So finally, nearly a week after the fact, we give you day 2 of Rock City Fest, as experienced by Whalebomb and myself. Here’s what happened: On Monday I saw Al Gore endorse Barack Obama at Joe Louis Arena. Pretty cool. Tuesday, I was lazy. Sorry. So this post was all ready to go this morning when I found that Photobucket had been hacked (we really need to move beyond the novice stage of blogdom). And now with Photobucket back online, I found that some of the review has mysteriously disappeared. Damn it, Fortuna! Don’t you want me to laud Detroit’s best and brightest?!
Anyway, here’s the low-down on Rock City Fest, Day 2.
Scotter: I barely got to the Garden Bowl to czech BlasÃ© Splee. With all due respect to The Pop Project, BlasÃ© Splee boasts the best three-part harmonies in Detroit right now. They sound like mid-60s Kinks and The Who, only with more than just one Ray Davies or Pete Townsend in the band. Is their sound lovingly throwback or the future of Detroit pop? My answer is Yes. When I first saw BlasÃ© Splee at Blowout I was promised a full-length LP soon. Let’s make it happen, boys.
Sidenote: I’m still figuring out my new camera and my pictures of BlasÃ© Splee all turned out to be shite, ergo the absence of visuals
Whalebomb: Got to Majestic complex a bit late again, but in time to catch a bit of Blase Splee to get me ready for Tiger City. I headed over to the Majestic and…What? Tiger City cancelled? How was I supposed to know? In my angry disappointed state I stayed there, staring at the stage, hoping that was wrong news. It wasn’t. Unfortunately I did not get to see Tiger City, but I did watch a bit of The Displays. Don’t get me wrong, the Displays were great (and another “rock” band for those critics out there), but I was still sad about missing Tiger City.
Scotter: I too was bummed to hear that Tiger City had cancelled, which I found out only after jogging over to the Majestic to find a nearly empty room. But I wasn’t munching on a Wha-burger and french cries about it like Whalebomb, so I headed back to the Garden Bowl to hear BlasÃ© Splee end with “You Seem Better Now.”
Whalebomb: I then headed to Child Bite. I’ve only seen these guys during festivals like this and Blowout, so I always go out of my way to check out their show. Another band that’s hard to describe in words. You kind of just have to see and hear the chaotic sounds and visuals you get while watching/listening to Child Bite.
Scotter: This was my first Child Bite experience and, wow, I couldn’t believe the wonderful intensity of sounds, physicality, and energy of this band. With lots of music producing gadgets outside of the realm of the standard guitar, bass, drums instrumentation and about 20 beach balls tossed about the Magic Stick (I got knocked in the head by one, but I’m guessing the few escaped unscathed. And why would you want to?). To give you a better idea of what the Child Bite experience is like, I’ll provide a visual:
Pictured: Child Bite
And here are some images of their set, but I think the image above is a better representation:
Whalebomb:I made my way over to Bad Veins. I liked them. I didn’t get too excited over them, but I didn’t know anything about them before seeing their set. I wasn’t blown away, but they were entertaining, they sounded great, and I was comfortable staying there until they were done.
Scotter: I hung around for Apes after Child Bite finished up. I’m glad they made it all the way to Detroit, especially given Tiger City’s FAIL on that regard. Just before the band started playing, Majestic Ape (or so is Apes’ female keyboardist called on their MySpace page) talked to the crowd with a wool hat over her head and through a mic with a bogeyman-sounding vocal effect, offering hugs to the few brave enough to approach such an eerie-voiced spectre (I stayed behind, sheepishly, while my girlfriend went in for the hug. My therapist says that my unwillingness to grab a hug and my gf’s urgency to get one is worthy of analysis).
Apes is a noise-soul/rock band featuring the tall, nervy, falsetto-voiced singer Lucius Twilight, who flails about stage as if he’s constantly being shocked by electricity. Anthemic choruses combine with thumping drum beats and excellent melodic playing by guitarist Jackie Magik and the aforementioned Majestic Ape on electric keys. No bassist–who needs them anyway. Apes’ controlled unruliness was a great compliment to Child Bite’s chaotic anarchy on stage. These two should tour together.
Scotter: I got to the Majestic Theater a little bit early for Pas/Cal. Pas/Cal was definitely the band I wanted to see the most. My first Pas/Cal experience was unforgettable. They played with Detroit’s Slumber Party on a fine Fall night and I seriously thought as I watched, jaw-dropped, that this is the best band I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The band was impeccably dressed in Carnabetian attire and singer Casimer Pascal might have been the best frontman I’d ever witnessed, moving about so effortlessly on stage with a microphone stand bedecked in fancy 60′s-patterned ties.
This was before half of the band split for NYC, another started a new project, and in the midst of the upcoming LP being delayed over and over again, apparently from Casimer’s need for perfection. I was honestly shocked when Detour announced that VHS or Beta had dropped out to be replaced by Pas/Cal, shocked because I frankly never expected them to play as a band again, figuring that the upcoming I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Laura would present the swan songs to what was a short but brilliant music career. So in my excitement, I wasn’t expecting perfection. I was just expecting a bit of that old magic.
And Pas/Cal did deliver as best they could. Casimer’s perfectionist tendencies were apparent during set-up, and he seemed a bit at shaky at the very beginning, as did his rag-tag band of three others who had surely been united for this one show only. But as the songs played on, the band became more comfortable, started visibly having fun, and Casimer took off the guitar to perform those effortless moves I was talking about, singing his heart away.
“I forgot that playing live is fun,” he said, with the nonchalance of a person who is unaware that the enjoyment of playing music in front of people is one of the greatest experiences in life, uniformly true in all ages and cultures.
The performance was almost everything I needed it to be. Almost. The only moment I regret is the following:
Casimer quieted the audience near the end of the set, saying he needed a moment of positivity, and told the famous story of how John Lennon met Yoko Ono at one of her art exhibitions. John approached a ladder that lead to small message written on the ceiling of the studio. The message–a simple “Yes”–was so small that you had to use a magnifying glass hanging nearby to see it. John thought the artwork was revolutionary and had to meet the artists, and you know how the story goes from there. So Casimer told the story and asked the audience, on the count of three, to say, all together, in unison, “Yes.” We counted “one,” “two,” “three,” and just as I and everyone else were about to exclaim our affirmation of positivity aloud, Casimer said, abruptly, “no!”
I’ve never felt so much like Charlie Brown when Peppermint Patty sets up the football for Charlie to kick and then pulls it away at the last moment.
Whalebomb: I waited for Pas/cal cause I’m old and lazy and didn’t feel like moving. I love Pas/Cal and they sounded great even with just a smaller band than what I am used to seeing. I watched most of their set, then went back to the Magic Stick to catch a bit of Terrible Twos. They took the last bit of energy out of me that I had left.
Then I left.
I regret missing Lee Marvin Computer Arm and Zoos of Berlin.
Scotter: Nighty night, Whalebomb. Sorry pal, but you really missed out.
I’ve never been a fan of The Von Bondies. I just never really liked them that much, and I’m very glad that the Detroit music scene these days is a lot of what they’re not.
That said, I must say that The Von Bondies put on one of the best shows of the Rock City Fest. They were the most professional of all of the bands by far, with an amazing light show, great sound, smoke and strobe lights, and they played tightly and with lots of verve. Love them or hate them, The Von Bondies totally delivered in a big way, and I’m really glad my curiosity made me stay for most of the show. Sometimes, Garage Rock sounds best on a large, historic, century-old stage with professional sound and visual equipment. Not in a garage.
Who would’ve thought?
Scotter: I am simply flabbergasted whenever I see Zoos of Berlin. How can a band this good not be signed to a major Indie label? Why aren’t they every band’s favorite band? How can they be from Detroit? They sound like they should be from France. Or Jupiter. Throughout their show I kept shutting my eyes, but not due to fatigue (they started playing after 1am). I found myself needing to concentrate harder, in order to feel every contour of the music being played. Guitarist Trevor Naud and bassist Daniel Clark sing with breathy baritone voices, harmonizing so closely that their voices are nearly indistinguishable. Their sound sometime nears a droning, or a humming, and most of the music is hangs in the mid-to-low frequencies, with the exception of Will Yates’ popping, staccato’d keyboards melodies, which keeping the music moving. It’s music that often sounds like a sunset, or a dewy dusk, but a sunset or dewy dusk in a busy city, with cars and lights and people about. Kind of like jazz, only cooler than jazz.
See here for a great article about the band.