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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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Culture Feature

Into the Past

Camping, hiking, cooking and standing there naked on the shores of Lake Superior.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

The Au Sable Point Light

Each May, my buddies and I head up North to “rough it.” In the past, we’d hit the Au Sable river for some scenic canoe camping, but this year we changed our plans: We aimed to go car camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula. We were especially fortunate to have a friend of ours, a fellow who writes for one of those national automobile magazines, arrange for us to borrow a vehicle for the trip. And so we wound up traveling in a massive $65,000 contractor’s truck with a crew cab, heated seats, new-car smell and little built-in coolers on the sides. My friends and I skew bohemian, so this was about as familiar an environment to us as the inside of a spaceship, but I must say it was a very comfortable way to travel.

It was important to have a good rig, because we were going way north. To travel north in late May is to visibly travel back in time. While the trees of Detroit were already beginning to leaf out, on the drive north the leaves grew lighter and tighter, retreating into golden sprays of buds by the time we reached Lake Superior. In the woods leading down to the lakeshore, even a few small patches of snow remained.

To travel down to the lakeshore itself, however, was to travel back in time not mere weeks, but ages. The roaring surf bashes against rock and sand, the shore devoid of foliage except for a few patches of grass on higher dunes, or prehistoric-looking lichens clinging to rocks. The Ice Age doesn’t seem so long ago there. The scene is primordial, but beautiful in a spare way, painted with only a few colors. At night, tucked away in our sleeping bags, the inland ocean sounded at times like a busy nighttime expressway or a cranked-up diesel engine, thrashing out its savage, eternal song.


Sometimes people ask us why we choose to go up North before Memorial Day. I think part of it is that we can’t wait to get out of the city after a long winter. But I also suppose we find some things preferable to warmth. For instance, we want to avoid the swarms of bugs: In late May, there are only a few mosquitoes, and there are no black flies to speak of. On our last trip, though, a few of us had to pull deer ticks out of our skin, so this year we ventured past our old camps in Oscoda and headed a few hours further.

But can’t you avoid all the bugs by going in August? Well, you can, but in May you can also avoid the swarms of people: the crummy teenagers stealing dedicated canoe camps, the teeming crowds of children, the equestrians galloping through, the yahoos blasting their stereos. Instead of that, we saw no other campers, only some hikers and a few rangers, one of whom courteously checked in on us to see if we were ready for the rainy, chilly nights. (Every once in a while, you get lucky and have a run of nice, sunny days, but don’t expect it.)

With its welcome solitude from people and bugs, this trip was kind of perfect — that is, if you don’t mind sitting around a fire in full gear and a poncho in a 40-degree drizzle. I’m proud to say our group has toughened up a lot over the years. (And we naturally brought some goodies to keep our spirits up, our guts warm, and the conversation heady.)


Since we’ve been doing this for a while, I have a routine of several things I do on each trip. One night, for instance, I will make Spanish rice. I’ll dice three or four bell peppers of various colors, a few onions, and chop up several toes of garlic. I’ll start cooking ground beef in bacon fat in a large cast iron pot while I start boiling rice in another pot covered with foil. Once the beef is cooked well, I’ll add the onions and garlic, then the peppers, then a large can of crushed tomatoes and a pouch or two of taco powder. I’ll add the rice whenever it’s done. I’ve gotten pretty good at doing this over a fire. The results usually pass muster with the guys, although any hot chow usually boosts morale, right?

At least one night before turning in, we’ll take potatoes, onions and heads of garlic, wrap them in tin foil, and toss them around the edges of the fire. These are called “potato bombs.” In the morning, they can be found well-cooked and ready to be cut for a good morning hash. The garlic usually liquefies, but it’s great smeared on toast.

Also, when we go into town, I’ll spend $3 for a copy of the Great Lakes Pilot. It’s a monthly full of smiling pictures of every bartender, waitress and hostess from Marquette on down, along with charming, half-proofread histories from the old days of Michigan. For a Detroiter, though, it’s an especially weird read, providing a strange view of Michigan, as if Detroit ceased to exist in, say, 1960. You’ll find no pictures of Detroit-area bartenders in Great Lakes Pilot. Now, I’m not complaining: I like old-time tales about lumberjacks or the northwoods musings of Lon Emerick as much as the next Michigander, but reading the Pilot is enough to make you wonder whether outstaters know Detroit is still located in Michigan. Which is very odd, because it seems half the people I meet outstate seem to be from Detroit.


We took an afternoon hike to the Au Sable Point Light. A store clerk in Grand Marais urged us to walk there along the shore, and I’m glad she did. Not only was it a forbiddingly beautiful stroll, we also passed the remains of three different shipwrecks, their ancient timbers preserved by the water, grim monuments to the merciless Gitche Gumee. We finally ascended a rough stairway made of logs up the bluffs to the lighthouse, where the views of the lakeshore were best. The low clouds hung over the bluffs, shearing them off at a uniform height so they looked like the ramparts of some eerie lost world.

We also built a sweat lodge. First, we dug a deep hole in the damp sand and set it off with rocks. Then we found a few green saplings at least 10 feet tall that bent readily. If one end had a big rootball, we’d bury it in a hole and cover it with rocks, then sharpen the other end and drive it into the earth. We were able to make a dome in this manner, tying off the crown with zip-ties, lashing other lengths of green wood around the sides for stability and structure. Then we piled the whole thing over with tarps, sleeping bags, unused tents, blankets and more tarps. Then we took several rocks that had been cooking for many hours in the fire and used our shovel to dump them into the hole in the center. A few of us got in, and it was dark and cold, but we were out of the wind and rain. The rocks were so hot that, in the darkness, you could actually descry them glowing in the hole.

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