With so many bands playing Metro Times Blowout, it sure can be hard to know where to begin. Here are 13 acts, which mix and match hip-hop and punk, dance and folk. Some are local, others from as far away as the frozen wastelands of Canada. Of course, these are not the only worthwhile acts playing the festival. We expect you to warp the fabric of spaces and time in order to see every single act playing over four nights in three cities. Here's what to expect from a randomly selected sampling of 13 performers.
The ingenuity of bands when it comes to little things like how you name yourselves in these middle 2010s is really neat. Every name already seems taken, and how are you going to make it so that people can easily find you on the Internet, anyway? No way no how could there be another act called The The (try Googling them). But yes you'll find the Wooden Shjips real quick, because of that intentional misspelling. Same with Alvvays, the clever Canadian indie-pop band that's here to pump rays of sunshiney good fun into our lineup. This band's records are wonderful, and friends who caught them on tour with Pains of Being Pure at Heart could not shut up about how good they are live.
Another bunch of Canadians invading our festival with their good lucks and sweet music, the Arkells formed nine years ago in Ontario. You might have thought them to be R. Kelly fans — and they might be — but the name is simply the name of the street on which they lived and would practice. This Juno Award-winning bunch of catchy Canadian superstars are here to conquer America's hearts and minds. Perhaps you should let them in there, at least for the length of their set?
The Black Lips
This Atlanta-based group has made catchy garage-punk anthems for over a dozen years. They haven't put out a new record in a spell, but they're always a fun and chaotic live band. Seriously, you do not want to miss this chance to see them. They're stridently irreverent and far smarter than you think they might be. And while it's artfully done, this isn't some kind of art music, here. This is danceable garage punk of the highest modern order — great music for the very best dirtbags among us (or inside of us).
This killer punk trio counts the riot grrl movement and the movie The Craft among their influences, so you know which aspects of the '90s they most wish to revive. They're proud to rep their 810 Flint area code, and moved back there after a stay in Hamtramck. Cheerleader has been playing for about five years now and they rule even harder than when we first saw them. We're super stoked to have them play our launch party!
Song to song, you never know what you're going to get with this bunch. As much of a rough 'n' tumble psych-blues trip as they are an uptown, art-punk-y, almost paisley boogie, this band always puts on a good show. Stately and skuzzy altogether, this quartet prides itself on chameleonic rock capabilities.
Tellingly, this quartet of pop upstarts cut its teeth winning Beatles cover band contests. This is polished pop, with sunshine almost glinting off their shiny riffs and sweet voices. But their drummer came from the pits of punk, so he won't sit still for any sock-hopping pop slow dance; he pulls the group's pin and chucks things forward.
Thank goodness the Jamaican Queens are back with a new album (the excellent and excellently named Downers, out in June), tour, videos, and all of that. They really are one of Detroit's most innovative and fun groups. They have also always had the ability to cross over to a larger audience, bridging rock and dance scenes. Maybe this time next year they'll be international superstars? We'd not be surprised. Jamaican Queens pile on heavy rap beats, low-woozy-bass bursts, trundling 808 Rolands, and cascades of spacey-synth samples. Describing the JQ sound with his bandmate Adam Pressley (JQ co-founder, guitarist, beat experimenter, and producer), Ryan Spencer tellingly repeats the phrase: "Fuck with it."
He's country. He's punk. He's raw. He's glam. He's Scotty Karate, and he's the only Blowout performer to have a beer named after him. Check out the Scotty Karate Scotch Ale by Dark Horse Brewing Co., who describe him as a "local one-man band who plays an amazing slurry of honky tonk-influenced, punk country songs."
In 2012, House Phone was one of the hot bands at Blowout. The following year, that band was on hiatus and Linck was a solo hit at the festival thanks to his ability to summon the spirit of Arthur Lee and Love and mix it with a large spoonful of Detroit rock 'n' soul. Last year, he released his debut solo EP of groove-heavy modern R&B. This year, he's going to kill it again at Blowout. You will want to be there when he does.
It's hard to write about this band, because basically they're a different band each time we see them. But vocalist Ruth Synowiec is amazing, with a killer range and commanding presence. Last time we saw them, they were off on some kind of tension-heavy, almost boogie-ish trip-metal scene — like watching someone walk an electrified highwire.
Is it indie hip-hop or just great old-school style stuff? Does it matter? This dynamic duo (Blaksmith and Mister) are both talented emcees who never fail to entertain or impress. In the last year, they've not only released the acclaimed album Church and co-headlined on the Rap Round Robin Tour, but they've just released the Banglatown EP.
Yes, it's possible that this band chose their name for the possible attention that the name might draw to the band. PP formed in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2012, and their intense shows are already legendary. The band consists of vocalist Meredith Graves, guitarist Ray McAndrew, bass guitarist Greg Amblerm, drummer Garrett Koloski, and keyboardist Shaun Sutkus. They've been described as "the most important punk band to come out of Syracuse since Earth Crisis." And Wikipedia said that last bit, so we are not arguing.
This longtime Detroit producer describes his music as "controlled chaos," taking influence from hip-hop, soul, house, techno, and Motown. "It's a little bit of everything," he says. It's also unmistakably Detroit. He's always got several projects going, and recently dropped a new EP from his new Church Boy Lou project. He's also part of the activist hip-hop collective Complex Movements, currently doing an installation and performance residency in Seattle.