Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Tapes "Inzane Family" AM900 Fest

     Official club business called Dave, Ellen, and me to the Destroy Compound in Detroit last weekend to check out AM900 Fest.  "Noise" was the word, and we conquered the scene with open ears and minds (discreetly embellished with neon-colored earplugs.)  Check out the list of bands at  We sauntered in about half-way through the all day festival and got a taste of what the locals in Detroit are up to.  We missed Wolf Eyes (regretfully), but were rocked out by the rest of the noise makers.
     Our Reverend Secretary wanted a perspective on the experience from someone without very much exposure to "noise."  Although we all bring the "Popular" to the PMC, I am not totally fresh on what's considered noise these days.  Am I the only one that can't keep up on all the new labels for music genres?  Screemo, Acid, Protopunk, Mathcore....  Call yourself what you will, just make sure to bring it.  And these guys and gals did, for sure.  Mostly everything was plugged in, warped, or mixed (with the exception of the girlies on the clarinet and drums), if not simply amped up for sheer volume.  Many altered (or just straight-up busted) instruments and progressive vocal styles added a specific character to each band.  That spooky improv-jazzy band (what's their name?) impressed me the most.  But I really liked the one-girl show on the bass, too (maybe more for the aesthetic of it all.)
    Most impressive, however, was the Destroy Compound itself.  The AM900 had just as much to do with the environment as it did the noise--a total experience.  Partially metal shop, residence, and trash-art garden, Destroy Compound is a functional work of art bringing together the progressive and surviving population of Detroit.  Most of the materials to renovate and stylize the space were taken from the scrapyard across the street and manipulated by the owner and few residents.  The environment complemented (if not, at times, supported) the noise artists.  The night ended with a battle of homemade noise-robots--the Alien and the Robosaurus--and pyrotechnics.  Rad.  "Go there sometime," says the President.

Monday, April 4, 2011


As representatives of the Popular Music Club, Ellen and I bring positive reports from our music experience in Ann Arbor on Saturday, April 2. We attended a concert (or “show”, if you will) at a youth center called the Neutral Zone as a husband and wife date.  (Our fellow club members were tied up with various commitments including a nearly 4 hour opera production [great job, by the way].)

Opening the evening’s events was a collaborative of musicians from around the country in a sort of progressive, experimental, overall nice-to-listen-to band, Capillary Action. Ellen was particularly delighted by the band’s ability to “break down genres,” and they certainly did that. At times they channeled Gentle Giant, Architecture in Helsinki and Converge (a strange combination I know, but it really worked) with a sort of jazz seasoning binding all these elements together.

After their set, we had a chance to talk with the guys. They seem a lot like us, musicians doing whatever they can to “make it,” often making huge financial sacrifices to do something they love. It’s both encouraging and discouraging the same time.

Check their music here:
I particularly like “Methheads and Mormons,” a song about Salt Lake City, definitely the strangest city in the United States.

When I was maybe 13, getting into bands like MXPX (don’t judge me), I was chatting with a buddy of mine at a bookstore, browsing through CDs. “Have you heard of this band?” he asked me pointing to a CD, “They sound like [TV static sound created with the mouth] the whole time.” At the time I really thought Extol sounded just like that--noise. Why would anyone like this and seek it out for personal enjoyment? A few years later, I was a huge fan of metal and hardcore. Several years later, my musical tastes have expanded as has my definition of “music.” After several listens metal sounds less like noise and more like music, even melodic at times. Enter Wolf Eyes.

Wolf Eyes makes hardcore and metal sound like child’s play. After hearing these guys Metallica is almost relaxing, and your mother wished you still listened to this.

My first encounter with Wolf Eyes was some time in the fall of last year. Ellen and I were seeing Lightning Bolt in Kalamazoo and Wolf Eyes was opening for them. I had never heard of them or had any idea what they were all about. When they started playing I was confused, but interested. What were these guys doing? They created a ruckus of mish-mash noise through slapping and general mistreatment of a guitar (certainly never plucking a string or note), overblown soprano saxophone and variety of homemade and altered electronic devices. A handful of people were rocking out, head banging to a non-existent pulse, and another handful were tripping balls, probably on some sort of psychotropic substance. Everyone else was irritated.

I was well prepared for the show in Ann Arbor and certainly not disappointed. A dialogue between vocalist Nate Young and the sound engineer sums up the experience pretty well:

Young: Can I get more drum machine in these monitors? More…More...More…That’ll do.

Engineer: Yeah, it’s maxed out.

Young: Cool.

Hearing loss was most certainly unavoidable, even with max-power ear protection.

The performance resonated with me much more than I expected it would. The droning mass of sound beat against the pitch-bending sax and created a weird, primitive space to dwell in. There were moments when I felt like I was going to go berserk and lose my mind. Most of the time I really, really liked it. The most enjoyable part of the music was the use of extremely loud, low frequency bursts created by a drum machine. Each beat was felt just as much as it was heard, vibrating the entire body, like one of those cheap massage chairs in a shopping mall. The feeling made me want to rush to the restroom and have massive diarrhea or vomit. Either way, I enjoyed it. I felt like a baby inside its mother’s womb, being massaged by the vibrations of her voice. In a way it was therapeutic, a simultaneous full-body massage of sound.

Check out this clip. Get a feeling for their music. Why should you listen? Because it’s cool. If you don’t think it’s cool you should listen to it anyway, because it’s there.

I love this clip mainly for one reason: If you put these guys in suits and a performance hall, this could be avant-garde classical music worthy of scholarly, academic attention (hint hint). As it is, it’s just “noise.”

And Lightning Bolt was Lightning Bolt—sheer volume, high-energy, melt-your-face-off rock n roll (?). Ellen and I have been lucky enough to survive two Lightning Bolt shows with out facial damage.

As soon as the band started playing, the venue lit up. It was near impossible to stand stationary for more than 30 seconds as the mass of jumbling bodies enveloped innocent bystanders. It became one of those shows where, when you get out of the shit, you don’t know if your shirt is soaked with your sweat or the sweat of the ten people around you.

Lightning Bolt remains one of my favorite bands, and the chemistry between the two players is unbeatable. Drummer Brian Chippendale is hyperactive and can’t sit still for more than five seconds, while bassist Brian Gibson puts on a sad, puppy-dog, “I’m really tired, but am mildly amused by this situation” face.

Check this video and see what you all missed:

If you would like to experience Wolf Eyes and several other similar music outfits for yourself, American Tapes is hosting a 900th release celebration on Saturday April 23, from 2-10 PM in Detroit. Admission is FREE! If you are daring (or stupid) enough to go, I’ll probably make the hike sometime in the afternoon. Here’s the info:


Friday, April 1, 2011

Man Man and Zines

Hi everyone,

My good friend from back home emailed me this link this morning.  Check it out!

Man Man is a band from Philadelphia that incorporates extended techniques and harmonic language into their music.  The video is definitely worth watching.
Also!  They are playing at The Crofoot in Pontiac, MI on May 25.  If you're around, go!


One way the Popular Music Club would like to contribute to East Lansing musical life is through a zine.  (For those of you who don't know what a zine is, go to  Anything and everything can go into this publication as long as it either pertains to music or is written by someone in the club.
Here are some suggestions!

*  A CD review
*  Some super recipe
*  A neat DIY trick you learned
*  Write-up of a local show, band, or art show
*  Interview with a musician
*  Personal rant or manifesto about music or music culture
*  Song lyrics (preferably your own)
*  Academic-style essay about the arts

Give us your genius!