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Local Music

Cocked & loaded

Some flash, some boom appearing among the 170 acts at Arts, Beats and Eats

MT Photo: Doug Coombe
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Published 9/1/2010

Mayer Hawthorne & the County

Members: Mayer Hawthorne (lead singer), Joe Abrams (bass), Topher Mohr (guitar), Quentin Joseph (drums) and Quincy McCrary (keys)

Motto: "My intention wasn't to create a throwback album. I think you can hear just as much J Dilla in my music as you can Smokey Robinson." —Mayer Hawthorne

Sound: Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Cohen) is frequently heralded by everyone from Kanye West to Justin Timberlake for his ability to create music that harks back to an era of '60s soul. Not just blue-eyed soul or Northern soul (read: tinged with whiteness) but rather the type of genuine, Motown-influenced smooth soul that defies race, class and time. It's also worth noting that with the exception of keyboardist Quincy McCrary, Hawthorne's entire backing band is composed of members of Funktelligence, the once-mighty Ann Arbor party band of the late '90s that made a name for itself combining elements of hip-hop, jazz, funk and soul. What you can expect is a mixture of Dap-Kings style instrumentation with whip-smart male vocals and lots of sweat. —JC


Sponge

Members: Vinnie Dombroski (vocals), Andy Patalan (guitar), Tim Patalan, (bass), Kyle Neely (guitar), Billy Adams (drums)

Motto: "No one is exempt from the rock and roll!" —Vinnie Dombroski

Sound: At one point, Sponge might've been thought of as "Detroit's answer to the Stone Temple Pilots," but when the east side band popped up on MTV back in '94, how sweet was it to see a proper rock 'n' roll frontman, weirdly alluring with skinny legs and a self-destructive élan? It's as if Vinnie had grown up more on the New York Dolls, Stooges side, while that STP dude was obviously weaned on Foreigner. Anyway, grunge is thankfully but a writhing corpse, and Sponge is what it always was, a straight-up rock 'n' roll band, albeit with a revolving door of musicians, fronted by one of the hardest-working and most ageless musicians around. —BC


Howling Diablos

Members: Mo Hollis (bass), Tino Gross (vocals), Johnny Evans (sax), Erik Gustafson (guitar), Johnny 'Bee' Badanjek (drums)

Motto: "We don't make music, we make your dreams come true." —Tino Gross

Sound: Let's put the attacks on Tino's rapping ability to one side. They never held water anyway. The Diablos are a rock 'n' roll institution, with that ever-present R&B-soul thing that permeates the sound of the long-lasting bands from these parts, and nobody brings the groove like these bad motherfuckers. (Johnny Bee on drums, natch!) Never ever forget the nimble-fingered guitar heroics of one Erik Gustafson. —BC


Ty Stone & the Truth

Members: Ty Stone (vocals), Billy Reedy (guitar), Christian Draheim (guitar), Greg Beyer (bass), Brian Reilly (drums)

Motto: "Rock out with your cook out!" —Ty Stone

Sound: Motto says all, don't it? On a high after supporting many Kid Rock arena shows, Stone is making friends thanks to his ability to croon a country ballad and then slam out an unironic Southern rock-y gem that'd do both Tony Joe White and Duane Allman proud. His big voice matches quite swimmingly his corpulent demeanor — a tour de force. He was one of Detroit's hidden treasures. Now he's a treasure. —BC 

 

Twistin' Tarantulas

Members: Pistol Pete Midtgard (upright bass, lead vocal), George Friend (guitar, vocal), Randy Gacki (drums)

Motto: "Hair, makeup and wardrobe are fine, but muscle always wins." —Pistol Pete

Sound: It's like Eddie Cochran never died, and now he's playing with the Misfits in a jail filled with inmates who previously called a trailer park their home. The Tarantulas are the ultimate party band, and they have the facial laugh lines to prove it; hell, Pistol Pete's rep has grown to mythological proportions. They'll be bringin' the rockabilly to Royal Oak, and showing the true meaning of "power trio." —BC


The Carolyn Striho Group

Members: Carolyn Striho (vocals), Scott Dailey (guitar), Ron Wolf (percussion), Kurt Zimmermann (violin)

Motto: "To the promised land tonight, this here girl can make you dance!" —Carolyn Striho

Sound: A singer-songwriter who can sing beautifully and write a hell of a good song. At her best, Striho, a known musical commodity for years in these parts, is capable of hypnotizing her listeners as if she's some kinda siren raised on bars and factories and busted hearts. She'll likely have Royal Oak eating out of the palm of her hand by the middle of her set. —BC


Cult Heroes

Members: Hiawatha Bailey (vocals), James Conway Jr. (guitar), Terry Ivan (bass), Nikki Savage (drums)

Motto: "Life is not a dress rehearsal, and every moment should be enjoyed, because we only get one chance." —Hiawatha Bailey

Sound: Only in Dee-troit. The Cult Heroes are a collection of folks who've roadied (yes, roadied — and please, save the Meatloaf guffaws!) for the likes of the Stooges, the Rationals, etc. Led by the inimitable and sixtysomething youth-eternal Hiawatha Bailey, the punk band plays covers by all of those artists who previously employed them. Besides, Arthur Lee's cool ain't got nothin' on Hiawatha's. So what do they sound like? Detroit, tough guy. —BC


Bear Lake

Members: Matt Hines (vocals, guitar), Keith May (bass, vocals), Jon Rice (guitar, vocals), Brian Kwasnik (piano, vocals), Erik Pederson (organ), Steve Stetson (drums)

Motto: "Get pop'd and chopped." —Keith May

Sound: Like rehab, they'll gladly stomp your emotions and then gently cuddle them into recovery. Think Radiohead before they quit writing actual tunes and you're partway there. Trippy indie and highly recommended. —BC 


Wrong Numbers

Members: Jason Clark (vocals), Dave Uricek (bass), Todd Boschma (drums), Matt Thibodeau (guitar), Adam Stanfel (guitar)

Motto: "You're So Fine"

Sound: It's a shame that the dudes who make up the Wrong Numbers weren't born in another decade — like the '50s, say. Then they would have taken their passion for skintight early Detroit rhythm and blues (think the Falcons, Nolan Strong & the Diablos, Mr. Pickett) and gone on to form highly influential, nay, legendary rock outfits, and they would be godfathers of the current Detroit scene. Lucky for us, though, we get to experience them in the throes of their R&B-worshipping enthusiasm — and damned if they don't do the genre proud. Between Thibodeau's razor-sharp ax work, a buttoned-down rhythm section, and the blazing vocals of frontman Clark, these cats know where it's at. —CH


Mydols

Members: April Boyle (vocals), Judy Davids (guitar), Wensdy Von Buskirk (bass), Laura Spern (drum)

They say: "It's really exciting to play ABE in Royal Oak. We all have ties here — we either work, live or send our kids to school here. It's nice that most of us can walk to ABE — though trust me we'll ride in our minivans anyway — we love them that much."

Sound: Rock 'n' roll, hip-swiveling hula hoopage and mommy 'tude are a solid combination! This has been the Mydols' busiest summer too — they've graced numerous festivals and shindigs with their swingin', stompin' rock 'n' roll and released a new full-length, to boot. Arts, Beats and Eats is their last show before they send their kids back to school and take a much-needed break. So bring the kids and catch 'em while you can! —CH


Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas

Members: Adam Davis (drums), Nick Maher (keys, guitar, banjo, trumpet), Ben Sturley (bass), Jake Shadik (saxaphone), John Raleeh (trombone), Jessica Hernandez (vocals, keys, guitar)

They say: "... and it's becoming a trend just making pretend we've been lovers for years for one night."

Sound: It's not entirely fair to pigeonhole this up-and-coming southwest Detroit singer-songwriter as our answer to the cerebrally adorable piano chanteuse Regina Spektor. But it's also not too far off the mark. Her sense of whimsy, wordplay and earthiness equal Spektor's. And her voice is a charming revelation on tunes like "Neck Tattoo," and "In the City." At other times, such as on quieter jams like "Shadow Boy," she really belts it out in crisp, clear tones. She brings an exuberance, diversity and grit to the three-minute pop song that's been making her a lot of new fans lately at festivals and in opening slots. So keep your eyes and ears open for Jessica (ably backed by the brassy horns and arrangements of her fellas, the Deltas). —CH


His Name is Alive

Members: Warren Defever, Andrea Francisca Morici (aka Andy FM)

They say: "Our new album is 10 hours long. It came out in a stone box. It's 10 discs. It's called the eclipse. The ceramicist spent four months making them. There were 50, they sold out quickly, despite their steep price tag. The first disc is now available as a download. Blarga-blarg."

Sound: Over nearly two decades, HNIA has evolved from not-so-humble beginnings as Livonia's only dream-pop act on revered English label 4AD to a bona fide genre-bending outfit spanning DIY indie-pop R&B to, oh, heck, just about everything mainman Warren Defever could imagine and find a way to sonically conceive with the tools, instruments and people at hand. Simply: There isn't an idea bands like the Dirty Projectors, TV on the Radio or most other indie darlings have had that Defever hasn't perfected first with His Name is Alive. We've damn lucky to have 'em as hometown heroes. —CH


High Strung

Members: Josh Malerman (vocals), Chad Stoker (bass), Derek Berk (drums), Stephen Palmer (guitar)

They say: "Triumphant, popular songs with subject matter ranging from self-actualization to the downright bizarre," reckons frontman Josh Malerman.

Sound: Malerman plays the court jester before the regal rhythm section of drummer Derek Berk and bassist Chad Stocker. Detroit guitar-hero Stephen Palmer electrifies the whole thing. An imaginative, original and truly rocking experience, they will also melt your face with the power of rock. Their latest album Dragon Dicks — not to mention the handful of albums they've released over the past decade — prove that these dudes know their way around a majestic pop chorus, an intricate hook and an infectious melody that sneaks up on you from parts unknown.

Bonus points: This isn't totally germane to their sound, but rather their philosophy: The High Strung have played a tour of public libraries. They have also performed at Guantanamo. They retired their long-running touring van on the steps of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland as a donation. —CH


Barrettes

Members: Betty (vocals), Barb (vocals), Bev (vocals), and Bonnie (vocals), (aka, in no particular order, Kate Feeny, Kristin Von Bernthal, Korin Vissocchi, Krista Johnston)

Motto: "It's nice to perform in the late afternoon when a few gin 'n' tonics are not forbidden to loosen the nerves." —Bonnie

Sound: In less troubled, more comfortable times, we might take a ladies' barbershop quartet for granted. These days? It's just good comfort to be reminded that four voices can take the edge off the rock 'n' roll and then put it back in unexpected, wide-eyed-grin-inducing ways with their covers of such rock classics as "Gay Bar" by Electric Six, "Hotel Yorba" by the White Stripes, "Don't Want You Back" by the Sights, and "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys. When these ladies belt it out, you may just forget about the originals entirely. —CH

 

Romeo Flynns

Members: D. Lawrence Lee (guitar, vocals), Jimmy Moroney (bass), John Sarkisian (drums)

Motto: "We came to play." —D. Lawrence Lee

"We're kinda worried about the gun-toters," Romeo Flynns frontman D. Lawrence Lee says. "I'm probably going to invest in a bulletproof vest. Maybe a bulletproof guitar too."

Lee is talking of the recent debate and vote by the Royal Oak City Commission that eventually resulted in festival attendees being permitted to carry licensed weapons at the event. Not that the Flynns, a full-on power-pop band in the classic Cheap Trick mold, have anything to be worried about. Their catchy-as-fuck, every-song-a-single ditties surely offend no one. Rather, they're quite capable of being the surprise package of the entire fest. The musicians are tighter than their own trousers, and, in Lee, they've a singer, guitarist and songwriter who more than knows his way around a melody.

"This is our first time playing this festival, and we're really looking forward to it," Lee says. "When we were first starting out as a band, this seemed to be the premier urban festival. We're sure that we can bring something different to the event."

Well, different and yet the same. See, Lee and his band have a very definite, welcome retro appeal. "We definitely have a sound that's rooted in the '80s and early '90s," Lee says. "It always amazes me that a lot of bands from past eras come to Detroit, to venues like Pine Knob (now DTE Energy Music Theatre), and they just seem to play the old favorites. If people love that music as much as they seem to, I don't understand why many of these bands don't release new product. That's where we come in. We give folks familiar-sounding music, but it's all new stuff."

The Flynns, you'll note, were once called the Shake, and they actually attempted changing their name to the Errol Flynns but were denied permission by the late actor's estate.    

Anyway, the singer is, um, all popped up to see how Royal Oak will pick up where Pontiac left off with Arts, Beats & Eats. "It's going to be interesting," Lee says with a grin.  

So what does Lee see in other bands at the Labor Day blowout? 

Lee says he's "heard great things about the Orbitsuns. I've never seen them before, though, so I'll try to catch their set. I think there are a couple of Beatles tribute bands playing too, so I'll try to see them. I'm a huge Beatles fan."

Overall though, the songwriter hopes folks leave their shooters in the closet. "Let's forget about that gun nonsense," Lee laughs. "Let's just enjoy the party instead. The Flynns all love a drink, so we'll see you at the bar." —BC

For full listings of bands at Arts, Beats and Eats, see artsbeatseats.com.

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