Mason Proper’s Jonathan Visger
We’ve been bad bloggers this week.
The Rock City Festival night about which we have just posted took place over seven days ago. It was awesome, an entire day of music beginning at 1:00pm at the Contemporary Arts Institute of Detroit (the now somewhat infamous CAID, as of late) and ending at the Majestic complex at 2am after the last act had taken the stage. Subtract roughly an hour break between the last act at the CAID (interrupted, ahem, by the cops) and the first at the Majestic, and you have approximately 12 hours of live music in one day! Detour, I salute you.
But of course, the opportunity for 12 hours of music on Saturday meant little time for blogging about the approximately 6 hours of music from Friday night, and so began a chain of events over the week that prevented the punctual posting of this blog. One of these events was the marriage of one Whalebomb, who was still gracious enough to contribute to this blog even with the partaking of that most sacred bond at hand. Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Whalebomb on yer marriage.
But now, without the further mention of news most of you don’t care about, is our review of Saturday of Rock City.
CAID BBQ Party
Beneath the outside stage at CAID
Well, Whalebomb didn’t make it to the Rock City barbeecue party, but I was able to walk over to the CAID, a little hung over and rock-lagged, for a fantastic afternoon of bands, hanging out, making your own rock costume (compliments of Handmade Detroit. I made an ironic hipster mustache), and keg beer in the afternoon. Ah! Bliss! I got there just in time for the Silent Years but left for unforeseen reasons during Serenity Court (Sorry gals. My loss.) and then back for Kiddo and out before (aghast!) the cops got there (thankfully, but sorry for missing Great Lakes Myth Society).
Here are some pictures and highlights:
Got to the CAID just as The Silent Years started their set. Since they had booked a show for later that night in Chicago, they asked for the earlier time slot. Is there nicer music to listen to on a breezy summer day than The Silent Years? There was a really nice part on one of the songs they played where guitarist Fabian Halabou plays in unison to the melody Josh Epstein sings. Intricate, sensitive, and insightful music is not what Detroit is known for, but in some Indie circles around this country, Detroit is known for The Silent Years.
My first time seeing The Word Play and they lived up to the good press they’ve gotten so far. I look forward to seeing them again in the future.
Holy shit. This punk duet consists of “Hot Dog Bun Mahoney” on guitar and “Chili Mustard Onion Mahoney” (also known as Craig Brown, bassist for Terrible Twos) on drums and singing. This band gives credence to The Ramones by taking a similarly generic family name for their group and then kicks dirt all over them by playing faster and harder. Chili Mustard “debuted” (I think) the song “Where the fuck is my wallet?” which is a slight variation on a theme of their myspace song “Where the fuck are my keys?” This was one of the most fun acts of Rock City. I particularly like their ballad, “Detroit Shuffle.” Here are the lyrics: “D D D D Detroit Shuffle.” Then repeat.
The Decks seemed to have some guitar problems (those Rickenbacker geetars are nice, but not full-proof), but they recovered nicely and played a fun set. Part surf, part punk, check out The Decks MySpace page and listen to “What You Said.” It’s a great track.
I like pop, so to find that such a project existed in my hometown was a nice surprise. A better surprise was the fact that The Pop Project completely lived up to their name and reputation, delivering sweet, tasty Popsicles of song. In their varied repertoire of classic pop moves, licks, and harmonies, I could hear some early 60′s Beach Boys, a pinch of McCartney, a good helping of Burt Bacharach, and even some “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like harmonies in the last parts of “House of Books.” Matt from Javelins filled in on drums for this great afternoon performance.
The Pop Project’s Zach Curd asked the audience during a crowd participation part of the show to get down on their knees with their hands behind their backs, Ã la The CAID Raid. The audience obliged. Very funny.
Kiddo is Childbite‘s Christian Doble and Friendly Foes‘ Lizzie Wittman, with Thunderbirds Are Now! and Friendly Foes’ Ryan Allen filling in on the drums. Power pop with lots of “oh oh oh”s and girlz and boyz harmonizing = ok by me. Add a song about making out. You don’t have know calculus to figure that this equation equals awesome.
Back to the Majestic, for the Evening Program
Scotter: My pal The Peabs insisted I make it to the Majestic at 8:15 for The Golden Dogs, a Canadien band currently opening for Sloan on their current tour. To date, The Peabs has a 100% correct track record at predicting bands I’ll like, and he hit the hammer on the nail with The Golden Dogs. Their cover of Paul McCartney and Wings’s “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” which you can hear on their Myspace page, was great–I’ve always thought that song would be a great cover. Honestly, I have. But the highlight was their song “Saints at the Gates,” which made me want to stomp right along with the tune right up to and past those titular gates. Thanks, The Peabs.
Whalebomb: Having to prepare to get married and all, I didn’t make it to Rock City until Solitary States. I liked the Solitary States. I was surprised to hear that they’re from Detroit. They seemed to have a sound foreign to Detroit rock, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I’ll hopefully be seeing more of them in the future.
Whalebomb: I love them. Amazing. By far one of my favorite Detroit bands. Their set was so good that I missed all but one song of Mason Proper. If only I could be at two places at one time. But I just couldn’t tear myself away from the Nice Device. I mean, they covered Division of Laura Lee’s “Black City” for crying out loud. It sounded soooo good!
Scotter: Blown away. Mason Proper blew me away. It’s tough, you know, listening to over 20 hours of music and trying to distinguish between one band and another. Rock City offered an incredibly diverse line-up, but you can only hear so much in one period of time before it all starts to sound the same. And this is why Mason Proper really impressed me, because I couldn’t help but pay the closest attention I’ve given to any band of the festival.
Mason Proper is made up of a jittery but visionary frontman who demands your attention at all times, backed by talented musicians who produce a beautiful and coherent soundscape, allowing the singer to offer his intricate and eclectic messages to the audience in a deep and personal way. There’s only one other band I know of that I could describe this way: Radiohead.
Whalebomb: After seeing the last song of Mason Proper, I went to wait for Four Hour Friends at the Garden Bowl. They hadn’t started yet and I was thirsty so I headed upstairs to grab a beer and happened to hear a bit of Eat Sugar. I liked them, but I needed to prepare myself for Four Hour Friends so I only heard about 2 or 3 songs, then went back to Garden Bowl.
Whalebomb: It’s seriousness time now, children. So listen up. You could put Stephen Palmer in any band ever and it would be the greatest band. I won’t get into myself too much (like some other journalists do), but I will tell you that I know a bit about music and musical instruments and music theory and how everything goes together and blah blah blah. So just take my word for it…Stephen Palmer is the BEST musician Detroit has to offer. And I don’t mean that to be offensive to any other musician out there. But right now, in this time of 2008, there is no better musician than Palmer. Feel free to argue this with me, but you will lose. He does what every other band around here cannot do…and he does it with ease. He is someone that you can tell has made playing the guitar his profession and the time and effort he has put into it has paid off (from my ears’ perspective at least). So yeah, Four Hour Friends were amazing, and even without Palmer’s guitar, I still would have liked them…but he is a huge added bonus.
I then caught a bit of F’ke Blood before leaving. They were good. I enjoyed their version of “Hot Stuff.” However, I was tired and I’m old and busy so it was time for me to leave Rock City. I’m just impressed with myself that with a wedding one week away I was able to make it all three nights.
Scotter: See, the thing about the Friendly Foes is that they’re really nice on stage, with nice things to say and nice songs to play. But at the same time, they kind of get in your face, you know, try to rough you up a bit, even confront you in some way, as if they’re your enemy, kind of like how Slater and Zack Morris act toward each other in the third and fourth seasons of Saved by the Bell. Lizzie Wittman and Ryan Allen sing well together and Brad Elliott bangs the drums real good.
Scotter: Ok, my babys, it’s time to get down to brass tacks here. Sloan is one of my favorite bands of all time. Of all time. But they’re really starting to make me question if I have what it takes to be a long-term fan.
Sloan has outlasted–beyond expectation–most 90′s bands whose names don’t begin with “Pearl” and end with “Jam.” However, the difference between Sloan and Pearl Jam is that at least Pearl Jam has changed their sound and their show enough where fans expect something very different from what they expected in 1996. Sloan makes you expect the energy they once put out in excess, but they’ve come up flat on this performance as well as the last time I saw them live.
I think the best thing Sloan can do if they are going to continue to be a band is to put on small acoustic shows of new material in very limited-seating venues. Maybe change their sound, making it more eclectic, and stop writing the same songs. Although I’ve enjoyed every one of their albums very much, it’s my opinion that Jay Ferguson is the only one who has grown musically at all since Between the Bridges, and he has consistently written the best songs on all of the albums to come after Bridges. And I think even the most forgiving and loving Sloan fans at the Majestic would have to admit that Jay did not look like he wanted to be there last Saturday night.
We try to steer clear of negativity on this site, but what I’m saying here is out of love for all four members, the band, and their fans. Sloan–take a break. Don’t break up, but I want the Jay Ferguson solo album. I can’t take going to Sloan shows and only hearing Jay sing two songs when all of his songs are my favorite. Don’t you other Sloan fans want solo albums from your personal favorite Sloan member too? You know, this may be a bad comparison, but I’ll make it anyway. The Rolling Stones had to break up in the 80′s before they could come back to a re-birth of sorts in the 90′s. Maybe it’s time to find some new collaborators and begin the reinvention process.
I question if I’ll pay the money to go see Sloan the next time they come to town. I probably will, but it will be with a sense of possible dread, as if I’m paying the $20 or so bucks out of respect for the past instead of excitement for the present.
Scotter: I got out of Sloan between the regular set and the encore to catch one my Detroit faves, The Dead Bodies. Well worth it.
Three words: “Hugs and Kisses.” That’s a song that will be coming out on their next EP, tentatively titled Lot Lizards. Hey The Dead Bodies, would you please record that ASAP so that I can call the song “The Best Song of 2008″ on this very website? I’m not making any guarantees–the year is only half-way over. But I can say as of today that if such a recording existed, it would be number one. Also, please start playing “Senseless Devotion” in concert. PLEEEEEASE!
If you haven’t seen The Dead Bodies yet, 1) What the hell is wrong with you?, and 2) they play a free show at Cityfest on Wednesday, July 2, at the Pure Detroit stage, at 8:30. Czech it! You can also download FOR FREE their great EP titled CCCCXX (this, an acronym) right here FOR FREE.
Whalebomb: It was a great weekend and I couldn’t have thought of any better way to spend my last weekend as a bachelor.
Scotter: Rock City is the new bachelor party. Thanks to Detour for putting this great festival on. It’s one of those things that actually makes it nice to live in Detroit and not somewhere else. Now, on to Pitchfork Music Festival for the Post-Rockist!