Late Sunday night, as the cacophonous chattering of hipsters began to mysteriously hush, the lights (kind of) went down, and Jack White nonchalantly ambled over to a brown floor mat that doubled as a stage. Holding forth in the intimate and hazy setting of the Majestic’s Garden Bowl bar, with the faint clattering of bowling pins in the background, metro Detroit officially kicked off the beginning of a weeklong White Stripes-a-thon featuring a solo appearance by half of the duo. This was the first in a series of Sunday night “Living Room Sessions,” hosted by bartender/musician Ko. The performance by White was billed under the pseudonym of John Gillis, thereby leading to a no-doubt dejected group of fans of Big John Gillis, radio personality and flying traffic guy for WIBC-AM 1070 in Indianapolis.
Nevertheless, even fans of Big John Gillis would have been compelled by the entrancing yet stripped-bare singer-songwriting provided by White and his trusty buzzing amp. Many pseudo-erudite alt-rock critics gushingly describe the White Stripes sound as “stripped-down minimalist rock-blues ... blah, blah, blah,” and Sunday night, without drummer Meg White (although she was sitting at the bar), the sound was even more lean, more stripped-down, evoking images of “Garage Unplugged,” yet with an almost, dare I say, poplike sweetness. (Of course, what can you expect from a member of a band whose songs are being sung in the kindergarten classrooms of Kalamazoo?)
The scenester cognoscenti in the crowd were held fairly much in thrall throughout the performance, stilling the tongues of even the raspiest of beat girls and guys (Although I did notice some competition for patrons’ attention from the VH1 “Behind the Music” episodes scrolling across the TV screen behind the bar). Glancing down the bar, I spied scenester social-calendar compiler Oneita Porter, as well as Jim Diamond, who has done some producing for the White Stripes (although Diamond seemed to be engrossed in a VH1 Rick Springfield segment). Also at the bar was WDET-FM 101.9 host Raph Valdez, fresh from an interview with the White Stripes on his Sunday-night show before they sped over to the Garden Bowl. Posing for the Loose Lips camera crew, and hogging a cocktail table with a prime view of the performance, were Amy Surdu, Irene Onickel and Shelby Murphy. Gore Gore Girl Surdu even paused to write “you jackass” in my notebook, no doubt encapsulating the sentiments of many in the room.
In addition to downtown music scene aficionados in attendance, some wayward refugees from the Dave Matthews Band concert wandered in. Spying an opportunity for some ironic juxtaposition even better than the ever-present “Behind the Music” video wallpaper, the DMB fans posed for a requisite Loose Lips photo op in the bowling alley. My query to Brooke Neeb, Lisa Westman and Jamie Roach as to whether they were big White Stripes fans was met with a rather expressionless, “who?” However, when I gestured back toward the bar area, they began to nod in acknowledgment, no doubt in the hope that I would leave them alone.
Getting back to the show, the weeklong White Stripes-a-thon continues with Meg White DJing Tuesday night in the Garden Bowl, and then a string of three (count ‘em, three!) shows by the band, at the Gold Dollar, the Magic Bag, and, finally, the Magic Stick, to promote the June 26 release of their new album White Blood Cells. By Saturday night at the Stick, the intimate strumming which we witnessed on Sunday night will no doubt have steamrolled into a full-on rawkfest/love-in. And most fans, undoubtedly, wouldn’t have it any other way. Don’t miss perhaps this last opportunity to see the White Stripes in a smallish setting before the national media buzz carries them away on a peppermint-swirled carpet ride to the “big time.” See you this weekend.
Speaking of ironic juxtaposition, Friday night the Cranbrook Art Museum saw the first in a series of Fabulous Friday Nights to take place over the coming summer. These Friday spectaculars will feature art, music and film, coalescing into one hip shindig on the sumptuous grounds of Cranbrook. Spotted wandering the museum this past Friday was Mikhail Josef Fioducci and artist/Cranbrook alum Bethany Shorb, who recently signed up to design detroitdesigners.com, a Web site promoting anything made, fabricated, designed, created or produced in Detroit by Detroiters. Look for a launch party in mid-to-late summer. Also in the museum were Ann Murakishi, project coordinator for Cranbrook’s Network Gallery, 2001 Guy Fawkes Ball chair Amy Kavadas and Vincent Sansalone, an alum who photographed his monthly walks down Woodward Avenue from Cranbrook to Detroit, and is not set up in a Birmingham studio (thereby slightly shortening the walk to Detroit). Upcoming events at the museum include a wide array of locally oriented films, as well as a one week exhibition by the Girlee Collective, also featuring a live performance party in the peristyle on June 15 by Stun Gun. Go to www.cranbrook.edu for more info.
Finally, some random closing thoughts on the DEMF. … Not one to rain on this Love Parade (pun intended) but madre nature did it for me, so let’s pile on. Given the weather, it was clear that the (techno) Gods Must be Crazy or Angry, although Carolla De Vil Marvin didn’t seem too rankled by it, and I saw Carl Craig signing autographs with no visible stigmata problems. ... Jerry Vile bellowing “Ford Focus” in the hospitality area as his complimentary travel cup runneth over with festival-sponsored alkeehole. ... A too-close encounter with the aforementioned Mr. V, who attempted to wrassle me into a headlock, knocking off my spectacles in the process. ... He was later spotted hugging a lamppost. ... Twenty-two different grades of credential passes. ... An ostensibly egalitarian event which cannot resist the velvet-rope lure of stratified exclusivity. ... Last year, backstage was chaos, only due to the inane policy enforced at the checkpoints. People were afraid to leave lest they not get back in which resulted in a lot of urine puddles under the stage. ... This year — no one comes backstage ... unless, of course, you’re from Ford or Bacardi or MTV, etc. … Neato horizontal lightning and complimentary hailstorm. Very cutting-edge.Casey Coston writes here every other week. Got gossip, essential factoids or party invites? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the tip line at 313-962-5281. Press * then dial