When J. Kim Welch made his way to school as a kid he didn’t walk … he ran. Those days are gone but not forgotten.
It’s late on a Thursday night; with the workday on its last legs, Welch and I are on our fourth attempt at an interview. He is an incredibly busy man, but his fast pace idles for a moment, as I ask him about his life these past few months.
“It has been exhausting,” he says.
As founder of Januarius Productions and originator, producer and talent coordinator of D Pollen, a two-day, cooperative music/art event, Welch has taken on the ambitious task of bringing together music, comedy and performance art from all walks of Detroit life.
To Welch, an attorney who now makes his home in Clarkston, it’s been a labor of love.
The son of a widowed Korean immigrant mother, he and his younger brother, Michael, spent the majority of their childhood in Detroit. “We were forced to live in [the] Cass Corridor … it was a rough time. The country was going through a recession and [the neighborhood] was heavily populated with derelicts and poor people. As you can well imagine, it was a tough place for a youngster to grow up.”
For many suburban locals who popped their rock ’n’ roll cherries in the Cass Corridor as bleary-eyed music habitués, stumbling in and out of places like the Gold Dollar and the Old Miami, smashed car windows and stolen CDs were largely the most unnerving tales of woe. The culture of drug addiction, prostitution and abject poverty was a blight that interlopers had the luxury of ignoring on short walks from the car to the bar.
Natives like Welch remember a childhood in the Corridor where kids played “rocket ship” with hypodermic needles. Fear of theft made it impossible to take the school’s only worn clarinet home from music class.
“When I started enjoying the local rock ’n’ roll scene, I began to notice how a lot of bands and fans would pride themselves on being in the Cass Corridor, and I thought, ‘You know, they don’t have the perspective of young people from here.’ And it would be a nice idea if they could do an event for Dewey [a school], that is in the heart of Cass Corridor.”
And from that, D Pollen was born.
“I don’t think people realize that young students there are in need of arts programs,” says Welch of his old neighborhood.
Willing to put his money where his mouth is, Welch has agreed to give a portion of D Pollen’s proceeds to the Dewey Center for Urban Education.
“We got almost everyone we asked … surprisingly,” says Corey Hall, fellow coordinator/stand-up comedian and scheduled performer.
“The idea is to get people in one place who would normally not be together.”
Working with a paltry budget of $1,500, Welch and his cohorts have managed to book more than 30 bands and artists; most are playing for free.
D Pollen is a stellar rock show. Music performances range from stoner-rock bad-asses Bad Wizard to the pacifying pop of Ethos. And with the addition of levity, courtesy of a handful of comedians and the Planet Ant Theatre, this fledgling event has all the earmarks of a new Detroit tradition.
“It’s like a big pot of stone soup,” says Welch. “I’ll throw in the stone and let everyone else give it its flavor."
See D Pollen Friday-Saturday, May 30-May 31, at Hastings Street Ballroom, 715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit. Call 313-870-9002 or visit www.dpollen.com for more information. Bands include Waxwings, the Salt Miners, Easy Action and many more.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]