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  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

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  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

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  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

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  • Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now

    The schedule for Blowout 17, taking place Wednesday April 30 to Saturday May 3 in Hamtramck, Detroit and Ferndale, is available to see now. Visit to see the schedule and plan your festival. Follow @City_Slang

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  • City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s

    The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence. Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, […]

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  • Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art

    By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes The Red Bull House of Art, a multidisciplinary and collaborative art project, relieves the stress of financial limitation or lack of tools and space so budding artists can manifest their creative dreams right here in Detroit. Six artists are selected for a three-month residency where they are provided individual studio space and materials, allowing their artistic concepts to flow freely. At the end of each residency is an unveiling and public display at the Red Bull House of Art Gallery. As show curator Matt Eaton told us in a 2013 interview, “The selection process for the current crop of artists was just the same as every round. The goal is not to find the hippest, coolest artists (though I think they are all very cool), but to find the people who may not typically have a voice.” This year, for the first time, Red Bull House of Art will showcase more than just Detroit artists. National artists from across the country in a special artist-in-residency program will have the opportunity to showcase their work to a much broader audience, and bring a national art stage to the Motor City. Since opening, 54 Detroit-based artists have been given the […]

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Higher Ground

Pot on the left and right

Can conservatives and liberals agree on legalizing weed?

Could medical marijuana be the issue that brings us all together? I'm not talking about everybody sitting in a circle, passing a joint around and swaying back and forth to Michael Franti tunes — although that wouldn't hurt anything either. I'm talking bipartisan politics. Something almost all politicians talk about but toss into the trash the minute anybody actually tries to get something done.

Rabid partisanship has dogged our political process pretty much since the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. The issue of drugs and marijuana has played into that since Richard Nixon used it successfully as part of his core platform in his 1972 re-election bid. Neither side wants a soft-on-drugs image, but the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has pushed its politicians further on medical marijuana.

"The party that tends to be more responsive on the issue of medical cannabis has been the Democrats," says Alan St. Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, D.C. "Democrats, generally speaking, have been more supportive than Republicans. But to get anything done there has to be two to tango. When Republicans do cross the aisle they are generally the libertarian, pro-business types rather than the moral holy rollers. Regarding out-and-out legalization, neither party takes this with any degree of seriousness and urgency."

This is still the case in most instances. And as a Republican administration prepares to take over in Lansing, there is real concern among medical marijuana activists that it will be unfriendly toward their cause. That could happen, but one activist doesn't see it.

"The Democratic Party is pretty solid as far as following the will of the people," says medical marijuana activist Tim Beck. "As far as Republicans are concerned, we've gotten the same signals. For instance James Bolger [a southwest Michigan state representative] is a Rick Snyder Republican. His focus is on the economy; his focus is on jobs. There are also some libertarian Republicans. They know fighting medical marijuana does not need to be a major focus. There isn't going to be a big push to see this overhauled as much as [Oakland County Executive] L. Brooks Patterson and [Oakland County Sheriff] Mike Bouchard would like to see."

Indeed Oakland County has pushed the pedal to the metal in confronting medical marijuana facilities in busting two alleged dispensaries — and indicting 16 people connected to them. While Michigan law allows for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, it does not address distribution outside of the patient-caregiver relationship. Those trials and a suit by the ACLU in support of medical marijuana patients against ordinances that essentially prohibit the use of medical marijuana in Livonia, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills should go a long way in defining what will and won't be allowed in Michigan.

Other than litigation, the only way to further define how the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act works is with a three-quarters majority vote in the state Legislature. Voters passed the MMMA by a 63 percent average across Michigan, but a look at conservative Ottawa County illustrates the act's bipartisan support. In 2008, straight party ticket voters favored Republicans 72 percent to 27 percent, and John McCain won the county with 51 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Obama; yet the MMMA passed 50.55 percent to 49.45 percent.

"The ballot proposition did pass here in Ottawa County," says attorney Dan Martin in interpreting those results. "Support for the law is not a Republican-Democrat split. There had to be a number of Republicans in Ottawa County who voted for it. Otherwise it couldn't have passed in our county."

Martin, an attorney for the Scholten Fant law firm in Grand Haven, addressed a crowd of 100 mostly west Michigan local government representatives at the Allendale Township Hall. Martin played Peter Tosh's reggae classic "Legalize It" and advised the leaders in the audience they could be sued if they ban all medical marijuana. "Lawful uses are permitted," he said.

It's not just the Republican voters who have lightened up about marijuana. Over the years, some heavy national conservatives have come out in support of legalizing marijuana, or at least downsizing the costly drug war, such as Ron Paul and the late William F. Buckley Jr. and Milton Friedman.

In a 2004 column in the National Review, Buckley opined:

An estimated 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana at least once, the great majority, abandoning its use after a few highs. But to stop using it does not close off its availability. A Boston commentator observed years ago that it is easier for an 18-year old to get marijuana in Cambridge than to get beer. Vendors who sell beer to minors can forfeit their valuable licenses. It requires less effort for the college student to find marijuana than for a sailor to find a brothel.

Even Sarah Palin, the darling of the conservative right, in June said, "If somebody's going to smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society."

Closer to home, The Detroit News, with its traditionally conservative philosophy, published a column a few weeks ago in which editorial page editor Nolan Finley called for the legalization of marijuana so it could be taxed and regulated. Wrote Finley:

Critics of medical marijuana have called it the first step toward legalizing all pot use. They're right. And it should be.
It's absurd for Michigan to still be arresting and jailing pot growers and users whose only real crime is that they were too stupid to apply for a medical marijuana certificate.

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