The Detroit Cobras with Willowz
Wednesday · The Mad Hatter
In the current Pop climate, where American Idol cultivates a talented class of karaoke singers in order to pluck one from their number and bestow upon them a career of recording hot tracks provided by song doctors, it's hard to imagine a band making an original career out of cover songs. But then The Detroit Cobras are no ordinary bar band engaging the easily entertained with the hits of the day and some '80s flashbacks for the nostalgic. The Cobras are a ferocious Garage band with Motor City chops. They're a perfect musical storm of the MC5's anthemic bluster and Motown's seductive Soul, artfully retrieving obscure Rock gems from the dustbin of history to rework in their own magnificently unpolished image.
Although the Cobras have experienced numerous lineup changes over the dozen years of their existence (only hyper-possessed frontwoman Rachel Nagy remains from the original band started by guitarist Steve Shaw in 1997), the band's philosophy of well-chosen covers and appropriately familiar originals has endured. The Cobras have followed this relatively simple formula over the course of a few local singles and their subsequent full-lengths and EPs after signing with Chicago's notorious AltCountry label, Bloodshot.
Nagy and the current Cobras (featuring guitarist Mary Ramirez, Reigning Sound guitarist Greg Cartwright and a revolving cast of extras) recently released one of the band's fullest and most developed albums to date in Tied and True, a 13-track, 31-minute, all-covers romp through a 1960s singles carrying case. The differences on Tied and True are the Cobras' uncharacteristic use of the studio in more fully arranging their selections and Nagy's slight shift toward her inner Martha Reeves as she fleshes out the Soul side of the Cobras' frenetic Rock equation.
For those who worry that the Motor City's greatest Garage band has gone a bit soft on Tied and True, calm yourselves; all of this soulful introspection is conducted within the chaos of the Detroit Cobras' standard Rock maelstrom and the band's throttle is still set to full. One of the Cobras' greatest feats has been exuding an almost inhuman energy level in the studio and then finding a way to wring even more power out of their set list when they hit the stage.
If Detroit Edison could harness the Detroit Cobras' power output on any given night, the Eastern seaboard would never experience another blackout. The Cobras show at The Mad Hatter Wednesday (8 p.m. start) is free and open to all ages. (Brian Baker)
Silverstein with Rise Against, Comeback Kid and 2 Cents
Wednesday · Bogart's
If the music industry needs yet another object lesson to build the case for grassroots marketing a cool band in favor of throwing money at promoting lesser talents, Silverstein stands as a handy example. Named for twisted Folk singer/children's author Shel Silverstein, the Burlington, Ontario, post-Hardcore quintet began life seven years ago as a side project for each member's various local bands. After a couple of self-released demo EPs, Silverstein settled into their current lineup (vocalist Shane Told, guitarists Neil Boshart and Josh Bradford, bassist Billy Hamilton, drummer Paul Koehler) and signed with noted Metal/Hardcore label Victory.
Their 2003 debut, When Broken is Easily Fixed, sold nearly a quarter million units without any of the standard trappings of promotion, relying instead on the band's intense touring schedule and fan-driven Web presence. Silverstein's 2005 follow-up, Discovering the Waterfront, surpassed its predecessor by similar means, garnering the band an ironic 2006 Juno Award nomination for Best New Band (after a half dozen years together) and earning their new album, Arrivals & Departures, a coveted slot in Alternative Press' Most Anticipated Releases of 2007 coverage.
The creation of Arrivals & Departures was fueled largely by the end of lead vocalist Shane Told's seven-year relationship, so the album's lyrical content bristles with the pain and disillusionment. On the other side, the album also examines the joy and toll of living life on the road, a condition that likely led to Told's personal difficulties. All of this is set to Silverstein's engaging soundtrack, a mix of Emo's melodic beauty and Screamo's buzzsaw energy coupled with Told's schizophrenic vocal style, which vacillates between Pop sensitivity and Metal rage. Silverstein shows an amazing musical and emotional range on Arrivals & Departures, a combination that will surely appease old fans and kicks the door open for even more new ones. (BB)
The Mudkids with DJ Helicon
Friday · The Gypsy Hut
"We're The Mudkids from Indianapolis," begins each and every performance by this 10-year-old Hip Hop band. Ten years ago, 1997 was leaning toward the end of Hip Hop's Golden Age, an era (largely) of positivity. Emcees were well-versed in varied vocal and rhythmic approaches; DJs had mastered isolating and extending percussion beats. The popularization of Hip Hop had boomed; there was a conscious focus on political, social and cultural issues within classics like Run DMC's Raising Hell and Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. You also had artists like Gang Starr and A Tribe Called Quest experimenting with the stylization of Hip Hop, incorporating Rock, Latin, Reggae, Jazz and Electro beats into the mix.
Often dubbed Indianapolis's Pioneers of Hip Hop, The Mudkids garnered wisdom from their predecessor's triumphs and failures. "We're classic Golden Era Hip Hop with elements of Old School," says DJ Helicon, turntablist extraordinaire. "We've got an upbeat, heady lyrical style (that's) opinionated and provocative — clearly not commercial. We're not narrowed down to the five things allowed in Hip Hop. It happens to be Hip Hop because of the beat and the style."
Those five things referring to phine automobiles, urban outfits, gangster grills, misogyny and, of course, the bling! DJ Helicon joined Rusty Redenbacher, Skittles and DJ Elp-Mass last year after organizing and uniting the two acts for a national tour. Rusty and Skittles lay out Digable (Planets-sounding) lyrics over DJ Elp-Mass's and DJ Helicon's sweet Funk and R&B samplings.
The group's 2006's efforts proved beyond fruitful when 2007 arrived. Who'd have thought the Indianapolis Colts' AFC and Super Bowl successes would have any bearing on a local Hip Hop band, eh? Already set to release Basementality in January, the Mudkids were approached by a Colts fan to craft a tribute anthem for their home team. Within days, "Rock N' Roll (Go Blue)" could be heard on all local stations while the YouTube video was downloaded by the thousands.
"Football season was certainly an interesting part in where the Mudkids are going," says Helicon. "We haven't had a major successful sports team ... since IU in 1987! It was a real spirited week with a lot of attention on the Colts and us. Everyone was into it; it changed life. Accountants were wearing jerseys into work."
The Mudkids received exposure to an audience that wouldn't otherwise be listening to Indy's Pioneers of Hip Hop. Their fourth album, Basementality is an energetic surge of simplicity and magnetism. It ain't pimps 'n hos spread over senseless scratches. There's heart and honor behind the words and beats. (Sara Beiting)