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Music > Suckerpunch

Smoked Hamtramck

Scattered highs and lows of Blowout 2002.

American Mars
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Published 3/13/2002

Opening pre-Blowout party blurs: Watching white-collar Metro Times staffers stumble around at Jim Beam speed. Trading hair hints with an alpha-white waif who calls himself esQuire — “the boy who invented rap” — was as surreal as the party’s first band, Dirty Americans, was insufferable.

Shameless pedestalizing of all things white trash is getting mighty boring these days, now that lowbrow blue collar plus wigga mannerisms equal pop-chart dollar signs. Dirty Americans are all chest-hair sprouting and mirror-shades machismo with little else to offer. There’s no Camaro-driving, Grand Funk-blaring, workin’-for-the-weekend fuck-all fun. There’s no rock ’n’ roll sexuality. Simple Kid Rockisms are just dumb, singer Myron’s fat-era Elvis moves notwithstanding.

Worse, a bastardized American flag served as the quartet’s backdrop. The band’s only redeeming quality was that its guitarist recalls a kind of young Ron Wood who looks trapped in a muddle of calculated nonsense.

The Sights, in all their entertaining Abbey Road-cum-Jellyfish glory, would get the goose bumps standing tall if only the songs didn’t take so goddamned many detours, if they didn’t suddenly derail into a kind of pop-fear abyss. Dug singer Eddie Baranek’s charge, a descendant of Lennon and Frampton to be sure, and the band’s cover of Humble Pie’s “Stone Cold Fever” was just this side of brilliant.

I wanted to hate the Von Bondies. Having said that, the band’s kidlike exuberance and that singer Jason Strollsteimer sports a rock star halo goes lengths to overshadow the group’s overabundant use of cheesy Velvetisms. (Velvetisms applied to much lesser effect by Slumber Party the next night. Oh, Moe Tucker, will you please come home).

On the subject of cheese, Psycho Charger, a band whose name alone could make Alan Freed’s head twist round, hit the stage Saturday at Lili’s in a mess of bloated midriffs, booze-stink and dungeon apparel. Worse, the club was intolerably packed for the NYC four-piece. (Funny, I thought the Blowout was Detroit-exclusive.)

Suffering from a heady case of Cramps envy, Psycho Charger may refer to itself with easy-to-wield buzzword terms such as “Trashabilly” or “Psychobilly.” May I suggest a new subgenre? How ’bout “Predictabilly.”

Let’s break the Psycho Charger experience down Harper’s Index-style, shall we?

Number of seconds before first Elvis impersonation: 1

Number of seconds before the first drunken “whoop” after an Elvis impersonation from a patron sporting Jim Dandy hair: 2

Number of seconds before singer shouts the first of countless Satan references: 4

Number of minutes before singer’s first frothy-mouthed Jack Daniels reference: 3

Number of minutes before a song called “Road Kill,” prefaced with a Ted Nugent reference: 9

Numbers of minutes before we hear the words “wipe my ass” uttered in succession: 10

Number of minutes before singer shouts the Pabst Blue Ribbon line from Blue Velvet: 11

Length of time before first reference to professional wrestling: 11 minutes 27 seconds.

Number of minutes before the first of many gun references tied in with the words “rock ’n’ roll”: 13

Number of minutes before inevitable nod to Plan 9 from Outer Space tied to a cradle-robbing reference: 16

Number of fire-trimmed hearses parked outside venue: 1

American flag lapel pins counted in crowd: 17

Estimated size of crowd: 225.

Number of non-Anglos spotted: 1.

Sharing the stage with Psycho Charger was the Impaler, who was nothing short of a creepy roadside attraction — somewhere between a whorehouse priest and a Vegas-era Barry White through the gaze of David Lynch. Weird atonal rhymes, Dracula cape, beat box, open-shirted Jimmy Page twin on guitar, and a femdom/slave duo straight out of a San Fernando Valley basement porno shoot. The Impaler totally skewers the macho confines of black hip-hop clichés. Highly, highly recommended.

Friday night at Motor, Eric Weir attempted to ditch the club’s stage manager so as not to go on at the scheduled opening time slot, 9 p.m. “Dude, they’re being hard-asses,” he said, his eyes scanning the room. “There’s nobody here.”

At 9:10 the Eric Weir Band lumbered on to the stage and the dance floor was teeming; turtlenecks and russet-colored jackets mixed with the occasional set of hooker heels and Kate Moss coifs.

Clad in a Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels T-shirt, Weir offered up pink-skinned power pop long on hooks and born of a tradition that started at Rubber Soul filtered through Badfinger, Dwight Twilley and Sloan.

Weir isn’t afraid to sing choruses that have actual staying power — tunes you can actually hum. The quartet could easily be next year’s Matthew Sweet.

It’s all this: a bassist blessed with Small Faces hair that can actually play McCartney-esque, counterpoint pop bass melodies. A spirited drummer with Lemmy lambchops who defines with ease the word swing and doing so with elements of show biz; the guy’s arms become truncheonlike props, waving up and down, a feat not seen in these parts since, say, Jimmy Marinos. The guitarist is equal parts brood and sexual tension for little girls.

Two songs in particular, “If That’s Your Answer” and “Tried,” stuck in the head well into the next day.

Saturday, the Dead Heroes spread their testicular power-chord goo and shout-out choruses throughout the Carbon Lounge. Kirk Anderson is a consummate guitar-wielding front man with the rare ability to hew to the speed-fueled pocket while calling out simple two-word refrains like “No Regret” with an aplomb that would do any Motorhead song justice.

The Orbitsuns get the “Huh?” Award of Blowout 2002. Coming from Vinnie Dombrowski a guy who once did a worthy Jagger-esque job fronting onetime international hit machine Sponge, and later the Rage Against the Machine-y goof-off Crud (a band in which he wore a gas mask (!)) — this “countryesque” jive is hard to choke down. Country music should be rooted in sincerity and integrity, and offer respite from dejection and sorrow. The Orbitsuns are pure shtick.

Reminds me of that horrible 1980s Sunset Strip band Keel. After its front man Ron Keel flopped in the metal arena, he cropped his locks, donned a cowboy hat and posed in pickup trucks. Keel now maligns Hank Williams tunes. As do the Orbitsuns.

American Mars, on the other hand, bestowed upon a lucky dozen or so at Lili’s a praiseworthy, song-driven set that recalled post-Commotions Lloyd Cole, Tom Verlaine and — in a good way — James.

The four-piece benefits from all the Kris Kristofferson songwriter essentials that the Orbitsuns only wish on. The stand-up bass and gentle, pedal steel-driven major-key drone is graceful, commanding and deceptive. Paced, too — picture subtly as a weapon with Brian Eno at the helm. Singer Thomas Trimble possesses the rare skill to command attention simply by crooning at low volume. He’s a smartly turned-out gent unafraid to lullaby us with a tune as oddly precious as “In Remembrance of Her” then roll into a hit-in-a-perfect-world gem like “Over the Gun,” a song whose lyrical wordplay simply soars in its sing-songy context: “Threats, vacant building eyesore/Walking through my mind’s door/Walking ‘round like a White House whore.”

Clone Defects kicked up punk dust and barley at Holbrook Café on Friday in front of an exuberant mix of punks and tarts and beer guts. Things fell apart, of course; guitar chords shorted out, mic stands toppled over, and spit flew from sneering mouths — just how a rock show should be.

It’s funny how a good band can clear a room, though. The Murder City Wrecks, who followed the Defects, offered worthy glam-inspired guitar pop that was remarkable in its ability to sound retro without sounding moldy. The band — in its glorious bar pallor — sounds like an outtake from “Rodney on the ROQ” circa 1978, and looks like one, too. At one point, we scanned the room to see if ghosts abounded, to see if Kim Fowley was lurking about, Cherie Curry perhaps.

Blowout 2002, from this scribe’s vantage, anyway, was an often freezing though well-attended concern, and left at least one new blemish on the liver. Nearly 170 acts in four nights is impossible, though. So impossible.

Brian Smith is Metro Times’ music editor. E-mail him at bsmith@metrotimes.com.

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