"My dick hurts!" said a young and tubby drunk on a crammed-beyond-capacity Blowout courtesy tram. He teetered on his feet and fisted a quarter-full Molson. "It's got a dingleberry hair caught in it, whoo-hooooooooo ... Owwwweeee!" Pop punk matriarch Nikki Corvette, sitting sniffing distance from the galling goob, lifted her thin eyebrows and chirped, "Yeah, he's gonna get laid." Maybe he did; maybe it was with the two chicks who flashed hasty tit at the Hard Lessons show?
And so it was the Hamtramck Blowout version 9.0 or as beautifully dubbed by Creem editor/MT contributor Brian Bowe, "the Hamtramck Mardi Gras." To be sure, a couple hundred bands and artists in 20 clubs and ad hoc venues over three nights (well, four) within skipping distance of each other is a thing of glory. As in past fests, the Blowout singed eyebrows, stiffened nips, played havoc with liver levels and reduced voices to coarse rasps. Early estimates put the number of attendees at more than 8,000. Here are a few fly-by dibble-dabbles of Blowout shows.
Wednesday night: Launch party at the Majestic complex: Does Team Dorkwave have officially licensed groupies? It seems every time the DJ crew spins, there's a pocket of giggly young things right up front. They were there at Wednesday's Blowout preparty, interchangeably hot like paper dolls cut from 30 years of music history. A new wave girl, a punk rock girl, a goth girl, a techno girl come to think of it, maybe there's one for every genre the Dorkwavers mash up. On Wednesday it was Prince's "When Doves Cry" that lit the Garden Bowl on fire. Following the fizzy and hum-along frolic of Loretta and the Larkspurs, we looked on in awe as Raw Collection's meaty beat and literate rhyme bang did a laudable job of making a notoriously "too cool to dance" set explore the boundaries of their comfort zones.
Across the way in the Majestic, the Holy Fire ratcheted down on an already tight set, playing with an intensity that got everyone's attention in the chatty room. Two comely Neutrogena models-in-training behind Hit Singles were particularly taken. "That singer is sooooo cute," one of them cooed, and we could actually hear Sean Hoen roll his eyes at that. If cute is the new black, Johnny Headband are ninjas. The electroshlock combo is a powerhouse with their expanded membership, as they proved during the party's finale in the Magic Stick Headband have become not just a band, but a weird kind of force. Really, they make running in place for 40 minutes to the pulse of a Roland keyboard feel like the most natural thing in the world.
Thursday night: Paycheck's wasn't packed for the night's first slot, but that didn't stop Mason Proper from bursting like a chaotic pop happy bomb. There seemed to be hundreds of limbs and beards on stage, and the Ypsilanti band's songs lurched amicably between thick-thumbed Weezer power chords and flights of psychedelic or otherwise fuzzy fancy. Marie & Francis (and friends) were next with a set of brittle, halting pop. They're like fawns from the womb, this band, searching for their footing while relying on their cuteness. The Fags don't have to rely on cuteness. Headlining the Knights of Columbus hall Thursday night, the trio delivered a set of spunky, undeniably fun power-pop for a room that unfortunately was but a quarter full. Where was everyone? Not only did you miss a local trio at the top of its game, but what might be one of all-time best Blowout tearjerker storylines. Midway through the Fags' set, singer-guitarist John Speck called 12-year-old Beth Watson on stage, the band's No. 1 fan who was visiting from Chicago. She was just a slip of a thing in an oversized Fags T-shirt, but when Watson joined Speck on vocals for "List," there wasn't a dry eye in the K of C. Aside to everyone who stayed home Thursday night make way for rock's next generation.
Velvet Audio drew impressive numbers, considering theirs was an early set at the New Dodge. They even voiced grievances to MT for the early slot. All we have to say is this: Keep up this pace and you'll be wherever you want to be this time next year, pal.
Sean Hoen's acoustic set at the Painted Lady was a tad dry, compared to Wednesday night's incendiary Holy Fire show, but to see the furtive singer in an "intimate setting" gave a certain weight to his songs.
Then to Gore Gore Girls who, with the aid of Cyril Lords drummer Mayuko, are as cocksure as ever. Sure, there's a dude in tow now, but Nick Bataran's (ex-Back In Spades) cheekboned splendor and rock-star fringe complement Amy Gore and Hammer's "I will fuck you then kill you" persona.
Friday night: Hit Singles hit the Belmont only briefly, but it was long enough to get schooled by Country Bob & the Bloodfarmers. Leather, black muttonchops, punk, psychobilly and cynicism can we get all that mixed with whiskey in a to-go cup? At the Locker Room, the Frustrations seemed hopped up on anxiety and youthful energy, and it was fantastic. They'd stop playing after knifing the sides of another one of their revivalist punk yawps, and none of them would say anything, not even a mumbled "thanks a lot." It was like they were waiting for approval from the gaggle of hipsters and kids leaning on the Locker Room's paneled, rec-room walls. But the trio didn't need approval. With guitarist-vocalist Colin Simon falling off the stage while playing, and nervy forays into hardcore and unchecked noise, the Frustrations were at once formidable and rudderless. Besides, the two Polish ladies sitting near us clapped like proud grandmothers after each song. And if you win over the bar's regulars, what more do you need?
Rapper Fluent at Chill & Mingle dished academic and political verse to a crowd that grew from a handful to a full house in minutes. No thanks, though, to his co-emcee who to Fluent's good-hearted dismay made the performer an off-the-cuff wingman ... while on stage.
At Paycheck's, we somehow missed pint-sized Mojo pinups the Muldoons but did catch Hairshirt, who, by the way, just got signed. Theirs was a winning indie-experimental tumult that tickled the Paycheck's crowd pink. PA followed and kept the crowd tweaked until wee hours (kudos to PA for its Eno revamp in "The Fat Lady of Limbourg").
We arrived a few songs into Hellen's set at the New Dodge and immediately offered mental salutations to Hellen's lead guitar player, Charmain, a smokin' and skilled six-foot-plus ectomorph. And, uh, was the entire east side rock 'n' roll contingent at this show? Even old school east side "icon" Greasy Carlisi appeared to support the young things. OK, so maybe they're not the next Sleater-Kinney or Runaways in fact, maybe it's Kim Fowley that's missing. If they'd only peel back the Rock 101 sensibility to reveal what's really underneath, their days ahead might be strung out like pearls.
It's official: SSM are a hit. Small's was packed for the "super"-trio's show late Friday. But the squeeze was worth it to hear John Szymanski, Marty "Mother" Morris and Dave Shettler do the tighten up on stage, twining blues and '60s rock fringes into keyboard lines and ragged harmonies.
The New Dodge was barely standing after the Sights' headlining show. After opening with killer new songs, they yelled and bashed their way through a sweaty set that defied closing time. It was then that everyone realized there was still another day. Best scene: New Dodge house goddess Kathy Gordon atop the bar pouring with careful aim Grey Goose shooters into the mouths of patrons.
Saturday Night: It began at the homey Baker's Streetcar Lounge with an amazing set from the Dayton-Detroit five-piece Lonesome Tumblers. The Tumblers have everything volume and power chords worthy of Sugar, scenery-chewing vocals, guitar effects that make you woozy. And the Tumblers did it all under the watchful gaze of NHL great Rod Gilbert, staring down at the band from a faded Molson poster on the wall. Yes, the Lonesome Tumblers are Rod-approved. Pre-Blowout buzz had types picking Coke Dick Motorcycle Awesome as Saturday's must-see, if only because their name is so truly, mind-warpingly stupendous. But CDMA's aggressive smashup of screamo and metal overdrive has definitely grown more tuneful and dynamic since Blowout '05.
It was a softer story down at the quaint Joseph Campau lounge Jean's, where low lights and foil-lined bandstand gave the smart heartthrob pop of Jason Croff and his band a strange West Coast feel, as if Hit Singles would walk outside and find not a sturdy working-class enclave, but the yellowy warmness of a Silverlake night. Weird.
We missed Decibuilt, a new Thin Lizzy-apparent quartet up from Forge's ashes, but heard they stunned at Small's. We somehow dug Queen Bee's frivolous porno thump; the two-dick, two-tit trio had coarse command, which matched swimmingly Bee's up-skirt tease, fishnets and bottle blond assembly. Hence, Paychecks was stuffed with oogling dudes with greasy, beer-filled palms.
City Chicken Orchestra did one of the more inspirational shows at Kelly's Bar. Lead by spoken word dude Dan DeMaggio (full disclosure: DeMaggio is an MT contributor) whose Edward G. Robinson-diatribe-meets-dick-joke oeuvre is surprisingly musical. DeMaggio was backed by newly married local artists Graem Whyte and Faina Lermann; their Devo-esque keyboards and old-school Genesis bass riffs were a well-received change.
Daniel Johnson & the Black Pianos' turn at the New Dodge was worthy of attention. In fact, Johnson is austere and intelligent, but unpretentious; there's a vulnerability about Johnson that puts him on our Top Five Best Songsmiths in the D list.
At the sardine-tight Whiskey in the Jar, the violin-led Tone & Niche show was, in a word, passionate. This is what Blowout is all about bands like Tone & Niche, who are terribly underestimated and never get ink, blowing the doors off a tiny neighborhood dive bar to a frantic and frothy crowd of brand-new fans.
The family of recently deceased emcee-producer Jay Dee (aka J-Dilla) appeared in force at the Chill & Mingle to support DJ House Shoes' head-popping four-hour set. What was originally a typical Blowout festivity turned into a Dee celebration. In addition to Black Milk, Finale, Leaf Erikson and Slum Village originator Baatin the Slumlord, Dee's family greeted the large crowd, hugging those within arms' reach. The tiny stage was crammed; you could practically feel Dee's spirit, in part, no doubt, to Dee's mom and aunties cuttin' a rug as Shoes played pure Dilla all night long.
The grotesquely packed crowd at Kelly's spilled over into Human Eye and the audience pogo-ed and fell and shoved and laughed. Seasoned bartenders used to the post-shift American Axle worker crowd yelled "thank you!" to the odd assemblage of art rockers and squatter punks who gave full dollar tips on their $1.50 cans of beer.
Hard Lessons at the Knights of Columbus was as joy-filled and unpretentiousness as it was a study of a strident rock 'n' roll band firing on all pistons, with age, timing and songwriting aplomb on their side. These three digits can make a big rock show appear effortless. And if we give any more head to HL, we'll likely get accused of being on their payroll. Tough shit. They smoke. Blind prediction: Hard Lessons will be huge.
And speaking of head, indulge us in a little MT genital-stroking on behalf of the Hamtramck Blowout.
Muchos smooches to all the bartenders, club owners, music fans, bands and that dude Tony Blowout and his fetching cast of assistants, Dawn Wegner, Anne Baker, Jill McKinney-Wright and Natalie Clafton. And still more wet ones to Suzy Cole of Riff2 (riff2.com) for the "All-Blowout Weekend" and to motorcityrocks.com for the Blowout-related podcasts.
As well, we offer a sour beer burp in the faces of the Valentinos and Man inc., both of whom were no-shows. Until 2007 ...Send bitch-slaps, quips, tips and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org