The Sights - Doop and The Inside Outlaws - Good Touch Bad Touch - Alvin's, Detroit - 03/27/10
By Krazy K
Motor City Blogger
Alvin's is in "Cass Corridor", which is infamously dangerous. But don't worry, I didn't get killed or mugged...just shot at a few times. No, it's a safe-feeling place because it's very close to Wayne State University, and there are plenty of thick, black-rimmed glasses wearing students roaming around (although they'd probably film you, rather than help you, if something happened). What is it with black rimmed glasses anyway...is Buddy Holly popular again, or are they all equally "unique" in their unintentional conformity. Oh well...I won't make fun of this phenomenon anymore (until next paragraph).
Alvin's has been through a handful of owners over the past few years, but this current ownership has a lot of things done right. The stage is big, it feels like a real venue, the sound system is not too loud, the bar is accessible, and they have a lounge away from the stage if you want to get away from the crowds. I read a review on Alvins before I went there and someone said, "a little too suburban looking to be in Cass Corridor". And what that person meant to say is that he doesn't like clean places, and he prefers to spill cheap beer(pabst blue ribbon)on his black-rimmed glasses. Whoops, just said it again. Now I'm just being mean.
My biggest complaint about Alvin's is two particular bathroom situations. First, the bathrooms are up a flight of narrow, metal edged stairs, seemingly ripe for unintentional suicide to anyone drinking alcohol...somehow they got a liquor license? I guess that's Detroit. And second, in the men's bathroom, it is still operating circa 1800 technology with a trough for us gentlemen to dangle our pee-pee's around (see picture...now that's photo-journalism baby!). How can you afford great renovations, glass block walls, guitars mounted on the walls, and yet still have a penis showcase in the men's bathroom? I have a problem with peeing in my own bathtub, little own a trough where we look like we're fishing for urinal cakes. And it's too suburban? Hah!
Great place overall, great sound, plenty of seating, nice bartenders, clean and welcoming, a long history of being a music venue...and they currently serve Hip-Hop IPA from Black Lotus Brewery (a great local brewer and venue in it's own right!)
Note from Editor: Alvin's has had 3 ownership changes in 5 years resulting in a hodge podge of show bookings and overall closings for months at a time - the previous owner who sold to the latest was a WSU Grad Lawyer who had high hopes but couldnt knock it up a notch - New ownership has taken the place from shit to shine including the bathrooms which compared to prior are good to eat off of....this place is seriously like a Hard Rock Cafe without the HRC and after a 6 figure investment that opened the grill for lunch and dinner they are now booking decent shows. Furthermore - the shit faced rif raff that used to hassle customers have been "handled" resulting in a top notch venue on campus that hosts TechTown events and is on its way to the top.
I'm really tough on bands and musicians, because I'm an elitist snob and musician myself. But rest assured, I do not play Jazz. I'm just sick of seeing people selling only energy and garage crock. I'd rather see someone play something more original and melodically dynamic...and in the rare instance that someone can sing, that's a plus.
The first band, Good Touch Bad Touch, was far and above the most interesting band of the night. They had a lot of versatility, and I was somewhat confused as to who I should compare them to, which is a good thing. They had pleasingly digestible and powerful pop-rock driven songs. Good vocal harmonies, and humble musicians. I even admit that I had to ask them who they sound like. No musician likes to compare themselves to other bands, but us readers need some kind of comparison, so they were kind enough to oblige me. Imagine "The Kinks", and "The Replacements", mix them in blender, and sprinkle some Detroit dust in there.
The second band, Doop and The Inside Outlaws, were probably the "sore thumb" of the night...meaning they stuck out. I'm not entirely sure how they fit the bill. They were more along the lines of Tom Petty, but with even more country swing. I liked them because they were dynamic and seemingly well-rehearsed, and the drummer even sang harmonies (which is no easy task). There was also a pedal steel(table guitar), which was proficiently used and probably the biggest reason I kept hearing the country flavor. They're a very nuanced country-rock pop band, Detroit's own version of Tom Petty, for lack of a better comparison. Perhaps one could argue they are pigeonholed in that genre because they didn't display a lot of variance, but if it works, you gotta stick to your guns (and spurs).
The headliner, and last band, was The Sights. Not surprisingly, their name starts with the word "The" (see: The Hard Lessons, The Muggs). Their own description of the band says, "The Sights continue to build on an incredible legacy of uncanny blues-rock-power pop". Legacy is defined as: anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. Uncanny is defined as: being beyond what is normal or expected.
Well, I expected what I saw, which was pretty much the same type of music you can hear from any of the "THE" bands from Detroit. They all seem to blend together, with slightly different substance, but an overall similar experience. Perhaps selling more energy than originality, non-inspiring raucous vocals, and certainly not uncanny for anyone who has been to a handful of rock shows in Detroit. They were well rehearsed, and did have some bright spots in song structure.
But to their defense they have a lot of fans, and that means they are appealing to people. I'm not sure if their appeal is based more on musicality, energy, or marketing, but something is working with their masses. And I suppose it could be worse...at least garage-rock is still rock. They are still playing instruments. And I have to applaud anyone who hasn't turned to DJ's, auto-tuning, sequencers and electronica. Thanks for keeping rock alive guys! Now where are my glasses?
Check out the bands on myspace! Good Touch Bad Touch, Doop and The Inside Outlaws, and The Sights.