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HAMTRAMCK BLOWOUT NO. 13: LET'S GET LOST

It could almost be the frigidness of early March that gets etched into your memory cells. The stinging cheeks and cold knees, the furiously animated steps on the frozen pavement, and cigarette butts along Joseph Campau, following the leather boot heels and hints of bubblegum and amber of the fetching thrift-store goddesses in front of you. You've a bellyful of Bud and your ears are ringing in perfect harmony to a major D chord. The Hadituptoheres just took your head off over at Kelly's Bar, all mammalian and fist-jacking and gears gnashing ... you flew straight into the bar air, launched inadvertently off some dude's thigh, one of many going up and down on the tiny makeshift dance floor.

Enough!

One can only laugh so hard before the lungs burn in cramped quarters with increasingly less oxygen. So you look for respite in the downy comforts of crooner Aran Ruth inside the K of C Lounge. Later it's the scenester-rich scene of Deastro, or near-legends the Detroit Cobras. There's so much, you think, "but where to begin?"

The Hamtramck Blowout is 13 years old, a pubescent really, but snotty as ever.

You know it's the largest local music fest on earth. But so what? Four nights (including the one in Detroit) and hundreds of bands is a mind, uh, blowing experience and that's all you give a shit about: your mind getting blown. So you're blown by its mash-up of rock 'n' roll guts and hip-hop spirit, and the very cosmopolitan idea of strolling from one bar to the next, from one show to another, the old in-out, in-out; five minutes at the Painted Lady, 10 minutes at the New Dodge, 12 at Jean's, next. ... You love Blowout's mess of contradictions and how it's so wrong it's right, because most its "venues" are really workaday watering holes. You step in them and sense stories, not just years of factory men cashing paychecks on Friday and holding court week-in, week-out, but of weekday regulars on rickety stools who represent any of the 50 nationalities living in this 2-square-mile town. It's insane, you think, that thousands and thousands of people, fans of every musical style, descend on this mini city, toss their hardhats, ties and laptops aside, kick up their heels, for three straight nights and get lost. That more than 200 bands from the greater Detroit area play as if their lives depended on it.

The Blowout Music Festival is a total original. Original, you think, just like the beat little town-within-a-town that hosts it. —Brian Smith



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