There's certain things one looks forward to in life. Christmas. Birthdays.
Vacations. Events that come equipped with expectations even though you
have no idea how they'll play out. Take Thanksgiving for example. From
year to year you may eat slightly different food, have slightly different
conversations and watch slightly different football teams play, but
you know its gonna be an abundance of food, booze and football - so
pretty good stuff even if the turkey's dry, the wine cheap and the games
Welcome to the Hamtramck Blowout. A three day orgy of music and booze
and all the goodness that comes with these universal truths. Imagine
an alcoholic getting a job in a brewery, or a fourteen year old boy
discovering that there's porn on the internet. This is what the Blowout
is for anyone who loves home made Detroit Rock and Roll. And pretty
much any other type of music that you could here at a bar where the
floors are sticky and the air thick with smoke.
Returning to the Blowout for the first night is like the first day
of school. The first day of your senior year of high school. You know
how the game is played, everything is familiar. You revel in that which
you've been away from for awhile. Little surprises around the corner
that you should have remembered. That's the way I felt when Mark and
I exited I75 and saw the Kowalski 'Kowality' sign - Hamtramck's welcome
mat. A reminder that this a Polish drinking town. By the way this is
Mark. Markie C. He's my co-pilot. My partner in Crime as it were for
this and every other Blowout. When I say we, its me and Mark. I think
you've got it.
Anyway, Mark and I pass the Kowalski sign and check our
map to find our way to the first destination - The Knights of Columbus.
The KOC is about what you'd imagine - a giant hall that probably spends
most of its life hosting wedding receptions. Its something of a Blowout
anomaly. Take for example exhibit A:
Maybe its just me, but I find the irony h here delicious.
The KOC is staffed by old, balding, overweight men. They stick out like
sore thumbs among the hippies, bikers and hipsters. But this is the
biggest venue in Hamtramck and the sound is usually surprisingly good.
brings us to why we're here. Band number one is American Mars. Its a
nice safe start. Markie C knows the bass player and we've seen American
Mars before. There's quite a few people here. By the time we leave it'll
be over 50 - a nice turnout for 9pm on a Thursday. And American Mars
doesn't disappoint any of them. As we walk in they're pumping out a
Wilco-y sounding number. Its Wilco somewhere between Summerteeth and
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Markie C calls it classy midwestern pop rock.
I say that sounds about right. The suits, the upright bass, the table
top slide guitar - these guys are serious musicians. They're not as
tight as I remember, and the drums sound like they were miked by a four
year old. But these are minor complaints. American Mars has set a bar
for the evening. We are on our way.
leave the KOC and head for Carbon. Mark and I have decided to take a
chance for the 10:15 slot. We love the tiny club that is Carbon. It
is here that we first saw The Hard Lessons (more on them Saturday night).
But what we don't know is what to expect from the band we're here to
see - Nomo. We've checked them out on the internets. Its horns and drums
and synthesizers. We have high hopes, but there's always the chance
we end up in jam band hippy music territory - a prospect that scares
the shit out of us.
Things get off on the wrong foot. Its the soundcheck from hell. Trying
to organize 7 people on stage the size of a king bed is a tricky proposition
to begin with. Add that to the fact that you've only got an hour and
fifteen minutes to get on/set up/play/get off and we're beginning to
wonder if its even possible. The horns start to warm up and they blast
through the tiny club. Now we're sure they'll never get the balance
right. The sound guy is happy with how bright the horns sound, forgetting
the fact that they'd likely sound the same if they weren't miked at
all. But the chaos eventually dies down and everything starts to shake.
Or I should say that everyone on stage starts to shake. Maracas, sleigh
bells, you name it, they're shaking it. Then one of the horn players
starts to blow a conch shell. I can barely look at it. I'm trapped in
a hippy love fest. When the other two horn players start blowing conch
shells I have to take a knee. This is the peril of the Blowout , I tell
myself. Sometimes you ride the bull, sometimes he rides you. Time to
suck it up. I right myself and decide I need a picture, for posterity.
I raise my camera high above the crowd, hoping that I can catch all
three conches in action. At least now I have proof.
that's when everything changed. First the synth comes in, doubled by
the funkiest bass you ever did hear. Then the horns come in and I immediately
fall in love. The next thirty minutes are transcendent. Former trumpet
player Mark notes that they're trumpet player is so good that he may
hate him for it. I agree that if I still considered myself a trumpet
player, I'd hate him too. The beats are relentless. The hooks come in
waves. What appears to be the band's leader plays some tiny electric
instrument I've never seen before. Its unbelievably funky. I call it
electro afrobeat pop beebop. Mark says that's about right.
We're on a high as we leave Carbon. There's nothing else we want to
see here in the next two days, so it'll likely be next year until we're
back. But much like when we found the Hard Lessons here two years ago,
we have a new band to go see. What we aren't thinking of is what's next
on the agenda.
Normal has been around for over ten years. I'm not sure why. Mark's
got some buddies in the band so I've had to see them perform several
times. I even reviewed they're first album when I was at the Michigan
Daily. Let's just say I'm not the biggest fan. Markie C says I won't
be disappointed by their professionalism. That and my level of drunkenness
are little consolation give that this the sign of the bar we're seeing
them at. Very few people are here to see South Normal. I'm not sure
who the audience is for their brand of post-grunge hair metal. Mark
and I spend some time calling the new guitar player a skull cap wearing
homo. For me, its the highlight of our time at the Locker Room.
I'm beginning to get very drunk. While I am trying to write hurriedly
in the dark, that's not excuse enough for handwriting that looks like
we're off to my favorite bar in Hamtramck: Smalls. Smalls is a labyrinth
of living rooms that leads to a stage in what looks like a giant garage.
This is where I would hang out were I a Hamtramckian. And as it turns
out, we're here to see Detroit's hottest punk band - Broadzilla. These
girls scare the shit out of me and it only makes me want them more.
Oh yeah, and it doesn't hurt that they will rock your face. I can say
this because I've seen them before. I remember little of seeing them
When the set is over its finally time to head home. First night of
the Hamtramck Blowout '06 ends with me immediately passing out when
my ass hits the passenger seat. Success.
Click here to see what Friday had in store.