, which featured a whole bunch of additional musicians to help fill out the band's sound. The band is all instrumental, and they definitely sound like they could become an NPR Music favorite down the road, because they're just so damn jazzy (not in a Kenny G way, don't worry). They're one of the most unique bands in Detroit right now, because how often do you come across a garage jazz band? Not often. — Debbie Miszak
Doctor Pizza plays Bumbo's on Friday, March 3 at 11:30 p.m.; 3001 Holbrook Ave., Hamtramck.
If you're looking to dance, head over to the Whiskey in the Jar on Friday to see the Dropout. Formerly of local electropop duo Nigel & the Dropout, Andrew Ficker transfers the glitz and glory of his old band to his new solo project. The Dropout cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre, and while his sound ranges anywhere from math-rock to dance-punk, you can guarantee that whatever he does is absolutely enthralling. With only a handful of tracks to his name right now, Ficker is preparing to release a full debut EP as the Dropout later this year. However, when you see cheeky song titles such as "For Funk's Sake" and "One Man Pizza Party," you can already pick up on Ficker's irresistible energy.
The Dropout's debut show in January took place at a packed-out El Club show, joined by fellow Assemble producer-in-residence Humons. Spirits were high and everyone was moving as Ficker shredded through song after song, saxophone in hand and mashing keys. Sporting a flashy light show, a sea of balloons, and his very own fire dancer, there's no doubting that Ficker puts great thought into his performances. Surely he has some equally bizarre and thrilling surprises in store for his show this weekend. — John Struman
The Dropout plays Whiskey in the Jar on Friday, March 3 at 9:30pm; 2741 Yemans St., Hamtramck.
Not only are Foster Muldoon one of the newest bands to grace this year's lineup, they're bound to be one of the most unique things you'll hear all weekend. A trio made up of Cameron Lollio (aka Dados) on guitar/vocals, Ryan McKeon (aka Claw) on banjo, and Abigail Grace (aka Fist) on violin, Foster Muldoon craft a brand of R&B-infused bluegrass all their own, or "Michigan downgrass," as they call it. The three convened in a cramped living room all throughout 2016, and after a handful of promising jam sessions decided to take the project to the next level.
More recently, Foster Muldoon played to a full room at the Plymouth Coffee Bean. Their downtempo grooves and robust folk songs resonated deeply with the crowd, and the same is likely to take place at their set at Bumbo's this weekend. Above all else, Foster Muldoon is a true embodiment of the creative spirit. In pairing two unlikely genres together to forge their sound, the trio sparks the type of curiosity that makes discovering new bands so exciting. Although they don't have any music released just yet, check out their set and stay tuned for more details if you like what you hear. — John Struman
Foster Muldoon plays Bumbo's on Saturday, March 4 at 9:30 p.m.; 3001 Holbrook Ave., Hamtramck.
Isles of ESP
If you're not careful, it's all too easy to miss some of the best music in the city. Isles of ESP is exemplary of that — there's hardly anything to be found about the group online, beyond some videos and a self-titled album of richly orchestrated jazz-infused rock you can listen to on SoundCloud.
While their live shows are in the mode of a rock band, the album is a bit different. A special moment in frontman Eric Dilworth's history, it was recorded a few years ago when he happened to have access to a number of musicians with whom he was able to realize a bigger sound than is possible in the basic rock setting. The result is sweeping and lovely, as emotionally intense as it is sonically pretty.
The band's current lineup is Dilworth on guitar and vocals, Matt Leuke on bass, Keith Bedore on guitar, and Dilworth's longtime music partner Justin Walker on drums. Dilworth and Walker, in fact, grew up together on Detroit's east side and have been playing together for years, although the band was not officially formed until 2008.
Growing up listening to blues, R&B, Motown, hip-hop, and rock 'n' roll all paved the path for Dilworth's musical growth, but it was free jazz that helped remind him not to be afraid of fearless expression. And sure, you may not hear that specific influence in the live performance, but you will definitely feel it in the energy.
Keep an eye on Isles of ESP; the warmer months should hopefully bring a tour, rediscovery of new sounds, and the release of an EP containing several songs they've been playing live for some time. — Ana Gavrilovska
Isles of ESP plays P.L.A.V. Post #10 for Hamtramck Music Festival on Saturday, March 4 at midnight; 11824 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck.
Falling somewhere between the beachy psychedelia of MGMT and lounge-rock vibes of The Sea and Cake, Detroit "sex pop" duo Mango Lane flaunt a sound as sweet as their name suggest. Fronted by Austin Carpenter and Jack Engwall, Mango Lane is a relatively newer band with just a pair of EPs under their belt. Liquid Love and TV Feelings were both released just last year, and while the band only has a dozen songs to their name right now, they've played an onslaught of shows in the past couple years.
Among their most recent performances was one back in February at the Loving Touch, opening for Valley Hush. With a string of holiday lights adorning the stage and a glossy plastic mannequin between them, Carpenter and Engwall made their most of their 30-minute set. From elaborate new material to live staples from the EPs, the band tore through each song in an engrossing performance. Mango Lane's level of charisma and stage presence places them as a prime selection for the festival circuit. The sound these two possess shows great promise, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them blow up to a larger pop audience in the next year or so. –John Struman
Mango Lane plays New Dodge Lounge on Saturday, March 4 at 11 p.m.; 8850 Joseph Campau Ave., Hamtramck.
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- The Messenger Birds.
The Messenger Birds
The Messenger Birds' Parker Bengry and Chris Williams are a heavy, bluesy, sometimes punk-ish, sometimes Americana duo who have been at it since 2014, although the two friends met in high school over a decade ago. Last year, they told the Detroit Free Press that they were influenced as teens by the Dead Kennedys, Rage Against the Machine, and Brand New (which are all pretty different bands). Listening to their only album, The Good Years, you don't hear those bands coming at you, though. What you hear is a duo that in the same vein as rockers Royal Blood manages to create a sound so huge and immersive, you think you're hearing a four-piece at the least. They are raucous live, with a raw stage presence and a fuzzy garage rock sound reminiscent of Nirvana's live On the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah album. In fact, The Messenger Birds often give off a '90s alternative rock vibe, but in a thoroughly modern way. Every song the band has is solid, but "Everybody Knows It" and "Big Brother" stand out as examples of their absolute best work. — Debbie Miszak
The Messenger Birds play Whiskey in the Jar for Hamtramck Music Festival on Saturday, March 4 at 12 a.m.; 2741 Yemans St., Hamtramck.
Remote Viewing Party
Techno can be melodic, it can be minimal, it can be hard and cold; vibrant and full of emotion. Packed in the digitalized and synthesized production, techno can be a glorious journey of the human condition. Why the heartfelt introduction? I'm currently listening to Remote Viewing Party's SoundCloud to tell you exactly why you should go see him and I am feeling all sorts of glorious feels within his sparse arrangements; grimy, yet delicate sounds designed to poke tired brains out of their slumber and help them focus on focusing more. It's a bit like Mozart, but techno. Have we said too much? As resident DJ at TV Lounge, Remote Viewing Party (aka Mike Petrack) has had plenty of opportunity to work these tunes out. These are tunes that speak to both to thoughtful minds and those looking to let loose and escape into machine music bliss. But if you have yet to be one of those bodies, I suggest you pull yourself up and out your winter depression and go get you some techno therapy via, this guy: Remote Viewing Party. — Rai Skotarczyk
Remote Viewing Party plays the Polish Village Café on Friday, March 3 at 11 p.m.; 2990 Yemans St., Hamtramck.
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- Rogue Satellites
Jaye Thomas and Lisa Poszywak started playing together in the intergalactic, dark post-punk duo known as Rogue Satellites in 2011, and have been putting fans into synthesizer-induced trances ever since. 2015's Bees and Snakes continues the group's penchant for weird, melodic, 1960s pop-inspired tunes. Their first album together, Other Angels, set a pretty high precedent as to where the group was headed, but they have not shown any signs of deterioration as the years have passed, and some would argue that not only was Bees and Snakes equal to Other Angels, but that it was better. In addition to creating some pretty trippy music with Rogue Satellites, Thomas and Poszywak run Corktown Studios, an exhibition space in North Corktown. Poszywak, a College for Creative Studies graduate, started off as a visual artist and that's translated well for her as a performer as part of Rogue Satellites. They are definitely something to see live, with a bunch of synths and amps to give their sound a wholesome, larger-than-life transcendental feel. Poszywak can rock out on a kalimba (a percussive instrument that's sort of like a xylophone) live, and both of their vocals are rad, with Thomas taking the lead at most times. They're pretty polished live, and they sound super similar to their records. — Debbie Miszak
Rogue Satellites play Polish Sea League on Friday, March 3 at midnight; 2601 Edwin St., Hamtramck.
If you're looking for a unique spin on techno, SuperDre will deliver with her tried and true blend of minimal tech, electro, retro, and deep house. A pioneer in her own right, SuperDre's was instrumental in reviving the electronic scene in Grand Rapids, holding down a weekly at the popular club Billy's for years. Classically trained, she's band nerd at heart with a major in music business and has no shortage accomplishments. From producer, actress, and all-around hustler, SupreDre is a true force to be reckoned with. She was voted the area's DJ of the Year in 2009 and top 10 most influential out of the region. Oh yeah, and she really knows how to fill a dance floor. Splitting her time between touring the world and building an empire, SupreDre is one of the hardest working DJs you'll meet. Detroit, her second home, has always been a source of inspiration and she's certainly no stranger to the scene. She cites influences like Cybotron, Missy Elliott, Magda, Loco Dice, Daft Punk, and Claude VonStroke. And all of that should give a decent indication of what to expect from a SuperDre set. — Rai Skotarczyk
SuperDre plays the Polish Village Café on Friday, March 3 at 11:30 p.m.; 2990 Yemans St, Hamtramck.
Literally translating to "late evening song," Vespre is the twilit solo venture of Detroit singer-songwriter Kaylan Waterman. Having worked most notably as frontwoman of the Normandies, Waterman pivots from her folk roots to pursue a more soulful sound. Last month, her debut single as Vespre titled "Siren" saw release, defined as "a song about the connection between balance, courage, and grace." Truthfully, Vespre is an elegant embodiment of all three of these traits, and Waterman is an unstoppable creative force with bold character. Ethereal synth tones and R&B grooves cradle the listener and whisk them away to a lush soundscape of Waterman's invention.
The very first Vespre show took place back in February at the Old Miami. Joined by fellow Detroit artists RV Mendoza and Tim Schumack, Waterman put on an arresting performance, her heavenly voice soaring throughout the room and stealing the hearts of many. Last summer, she also featured on Kaleb the Intern's debut single "Someday" as part of Assemble Sound's "Sunday Songs" series. While Waterman has hinted on social media that new Vespre material will roll out very soon, be sure to check out her performance this weekend if you find yourself itching for more. –John Struman
Vespre plays PLAV Post #10 for Hamtramck Music Festival on Friday, March 3 at 10 p.m.; 11824 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck.
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- Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band.
Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band
In May of 2010 Jheremie Jaque (Disinformants, Lizzerd), Helmut Aretz, Nick Leu, and Jim Donovan were brought together through faith, trust, and a Craigslist ad to form the righteous, anti-folk, indie-rock delicacy now known as Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band. Their second album, 夢(Yume, which means "dream" in Japanese) was released this past November, a low-fi journey through heartache, silliness, and, at one point, a theremin (played by Jonathan Berz on the sad, sweet, and angsty "Security Blanket"). The album definitely is dreamy, but it's way more rock 'n' roll and versatile than 2012's The Woolgathering, which was pretty darn swell. Their live shows are pretty fun, and you get to see Jaque's Napoleon Dynamite-meets-hipster-esque aesthetic in person. The band look like genuine friends when they're up on stage and in the witty video for "I Need Drugs." Jaque has stayed busy since that fateful May, when two years later in another May he helped to form Disinformants, which is another awesome band, but is radically different from Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band, focusing more of their sound towards garage rock and '90s grunge themes. — Debbie Miszak
Zombie Jesus and the Chocolate Sunshine Band plays Planet Ant Hall on Thursday, March 2 at 9:30 p.m.; 2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck; planetant.com.