First off, a little business. It should be noted that proceeds from the seventh annual Hamtramck Blowout will benefit the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts to help replace instruments that were damaged, destroyed or stolen during a February break-in. Other monies will go to WDET public radio. And for the first time this year, every band that participated will be given a free ad on the hallowed pages of this rag.
Metro Times publisher Lisa Rudy says the ties between the Blowout and the Detroit Music Awards are now cut. In years past, money raised from the Blowout went to help fund the awards. Metro Times is still the official print media sponsor of the Detroit Music Awards.
The Blowout is always a hodgepodge of the over-hyped, underrated and up-and-coming. With more than 200 acts, not even Metro Times can fight the law of averages — there was absolutely no way to see everything.
Still, the talent this year was, for the most part, damn impressive, and the occasional fisticuffs, overt displays of drunkenness and mammary flashing proved hilarious. Many of Thursday’s shows were sparsely attended, as were a few on Friday. Other than that, most venues were packed and thousands of people (more than 5,000 wrist bands sold) turned out, some flying in from New York, L.A. and Europe.
At Wednesday’s pre-party at the Majestic, Pas/Cal’s performance sparkled. Songs we’ve heard 80 times were still fresh while new, shimmering pop tunes didn’t disappoint. It’s good Pas/Cal hasn’t become too cool to make out with a mic stand or throw in a Moby Dick-style drum solo. (The dough from a recent Saturn commercial featuring Pas/Cal’s “The Bronze Beached Boys [Come On Let’s Go]” will no doubt go lengths to ease any financial pangs). Saturday Looks Good To Me, The Waxwings (who had Meg White offering a dance-floor soft-shoe) and Bulldog (who had A&R weasels in attendance) each did worthy sets. The ’wings even inspired a real octogenarian granny named Marian to reprise her best flapper moves. It wasn’t until after the show that Brendan Benson informed B-Out promoter Anthony Morrow that he would have liked to have played the pre-party. Damn. Where were you when your phone was ringing, man?
Over at the Stick, Midwest Product played some gems off its first record and some new material, staying clear of stuff from their latest album, The World Series of Love — a sticking point for some in the crowd. But for a short set, they warmed up the crowd perfectly for the mayhem to come. Paris ’68 kept things vamping with cult classics to prompt drink orders and bouncing, between-set conversation. We couldn’t believe the number of people mouthing to the Singles’ brand of pop in the Garden Bowl. Where are these kids coming from?
And then there’s King Gordy. So maybe there is room for another shtick-rap group to come from the D. He’s big, his hair’s twisted into devil horns, and he’ll occasionally beat a man in a straightjacket in a well-rehearsed ploy for crowd involvement. So be it. Picture two dudes whose combined body weight easily tops 500 pounds, spitting lyrics and running around stage like a meth-ripe David Lee Roth. DJ Houseshoes in back, and the live metal riffage, compliments of a gen-u-ine hair rocker (complete with a Flying V), were perfect touches.
Cramped quarters at Whiskey In The Jar have always been interesting for the bands, as musicians are constantly dodging soused patrons rushing the restrooms.
But who would have guessed that the soft, romantic sounds of eastern Euro jazz could conjure up aggro actions? Well, after a warm set of Django Reinhardt stylings on Thursday, Gypsy Strings guitarists Nick Pittman and Gino Fanelli almost came to blows, tossing out f-bombs and finger-pointing in front of a confused audience. Peace prevailed.
The Earworms (members of Polish Muslims and Reruns) offered a set of ear-bending Brit Invasion singsong in front of, sadly, no one at the Belmont. The Tiny Steps show at a packed Belmont saw a band blaze through an ample and flurried set of well-schooled pop-rock that ended fittingly with guitarist Michael Cianfarani crashing Ryan Allen’s cymbals.
The Fags’ near-capacity Thursday closer at the Holbrook saw fans unabashedly screaming along with the band word for word like a huddled kindergarten class. As the crowd filed out, Gore Gore Girls/Jettison Red drummer Nikki Styxx provided the first of a few Janet Jackson moments — seems the inebriated Styxx slid through her pal’s arms, thus sliding her shirt up to the eye-popping amusement of onlookers.
Another high point was Friday at Mephisto’s — an unpretentious, multi-level venue that oozes glorious kitsch — as Todd Osborn laid down an uncanny mix. No genre can hold Osborn. He recently remixed Radiohead’s entire Kid A album on a Casio SK-1 just because he was bored. Grant Wilson-Claridge, owner of Aphex Twin’s Rephlex Records, was in from London to see Osborn — a Rephlex artist — perform. Apparently, there’s no place like Mephisto’s in England either, because Wilson-Claridge described the oddball mishmash decor as, of course, “Bloody brilliant!”
Then Orlando Voorn stepped up and started cutting up “Flash” on doubles — one of those techno moments where one remembers why we started listening to this repetitive crap in the first place. Downstairs, Jan D was breaking out disco cuts that people only thought they knew. Although sparse crowd-wise, Jan’s selections inspired an intense drunken robot dance session.
Paychecks saw teen beat quartet the Dollfaces exhibit extensive rock ’n’ roll knowledge with an odd two-guitar attack that recalled, at times, Television. Nick Pivot’s Cocktail Shake — with Lovemaster Bootsey X on drums — kept an even power-pop flow and the mostly femme quintet Car City Call Girls’ stoic presence burped up hilarious deep-cut glam and punk covers highlighted by the Stones’ “Starfucker.” The Gore Gore Girls’ rather affected antics went over well to a capacity crowd.
The Big Herk show Friday at the New Dodge was a call-and-response participatory rage — the crowd teeming and chanting, bouncing up and down in a heady communal scene. The members of Raw Collection with Miz Karona got on stage for the Big Herk finale, and rhymes ripped back-and-forth with a sonic intensity that’s a reminder of how music — when done well — can transcend genres and go beyond the material into the spiritual, to be a conduit for impalpable sensations. All elements that you rarely, if ever, see at a rock ’n’ roll show.
It also was a microcosm illustrating just how segregated Detroit music really is. The packed New Dodge was 90 percent African-American. The Bulldog/Waxwings show at the Majestic was 99 percent white.
Saturday was all about Miz Karona at the Belmont. Seriously, seriously, sick lyrical force from the 8 Mile cameo queen. With something like 15 MCs on stage with her, Karona was “more rugged than Buddy Lee” (to cop a stanza from a dude onstage).
It should be noted the 88th Avenue pulled out of participation at the last minute on Saturday, leaving MD! and Kruse Kontrol without a venue. Maybe they were still recovering from Friday’s Albanian trance throwdown (the hard-to-believe reason why they wouldn’t book Friday in the first place)?
Big City Blackout (featuring lanky ex-Trash Brat drummer Craig Cashew fronting a guitar/bass/drum setup of admirable newbies) played a loose if not hooky set. The wall-to-wall Kingsnakes/Lanternjack (which sported a revamped four-on-floor rhythm section) featured a fracas between Haf/Life shouter Jamie Hall and Lanternjack frontman Johnny Flash.
One-man music machine Mod Orange (aka Mark Dawson) found a new fan in Whiskey in the Jar owner/Hamtramck Mayor Thomas Jankowski. Too bad Dawson isn’t much of a drinker … he resides three houses from the watering hole.
The airy, swing-dipped Winonas at Baker’s Streetcar Lounge trailed Jawbone’s one-man-army show in front of a packed house. The Salt Miners certainly win the award for “Best Dressed,” decked out in black suits, derbies and bow ties, this bluegrass-cum-Americana ensemble commanded listener attention. The bone-dry humor and sweet romanticism of the “Waterford Waltz” or their stellar rendition of Cool Hand Luke’s “Plastic Jesus” was damn memorable.
The Times Beach Saturday showcase (Man/Gold Cash Gold/Hentchmen, etc.) was beyond capacity; hence the shows’ nail-to-the wall performances.
A yet-to-be titled Blowout 2004 documentary, directed by Anthony Garth (who’s manned the cam for the White Stripes and the Von Bondies, among others) and executive produced by Morrow, is set to hit the streets on May 16, to be followed with a release party. The crew shot 24 hours of raw footage (interviews with bar owners, attendees, bands, bartenders) that included Hamtramck Gone Wild debauchery. All of which will be whittled down to 40 minutes for DVD release.
Of course, we’d be remiss not to thank Morrow, all the participating bands and venues, and all the Metro Times employees and interns who donated their time and, in many cases, portions of their livers.