I toddled on down to Hamtramck this past weekend for two nights of the 11th annual Blow Out. As was the case last year, no bands blew me away, but I find the idea and the logistics of the event pretty damn cool. 200 bands, 20 venues, crappy Michigan March weather, and hit-or-miss (er, mostly miss) beer selections. There is a certain sport to the event – finding a good band in a decent venue with acceptable beer – that appeals to me. This point seems lost on my Blow Out buddy of the last two years, however. So if you are intrigued, I might be looking for a new companion for next year!
Since there are sooooo many bands, it makes sense to split the task of choosing where to be when. I took the Thursday night shift:
Manna & Quail: young, keyboard fronted, pop. They were billed as tight, but they had a stand-in bass player who’d had all of 45 minutes to learn the tunes (for a 45 minute set). They didn’t entirely suck, but we were late, I was unsettled, the beer was yellow, and, consequently, I had little love to give them. They would have had to work waaaaay harder to hook me.
Scarlet Oaks: best of the evening and the only full set we caught. A lovely pint of Arrogant Bastard helped loosen me up for this Wilco-ish band. The guitarist/singer was eager and had Gerry-like moves (though the songs were nowhere near as intricate as Gerry’s), the drummer was all enthusiasm, the bass player competent, and the other guitar player took a turn on the pedal steel… some sort of sonic padding, such as pedal steel, was a great idea for this band, but he needs to get bigger and more comfortable on the instrument. They struck me as a band with some potential.
Freer: this poor band, anchored by two brothers, had the unfortunate curse of media attention. The Free Press had given them some build up but then they had technical issues (it seems… no one ever told us) and started waaay late. Bell’s Brown Ale held us at the quintessentially Hamtramck neighborhood Atlas bar until they got two songs in. But they had started with a loose “blow out” jam that was just too sloppy to come back from… at least after starting late on a night when several other bands were playing in same time slot. We wandered off to catch Georgio “the dove” Valentino at the Painted Lady, but he had finished early. Simplicity was still playing at the New Dodge, around the corner, but the “alti-ness” of their tunes evident on the web didn’t come through live… and this was another bar with only yellow beer… so homeward we fled, knowing there was another full night of music to be had.
I think my strategy next year will be to limit the choices of bands a bit by sticking to the better venues -- the ones that have both decent sound and decent beer. The tiny neighborhood bars that only serve yellow beer are mighty cute, but I'm not there for cute. Next year: Small's, Whiskey in a Jar, the Belmont, and the Painted Lady will be at the top of my list.
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