Last Wednesday the Wonder Twins found themselves at the Magic Bag in Ferndale watching and listening to Dent May (from Mississippi), Cryptacize (California), and Fiery Furnaces (New York). Three national indie acts in a smoke-free venue?
Laura: I think this is the first time we've been to the Magic Bag since they went smoke-free.
D'Anne: I love smoke-free venues. It's nice to be able to come home from a show and crawl in bed with my coat and shoes still on and not disturb my wife with the stench.
Laura: Detroit is a city with a lot of great places to see music, but it'd be nice if you didn't have to risk lung cancer to see a good show. I am so jealous of cities with smoking bans like Austin and Los Angeles. And as far as smokers feeling oppressed, I'm gay, I know what oppression is really like.
D'Anne: At least people leaving gay bars don't have to worry about smelling gay when they leave. Unless there's, like, one of those foam parties or something.
Laura: Gross. I was really looking forward to this show. I love Fiery Furnaces and Dent May, and I'd heard really great things about Cryptacize.
D'Anne: I, on the other hand, had never heard of Cryptacize and am only so-so about the Fiery Furnaces. I do like Dent May. I discovered him when I heard his song "College Town Boy" after searching for songs with "college" in the title for a mix I was making last year.
Laura: Mr. May opened the show. It was just him, his ukulele and some dude shaking maracas and tambourine singing background vocals.
D'Anne: Dent May reminded me a lot of Jens Lekman, but without the Swedish stuff.
Laura: Or Stephen Merritt, but without the homo stuff.
D'Anne: I hope he ended up finding a place to stay. There didn't seem to be a lot of response to when he said he was looking for a place to crash for the night if anyone liked to cuddle.
Laura: After his set I did see a lady talking to him about that. She was wearing a low-cut top and asking him if he smoked weed and wanted to go to her house to party. She never actually mentioned sleep.
D'Anne: Well, if she also liked to cuddle then I suppose his boarding requirements were met for the evening.
Laura: I loved his cover of "When U Were Mine." Although I'm partial to Cyndi Lauper's version, I'm happy listening to just about anybody cover it because it's such a perfect pop song.
D'Anne: I also love that song. And hearing it ukulele-style was awesome. His set felt really short, though. His songs are kind of quirky and fun and go by quickly. "You Can't Force a Dance Party" was my favorite, I think.
Laura: Metro Times might not like this, but I did skip out on part of Blowout last year to go see Dent May in Pontiac. It was a difficult decision. A Sophie's Choice, if you will.
D'Anne: I will not.
Laura: I saw a Sophie's Choice DVD in a sale bin near the register at CVS the other day. For some reason, that title doesn't exactly strike me as an impulse buy, unlike Mrs. Doubtfire or Jingle All the Way or something.
D'Anne: They should bundle it with Not Without My Daughter. A CVS exclusive!
Laura: Anyway, the next band was Cryptacize, which I was looking forward to checking out because one of the founding members of Deerhoof is in the band, and I'm crazy about Deerhoof.
D'Anne: I am the opposite of crazy about Deerhoof. In fact, I would say I am very sane about Deerhoof. And I now feel this same sense of stone-cold sobriety about Cryptacize.
Laura: Is that why you kept referring to them as "Metastasize?"
D'Anne: No, I was just confused about their name. I thought they were a cancer band.
Laura: Like "cancer" was their genre or their sign?
D'Anne: Yeah. I thought they'd all come out onstage wearing pink-ribbon Snuggies or with a crab painted on their kick drum something.
Laura: Well that would have been more entertaining. I was kinda underwhelmed with Cryptacize. They kinda reminded me of a slightly less accessible Sundays or Frente!
D'Anne: Fun fact: Every Salvation Army store I have ever been to has Frente!'s Marvin ... the Album in their CD bin.
Laura: I would rather listen to Frente! than Cryptacize. In fact, I would rather listen to Deerhoof doing Frente! covers.
D'Anne: I kind of thought Nedelle Torrisi [Cryptacize's lead singer] looked a little like a cross between Debbie Gibson and Liza Minnelli.
Laura: I think you mean Deborah Gibson...
D'Anne: No, I don't. I think the main downfall of Cryptacize was their lyrics. So, so boring.
Laura: I wish their lyrics had, in fact, been more cryptic. Well, since they are on Asthmatic Kitty Records, we can just blame the whole thing on Sufjan Stevens, since it's his label and all.
D'Anne: But I really like Sufjan Stevens.
Laura: Well, that's your problem. I was really excited to see Fiery Furnaces again.
D'Anne: You've seen them before?
Laura: Yes. In fact, I saw them in Charlotte, N.C.. Shortly after my divorce. Alone. On Valentine's Day.
D'Anne: [Laughing] I'm sorry. That isn't funny. [Still laughing] It's just funny now. Like, you can look back at that and laugh, right?
Laura: Um, yes. Fiery Furnaces were really, really awesome and proved to be a good cure for heartache. And while the Furnaces are primarily brother-and-sister duo Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, I was happy to see that they're still playing with bassist Jason Loewenstein and drummer Bob D'Amico. They're a fucking awesome rhythm section.
D'Anne: I couldn't help but think that Eleanor looked so much like Patti Smith. A much younger Patti Smith. In a gold lamé smock.
Laura: Perhaps, if Patti Smith sang about lost dogs being found and living in a thatched hut instead of people having the power and the night belonging to lovers.
D'Anne: I think I appreciate Fiery Furnaces more as an artistic endeavor than as actual music to listen to ... although they did dedicate "Keep Me in the Dark" to parents in the audience. That was cool.
Laura: Well, this is a band that recorded a whole album with their grandmother. So family seems pretty important to them.
D'Anne: Fiery Furnaces are not really easy music to listen to in that the lyrics are really cryptic, there are time signature changes left and right. You can't really just groove to a song.
Laura: But they're so good. Just don't try to clap along. You will lose.
D'Anne: True, also their lyrics are certainly not boring.
Laura: No. Their lyrics are colorful and interesting in the same way that the conversation that a schizophrenic homeless lady is having with herself is interesting. And I mean that as a high compliment.
Laura: Like the lines, "Later at lunch with the taco lettuce crunch-crunch, she sets herself apart the bunch. How bad does she seem? She makes me wanna scream," from the song "Chris Michaels."
D'Anne: Wait, I thought that song was called "Bret Michaels."
Laura: Um, no. Not everything is about hair metal, D'Anne.
D'Anne: Well, most things are. Like that Kevin Bacon game.
Laura: Yeah, right — prove it. Bring Dent May back to hair metal.
D'Anne: OK, let's see ... Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele. The Clash has a song called "The Magnificent Seven." The Clash made their debut opening for the Sex Pistols. In 1991 Mötley Crüe had a hit with a cover of the Pistol's "Anarchy In the U.K." See? Dent May to hair metal in a few easy steps.
Laura: Whoa! Not bad.
D'Anne: And you thought all those years reading Metal Edge were wasted.
Laura: I stand corrected.
D'Anne: Don't mess with a former Metal Queen!D'Anne and Laura Witkowski are music critics for the Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org