The Detroit Cobras with The Fairmount Girls
Thursday · Jack Quinn's
It takes cojones the size of cantaloupes just to play music in Detroit. When you actually name-check one of the greatest music cities on the planet when you christen your band, you better come with your A-game and a butt-wad of confidence. Mitch Ryder earned his Detroit Wheels and that was the Motor City 5 imploring you to kick out the jams, y'all. But you have to know that Jack White had the sense to name his Stripes after himself and not his hometown. Iggy metaphysically owned everything from Ann Arbor to Lake Huron and even he knew better than to attempt the Detroit Stooges. Which leads us to the inevitable question: are the Detroit Cobras crazy or great? And the answer is ... yes. Nearly nine years ago, guitarist Steve Shaw channeled the inspiration of his friendship with soulful Pop/Rock legend Alex Chilton into the Garage Rock splendor of the Detroit Cobras. Shaw was well ahead of the current Garage revival when he assembled guitarist Maribel Restrepo, bassist Jeff Meyer, drummer Damian Lang and howling mad frontwoman Rachel Nagy (imagine a gene splice of Janis Joplin and Martha Reeves) into one of the most formidable, high-octane Rock outfits to rise up from the streets of Detroit in a couple of decades. After a handful of local singles and their 1998 full length debut, Mink Rat or Rabbit, a collection of well-chosen and mostly obscure Rock covers (a concept that carried over to the Cobras' sophomore album, 2001's Life, Love and Leaving and this year's seven-track EP, Seven Easy Pieces), the band's lineup shuffled continuously (only Restropo and Nagy remain from the original Cobras).
How can a group that only plays cover songs be one of the greatest bands to ever call Detroit home? With a visceral groove that personifies both technical skill and frenetic chaos and a desire to Rock that is every bit as passionate as Detroit's musical history. That's how. (Brian Baker)
The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with ¡Zumba!
Friday · Aronoff Center for the Arts
Like an all-star team loaded with Latin Jazz masters and experts, The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra was put together with the sole goal of keeping the storied history and tradition of the genre alive. The group is an offshoot of the Jazz at Lincoln Center arts organization, a nonprofit group dedicated to advancing Jazz music through concerts, festivals, tours, recordings, educational involvement, radio and television programs and whatever other means the founders deem necessary to keep Jazz alive and to inspire others to pick up the torch and run further with it. As its name pinpoints, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra focuses on the various vital Latin influences on Jazz, from arranger Mario Bauza's initial integration of the music into the bands of Cab Calloway and Chick Webb through Dizzy Gillespie's continual Afro-Latin forays and Tito Puente's climb to superstardom. The ALJO consists of what we are told are the best of the genre, including band-leader/pianist Arturo O'Farrill, trumpeter Ray Vega, saxophonist Pablo Calogero, percussionist Joe Gonzalez, CCM-trained trombonist Noah Bless and many others, each of whom have worked with the legends of the field. The group is essentially a cover band, performing the standards of Latin Jazz. But, given the collective credentials of the band members, this is probably the best you'll ever hear these songs played in modern times. Sweetening the pot even more is the pre-show lobby appearance by ¡Zumba!, the Cincinnati-based Cuban music band formed by Nicholas Radina after the break-up of local favorites, Bailando Desnudo. (Mike Breen)
The Bloody Hollies with Pearlene and The Bamboo Kids
Friday · Radio Down
Though commonly referred to as another appendage of the "Garage Rock" empire, it would be much more appropriate to put The Bloody Hollies into the category of Bluesy Punk, if such a genre even exists. If not before, then it does now and this band is situated in the eye of this enjoyable hurricane. If one word had to be used to define their sound it would be "debauchery." If there were ever a remake of Animal House, any song of theirs would fit somewhere in the soundtrack. Hell, their debut CD, Fire at Will (on the Sympathy For the Record Industry label), could be the soundtrack. Their raw, Rockabilly-tinged songs sound like the music that should be blaring out of the jukebox if you ever stumbled into a bar brawl where stools are being broken on backs and some fool is swinging on a chandelier kicking people in the head. All in good fun, mind you. While the lyrics aren't exactly John Keats — "Something's got to give/I'm about to throw a fit/I'm tired of this shit/Tired of this shit" is the chorus to the track "Tired of This Shit" — they don't exactly have to be. Their straightforward words complement their point-blank sonic outbursts perfectly. Wesley Doyle is a verifiable maniac on his guitar. The sparks that fly during his rabid playing could start campfires while the feedback he produces seem capable of shattering glass as well as an uncautioned tympanum. Bassist Phill Freidenburg and drummer Mike Argento keep pace with Doyle's chaos-like, frantic metronomes on the verge of combustion. Together, the trio hit you like a screaming morning hangover, which may sound unpleasant until you remember the amount of fun that took place to reach that state. A final word of advice for those who plan to attend their live show: Keep one eye on the chandeliers. (Jacob Richardson)
The Bigger Lovers with The Pernice Brothers and The National
Sunday · Southgate House
Philadelphia's Bigger Lovers are one of the greatest unsung Pop bands in America. Their 2001 debut, How I Learned to Stop Worrying, was recently tagged by Magnet magazine as one of the "Lost Hits of the Last Decade" and their sophomore album (and Yep Roc debut) Honey in the Hive had critics lathered up to a similar degree with its impeccable Big Star/Who references and infectious Pop melodicism. The Lovers' latest album, This Affair Never Happened (and Here's 11 Songs About It), might have been delayed slightly by drummer Patrick Berkery's hectic schedule as touring kitsman for the Pernice Brothers last year, but it was ultimately worth the wait. This Affair is filled with the Lovers' brittle and bold Pop constructions, modern off-kilter love songs set to a sound that suggests a world where the Strokes are influenced more by the Beatles and the Kinks than the Velvet Underground. Sometimes the Lovers could pass for the American XTC with a Beach Boys subtext ("You Don't Feel Anything At All"), other times they fuzz out and soar like Adrian Belew with his Beatles fixation in full freak flag mode ("Blowtorch," "Peel It Away"), and still others carry a Neil Young-on-Big Star lilt ("No Heroics"). For all the things that the Bigger Lovers sound like (The Alarm meets Social Distortion on their cover of the Only Ones' "You've Got to Pay," for instance), it's the original manner in which they fill the spaces between the comparisons that define the band's flawless Pop persona. And because this is a band that has done some serious road time, their studio savvy is paled only by the power of their live presentation. The Bigger Lovers should be everybody's new favorite band this year. (BB)