Music » Local Music

All the young dudes


This past Saturday, the Wonder Twins headed to Small's in Hamtramck for the long-awaited return of Detroit electronica-pop sensations Johnny Headband. Office and the Pop Project rounded out the bill. The Detroit-area Bangladeshi population also turned out in droves … but apparently, this was unrelated.

When we got to Small's, I was really surprised to see they'd set up a stage outside — I mean, I knew people were excited since Johnny Headband hadn't played a show in a year, but blocking off the street seemed a bit much.

Laura: As you soon realized, though, and ages after the rest of the world did, that wasn't for Johnny Headband. That was the Bangladeshi Festival.

D'Anne: Yeah. I thought it was strange that so many Johnny Headband fans would be dressed in saris — if anything, I'd expect them to be sporting headbands, you know.

Laura: Right. Well, it was fun to walk around the festival for a while before the show. Although I was a little surprised that so many of the food vendors were selling hamburgers and hot dogs. And cotton candy! 

D'Anne: And so much light-up merchandise. Light-up swords, glasses, personal fans and some weird pulsating butterfly-on-a-stick. I thought I was at a rave.

Laura: Seriously. I am pretty sure these were the same vendors at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. 

D'Anne: Small's was a cool venue — I'd actually never been there before.

Laura: I really like it. Plus, I figured it would be the perfect place for a new mom like you out on the town to celebrate the birth of her son last week.

D'Anne: And it was! There was positive affirmation graffiti scrawled all over the walls of the bathroom! Sure, there was your typical, "Fuck you, cunt!" But then, there was also "You are beautiful" and "Enjoy the finer things in life — chocolate cake and candy bars."

Laura: I'm glad it made you feel special. I'm sure the woman who pontificated about candy and cake did so in the hopes of brightening some stranger's day. Or at least their Small's bathroom experience.

D'Anne: Anyway, while Office was on, I thought to myself, "This is a good band for me to be seeing right now. A bunch of handsome dudes playing music that I like. Maybe my son will grow up and be in a band like this."

Laura: I liked them a lot. I particularly liked the fact that all the band members loosely adhered to an "office wear" dress code.

D'Anne: Right. Everybody had on a tie or a sports coat, even if they also had on jeans or a T-shirt. Like they all worked at a place that had a very relaxed casual Friday policy.

Laura: Their band name naturally makes me think of the TV show The Office. It was an association that was strengthened by the fact the bass player was dressed exactly like Jim Halpert.

D'Anne: Well, that is how you tricked me into leaving my house less than a week after the birth of my son. When you said we were going to see "the office" play, I thought Scrantonicity was in town.

Laura: Well, whatever works.

D'Anne: Turns out Office is a much better band. Listening to them, I heard traces of XTC and a little bit of Nada Surf going on there. Although I don't know if they'll think that's a flattering comparison, since I might be the only person left who likes Nada Surf.

Laura: Also the only person left who likes the Wallflowers.

D'Anne: Other people like the Wallflowers!

Laura: You keep telling yourself that. At least I'm not alone in liking the Pop Project. It was great to finally see them live again. They were one of the first Detroit bands I saw after moving back to Detroit last year.

D'Anne: I remember you bringing their CD home when I let you and your dog live in my spare bedroom. I liked the song "House of Books" — both because it is awesome and also because I am a nerd about reading.

Laura: You are a nerd about reading.

D'Anne: I like how everybody sings in the band. That they're so, you know, harmonizing

Laura: I love the '70s pop stylings — I never thought I'd like a band that reminds me of Chicago.

D'Anne: Last night, the '70s influence was emanating primarily from [guitarist] Dave Lawson's pants.

Laura: Those were some pants! I could see people in the audience singing along, so we clearly weren't the only people into their set. [Keyboardist-vocalist] Zach Curd attempted some sort of audience participation Twitter experiment that had the kids whipping out their phones. It was fun.

D'Anne: There was a really long break between the Pop Project and Johnny Headband. After a while, I was convinced the stall was due to the incorporation of live animals — maybe seals — into their comeback set. I thought maybe I even saw one.

Laura: That was due to your deliriously tired "I'm a new mom" state. There were no seals.  I called costumes and I was right.

D'Anne: By the time they took the stage, the place was packed and the audience was totally excited.

Laura: Brothers Keith and Chad Thompson came out onstage dressed all in white — very Miami Vice. The drummer was the only member actually wearing a headband.

D'Anne: [Vocalist-keyboardist-guitarist] Chad Thompson reminded me of a hybrid of David Byrne, Steve Carell and Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch.

Laura: Well, between [bassist-guitarist] Keith Thompson and [Pop Project's] Will Yates, Saturday night at Small's was an evening of awesome '70s bass lines. 

D'Anne: More bands need to have synchronized dance moves! 

Laura: Agreed: Their signature move seemed to be scissor leg jumps done in tandem.

D'Anne: The way people were singing along and dancing and having what appeared to be an unselfconsciously good time, it was hard to remember we were at an indie rock show. 

Laura: True — it's always nice to be surrounded by people who show genuine affection and enthusiasm for bands they love. Although alcohol consumption clearly helped get some folks to that point.

D'Anne: I was completely sober and they won me over. 

Laura: Well, delirium is probably close to drunk. Or maybe close to tripping on 'shrooms. I'm not really sure.

D'Anne: Johnny Headband is playing the DIY Festival in Ferndale in September, and by then, the baby should be totally self-sufficient and able to take care of himself, so I'll be back to getting normal rest.

Laura: Um …

D'Anne: I'm kidding, of course. They are not self-sufficient until they are toddlers. I've read the books.

Laura: Right. Well, I'm looking forward to seeing them again — and if the popularity of light-up items at the Bangladeshi festival is any indication, maybe they should pair up with a local indie crafter and sell light-up "Johnny Headbands."

D'Anne: Great. The audience will be filled with people who look like the Karate Kid on ecstasy.

Laura: Yes — and they can all be students in Johnny Headband's psychotropic dojo.

D'Anne: "Johnny Headband — the ultimate good times sensei!"

D'Anne and Laura Witkowski are music critics for the Metro Times. Send comments to

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