In a time when Kid Rock has realized he shouldn't ask for more than 20 bucks for a ticket to his show, Jack White would rather partner with a watchmaker than pick up an electric guitar in his old hometown, and one of Detroit's most beloved garage/punk stages, the Magic Stick, has been converted into an EDM room, you can be forgiven for wondering about Michigan's place in the rock 'n' roll universe.
Chris Taylor, on the other hand, knows there are plenty of great bands left in the Mitten State, and he's going to spend three nights presenting the evidence nice and loud.
Taylor is a founder and organizer of Fuzz Fest II, a three-day blowout of hard and heavy rock taking place on Thursday, June 11 at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor through Saturday, June 13. With 11 bands each night on two stages and a door price of $8 per night ($10 if you're under 21), Fuzz Fest II is an embarrassment of riches for folks who love full-bodied rock 'n' roll, with a diverse bill that runs the gamut from the artful indie rock of Fred Thomas to the full-bore trip metal assault of Wolf Eyes, but there's one common factor that unites the 33 acts on the bill: Everyone is from Michigan.
Taylor is a guy who knows more than a little about rock 'n' roll and the Michigan music community. Taylor has been a key member of cosmic punk band Mazinga, no-nonsense garage rockers the Avatars, and Scott Morgan's soulful hard rock project Powertrane, and these days he fronts Blue Snaggletooth, a sci-fi influenced stoner rock quartet. Taylor knew from steady gigging that there were plenty of other worthy bands in Michigan, and wanted to give them a showcase in his native Ann Arbor.
"I played some really cool shows with multiple stages at Small's (in Hamtramck) and Woodruff's (in Ypsilanti)," Taylor says. "There are lots of great music events in the Detroit area, but we don't have much going on in Washtenaw County for rock bands."
Taylor took matters into his own hands and staged Fuzz Fest at Woodruff's in April 2014, with 33 Michigan-based bands and an ambitious light show created by the Overhead Army, organized by Jeremy Wheeler, one of Michigan's best current poster artists and founder of the long-running Ann Arbor mixtape dance party the Bang. Fuzz Fest was a success, and Taylor and his crew were eager to do it again, but the closing of Woodruff's in mid-2014 meant finding a new home for the festival. With the Blind Pig as the host of Fuzz Fest II, the event has moved into the city that was home to some of Michigan's most influential bands, including the Stooges and the MC5.
While Fuzz Fest II will be presenting 11 bands a night for three nights, that hardly scratches the surface of what Taylor sees in Michigan's current rock scene. "The Michigan music scene is huge," Taylor says. "There are so many musical artists that wanted to play that I could have Fuzz Fest every day of the week for a year and still not get everybody."
Taylor's description of his aesthetic guidelines for Fuzz Fest II is simple enough. As he puts it, "I like bands that rock." Taylor says the event is "a celebration of Michigan rock music in all its various forms," and his definition of what rocks is broad enough that the event should have a bit of something for everyone who likes bands that aren't afraid to turn it up.
Along with Wolf Eyes, Fred Thomas, and Blue Snaggletooth, the bill includes mutant surf terrorists the Amino Acids; stoner metal powerhouse Beast in the Field; updated biker rock combo the Wild Savages; heavy blues rockers Bison Machine; lively sax/bass/drum trio Scissor Now!; ambient experimentalists Casino; veteran post-punks Congress; punishing hard rockers Bonehawk; math rock lunatics Lizerrd; the new project from Von Bondies' leader Jason Stollsteimer, Ponyshow; avant metal explorers Super Thing, and as they say, much, much more. As Taylor proudly says, "You won't find this amount of talent for such a low admission price."