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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 […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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

    The post Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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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God on her side

She's run this record shop for nearly 50 years — and still it's like candy land

Photo: , License: N/A

Dory Bryant in front of her aunt's ransacked house.

A woman enters the record store, walks past the wall of CDs, past the sign that says "Buy 12 tapes in 1 year, get a cassette free," and over to the counter at the other side of the store to get what she really came here for.

"Hi, Miss Simpson!" says Charlotte Laurry to the woman who owns the place. "I want me some Jolly Ranchers. I'll take the dollar bag. And I want some fruities, and I want some of the fishes and the watermelons. You know you're the only one with the watermelons?"

Simpson's Records, just off the corner of East McNichols and Joseph Campau in Detroit, is two places in one. Most of the space is devoted to music, as it has been since 1966. But along the west wall, there's a thick wood bar still leftover from this old building's past as a saloon, and behind it is a kaleidoscopic array of colorful little candies bursting out of bowls and overflowing from boxes, all for some small change.

Both the candy store and the record shop are run by Dorothy Simpson — gray-haired, soft-spoken and grandmotherly. And any place where an 82-year-old grandma gives you candy when you come see her becomes cherished by those who grew up nearby.

"Miss Simpson is like mama to everybody," says Deshone Legion, 42. "Not just to her own kids, but she's mama of this whole neighborhood. And everybody recognizes it."

Legion is behind the CD counter on a sunny winter afternoon — stocking shelves, sweeping the floor and answering questions from customers, all after coming in early to shovel the morning-fallen snow from the sidewalk. And he's not even an employee. "I just come in and help out whenever I can. I love Miss Simpson."

The candy counter has been here nearly as long as the music. Simpson added it to draw the kids the way the music brought the adults. "I know you've seen the neighborhood — there's not many stores around here that sell this type of stuff, that kids can gather up a few pennies and buy some candy," says Laurry, 32, who grew up nearby but now lives miles away. She takes the long drive back regularly, though. "I think that's the appeal, having two different things to be able to attract different age groups and bring everyone together. It creates an atmosphere."

But now, after almost 50 years, the adults who spent childhoods here come back sometimes only for a handful of sweets, often with their own kids in tow, to relive their childhood memories and share a now-rare experience.

A back wall features snapshots of regulars through the years, some faded from being up for so long. At first there were just a few, but then customers started bringing their own pictures in, asking for them to be placed with the others. Now that wall is covered with hundreds of them, a collage of a community based on the woman everyone simply calls "Miss Simpson."

"This is family the way a family and a neighborhood is supposed to be," Legion says. "That's what's important and that's why this shop is so important. This shop is blessed. It's a wonderful thing." 

Half a century ago, Simpson's husband Calvin worked for General Motors and a security patrol company on the side. But his wife wanted something owned by the family that their kids could fall back on. So a record store was born.

In the beginning, Simpson would get a list of the top 30 requested songs from local radio stations and visit the local distribution offices of labels like Atlantic and Motown, who'd let her buy popular records just two or three copies at a time, all she could afford. Gradually she'd come back for more as her stock sold out and business took off, and soon she'd established the neighborhood hangout.

Kids would come in and excitedly ask how old they had to be to work there, drawn by the seeming connection to the singers they heard on the radio and the rainbow of candy behind the counter. She hired dozens of them over the years to teach them good work habits, and would ask them to bring her their report cards or lecture them if they got into trouble.

"She's done a lot of good around here," says Germany Bennett, a 33-year-old who grew up nearby and came by with his wife one afternoon for some candy. "She kept a lot of people out of trouble. Everybody respects Miss Simpson."

Meanwhile, the adults came for the store's obscure jazz, Delta and Chicago blues, and R&B. But the specialty here, announced in block letters on the outside wall, has always been gospel music.

"I always wanted to specialize in gospel," says Simpson, a regular churchgoer. "To me it's a great inspiration. Some of the gospel sounds like some of the blues in a sense, but when you listen to the words there's a difference, and I just think we're talking about a higher being in there, and you're giving honor and respect to him." All day, gospel songs pour out of a primitive outdoor speaker mounted on the front of the store, echoing down Six Mile like a soulful call to prayer.

Some customers still come in and sing only two or three words of a song they're searching for, or hum a few bars, and someone here will likely know what it is and find it for them, or special order it. Simpson's proud of that face-to-face service, and the institutional knowledge a half-century-old record store embodies.

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