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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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Politics & Prejudices

Snyder takes command

Snyder promises to leave nobody behind, and you must hope he succeeds

Richard D. Snyder was sworn in as governor last weekend, taking power in a state that has lost people, lost political clout, lost nearly a million jobs in the last decade. He then, in his distinctive, oddly nasal voice, gave an unusual inaugural speech.

Unusual, that is, because it was worth listening to. Though he did his appropriate best to encourage us to believe we can build a better future, he pretty much also spelled out how bad things are.

"The last part of the industrial era has been a period of decline in our state [that] has gone on for several decades," he said.

Reversing this trend "will not be simple or easy," he said. "It will require shared sacrifices from all of us ... many of us will have to take a step back in the short term to move us all forward together in the long term." That isn't quite Winston Churchill saying he could offer his people "nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Melodrama is not Snyder's style. What he did say is that the state couldn't be reformed; it needs to be reinvented.

That is, by the way, exactly right. You may not have voted for Rick Snyder. Interestingly, most of the 1,874,834 people who did vote for him in November hadn't even heard his name yet a year ago today.

But now he's in charge, and if you are reasonable, intelligent, sane and have a brain in your head, you have to hope he succeeds beyond anybody's wildest dreams, even his own.

Otherwise, Michigan, your Michigan, stands a very good chance of becoming Haiti with ice storms. The old economy is indeed dead. The domestic automotive industry is still alive, mostly thanks to the Obama administration. But it will never again play the role it did.

Think about this: For nearly a century, the auto plants defined the economy of this state. They employed hundreds of thousands of workers who, beginning in the 1940s, were paid high wages for largely unskilled work, thanks to the efforts of the United Auto Workers.

For many years after World War II, we were so rich we could afford this, and the autoworkers' fat contracts drove up wages and benefits across the board in Michigan. We were one of the highest-income states in the nation a half-century ago. Then things started slipping, and, finally, the bottom fell out a couple years ago.

Want to know what happened to Michigan? Back in 1979, General Motors had more blue-collar employees working in the city of Flint than it does today in the entire country. In fact, more than 91 percent of all GM blue-collar jobs in Michigan that existed then are gone. Forever. The auto companies may survive, but they never again will be a mass employer of high-wage, low-skill workers.

In fact, the UAW is now so beaten up and broken, they have agreed that when the factories hire new workers, they can get away with paying them only $14 an hour, and, in most cases, people need two-year degrees to even be considered for those jobs.

Most people finally get that the auto industry will never again be the all-driving force of the state's economy. But too many of us still have a sort of unthinking industrial worker mentality.

We want another industry to come in here and open up a new chain of big-box factories and put us all to work making scrunchies or condoms or windmill parts, providing good-paying, hourly jobs.

Jobs where we could punch in, punch out, not have to think too much and occasionally pile up lots of even better-paying overtime. Guess what. That isn't happening. Not this year, not next year, not ever again. Rick Snyder knows that; he knew it a long time ago.

That's why, as a young boy from Battle Creek, he got a law degree and an MBA when he was still in his early 20s. Now, to the extent I can tell, he isn't an elitist. He doesn't expect everyone to do that. What he expects is for us to work smart, think, take chances.

The example he used in his speech was of a couple from the Ann Arbor area who started a couple sandwich shops, turned to baking and came up with a new kind of bread which caught on, nationwide.

"We have to remember that innovation is not about technology, it's a state of mind that we all have the power to do."

Shortly we'll find out how he intends to make that happen. The voters elected him by a landslide, and he deserves a chance.

Even while he was speaking, Mark Brewer, the Democratic Party Chairman-for-Life, was cranking out a sophomoric press release whining that "Snyder has never offered a specific plan."

Right. Now go sit in the corner. The new governor is facing a state budget deficit of at least $1.8 billion, and how he handles that will tell us a lot. If he does it by savaging education in this state, our one hope for a workforce that can compete in the future, we'll know he is just another hypocrite, or a Tea Party, Ayn Rand-style wacko.

Somehow I think he may surprise us all. What the Democrats should be doing is trying to ensure that the least of us are not left completely behind, that foster children and the elderly aren't trampled in our rush to entrepreneurial reinvention.

"The reinvention of Michigan must not leave anyone behind," the new governor said. If he follows through on that, and gets the economy going, our best days and his may be yet to come.

Nothing against Sue Snyder, but
... Few in the press discussed this openly, but one of the bigger embarrassments of the Granholm administration was the perpetual problem of the care and feeding of her husband, Dan Mulhern, the "First Gentleman."

The First Gentleman did, it's true, write leadership books, and look after the household's three children, something he once called "leading from behind." But he also needed something to do, and though he got a radio show after a while, didn't really have a job.

So he beat up on reporters who dared to criticize wifey, and we the taxpayers paid for something called the Office of the First Gentleman. While he didn't get a salary, he had a chief of staff who got a very nice one, plus other employees.

Mulhern also cost the taxpayers a pretty penny in other ways, especially when he wanted to go somewhere or someone asked him to speak. A notice on the governor's official state website said:

Please note that the First Gentleman is accompanied to all events by a staff person and security personnel. We request that accommodations be made in seating and in meals.

Naturally, the taxpayers paid for the security personnel too. Now, apart from the fact that the state was broke, this was nuts.

Now hear this: The governor's family is not royalty.

Nor is the governor president of the United States, an office that has both governmental and ceremonial functions. I have no problem with a state employee driving Sue Snyder somewhere if she is appearing on behalf of her husband on what is clearly state business.

But she is a private person who both deserves privacy and doesn't merit an imperial staff. Here's hoping the Office of the Unelected Spouse is a tradition she is smart enough to let die.

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