Click the "play" button below to our roundtable members discuss a few of their 2008 Blowout picks.
Metro Times Blowout
With Cetan Clawson, Mega Weedge, The Silent Years, Bump, I, Crime, Eons, Blackreign, Ohkang, Human Eye and Loup Garou
Majestic Theatre complex
4140 Woodward, Detroit
More than 200 local music acts at 20 Hamtramck venues
$20 wristbands good for all venues, all nights
Our panel's picks
We chatted with three denizens of the local music scene about the Blowout and Detroit's scene:
Founder, Yarrr! PR music publicity firm
One Blowout pick: Skin & Bones (11 p.m. Friday, Shenanigans)
One Blowout pick: Citizen Smile (9:30 p.m. Thursday, Atlas Bar)
Musician (the Bomb Pops) and Web podcaster (timpoplive.com)
One Blowout pick: Rachel Brookes & Junk (midnight Friday, Locker Room)
The judges' decision? The Metro Times Blowout remains the heavyweight of live local rock.
The latest edition of the annual fest takes flight tonight at the Majestic Theatre Complex in Detroit before heading up the road for three bustling nights of live music in Hamtramck. The Blowout, celebrating its 11th year as a fixture on the calendars of local music fans, is bigger than ever: four nights, 20 venues, more than 230 acts.
We sat down this week with trio of music aficionados who are immersed in the world of Detroit bands, album releases and gigs. They surveyed the state of the Blowout, taking stock of the local rock landscape as it moves on from the garage-rock heyday that dominated earlier in the decade.
Their overall assessment? The Blowout is in fine health, a sprawling collection of performers representing an impressive breadth of sounds and styles. If anything, they say, the Blowout has grown too big -- a surplus of riches for music fans stuck making tough choices on the crowded schedule.
The 2008 Blowout comes as the Detroit music scene continues to find its legs in the post-White Stripes era. It's a time of uncertainty but innovation, as a fresh generation of bands brings an array of new styles while employing the Internet to connect with listeners in novel ways.
Music publicist Becki Carr, blogger Matt Caruana and musician Tim Hervey spoke during a wide-ranging conversation at the New Way Bar in Ferndale, joined by the Freep's Brian McCollum and Rachel May, who also performs with the band Broadzilla.
Matt: I've gone to the last five or six. If you look at the schedule this year, it is a bit different. A lot of the traditional bands that have headlined over the last few years aren't there. I don't know if that's good or bad yet; we'll find out this weekend. But there are a lot of new bands playing, I'll tell you that. And they sound pretty good. I haven't seen a ton of them, but I've been going through (the schedule) to do my previews, and there's a lot of pretty good sounding bands I'm hoping to check out.
Becki: I moved here four years ago, in December. The first Blowout I went to, I'd only been in town four months. I went to at least two Blowout shows on every night, so I did discover a lot. Now I go out once a week, and I've seen almost every band, but I think for people who don't go out as much, it's really a good thing.
Matt: It may sound sorta bad, but Blowout is a good time to check out a band that if you don't like 'em, you don't really feel bad about leaving. You pay $20 up front. You watch two songs of a band you've heard about, and if they're terrible, you leave. And your whole Friday night's not gone. You can just move next door. So you can check a lot of bands off the list.
Matt: It seems they've gotten bigger every year. ... I think a lot of people who don't usually go to local shows go to the Blowout. The last couple of years I've been on the shuttles, going from place to place, and there's been people just looking at the schedule, not knowing what the bands are. They just want to go down to check it out.
Tim: It's almost like they're waiting to check out the other side of life (laughs). Then they just go back to Wild Woody's for the next 51 weeks.
Matt: I think that's true. I mean, there's the core group of people that always go to shows. And then there are some people, that's not their whole life. They have a lot of other things they want to do, and going to see the same bands week in and week out isn't for everybody. (Laughs.)
Tim: At the Blowout, what do you do -- do you go and see your friends' bands play, at what could probably be their biggest show of the year? Or do you go check out a bunch of bands that you've heard about but you've never seen yet? So it's always a catch-22. I always try to do half-and-half.
Matt: That's the biggest problem with the Blowout. I was doing my picks today, bands I want to see, and there's all these new bands. I'm not going to go see half of them, probably! You know what, when it comes down to it, at midnight when the Muggs are playing against some new band I want to check out ...
Tim: You're going to see the Muggs.
Matt: Right, because you know what you're going to get. Trust me, I've seen newer bands that I wanted to check out. You're in this terrible place, and there's seven people, and you're thinking, "Oh, everyone else is over at whatever." As much as fun as it is discovering new bands, it's not always that much fun sitting in an empty bar.
Rachel: Well, you wanna be where everyone's at, for the socializing aspect.
Matt: Half the fun of the Blowout is seeing the people you see once a year at the Blowout. (Laughs)
Becki: I think it really depends on the band. I know a lot of bands who really have no opinions whether or not they play. They play out enough that people who are going to see them will come see them. But then there are bands who maybe don't play out as often, or they don't get out to the suburbs, and they're excited this whole new group of people are going to see them.
Tim: Yeah, I know a lot of punk bands that don't even care about it.
Rachel: There's a whole world that's like, "What's the Blowout?" ... You think everybody knows about the Blowout, but you go out to that whole Mt. Clemens music scene -- they're not represented in the Blowout at all. They don't know about it, they don't care about it. Then you come downtown, go to Hamtramck, and that's what's happening.
Tim: There's even a big metal scene (not represented) ... Bands like Overloaded, they're nowhere to be seen. And they're big in their scenes. They're really big.
Matt: You guys bring up a good point. You're mentioning that there are some bands that are completely overlooked. But I was thinking today that the Blowout is even sort of too big. ... I mean, I think a lot of bands get lost in the Blowout shuffle. You look sometimes in the headlining spots, and there are 10 bands worth seeing, all at the same time.
Becki: There would be way too much backlash about this, but coming from that, I wonder if they would ever do a limit -- like, you can't play a year after you've just played.
Matt: It's a lot of newer bands, and a lot of them are what the younger crowd is into, more stuff with electronics involved: bands like Lightning Love, Love Meets Lust, Charlie Slick, Champions of Breakfast. They're all these uptempo, sort-of-rock bands, but they all use drum loops. That's what it seems the younger crowd is all into. ... And they're really fun shows -- people go to these shows to have a good time.
Becki: I'm just thinking it's funny that that's different from other shows.
Matt: As opposed to standing around a lot. It's more dance-y.
Becki: No, no, you're right -- I totally agree with you. You can't go to a (rock) show in Detroit and see anyone dancing. ... People here, they want to look cool, stand up there with a beer.
Rachel: People from the outside, the statewide media, when people talk about Detroit, they always say it's a really critical crowd. You notice that when you go to a show: People will stand in the back and watch. You won't think that anybody's liking it, then afterwards they're like, "Oh, man, you were so great!"
Matt: It's slowly changing. I think people are learning about these new bands, and they're drawing all right. But this weekend the Muggs are going to draw, the Hentchmen -- they're all going to still have huge crowds. The Dirtbombs sold out the Magic Stick two weeks ago. Those bands are always going to draw. But I think people are finally paying attention to some new stuff.
Tim: The thing about the Hentchmen and the Detroit Cobras and all these bands -- and I think they're great bands -- but I don't think they're drawing new fans. It's the same people you'd see at their shows four or five years ago.
Becki: I wasn't here five or six years ago, but Detroit is definitely different from other scenes. There's almost a disconnect between the Detroit bands that do tour and the ones that don't. I'm just coming from one corner of the scene, so I can't speak for the whole city. But it doesn't seem like the two parts of the scene are really supportive of each other. ... That's what it looks like from my point of view, coming from Athens (in Georgia).
Matt: I mean, I go to a lot less shows, because of the price. A lot of the time you think about the economy -- "I could go see this band that's sort of OK for $20. Or I could put more gas in my car." I guess as you get older you start thinking about that.
Becki: When I first moved here, the bars were always crowded -- on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And that was just four years ago. So I definitely think the economy has had an effect.
Tim: Well, I know I have to pick and choose a lot more on what shows I go to. I went and saw the Pink Spiders and the HorrorPops last Thursday at the Magic Stick. It was $14 to get in, which is not bad for three touring bands. But then I go to buy a beer and it's $4, you know? I can't do this more than once every couple of weeks.
Contact BRIAN McCOLLUM at 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.