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Bars of Gold Show Review by UNI DESPAIR 11/23 at Small's in Hamtramck

Detroit-Style Old-School High-Energy Revival !

With the MC5 and other local groups, Detroit was the origin of High-Energy music, but other bands -- such as New York’s Blue Öyster Cult and Captain Beyond from Los Angeles -- soon picked up on it. (BÖC used to perform “Kick Out the Jams” by the 5.)  These bands typically featured superior musicianship and complex songs, but nothing good ever lasts, so eventually the guitar demons atrophied, and the style split into punk rock and metal. With the advent of the hair bands and clown bands of the ‘80s, hard rock had lost whatever significance it may have had for adult audiences.

What’s worse, the record industry began promoting younger-and-younger acts so as to appeal to teens, the demographic that buys the most product.  Continued listening to whatever was popular when you were eighteen became the norm.

Now, sophisticated rock by accomplished musicians has triumphantly returned. Baby-Boomers and Gen Xers can put away their cherished old albums in favor of something new that’s just as fierce.  If there’s any justice in the world, and if grown-up bands playing for grownups has a future, Ferndale’s Bars of Gold will be the Next! Big! Thing!

As with all the superior bands in history, BoG can best be appreciated live. (One live show by the Rolling Stones is worth all their albums.)  If you have an appetite for guys who can really get it on with a guitar, this is your band, but the frosting on the cake is Marc Paffi, one of the strongest frontmen in music today.

Best of all, the band excels at the long form. The problem with many pop acts performing live is that they play one of their three-minute songs well enough, but then, the energy level falls back to zero. BoG pumps the energy up, and, because their material features a lot of changes and development, they can keep the tune going at length without becoming repetitious in the manner of those West Coast jam bands.

Another mark of a quality group is versatility, and too many bands perform material that pretty much all sounds the same. Bars of Gold play hard-driving rock, but some of their songs feature a banjo, which lends a country flavor. At one point in their show, drummer Brandon Moss comes to the front to tell a poetic story, while the band improvises a subtle accompaniment -- that’s also a country-music tradition.

He might be the first to scoff at such a notion, but Marc Paffi is really a soul singer.  He is more James Brown than Bono, and he employs many old R&B devices such as frequently planting the microphone stand in the middle of the audience and exhorting the assembly, pacing back-and-forth like a preacher (the message being, It's time for sonic fornication!).

Bars of Gold have picked up the magic baton right where the MC5 and BÖC dropped it, and they are now the Kings of High Energy -- faster, louder, more sophisticated than any other band out there. Their Friday, November 24 performance at Small’s certainly got the crowd going. Opening acts — the aptly-named Meadower and Ypsi's Lightning Love (whose singer, Leah, could be the next Leslie Gore) — provided a pleasant and enjoyable pop prelude, but their music could happen anywhere sunny.  BoG is a genuine soot-covered Detroit band.

You need to see this band live. Until then, check out at or

-- The Insidious Uni Despair