Hamtramck Rocks Out
Anthony Morrow can hardly contain his enthusiasm. He's on the phone
talking about the Hamtramck Blowout, a music festival that he programs
and promotes in Hamtramck the first week of March each year.
I start to get nervous about now," says Morrow, only days before the
four-day event kicks off on March 1. "But I feel so totally confident
and excited about this year's line-up that it hasn't hit me yet. I
think that's a good thing. I hope that's a good thing."
and other staffers at the Metro Times — which is putting on the Blowout for the ninth consecutive year in
bars, clubs and
social halls — have reason to be confident. This year's festival is set
to run in 16 locations, including a kickoff party Wednesday at
Detroit's Majestic Theatre Center
on Woodward in Midtown. There are
200 acts scheduled, about 40 percent of them first-time performers at
the Blowout. This year, Morrow says the event will not create showcases
for particular styles of music, but will mix and match a variety of
musicians at each venue.
"We went with a theme of musical
integration," Morrow says. "We want people to see the bands they like
at one spot, then jump to another location for another act they want to
see. We want to see people moving around the city, walking or taking
the shuttle, not just planted at the same place all night."
this will work, Morrow predicts, is that the Blowout is held in a
community that is built for pedestrians in motion. Hamtramck is a city
of neighborhoods, with easy access from one end of the two-square-mile
town to the other. "We want to take full advantage of what Hamtramck
has to offer," Morrow says. "That's why we chose to bring the Blowout
here to begin with. There are not many places in Michigan where so many
stages already exist, and where people can get to each location so
year, the Blowout attracts thousands of music fans to a city perfectly
situated for commuting music fans. Hamtramck is about 10 minutes from
downtown, seven minutes from Wayne State University and Detroit's
Cultural Center and 15 minutes from southern Oakland and Macomb
counties. You might need a car to get there, but once people hit the
sidewalks, walking or shuttle buses provided by the Metro Times become
the best options. There is also a sizable population of local fans and
musicians who can simply step off their porches, round the corner and
be within crawling distance of a Blowout venue.
of the area's top music spots are in this town, which national music
mag Blender tapped as the country's No. 2 rock 'n' roll city a few
years ago. Well before that, Hamtramck had become known as one of the
first places in the area to embrace original punk and new wave music in
the mid- to late-1970s. A dive called the Misty Inn booked the
Romantics long before the band's hit 'What I Like About You" became a
favored song at baseball stadiums and hockey arenas across the country.
Then Lili's — where celebrity patrons like the Clash, Iggy Pop and the
MC5's Wayne Kramer all once bellied up at the bar — started up a
storied 25-year run as a hot spot for local and national rock acts.
Later, it was Motor for techno, and Lush for electronic lounge and hip
hop. All those businesses are now closed, but when the Blowout began in
1998 Hamtown's neighborhood music scene was given new life.
of the highlights of past events include appearances by White Stripes,
The Go!, Wildbunch (which later morphed into the Electric Six), Brendan
Benson and the Volebeats in 1999; the Paybacks, the Sights and Blanche
in 2000; the Detroit Grand Pubahs and DJ Godfather in 2001; and 2002's
event which featured Matt Dear, Tadd Mullinix, Midwest Product, Warn
Defever and Saturday Looks Good to Me.Size and quality
Garbus, whose store Record Graveyard
is in perfect position to get the
benefit of thousands of music fans who attend the Blowout, says the
value of having a festival of this size and quality is easy to see but
harder to define.
"You see people walking around the city that
you don't normally see," says Garbus, whose store that sells vintage
vinyl recently moved to a new location at Jos. Campau and Belmont St.
"We're especially in a good spot to see all the pretty girls walking
by. How it directly helps businesses is harder to measure."
A few doors north of the Graveyard at the Belmont Lounge
, owner Darren Grow sees the benefits of the Blowout in similar terms.
definitely get people into our bar whose first experience of Hamtramck
has been the Blowout," Grow says. "As far as business, I would guess
that at least 80 percent of the bars in town double their sales for
But Grow says that the intangibles brought in by the Blowout may be even more important.
come to Hamtramck, they like the music, the people, the accessibility,"
Grow says. "There's a unique atmosphere here that you don't find in too
many other places. People come for the Blowout, but they come back
later for other events. All of it is good for the city and good for
business, in the long run."
Some of the other spots where fans can see bands this weekend include Baker's Streetcar
, New Dodge Lounge
the Painted Lady — which is housed in the same building that contained
Lili's — and Cardinal Mercier Knights of Columbus Hall, the largest
venue in the festival.All over the map
There are potential musical highlights all over the map at this year's Blowout.
Up and comers the Holy Fire and Loretta & the Larkspurs are two of the bands playing the kickoff party at the Majestic;
, a team made up of local DJs, promoters and special guests
will spin records at the party. Other bands to look for throughout the
weekend include the Hard Lessons, the Gore Gore Girls, the Avatars,
Human Eye and underground hip hop from DJ Houseshoes with various guest
emcees. Click here
for a schedule with ticket information, maps and other essential
details. Wristbands good for admission to the entire festival can be
purchased at Majestic's pre-Blowout party for $15; the price goes up to
$20 if you choose to buy it at the Knights of Columbus Hall (9632
Conant) Thursday through Saturday. The event is open to those 18 and
Promoter Morrow says he's looking forward to seeing some
of the performers in the Blowout — if he can sort out what to see among
200 strong options.
"There are so many, I can't
even pick my own favorites anymore," Morrow says. "I think it's all so
good. I'm just hoping for good weather and another great turnout."
Photos, from the top:Record Graveyard
Jeff Garbus, Record Graveyard
New Dodge Lounge
All photographs copyright Dave Krieger