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Motor City Cribs

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“Trains, rock ’n’ roll, and UFOs are what my life’s about,” says shaggy-headed rocker Mr. Largebeat. By day, the longtime Ann Arbor resident (aka James Gertz) is caretaker at Arbor Brewing Company. Off the clock, the Thereminplaying bandleader has released four albums of space-surf-prog-train rock. His 1999 release Mystery of the OVNIs: A Tale of UFOs is a full-on extraterrestrial rock opera.

Largebeat’s love of electric trains comes from his Marine dad — he began building trainboards when he was 10. (About that time, his folks also gave their pots-and-pans-banging kid his first drumkit). Now, he has more than 50 primarily high-speed electric train models.

“Futureville, MI 2050” is the trainboard magnum opus that has taken over his living room. Stemming from a vivid dream he had in 1986, Largebeat put the setup together in 2001 and has shown the futuristic city at many model-train conventions.

Largebeat’s also a part-time UFOlogist. No kidding. His first extraterrestrial encounter, he says, happened when he was 8 in Happy Valley, Ore. He saw what he describes as “a twigman.” Since then, aliens have been recurring themes in his music and his life. (He says he has seen aliens and their spaceships more than 10 times.) Largebeat’s passions all collide wonderfully in his music — the aliens, the UFOs, the futuristic high-speed train travel and the Theremin’s otherworldly drone. “Who knows what came first, the music or the trains,” Largebeat says. “My parents created the rock ’n’ roll train monster.”

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