I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog about Spain (beautiful blah blah I went you didn't blah, don't be a hater) to jump up and down about the Hamtramck Blow Out. Hamtramck, the little city within the city of Detroit, is full of great old bars and the Blowout packs them in with bands playing 40 minute sets, one after another, and we're starved for spring and meaningful congregation. It's over 35 degrees, people are overjoyed and I declare everybody looks beautiful and interesting. It's a serious point of pride, the music from Detroit and a spirit of true community in Hamtramck that makes an event like the Blowout successful.
We are out with my sister Alyssa, who I used to bar crawl with in our glory days, her friend Elena and our friends Mark and Michele who live here and co-own the Belmont bar. We wax nostalgic about Lilly's, now the Painted Lady, where Lilly sat at the back door taking money into her 80's. It looks exactly the same; this matters. We catch the Detroit Party Marching Band by chance because we could hear the base drum leaving The New Dodge Bar, I'm excited. They're 15 strong on this night, show up all over town, unannounced and in costume. I'd yet to catch them. They played the stripper theme song. Can you stand it? Tubas and bass drums…righteous! We drive on. It's 10 blocks to Smalls, pouring rain now and this is Detroit. $4 a gallon or no, this is how we roll (did we invent this term?). The truck gets stuck in a snow drift as we try to park. Yeah, no, Michele and I will not be pushing. I take the wheel, men to the rear and with one shout out, 6 guys cross the road and push that F-150 right out of the drift. You gotta a love a town where men are men and hands get dirty.
Smalls is packed, Michele and I are now yawning and taking a dim view of standing, crowding, headliner or no. The Gardens are playing at the Belmont, a solid Detroit rock band made fresh by young skinny guys full of energy with English beat haircuts and all we care about is sitting down. We got privileges here, pizza and beverages at the ready. Mark is the mayor, glad-handing and it's fun to meet the business owners keeping it going in Hamtramck.
Great night, but here's the best story. It's the essence of Detroit grit; the anarchy that makes me feel at home. It's outside Smalls, we hear some broad with serious pipes belting out rock and roll with real feeling. But there's no bar. It's coming from the parking lot across from Smalls. This band didn't make the roster, no tithe no free beer. This band rented a U-haul trailer, parked it in the gas station parking lot and played out the back. It's lit with a single strand of lights, amps and instruments all plugged into someone's electricity. Cold rain and 3 people watching, the show is going on, U-haul's paid for. You can hear her 2 blocks away, by the end of their set, 20 of us are standing there, no umbrellas, on cracked concrete covered in ice and mud. The broad is a 20-something girl. She passed out half a sheet of paper with this on it, "You've been shagged by White Shag…www.whiteshag.com." Love, pure and simple. Gotta give it to get it.