BEER AND FINE CLOTHING IN DETROIT OR HOW I FOUND MY MIND: A NIGHT IN THE RUTS WITH KING KAHN & THE SHRINES IN THE MAGIC STICK AND KID CONGO & THE PINK MONKEY BIRDS IN THE MAJESTIC CAFE BY JEFF HOWITT FOR MOTORCITYBLOG 10/25/13
I have always loved the experience of live music but really only a few times a year get genuinely worked up and anxious about somebody coming to town. The last time was when Tav Falco came to the Magic Stick late last Summer but unfortunately it fell on the day Emergency Manager Kevin Orr created a “black out” scenario in parts of downtown Detroit to “send a message” oddly enough on the anniversary of 9/11 which left dozens stranded in elevators, disabled traffic lights and closed Wayne State University among it’s highlights. The show was cancelled. The City got the message. “Yes. That is how it feels when no one is coming to help you.” I would venture to say we already received that note, Thank You.
I say anxious because to be in the company of someone, say who juggled himself between The Cramps and The Gun Club before a life as a Bad Seed with Nick Cave and beyond as a Brought To You By His Own Bad Self or perhaps someone who found the key Out Of The Grave and has become a sort of George Clintonesque Patron Saint of Garage Punk. Put both entities inside of the same building on the same night and I am asking for mercy.
I went upstairs to The Stick first. I really wanted to check out the opening band Hell Shovel, also from Montreal and whose members learned the game playing with Bloodshot Bill, the Mark Sultan associated CPC Gangbang and of course as members of The Shrines. They remind me of a tad more angular Flaming Lips but with a great low end Velvet’s chassis live. Bands like The Strange Boys or The DoDos elementally came close to that barrage but recently Hell Shovel and The People’s Temple from Lansing, Michigan (who I saw on this very same stage opening for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion last year) really opened my eyes to a sonic shift amongst younger bands and that you could say is almost completely embodied in Thee Oh Sees if you follow me.
Photos - Pookie Gretsch from The Beggars
A near capacity crowd was more than appreciative to the band and cheered each song. A brief intermission passed as people redistributed their bodies or fortified their position to witness what was coming. I know Kahn in all his forms and projections has been tagged for his James Brown Star-Power stage presence but tonight when he hit the boards it struck me as less militant and more a playful guise of Otis Redding giving us his best enthusiastic Price Is Right Showcase Showdown. When he stripped off the his fine dinner jacket, briefly the band was visually androgynous with blackest of black matching shirts and pants and teeth and bone necklaces dancing on their chests.
I didn’t want to miss anything and ran down to the Café to check on what was happening. The door person said Kid Congo would go on about Midnight, which it was getting close to. Back upstairs Kahn appeared on stage in an afro, golden robe, bikers shorts and snakeskin codpiece hoodooing’ and you would be too twoin. Anxious (I’m bringing it back around) about not being there when Kid Congo takes the stage I head back down to the Café and indeed Kid is on the stage by Midnight but only to sound check and wait for the Brothership to land upstairs. I get caught up in conversation and just wait it out. Local impresario Greg Baise, who has been incrementally bringing the scattered bits of Sonic Youth to Detroit said,
“If you knew how much money I lost
on that Lee Renaldo show you’d buy me a drink!”
I handed him two Jack ‘n’ Cokes but he only took the one. I always take it one toke over the line. It was a shame that how much people go on about Sonic Youth around here that almost nobody showed up to Trinosophes to see Lee Renaldo solo with Steve Shelley on drums. Seek out that venue. Seek in general. There is so much beyond the boundaries of our favorite neighborhoods. It must difficult to have the vision and courage that Greg has in a town that sometimes can’t live outside it’s own interest or myth. Still, it doesn’t seem to stop anybody from doing.
When Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds did take the stage they did it with “For The Love Of Ivy”. From Kid’s days in Gun Club he would also play “Sex Beat” and “Jack on Fire” and close the set with “She’s Like Heroin To Me”. Fans of Detroit’s Dan Miller from Goober & The Peas and Blanche will remember those bands covering “Ivy” and “Jack on Fire”. Even with so many previously penned gems to pull from the Pink Monkey Birds cut a heavy slice of songs from their current album “Haunted Head” which I highly recommended. When I was in New York last Summer I visited Matt Verta-Ray at his NY HED studio on the Lower East Side and he spoke of a project he was working on with Mick Collins and Congo.
Only something wicked
and wonderful could come from that.
Kahn would eventually join Kid at the merch booth once the show was finished for both of them where they discussed other overlapping tour dates in Europe and where they’d meet up again in the coming weeks. I wish I could be there to buy them each a couple of their favorite drinks. The ultimate highlight of the night for me was when the fuzziest “I Can’t Find My Mind” by The Cramps just oozed out of the speakers like The Blob and devoured me.