Wednesday, April 11, 2018

CONCERT REVIEW: "Weird Al" Yankovic at the Pabst Theater, 4/10/18

EMO PHILLIPS


I was not familiar with opener Emo Philips’ work beyond his appearance in UHF, but after seeing him open for “Weird Al” Yankovic I might have to explore his comedic stylings. Certainly his vocal affectation can be a little off-putting, but if you can get beyond it there is some good stuff there.


His style reminds me at least a little bit of Steven Wright or Mitch Hedberg, only Phillips’ jokes take darker twists. An example: “I got in trouble on a date recently: I didn’t open the car door… instead I just swam for the surface.”


If relationships were his greatest muse, cornball puns (as if there are any other kind) were his other. One such groaner went. “This is my impression of the stratosphere: “So thisguy comes up to me... “ (Say it out loud if it doesn’t make sense to you.)


Emo ended the half hour set by saying he had known “Weird Al” Yankovic since the 80s and had always wanted to tour with him. Al replied that it would happen, but only if Donald Trump was elected president. Emo’s deadpan response: “I’m sorry.”


“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC


This stage lighting is about as fancy as it got. 




















“Usually when I write songs, I inhabit a character,” quipped “Weird Al” Yankovic before a packed Pabst Theater on Tuesday night, “...but this song is 100 percent autobiographical.” The song in question was the stunning tour de force of “Albuquerque,” a fan favorite deep cut off of 1999 LP Running With Scissors. This little (admittedly facetious) tibdit was emblematic of the tour as a whole:  Yankovic and his excellent band ditched the costume changes, video screens, and hit parodies for stools, a minimalist stage setup, and set mostly comprised of rarely performed deep cuts and style parodies.


Reflecting upon last night’s set and reading other reviews (and also attending the show with a lifelong hardcore “Weird Al” fan) made me realize that there are levels to “Weird Al” fandom. All Yankovic fans are dorks to some degree or another -- he doesn’t go by “Cool” or “Awesome” for a reason -- but some take it further than others. They are the ones that know all the words to all the songs, the more obscure the better. Then there are folks like me who like Al just fine, but never really got into the back catalogue beyond the hits. This show was definitely for the former, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.


As much as I might be a middle of the road fan, I’m not unlike my fellow dorks in that I’ve always wanted a “Weird Al” show that was more like a real concert instead of a choreographed musical. In doing it this way, the show revealed Al as a person in addition to his stage persona. Al and the band got to do the songs they wanted to do, and they looked like they were having a blast doing it.


The aforementioned “Albuquerque” was easily the set highlight for me. Sure, the version here was turbo-charged compared to the studio version -- Yankovic’s vocals were rushed, and some of the humor comes from the pacing and pauses -- but still, it was awesome in all of its manic, stream-of-consciousness hilarity.


Another highlight was the Doors pastiche “Craigslist,” from the little-loved Alpocalypse LP. It’s not that the song is terribly funny -- though the coffee shop bit always gets me -- but rather the performance of it. Yankovic does a pretty inspired Jim Morrison impression with this tune, and the band plays up the moodiness of it all pretty well.


The crowd was otherwise treated to a career-spanning set full of deep cuts, some fan favorites (“The Night Santa Went Crazy (Extra Gory Version)”), some -- even “Weird Al” acknowledged (“Airline Amy”) -- not so much. Though there was some hooting and hollering (and random song requesting) between numbers, the people in attendance mostly hung on Yankovic’s every word. With that in mind, one could read the crowd as being either subdued or reverent depending on your perspective, but I don’t think that really matters. Many laughs were had, and Yankovic and band were showered with applause after every song.


The set ended with a medley of parody hits (“Eat It,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise,” etc.), which was presented not as a polka but as MTV Unplugged-style classic rock. It was a nice nod to his most casual fans but also a nice little surprise for his most hardcore ones.


The two-song encore consisted of a straight-up cover of Tom Petty’s “Breakdown.” In an alternate universe, the theater would have erupted into a Pack Up The Plantation style singalong, but it was not to be. “Yoda,” however, did have the biggest singalong of the night. It was fitting that the show was closed out with a well-known parody, because let’s face it: no one got into “Weird Al” because they heard “Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White” or “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.” At the same time, those songs are the reason Yankovic has the enduring fandom that he does. The proof was on the faces and in the voices of everyone that left the Pabst Theater.  

Monday, February 19, 2018

An Obituary for My Cat, and Musings on Mortality


We rescued Isis (a.k.a. Big Black) from the Wisconsin Humane Society in March of 2007. Immediately she came up to me looking for pettings and chin scritches. When I wasn’t touching her, she did figure eights between and around my legs. My girlfriend -- now wife -- and I were completely smitten with this cat. We brought her home that day -- our second major “as a couple” thing we did in a month. (The first was moving out together.) We were instructed to introduce Big Black to the apartment one room at a time if at all possible, which we complied with as best we could. But despite our best efforts, when it came time to go to bed, Big Black busted out of the ramshackle wall we built and made her way into our bedroom. She jumped on the bed and laid down right between us, looking for cuddles and pettings.

Years passed. Big Black got even bigger before developing a thyroid problem, which caused her to lose a lot of weight. Her eyes started discharging a goopy yellow liquid. Both ailments required her to be on medication for the rest of her life. In addition to these things, her advanced age simply slowed her down; she struggled to get up at times and had trouble making the jump on to our bed. Her paw pads became worn and crusty; the black fur that defined her turned grey in spots. The seven-year-old we took home was now an old lady that required more care.

Despite all of this, Big Black was still essentially herself. She still loved her treats. She still came up by you looking for pettings and chin scritches. If you hit the spot just right, she’d kick one of her hind legs out in delight. But the decline came quickly; she started peeing everywhere; her cries in the night (and sometimes the day) became louder and more anguished. In her last days, she stopped eating her beloved wet food and was so frail she could barely stand. I knew it was nearing the end when I tried to feed her treats and she just looked at them and flopped down, leaving them uneaten.

We had to put her down yesterday. She was 18 years old.

****

It hasn’t been twenty-four hours yet since she passed, and I cannot stop replaying her last hours in my mind. My wife spent hours with her in the bathroom, crying and comforting her as best she could. I came home from work to see a cat barely alive with a cry so soft it broke my heart.

We took her to the hospital to be put to sleep. The time alone with her in the room was excruciating. My wife kept trying to wash her face off to not much avail. I gave her some pettings and a last chin scritch. We both kept saying how sorry we were. Was it for her or for us?

They took her away to put the IV in. I swear, despite knowing that Big Black was pretty out of it already, that she looked me in the eye with abject fear.

Finally, doctor came in to administer the fatal injection. He explained that it would probably be over quickly, and it was. My wife yelped “I’m so sorry!” as we both fought back tears. It was intense. The doctor left, and we were alone again. My wife picked her up in the blanket and hugged her one last time. I kissed her softly on the head, and tried to close her eyes but failed. We decided to leave the blanket we brought her in, not wanting to disturb the body. We left with a plaster casting of her paw prints to remember her by. Only an hour had passed, but I felt like I had aged years by the time I got in the car. Our ride home was mostly silent.

****

The iPhone's camera sucked in 2010, but that is Big Black being cute at the sprightly age of 10.
These words I’m writing are more for me than they are for you. All I can think about is how and why I’m grieving and what it all means.

I know why Isis’ death made us so sad. The 11 years of love we gave her and the companionship she gave us wasn’t for nothing. There was a genuine relationship there, and the loss of her has created a void that won’t be easily, if at all, filled. But it isn’t just about love or companionship. Because whether it’s a pet or a person that is (physically) gone forever, that loss reminds me of my own mortality.

The existential crisis of mortality is paralyzing. I cannot think about it for more than a few minutes without breaking down. Signs of Isis no longer being here are still in the apartment: the two litter boxes in the bathroom; the last cans of wet food we bought her; no longer having to worry about pee puddles in the morning, or being woken up in the middle of the night by cries for food. I look around this shitty apartment and it makes me sad; I look at my parents and my wife’s parents and the way they’re all slowing down now, looking a bit more weathered than before and it makes me sadder still. I look my 6-week-old son in the eyes knowing that one day he might be where I was 24 hours ago, trying to comfort me the best I can before the drugs kick in and I’ve left my body and consciousness behind, and now I’m fucking bawling.

This death thing isn’t going over too well.

****

My wife had a good thought on the whole thing. She said, “It’s better that she went with us rather than without us.” For us, confronting Isis’ death was probably a good thing. It probably also at least gave us peace of mind that her last minutes were spent with people that love her. The pain of her passing and guilt over letting her hang on maybe too long won’t be leaving any time soon. But that’s what it means to be human. (Felines are lucky in this regard.)

They didn't really like each other, but I could occasionally capture them together.


The treats I tried to give to Isis on her last day alive are still scattered in the kitchen. Every time I look at them I know I’m choosing pain over closure. I know I can physically remove these remnants of Isis, but I can never mentally wash them away. Isis the Cat is gone, but Isis the Memory is not and never will be. I’m sure this thought won’t make it any easier when future pets or people go, but it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?

Isis, doing what cats do.



Just about 17 years old in this picture, but will always be my baby kitty cat to me. 


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Everclear: A Concert Review

I’d been hemming and hawing inside my head whether or not I wanted to go see 90’s alt-rock favorites Everclear on Saturday night. Normally going or not going to a concert isn’t a huge decision, but Everclear’s music meant a lot to me in my teenage years. Unfortunately Art Alexakis hasn’t made any interesting music since about 2002. Furthering my anxiety was the fact that last time I saw Everclear (2008 or so) Art and his band of hired guns weren’t very good; his voice sounded shot and the performance was lackluster.


But I ended up going anyways.


Considering my nostalgic reasons for being there, my vantage point was apt: behind a tree and slightly off-center; the band a slight blur in the distance. Both band and (this) fan have lost a step over the years; “Heroin Girl” was played more at the speed on the White Trash Hell EP and “Amphetamine” chugged along at a gallop instead of a sprint. Alexakis’ voice was fine if not powerful; my own singing along was quiet and unsure.




None of those things really mattered, though. The set was almost exclusively hits, mostly from So Much for the Afterglow. The many kids in attendance enjoyed the pogo-jumping parts from “Everything to Everyone,” the parents (and other adults) jammed and danced to classics like “Father of Mine” and “I Will Buy You A New Life.” (The fact that Everclear managed to marry happy, upbeat rock music with sad, autobiographical lyrics should tell you everything you need to know about why I like them.)


Clearly Alexakis and his band didn’t give a damn about being in a Spinal Tap-like situation, playing essentially a free show at a zoo. They were jumping around and singing closely on the same mic, obviously enjoying each other’s company while feeding off the crowd.


I really didn’t go into the show expecting a whole lot. But what I saw in Art Alexakis was a man still very much in love with performing and someone who still believes in the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe it wasn’t just like being sixteen all over again. But on a buggy summer night, some 20-year-old tunes that can still hit you right in the feels (as the kids say these days) did just fine.

Set List:
So Much for the Afterglow
Everything to Everyone
Father of Mine
Heroin Girl (Art introduced this song by noting the family-friendly nature of this show)
Heartspark Dollarsign
White Men In Black Suits
Amphetamine
Wonderful
Song From An American Movie, Pt. 1
Brown Eyed Girl (Art Solo)
Dueling guitar solos
AM Radio (featuring Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” intro)
Volvo-Driving Soccer Mom
Local God
I Will Buy You A New Life


Encore:
Fire Maple Song
Classic Rock Riff Medley (Living After Midnight (Judas Priest) / Another One Bites the Dust (Queen) / Rock You Like A Hurricane (The Scorpions) / Rock n Roll (Led Zeppelin)
Santa Monica

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Roger Waters: A concert review

On Saturday night, to a nearly full house, Roger Waters proved to be the rare arena rock act that can be everything to everyone. Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials, and the kids that the millennials will eventually get to complain about all gathered to hear one of classic rock’s great catalogues. I suspect no one went home unhappy.


If you are the sort that takes pleasure in the pure aural experience that Pink Floyd’s music provided once upon a time, this was the concert for you. Waters and his crack backing band -- and the sound system they played through -- sounded excellent. The rumbling opening bass line to “One of These Days” sounded particularly menacing. The acoustic guitar that starts off “Wish You Were Here” was pristine. The wordless backing vocals from “The Great Gig in the Sky”, courtesy of the ladies of indie-pop band Lucius, were absolutely gorgeous. Though Roger Waters ceded much of the lead vocals to his guitarist (who just so happened to sound just like Waters and David Gilmour), his weathered voice fit the music and gave it gravitas.


For the more visually oriented / stoned out your gourds of us, the second set in particular scratched that itch. Video panels dropped down from the ceiling to just above the people on the floor, dividing the crowd in half. The screens first displayed the power station from the cover of Animals, complete with smokestacks sprouting from the top, and a tiny inflatable pig floating off in the distance. Later in the set, the screens stretched and retracted, practically pulsating to the beat of the song, while colorful patterns along with overlaid live images of the band playing were displayed.


The second set was capped off with a laser-show interpretation of the Dark Side of the Moon cover during “Brain Damage/Eclipse.”

The colored prism shot out seconds later. People on LSD probably freaked out. 



Perhaps you’ve heard that Roger Waters is an outspoken opponent of conservative politics, Donald Trump in particular. He delivered most of this unsubtle political commentary during the 11-minute epic “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” Images shown on the aforementioned video panels included, but were not limited to: Trump vomiting; Trump as Hitler; Trump as KKK member; and the ever-popular meme of Vladimir Putin holding up Donnie Two Scoops like a doll. Near the end of the song, an image of Trump smirking and looking off in the distance and holding a huge dildo appeared; when his likeness turned to face the crowd, the dildo shrank.
The Trump-bashing during “Money” was less biting, but no less amusing.

The famous inflatable pig, this time featuring an image of Donald Trump with eyes crossed out with dollar signs.




Of course, for all the overblown media coverage surrounding this part of the set, it did only account for 20 minutes or so of the 2-hour performance.


Roger Waters’ lyrics are responsible for starting (and continuing) my -- and probably many attendees’ -- Floyd phase. They may not be complicated or even poetic, but they hit where they’re supposed to hit. When he sang “You run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking / Racing around to come up behind you again / The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older / Shorter of breath and one day closer to death,” I got chills, the same as one hundred times before. (“Time” is my favorite Pink Floyd song by a mile; its theme of the helplessness and utter inevitability of mortality is something I can’t help but get hung up on.)


All of these experiences were wrapped up in the songs of classic-era (Dark Side through The Wall) Pink Floyd. Minus the new material from so-so new album Is This The Life We Really Want?, it was hit after hit. Show-closing “Comfortably Numb” featured a communal singalong, which is somewhat ironic considering that the song is just as much about as the distance between performer and audience as it is about drugs. But it was just as awe-inspiring as most of the 20-plus songs before it.


In the end, tour namesake and Dark Side deep cut (if there is such a thing) “Us and Them” summed up the live Roger Waters experience nicely. Images of Black Lives Matter protesters, refugees, and the like were juxtaposed against pictures of riot police, soldiers with guns, and drone strikes. The message was pretty clear: we’re divided as fuck, perhaps further away from each other than we’ve ever been, and that’s not a good thing. But for one night -- for just two hours -- it didn’t actually seem like Us v. Them. There was only an Us, and it was excellent.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Car Seat Headrest, Ludacris, and Me: A Summerfest Review

Once the forecast cleared up early Sunday evening, I decided to embrace my inner outer creeper and plunge alone into the madness that is a weekend night at Summerfest to catch a couple of acts that I like but don’t love. This is how that went.

Up first was indie rock band Car Seat Headrest at the Johnson Controls Stage.

You know a band is small-time -- and that is almost certainly on purpose -- when they are on stage 15 minutes before showtime doing their own sound check. This is not a knock on them, merely an observation.

After a short introduction by Dori Zori from 88.9 the band took the stage to some pretentious, Bon Iver-esque vocal samplings before launching into “Vincent” from their current album Teens of Denial. Immediately apparent was the fact that the band set out to put the “rock” in indie rock. The faders were definitely pushed up to 11. Unfortunately this meant that the feedback-drenched guitars and thumping drums drowned out singer/guitarist/brains behind the band Will Toledo’s mumbly vocal delivery. He simply doesn’t have the pipes to cut through the crap.

Approximately half an hour into the set they played what was one of my favorite songs from last year, “Destroyed By Hippie Powers,” and it was excellent. Even though I think the crowd was enjoying the show overall, it also seemed like the arms-crossed, hipper-than-thou indie kids there didn’t give the song the moshpit freakout the song calls for. It is what I came to hear, though, so after it was done I bailed to see…

....Ludacris.

You know the song “Too Many People” by Paul McCartney? It was like that. By the time I made it to the Miller Oasis stage, the crowd wasn’t so much a crowd but a college kegger writ large: (nearly) everyone young, dumb, full of come. Blunts were everywhere, and so were teenagers grinding on each other to the jams.

Luda, to his credit, obliged the party scene by pumping out hit after hit.

My criticism of most modern rap shows applies here: he didn’t perform entire songs. Verses from “Money Maker” (with admittedly one of his all-time best lines: “Let me give you some swimming lessons on the penis / Backstroke, breaststroke, stroke of a genius”) blurred into “What’s Your Fantasy” which then eventually collided into “Rollout (My Business)”

Of course, nobody fucking cared.

Despite a total lack of personal space, everyone seemed to have a good time. My personal highlight was indicative of the rest of the set in that “Move Bitch” was awesome until Ludacris stopped after two verses and promptly dove into “Stand Up.” (I get it, Mystikal wasn’t in the building to do his verse, but still, it was disappointing to hear his best song cut short.)

Ultimately I’m guessing my opinion of both artists’ performances is in the minority. Car Seat Headrest is perfectly capable of rocking your socks off, if you don’t mind squalling feedback and garbled vocals. Ludacris is a legitimately fantastic rapper that has a string of unassailable party jams to his name - if only he’d perform them in whole. But I’m sure the amount of “amazing” and “unbelieveable” descriptions on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram will far outnumber the objections from old grumps like me.





Thursday, July 7, 2016

Concert Review: Sir-Mix-A-Lot at Summerfest

Two songs into his first-ever (!) Milwaukee show, Sir-Mix-A-Lot proclaimed (paraphrasing) “Ain’t nobody come out to these shows to hear some abstract-ass new song no one’s ever heard of. They want some old school!” The man certainly knows his audience.

That audience, as was probably expected was predominantly white and predominantly young, though all generations and races were represented. All the recent handwringing and thinkpieces in the music press about the misappropriation of black culture meant nothing here, because these people came to dance and Mix came to supply jams to dance to. The whole thing was essentially a 70-minute party.

It should be noted that Mix-A-Lot can flat-out rap. He had hype men, but they mostly stayed in the background to let Mix shine. Opener “Buckin’ My Horse” and a fiery rendition of “Testarossa” displayed his verbal skills. Also worth nothing was his storytelling skills. He said how he saw some lady on MTV -- who he claimed looked just like him, goatee and all -- who said he was the epitome of a one-hit-wonder. Mix -- yes, we are on a first name basis -- then got on Twitter to reply by taking a picture of his middle finger and then his taint. (Please don’t look that up on Google) But his nephew (also a member of his on-stage entourage) reminded him of his other hits, and they kicked into “Posse on Broadway”

It’s true that Sir Mix-A-Lot never reached the ubiquitous heights of “Baby Got Back,” but the set proved that he has songs that at the very least you’ve heard of. “My Hooptie” was well-received, if the stench of weed was any indication. “Swass,” which was apparently the basis for The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” was present, as was “Beepers,” “Buttermilk Biscuits,” “Jump On It” (which got the second-best reaction of the night, complete with copious references to Milwaukee, 414, Brewers, and Bucks), and, yes, his masterwork -- or magnum opus, if you insist -- “Put ‘Em On The Glass.”

The only real misstep was a bizarre (to me, anyway) interlude where they played Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and chanted over it. The crowd kept dancing like nothing had changed, which was sort of cool actually. I had just the right amount of beer in me to think a mosh pit was a good idea, but that never came to pass.

Mix kept the energy high throughout, and the crowd ate up every second of it. There was much booty-shaking, particularly by lovely young women. One had a permanent grin on her face while dancing with her man -- a pure unadulterated joy that my unshakeable melancholy won’t permit me to experience. There were dudes dancing too -- a pasty shirtless guy by himself, an old guy with a pony tail also by himself. Me, who in lieu of sweet moves swayed to the rhythms and tried my best to sing the lyrics.

The set ended as one would expect, with ladies invited on stage for an extended version of “Baby Got Back.” Mix-A-Lot high-fived people and thanked the crowd for coming out, and claimed he would be back. For an hour-plus of jamming out to classic tunes and forgetting about the daily grind, I would definitely go see him again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Dispatches from Detroit

My wife and I took a road trip to Detroit to see a concert. Yes, we are crazy. No, we did not get mugged, or stabbed, or carjacked. In fact, the majority of people we ran into were quite friendly. We stayed for a few days, and these are some thoughts I had about the trip.


THE DRIVE and the CITY


The six-hour trek from Milwaukee to Detroit was a perfect metaphor for what’s wrong with the deindustrialized Midwest in general and the greater Detroit area in particular. It was blustery and cool the entire way, with the sky a relentless, depressing gray. Milwaukee roads may be perpetually under construction, but at least we’re trying. Illinois has its own problems, but their roads are not one of them. But as soon as we crossed the border into Indiana, the freeway immediately turned to shit and only got worse as we made our way across Michigan.


Michigan drivers must not know what a signal light is, because they rarely ever used one. One driver even cut across three lanes to get onto an exit ramp, which was both dangerous and illustrated a Louis CK bit rather nicely.


Despite all that, we made it to the hotel in one piece.


Truthfully, we didn’t plan on being in Detroit proper for much of anything aside from the Motown Museum (see below). Certainly there were hip parts of the city that we could’ve visited. Or we could’ve seen the abandoned Michigan Central Station or the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, but I don’t think either of us really wanted to see that ruin porn in the flesh.


(I get into politics here, so skip the next few paragraphs if you don’t want to read that.)


The parking around the museum was scarce and the streets unfamiliar, so we looped around a couple of times. During that process, we were funneled down some side streets that seemed more like alleys -- mostly unplowed and mostly barren. The buildings and homes on these streets were covered in graffiti, and were either boarded up or had all the windows busted out. The only word I can use to describe this is heartbreaking. It wasn’t just one or two structures, it was blocks and blocks of being surrounded by blight and disrepair.


Republicans will tell you this happened because of corrupt Democrat government and lazy black people, Democrats will tell you it’s because of greedy rich white men and the deindustrialization of the area. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, as it always is.


It’s become pretty apparent to me that 1) Americans are addicted to cheap goods and 2) CEOs and stockholders are addicted to cheap labor -- and when that happens the jobs move away the middle class gets fucked. Both sides are like two balled fists that keep smashing into each other. They keep hitting each other, but nothing changes.


The only way capitalism can really work (for everyone, not just the rich) is for the (mostly) unskilled middle-class workers to make or build things for their fellow middle-class workers to buy and use. This is because the rich mostly save their money, and the poor have no money to save.
So if Detroit wants to be “America’s Great Comeback City,” as it says on all their tourism material, those jobs need to come back. Companies might have to pay their workers more or pay more taxes, and consumers might have to pay more for their goods. But that’s the only way it can work. Perhaps they could start by getting their unemployed population to fix their freeways, but I doubt it.


THE MOTOWN MUSEUM




In more uplifting news, the Motown Museum was pretty cool.


I am normally not a fan of guided tours – I would much rather read/view/listen to things at my own pace – but our tour guide, Cecilia, really made the story of founder Berry Gordy and Motown Records come alive.


After a 20-minute video, the first part of the tour was in the building adjacent to the iconic “Hitsville U.S.A” building pictured above. Cecilia told us how Berry Gordy started the label with an $800 loan from his family after only getting a $3 royalty check for writing a hit song.
From there he signed the Marvelettes, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Temptations, and even a kid by the name of Little Stevie Wonder. Everything was accentuated by myriad photographs, memos, gold and platinum records, album covers, and even a hat and jeweled glove donated by Michael Jackson.


From there, Cecilia took us into the famed Hitsville building, which featured Gordy's living quarters upstairs, complete with furniture, dishes, multiple turn tables, and other furnishings. The basement was where the real action was, though, as that is where a ton of the hit singles from the Sixties were made.


Everything was set up as if they had never stopped making records. A punch clock was set up with time cards dated 1966. The candy and cigarette machines from that period are still there. You could take a peek inside the control room before descending a stair case to the studio where so much magic was made.


It was kind of cramped, but the 15-20 people on the tour all fit inside. There was a piano, various sets of headphones, microphones hanging from the ceiling, and songbooks opened to The Temptations' “My Girl.” Cecilia told us a little bit more about the studio itself, before ending the tour by leading us in a singalong of “My Girl.” Sure, it was mostly off-key (except for the theatrically trained twentysomethings who couldn't help but show off), but much like the music made there all those years ago, it was joyous. Thanks to the good music and the tour guide intent on her guests having a good time, I walked out feeling better about things than when I had walked in.


THE FOOD




I'm going to go out on a limb and say Michigan isn't really known for its cuisine. There may very well be all kinds of good places to eat, and admittedly we didn't go out of our way to find them.


Apparently Detroit-style pizza is a thing, but if the ads that I picked up at our hotel are any indication, Detroit-style pizza is merely cheap and shitty-looking.


Big Boy restaurants are alive and well in the area. Their burgers were actually quite delicious.


After the concert, we stopped at a hot dog stand (known as “Coney Islands” in the area) and... didn't have a hot dog. I had loose ground beef in a hot dog bun, covered with mustard, onions, and chili. You won't believe it, but it hit the spot at 2AM. (Steph had a grilled cheese; it was a grilled cheese.)

THE CONCERT


Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) and Anthony Raneri (Bayside)





This was the Main Event, our whole reason for coming to Detroit. The “Where's The Band” 2016 tour actually was stopping in Chicago the next night, so it was sort of like trading a 20-dollar bill for two fives as far as travel was concerned. But there we were, in lovely Ferndale, Michigan to see pop-punk/emo heroes of our youth perform solo acoustic.


The venue itself was fairly intimate, maybe 150-200 people could fit in there tops. We arrived 45 minutes before the start time, and after buying 2 24oz cans of Pabst ($6 apiece), settled about two rows from the stage.


On other dates of the tour, apparently all the performers were out on stage together for the entire show, helping each other out occasionally. For this show, it was mostly solo performances. This didn't hurt anything, but I do kind of wonder how much better it might have been with everyone out there.


If there's one thing that became clear over the course of the night, it was of the healing power of music. It doesn't really matter what genre or scene you come from, whether it's punk or emo or metal – in that moment of the song, all pain is shared pain; all happiness is shared happiness. It didn't matter who was on stage, almost all of the songs were singalong songs. And judging by the amount of couples there, it was proof that despite the common lyrical themes of longing and rejection that things would eventually get better and we'd all make it through.


Individually, my favorite performer of the night was Anthony Raneri of Bayside, though that just might be because he did the most songs that I recognized. He and Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio covering The Smoking Popes' “Megan” was probably the set highlight.


Andriano didn't actually do that many Alkaline Trio songs. Either that, or the songs he chose were post-Crimson, which is where I stopped paying much attention to the band. Some dude dumped an entire beer on top of a girl during his set, which was a sour note on a night that was otherwise filled with good vibes.


Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids closed out the show, and he did not disappoint. He opened with “Anne Arbour,” which was appropriate; he dug somewhat deep for a Reggie and the Full Effect song, which was unexpected. He messed with the crowd throughout – taking requests and not playing them; telling a girl all the guys would come out to sing “Happy Birthday” and then not doing that at all – before closing the set with “I'll Catch You,” a fan favorite and song he swore earlier he wasn't going to play because it was such a bummer.


For $16 and three hours of entertainment from some heroes of my younger, single days, it was not a bad time at all. I hope they go out on tour again next year – but maybe this time they could hit Milwaukee.