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    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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The last song

Another Detroit mom-and-pop record shop and community hub closes its doors forever

Photo: Detroitblogger John, License: N/A

Detroitblogger John

Walter Esaw in front of his store.

He packs away the CDs and the old cassettes, leaving the posters on the wall for last.

"I guess maybe it hasn't hit me yet," says 52-year-old Walter Esaw, as he boxes the stock of his little record store, Pearl's Music, on Kercheval near Van Dyke.

But the phone keeps ringing, bringing reminders. "Yes, next week is our last day," he tells each caller who phones him after hearing the news somewhere. "We're gonna be OK," he adds. All the calls are going the same way.

After almost two decades at this spot, and 80 years total in Detroit, the store can't make it anymore.

"It comes down to economics," Esaw says. "The sales are just down. We never were just for profits, but we were always saying that as long as it paid the bills then we would be here."

Business tanked about a year ago, he says. Though the store survived the rise of digital music and the easy-to-find bootlegs in the neighborhood, it couldn't outlast a terrible economy.

For years, Pearl's was a classic corner store on the block, small and old-fashioned, owned by someone in the neighborhood. It specialized in an eclectic collection of jazz, blues, soul and classic R&B — "catalog" music, as it's called — on vinyl, cassette and CD. The store drew discerning customers and collectors to its narrow aisles, people seeking B-sides and old album tracks, and those who didn't want to screw around trying to download obscure old songs using their computer.

"We had a clientele that wanted physical music," Esaw says. "We promoted this to select groups, and they were just loyal customers."

The mail lady walks in the door and brings the day's letters to the counter. "He's not closing," she declares in a defiant tone after overhearing Esaw talk about the store's demise. "He's not going nowhere."

Esaw laughs. "They're all in denial," he says. "I've had customers that came in that I hadn't seen in years saying, 'Why are you guys closing?' I'm like, 'I haven't seen you in years. That's why we're closing.'"

Esaw and a friend bought the old record shop in 1992, after its longtime owner died and his widow, after whom the store was named, wanted to unload it. "Neither one of us knew anything about the music business," he says. "Of course, we grew up real quick."

He moved the business from its longtime Mount Elliot and Gratiot location to a little brick building just outside Indian Village, and worked to make it a comfortable neighborhood place to hang out, hear music, find something rare.

"The first couple years was kind of rough," he says. "We were just looking at making $100 a week just to pay the rent." Every few months they wondered aloud whether to close, but stuck it out. They began attending record conventions, hosting in-store signings, holding promotions for new releases. Eventually Esaw took over on his own.

Pearl's developed a reputation as a source of hard-to-find music and a go-to stop for touring musicians. Beyoncé was once here, with Destiny's Child, back in their early days. Alliyah was too, and Toni Braxton, and Usher, and Charlie Wilson, and dozens of others famous names.

"I had Trey Songz literally on the floor here, playing jacks with some of the kids," Esaw says. "He sung a cappella, like three songs from on his album, right here on the floor."

The walls are covered with posters and pictures, all autographed, because to get on the wall, whoever's in a picture had to have been in the store at some time.

After the store began doing well, Esaw opened a club in its small basement, named it Pearl's Underground, and booked local musicians to play Saturday night gigs.

A jazz set might be followed by blues, or hip hop. Cover was $20, which bought you a front row seat to a night of great music and all the liquor you could drink, served from a miniature bar at the back.

It was a tiny club, with room for barely 50 people. There was a scattering of small tables and chairs in front of a short plank of wood serving as the stage. Entrance was invitation only, and you had to pass through three doors just to get in, giving it an air of exclusivity.

It's so legendary on this side of town that after word spread about the basement closing too, customers started offering to hold fundraisers, to at least keep the club open.

"A lot of my customers are saying, 'What are we gonna do with y'all gone?'" he says. "It's been a real outpouring of concern and love."

It's just that it all comes too late.

A little store in the inner city often has a strong relationship with the neighborhood it's in, especially in an area where most of the businesses have closed. Those living in the blocks around it will make a point of shopping there to keep that one alive. A smart store owner knows this and returns the favor.

That's why Esaw would organize customer appreciation block parties with bands, food and games on blocked-off streets. It's why he's taken folks from the neighborhood on bus trips to Cedar Point, with new CDs playing on the stereo the whole way down there. And it's the reason he handed out $1,000 scholarships every year to promising high school students in the city. He'd have them write an essay on a topic like what they'd do if they were president. "We'd sit up at night going through, reading them all," Esaw says.

"It was never about having a record store. We knew that through having a record store, and the music, that we could get kids to come in and talk to us and maybe we could be able to help them do something. We always wanted to do something where we could give something back."

Gestures like these made the neighbors fiercely loyal to Pearl's. Even among the area's thugs, word was to leave this store alone, which sat vulnerable with no bulletproof glass, no anti-theft door alarms, no iron bars on its big windows.

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