Preview of Blowout 16
I don't like change. The Blowout has long consisted of one night at the Magic Stick and three nights in Hamtramck. It will now be one night at the Magic Stick, two nights in Hamtramck, and then three nights in Ferndale the following weekend.
Hamtramck is losing a night, and also losing a venue compared to last year, now down to twelve. This is after 2012 had one less venue than 2011. Skipper's has closed indefinitely. Mar's Bar isn't involved this year. The upstairs of the Polish Village Cafe is still on board after being a last minute fill-in for Atlas Bar after it caught fire last year, and Seven Brothers has been added.
Hamtramck dive bars were always the backdrop for the Blowout (I'm not counting the opening night at the Magic Stick, because most people skipped that anyway). It's going to feel so alien having three nights in Ferndale. Would could be further from dive bars than the creeping entry level pseudo-sophistication that's taking over Ferndale?
The are some surprises amongst the Ferndale venues that have signed on for the Blowout. You would think that the Magic Bag could have been the focal point of the Ferndale leg of it wanted to, but they're not involved. Adding the Ferndale Library doesn't make sense to me. What happens when someone vomits Captain Morgan (proud sponsor of the Blowout) all over the children's' books section? Sakana Sushi Lounge doesn't make sense either, but I'm looking forward to just standing outside that place and watching the collision of drunk Blowout attendees and drunk bachelorette partiers wearing penis hats and necklaces stumbling out of Boogie Fever.
One thing that's been marring the expansion to Ferndale is that the scheduler of this year's Blowout, Chris Johnston, owns three bars in Ferndale. People suspected that he would divert the best talent to his bars in order to maximize his own profit. With the full schedule revealed, it doesn't seem like Johnston is being blatantly exploitative. Two of Johnston's bars, The Loving Touch and Woodward Avenue Brewers are part of the Blowout, but the third, the Emory, will not be. Secondly, what are arguably the biggest draws of the two weekends, The Meatmen and Sponge, will be hosted at the Polish National Alliance Hall in Hamtramck. The closest that Johnston comes to hoarding the talent in his own venues is having seven acts at the Loving Touch on the last night. That's something no other venue outside of the Magic Stick is receiving. Some might also view the scheduling of Passalacqua at the Loving Touch as favoritism. They've gotten a lot of hype in the last couple of years, but I couldn't really tell you what kind of crowd they draw. I wasn't in to their hip-hop for hipsters schtick, and haven't checked them out in a while.
Aside from the issue of atmosphere, the Ferndale weekend seems wanting because it only involves ten venues. Of those ten, two of them close up shop before midnight. On the last night one of those venues will be mostly taken up by a comedy showcase hosted by a guy that's proven that he isn't funny, so my choices for that night feel like they're limited to just seven.
The upside to the expansion to Ferndale is that the schedule is more walkable. Hamtramck can't compete on that front. It's nearly a mile from the New Dodge on the southern end to Jean's Lounge on the north. In Ferndale the New Way Bar seems like the only venue to be more than two blocks away from the Woodward and Nine Mile intersection. That still leaves me wondering, how many times will I be able to cross Woodward in just one light change?
What hasn't been talked about is how the opening night at the Magic Stick has been scheduled. Of the 25 acts on the bill, 24 of them have a second time slot over the proceeding five days. Two Hour Traffic is the only band at the Magic Stick not getting that privilege. Is this a sign that the Blowout's choices of talent were stretched thin?
The one change I have no complaints about is moving the festival from early March to late April and early May. Walking from bar to bar as spring is starting will be a welcome relief after schlepping in the cold for years.