Magic Stick Lounge
Tickets: $10 advance/$12 door
Available via Ticketmaster and Magic Stick box office
You may know them as the precursor to The Soledad Brothers and Boogaloosa Prayer, or as composers of "Goin' Back To Memphis," a song often included in The White Stripes' live show since 1998... and on Friday, February 11, 2011, Henry & June will take to the stage in Detroit again for the first time since 1996, and for only the second time since their demise more than a decade ago.
Henry & June...
as remembered by lead guitarist Dooley Wilson:
"We were fresh out of high school, we had all graduated together from Maumee, [Ohio], and we were essentially learning how to play our instruments when we originally formed as a trio. I think it was late '92. Jimmy [Danger] and Ben [Swank] had come out of this anarchical and cacophonous punk outfit called "Weird Harold," and I was newly-divorced from playing heavy metal and had become obsessed with blues. I figured with Jim fronting us on vocals and holding down rhythm guitar, and Benny's loose cannon drumming, I could evade the pitfall of sounding like any kind of cheese-ball blues act. The results were quite raw and boisterous, but that's what we wanted. I was driven by Bukka White and Fred McDowell and they were coming at it from a sensibility more rooted in, maybe, The Stooges, and we were into stuff like The Gories and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, so the raw edge to the sound, as well as the conspicuous absence of a bass player was something I enjoyed at the time. It's amusing for me to contemplate how we were then: insecure white kids from the suburbs trying to make music that sounded like the postwar ghetto of Chicago meets a Big Muff pedal, and we used to get scared driving through dicey neighborhoods in Detroit and Flint to either see or play shows. One of the times we went to Chicago to play The Empty Bottle, we spent the prior afternoon getting lost in the barrio looking for a restaurant. Some would-be car thieves ended up helping us out with directions, one of whom observed that we "looked like a Zima commercial."
At some point, I started learning slide and finger-style playing in open tunings on the guitar, and began to implement that into our sound. This led to us getting a bass player, Johnny Walker, who had been playing in Todd Swalla's (of The Laughing Hyenas) side project called Autopilot; kind of a psychedelic pop/shoe-gazer outfit. Things came together pretty quickly, and we benefited tremendously from the help of The Laughing Hyenas, who had taken an interest in us and were determined to get us signed to Touch and Go Records, which never happened. The upshot of this was we got to play a lot of great shows around the region on bills with the Hyenas. I think there was even some press floating around that referred to us as their "little brother band, " a distinction I wore with pride. The downside of this upshot was that the last days of Henry & June were spent playing our established set (all songs in the key of E, down to the very last) all over the place; that is, just playing shows and getting burned out on ourselves and not doing anything new or creative of improvisational. By the time we had our first single pressed and ready to peddle, the band was already dead, and we reunited for a small handful of shows just to sell the damned record. At the risk of sounding immodest, I still feel like that single was a fantastic record, and I'm not alone in that sentiment. Moreover, when I listen to it, as well as some of the other stuff we had recorded, I'm struck by how damned GOOD we were in spite of our musical shortcomings... but I'm only talking about when we were good. Some nights, we were plenty terrible. At any rate, I'm proud of what we did, all in all. In those days, the early-to-mid '90s, there weren't many folks out there doing this sort of thing. I don't recall there being a genre distinction like 'garage blues,' because there weren't enough people on the radar doing it to comprise a genre. We were very much a beautiful anomaly."