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Music

Snapshots

A sample set of performers at this year's Blowout.

Bowlscraper
Keith Kemp
DJ Babe
The Hard Lessons
The Wrenfields
Tiny Steps
John Speck of The Fags
SEE ALSO
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Published 3/3/2004

For this year’s Blowout we received more than 400 entries. That’s right, 400. That means that, we’re sad to say, 200 artists and bands couldn’t even get in. And not because they weren’t worthy; rather, there just weren’t enough time slots available. Be that as it may, here are a few snapshots of some of those performing. Find more infomation about the performers, venues and schedule at metrotimes.com/blowout.

 

Bowlscraper

Mick Stoned, er Stone, doesn’t play drug rock; he invented it. The lead singer of Bowlscraper claims to have been a part of the genre’s genesis when he sat behind the drums with local stoner-rock titans 500 Foot of Pipe. You might guess that Bowlscraper, Stone’s newer band, might fall into the same category. Guess again.

“We’re not a drug rock band, we’re all about freedom,” Stone asserts. “I don’t want people to do drugs if they don’t want to, but I want to be free to do them when and if I want to. Alcohol isn’t for anybody, but if it’s your thing you should be free to do it. If you’re an adult and marijuana is your thing, you should be free to do that too.”

It would be safe to assume that marijuana is probably Stone’s thing, since the very moniker of his new project is a reference to the crusty underbelly of stoner culture. But before you load up the Westphalia with patchouli-scented hippies, know that Bowlscraper’s classic riffage borrows from old school metalsmiths like Pantera and Testament, stuff Stone is quick to qualify as “old school metal, without turntables and shit.”

In fact, Red Hair Revolution, the band’s recent collection of cranial gang-bangers, is about as old-school metal as you can get with all the huge guitars, turn-on-a-dime changes and soaring melodies. Was it just the killer nugs?

“It’s not a wonder drug that gives you all these magical songs,” Stone says. “Well, sometimes it does. But when you get that short-term memory happening and you can’t remember what verse you just wrote it can be a problem.”

Let freedom ring. —Nate Cavalieri

Bowlscraper will spark it up at the Polish Sea League (2601 Edwin, Hamtramck, 313-872-8772) with Bump-N-Uglies, No Alternative, and Spider In A Jar.

 

Orlando Voorn

For those familiar with techno’s genealogy, Orlando Voorn — a Dutch DJ/producer who moved to Detroit last year — needs no introduction. Voorn won his first scratch competition when he was 13 years old in 1981. He went on to win the Dutch DMC mixing championship two years later. Soon, Voorn was working closely with Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. His Fix EP’s (KMS) “Flash” track was co-opted as a “Detroit” techno classic and is still banged out on doubles by turntablists and techno aficionados everywhere.

Why’d he move to Detroit recently?

“I really escaped my own country. [Trance is] everywhere. It’s on TV… As soon as trance broke out, that was for me like, ‘OK, here we go again.’ You can hear [trance] in Detroit if you want to, but it’s not in your face. … Paul Oakenfold, … that shit made me puke. I can’t hear that. It’s like allergies coming in my system. Music is music, and I learned to respect everyone’s opinion. You cannot please everybody, but I will please myself, and I don’t want to listen to stuff that’s not for me, … I wanted to go back to the source.”

Voorn hasn’t played Detroit since the mid-’90s. His Tank: Bite Before You Bark EP comes out on Voorn’s Igniter label in a couple of weeks. —Robert Gorell

Keith Kemp

Kemp has been a staple DJ/producer in the Motor City for years now and is just starting to really hit his stride. Kemp’s style ranges from minimal, swaying, percussive techno to lounge house and freeform melody — think Dan Bell with fewer bleeps and more drum work. After moving to Chicago for “a hot minute” and subsequently coming back to Detroit to live the artist’s life full-throttle (he’s a student, serious musician, label owner, and holds down a full-time job). Qustion is, why’d he come back?

“[Dorkwave innovator Rob] Theakston’s got this quote,” explains Kemp. “He says, ‘You can write your own ticket in Detroit.’ You can be here making shit happen for yourself, even if that means you’re fucking huge in Italy and you live in a shithole for $200 a month.”

Now that Kemp’s just getting into a position where he can make a bigger impact — he’s currently working on an album and playing out often — he’s ready to hold his own next to the big timers.

“Playing with Orlando Voorn is a circle and closure from when I started DJing until now,” he says. “I was listening to his stuff and buying his stuff and hearing about these guys from Amsterdam that were Amsterdam’s answer to Detroit. Then Fix/Flash happened and all that. … Now Orlando Voorn’s here and I get to play with him!?” —Robert Gorell

Keith Kemp and Orlando Vroom will perform on Friday, March 5, downstairs at Mephisto’s (2764 Florian, Hamtramck, 313-875-3627) with Ryan Elliot.

 

3-D Invisibles

Many a hipster must confess: For years, it simply wasn’t Halloween in these parts without the cornball humor-cum-steely coolness of a 3-D Invisibles show at Lili’s in Hamtramck. Sadly, Lili’s is a mere memory, but the 3-D Invisibles are not. Making a very rare appearance at this year’s Blowout, ghoulish concoction of punk rock, monster movie mayhem and snotty surf guitar in tow; "Billy Bones" Bowen, "Crypt-Rocker" Chris Flanagan and "Creepy Rick" Mills have still got what it takes to raise the dead in the haunted ruins of Detroit. If you can believe it, these guys have been have been entertaining the trash ’n’ roll minions for more than 20 years — but ain’t nothing rusty about the dirty kitsch of the 3-D Invisibles’ original brand of entertainment — this rangy gang of three is still arguably one of the best shows to catch in town. Believe it. If you loved the Cramps, then you will love the 3-D Invisibles … and hell, if you can’t enjoy the frenzied freakout of songs like “I Wanna Dig Up Bela Lugosi” and “Robot Monster” well then, we don’t feel your pain. —Eve Doster

The 3-D Invisibles will perform on Friday, March 5, at the Holbrook Café (3201 Holbrook, Hamtramck, 313-874-1965) with the Fondas, Volcanos, and Hellbenders.

 

DJ Babe

Ronier “DJ Babe” Golightly says the hip-hop mix tape phenomenon struggles to gain the respect in Detroit that it has in cities like New York and Philly. Booty music tapes sell a lot better, explains the 32-year-old.

Regardless, Babe released nine (yes, nine) mix tape CDs in 2003 touting the best hip hop (and booty) that Detroit and the nation has to offer. The mass releasing fits into Babe’s master plan of turning DJing into a lucrative career, though not all his releases last year turned a profit.

“I’m not trying to fight for a night in a club,” he says. “I have conferences every year with different DJs around the country who do different stuff. Some make six figures a year. I’m tryin’ to make money as a DJ, get Heineken to fly me out to a club.”

Babe, who says he’s negotiating a contract with T. Mobile, got his name from his grandmother. The self-proclaimed old-schooler started breakdancing at age 11, and even toured in the summer of 1984 with a group called the Breakateers.

He respects hip-hop pioneers like Jam Master Jay, KRS-One and MC Shan, and says that today’s hip hop generally sucks. Detroit, he says, is a bit different. He’s happy to see the city asserting itself, and will undoubtedly pump a lot of homegrown hip hop when he plays the Blowout. —Khary Kimani Turner

DJ Babe will spin on Friday, March 5, at the New Dodge (9122 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck, 313- 874-5963) with Big Herk, Cysion, J. Hill, Bareda (aka Mr. Wrong) and Cashada.

 

The Hard Lessons

If we could have one wish it would be that more rock ’n’ roll bands shared the Hard Lessons’ rocket-fueled enthusiasm. Hell, we’d pay to see these guys any night of the week. See, buried deep within the shark-infested waters that have become the Detroit rock ’n’ roll scene, theirs is a rock thwack propelled by humble admiration and hearty chops, not embarrassing delusions of self-importance. With a fiery frontman (Gin) who splices the best bits of ’60’s gee-rage to the subtle approach of, say, the Atomic Numbers, a smoldering chick keyboardist (Ko Ko Louise) whose occasional soul singin’ evokes images of Dusty Springfield, and a drummer (the Anvil) whose diminutive stature is in direct contrast to his considerable personality — the Hard Lessons come on like an unexpected face-slap. What’s best is, their wide-eyed eagerness reminds us of why music changed our lives … the days when we realized that even if it made us completely dorky, rock ’n’ roll really was our savior. —Eve Doster

The Hard Lessons will perform on Thursday, March 4, at the Carbon (11474 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck, 313-366-9278) with the Trembling, Lisboa and Shipwreck Union.

 

Miz Korona

It’s a classic story: Miz Korona got her start when her mom gave her a turntable on her birthday. She started coming home from school everyday to absorb her only two pieces of wax — Run DMC and JJ Fad. She started her career as an emcee by rhyming on the school bus and eventually tested the waters at open mic hotspots around the city, places like the C-Note Lounge, The Ebony Showcase and Napoleon’s Lounge. Her intuitive adherence to those early hip-hop staples still bears influence on her style today — quick lyrical jabs with tons of clever personality and playful charm, aptly represented in her scene rhyming around the hot dog stand in 8 Mile.

These days it seems like her days as a film cameo are nearing an end though, as her sugary smile and wry wit helped her to become the most recognizable female emcee in the Detroit undergound. Just don’t ask her to sing. “You know my father was a singer, and he tried to get me into that but I couldn’t hold a note too well,” she says with a laugh. “I think that hip hop was my calling from jump.” —Nate Cavalieri

See Miz Korona on Saturday, March 6, at the Belmont (10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck, 313-871-1966) with Moutain Climbaz, SOL, Quest M.C.O.D.Y, Jimmi Hoffa and the Rottin Club and Trip.

 

47 UMa

It’d be right to say that 47 UMa’s sound is all over the map. Founding members Gail Baker and Mike Friedman cut their teeth on Jamaican ska with the Skanking Voodoo Dolls. Vocalist and mandolin player Maggie McCabe’s known around town for preaching soulful explorations of American folk and blues with her other band, Maggie’s Farm. Percussionist Mahindi Masai’s has a thing for deep-pocket rhythms of African world-beat. Clarence Williams reshapes the canon of American lead guitar by borrowing from ax-wielding stylists of the last 40 years. And new addition Maureen Honore’s 3 1/2 octave range simply sets the harmonies afire. It’s reggae and ska, soca and samba, Africa and New Orleans, and a hint of classic rock ’n’ roll. It’s all over the place.

But the thread that binds this mess of influences is the band’s love of hard grooving dance floor faves — mostly based in spirited reggae and tangential worldbeat breakdowns. Somehow they sidestep the geyser of cheese that normally makes such genre blends unbearable to create fusions that are exciting, vibrant and goddamn catchy. —Nate Cavalieri

47 UMa will perform on Friday, March 5 at the Outer Limits (5507 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-368-8192) with the Troubadours, Laughing Gas and the Dopes.

 

The Wrenfields

Lovers of alt-country music are a savvy lot. Sure, the recipe might seem simple — pop song plus steel guitar equals tender jam. But that’s just not the case with Detroit’s own roots-rock vendors, the Wrenfields. Though their sound has been mercilessly likened to the Jayhawks, Wilco and Victoria Williams, we can tell you that the comparisons aren’t without merit; the Wrenfields are clever songwriters — with the pipes of Noreen Novrocki, they offer a tender-handed approach to the mournful-meets-toe-tap template. The melodic mix of mandolins, dulcimers and banjos support pristinely penned songs; the sorts of tunes that summon the goose bumps. —Eve Doster

The Wrenfields will perform on Friday, March 5, at Adam’s Corner (2145 Caniff, Hamtramck, 313-365-9755) with Annie Caps, Stephen Clark, Jill Jack and Jen Cass.

 

Tiny Steps

“Even when I didn’t know how to do anything — in my bedroom with a Harmony guitar from the Sears catalog that didn’t have stings on it — I would play entire records with no strings, just singing along and acting the part.” Maybe it was these prepubescent air guitar sessions that made Tiny Steps frontman Eric Weir charmed by the spotlight. He graduated from pantomiming hand-me-down staples of Prince, Beatles and Springsteen, to leading a basement pop outfit, Spindle, through messianic odes to tight-sweater darlings. Maybe it’s the beer talking, but Tiny Steps’ forthcoming EP is a good indication that Weir’s most recent stuff has real teeth. Maybe part of reason is that posse of Conversed all-stars that fill out the quartet have just as much star power. While Eric holds down most of the vocal duties, he’s well buttressed by bassist Matt Hatch (Go, Sights, Witches, etc. ad nauseam) and chisel-cut guitarist Michael Cianfarani. Ryan Allen’s caffeinated drumming and background vocals ice the cake, making for some ballsy pop rock that belies the band’s diminutive name. “Last night we got together and had 22s of Miller High Life and played recent songs and stuff we’ve been working on,” Weir says of the collaboration. “We’d play for a minute, talk about it and then, all of a sudden, it’d be right — the ideas from a group of people coalesce into this one thing — this song. And then you get up on stage and watch people react to that and deal with how they respond after the set. It’s usually a beer and a shot.”

The set itself however — usually all heart and lots of hooks. —Nate Cavalieri

Tiny Steps will perform on Friday, March 5, at the Belmont (10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck. 313-871-1966) with Thunderbirds Are Now, A Thousand Times Yes and Hairshirt.

 

The Fags

“There’s lots of people around here who join or start a band because they wanna be looked at as a ‘rockstar,’” says Fags singer John Speck. “But it’s weird when the rockstar status goes from something local hipsters see you as to the rest of the world. I mean, when Ko and the Knockouts are in some jukebox in Melbourne, you have to wonder if the music is going to stand the test of time, or it’s just an ego stroke. Are people seriously considering how the catalog of stuff they put out might look in 30 years?”

There’s little doubt as to whether or not Speck asks himself the same questions. His band, the Fags, seem to effortlessly churn out big rockers that pay catholic attention to the saints of punk, pop and rock with little regard to the follies of trend. Even less doubt surrounds the motives of The Fags’ self-exile from the catty Detroit garage scene, which Speck is quick to thumb his nose at.

“It’s cool, because we’re not part of the cool clique,” he says. “When that trend dies, we’re not going with it. We take the music pretty seriously, but all the rest of this band is such a ‘fuck you’ to everyone.”

He explains that the white-shirt-black-tie uniform of the trio’s first splash was a part of that tongue-in-cheek ‘fuck you.’ But that it was taken the wrong way.

“Kids were dressing like us at gigs, so we dropped it, they didn’t get the joke,” he says.

The band’s jokes might be a little tempered with a reactionary edge, but they can back up the music with fistfuls of distorted hooks, snotty sing-alongs and a power keg of energy. Does it jive with the queens of the scene? Who cares?

"I’m not too worried about how we fit in around here, or anywhere," Speck asserts. "We’ll just keep doing this until we don’t have any good songs to play."

Look for the update in 2034. —Nate Cavalieri

The Fags will perform on Thursday, March 4, at the Holbrook Café (3201 Holbrook, Hamtramck, 313-874-1965) with The Rioteers and Larval.

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