Tag Archives: Jack White

Almost Romantic

Tell it to Carrie…

Like many cities, mine sponsors a series of events during the Summer season to get people out of their houses and hopefully expose them to the wonders of downtown. Like many cities, there aren’t many wonders downtown, but for two dollars you can enter a section of city pavement boasting a temporary stage and beer tents and catch some music on a Thursday night. Last week I headed out of the office at 6:30 (or as I lately refer to it, lunchtime) to catch The Romantics.

I hadn’t seen the band in years – a short set maybe a decade ago – but when they were in their prime they used to roam the NorthEast club circuit. I’ve seen them in snappy red leather (like the latter-day New York Dolls sans commie flag) and often they’d pair up with local legends The Flashcubes. Met them all at one point, they were nice guys catching a good break and taking advantage of it. In the 80s, when they started to split, Jimmy Marinos formed The Motor City Rockers and they were referred to the management company where I was working. They played a great demo, but despite my pleading, I was outvoted 2-1 and they went elsewhere. Had I realized who Robert Gillespie was at the time, I might have followed them out the door.

Video: “What I Like About You

The band now boasts five members, and while I initially assumed as many as three might be replacement members, I think that drummer Brad Elvis might be the only one with a recent pedigree. Wally Palmar was still up front, Mike Skill (still boasting that mop of hair) stage left, and I’m pretty certain that was indeed both Rich Cole and Coz Canler on guitars. That would mean that the first three guitar players in the band  – all of whom replaced each other in the lineup at some point – were sharing the stage. Naturally one of them now handled bass guitar duties, although for the life or me I don’t understand why a few of the songs featured one guitar and two basses. None of them are John Entwistle, so I can only assume that the five dollar Newcastle drafts blurred the set list. I’d hate to think that they were trying to bring the thunder on purpose.

Things started off swimmingly with a robust “Rock You Up“, classic chunky power chords that make you wonder where you last left the guitar so you can bash it out when you get home. But after another kinetic rocker, Wally told the crowd they were going to take it down for a minute. I know the wandering mass of city workers, mullet heads and bikers might not have been jumping up on stage, but give us credit for the ability to withstand more than seven minutes of upbeat tunes without having to lay down. I started to get the feeling that what was set to be a ninety minute set might have a little padding in it.

They sprinkled the more recognizable songs through the set – “When I Look In Your Eyes“, “Stone Pony“, a majestic “Tell It To Carrie” – but at these gigs the crowd only snaps to attention when the big hit records are played. Fortunately The Romantics have two, so “Talking In Your Sleep” and especially “What I Like About You” got everyone’s attention. Even if that meant a few Bic lighters while daylight was still present plus the bane of any reunion gig – some of the worst no-rhythm soccer mom gyrations ever seen, a sad attempt at dancing. (Lady, there are kids here. Get back in your minivan.)

The band played with energy, and Brad Elvis is a showman as well as a keen timekeeper, but there was something lacking. In fairness, the sound at times was atrocious, and powerpop needs to be crisp and clean (although they extended several songs to remind us they are rockers from Detroit, not pansies). My friends wondered whether a shorter, tighter set might have been better, as momentum was occasionally lacking. The strong finish did include the requisite Kinks cover and audience participation, but as my friend Bill aptly put it, we were neither overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just…whelmed.

The band is supposed to be working on a new album, and they certainly have the chops to pull it off, plus Palmar’s voice is in fine form. Maybe Jack White or Jim Diamond will work their magic and rekindle this flame? If so, Do Me Any Way You Wanna, guys – I’m on board.

The official Romantics website

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Birthday Party

Why do certain dates feature a gaggle of celebrity birthdays?

Maybe it’s just that a lot of people are born in early July, which…hmmm…would be nine months after the kids finally go back to school. Coincidence? Frightening to track your own conception back nine months and try to find a reason. I’m a week off from being an obvious St. Patrick’s Day conception myself.

Songwriter and producer Lee Hazlewood would have been 82 today. Singer Marc Almond, drummer Mitch Mitchell and even Root Boy Slim (of the Sex Change Band – that one’s for you, Billy Campbell) would be sharing a cake. Bon Scott died at 33, so it’s hard to picture him fronting AC/DC at 65, but that’s’ what he would have been doing today. Jack White, who is helping to coordinate the Michigan Music Festival I wrote about, is still a spry 36.

Some great actors were born today – Brian Dennehy, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Smits, the underrated and magnificent Chris Cooper. Fred Savage, who survived child stardom to become a solid director and producer, is still only 35. Pam Adlon – so wonderful as Louie CK’s wife in Lucky Louie and a producer and recurring character on his current show Louie (they really have to work on their show names) turns a MILF-y 45.

Of course, not all celebrants are nice people. Some might have even offed their spouses and gotten away with it, like this guy and that chick.

Odds are it’s someone’s birthday among the Prescription readers. So if you don’t have any plans, at least now you know some parties you can crash. (It’s going to be a little quiet at the Scott and Mitchell houses, but the rest should be rocking…)

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Camping…in Brooklyn?

If it’s Brooklyn, Michigan – damn straight!

The inaugural Michigan Music Fest is going to take place September 17th, and discounted tickets are on sale now. Featuring one of the few performances this year by Jack White (with The Racounteurs, no less), the lineup includes an amazing array of legendary Detroit talent as well as some hot up-and-comers.

And Sheryl Crow, who for some reason is getting all the lead press. Hey, she’s good-looking and very successful, and by all accounts a nice person. But when your festival boasts The Rockets, Mitch Ryder, The Howling Diablos, The Romantics, Alto Reed and Mark Farner, do you really need to lead with that? Unless she’s planning to bring Kid Rock with her, I think this is a bit ass-backwards.

Other bands announced to date include Whitey Morgan and The 78s, Jill Jack, The Juliets, Ty Stone and The Truth; Jack White is poised to bring more acts from his Third Man Records roster.

More than a concert, it’s a full-blown arts festival with food and beverage tents manned by Michigan vendors and an art gallery featuring the work of local artists including Johnny “Bee” Badanjek and the legendary Stanley Mouse, who is designing the events poster. Gates open at noon, the first band is on at 1pm, and the show is slated to end at 11pm. Ten hours of mind-blowing music and an opportunity to see some of the greatest musicians in Detroit history, even if you would rather camp in a hotel.

Big thanks to my Detroit buddy Sue for tipping me to this can’t-miss event.

Get more information here.

Buy Michigan Music Fest tickets.

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Happy Record Store Day!

Can’t say it better than Jack White:

I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people that look up to them to a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music. What a shame to leave a child, or worse, a generation orphaned from one of life’s great beauties…”

It’s National Record Store Day – good things are happening all over. Hell, the event is so grand that it even has an Official Ambassador.

The Smithereens have a new album!

The Grip Weeds released a hi-def version of Strange Change Machine!

The dBs have a new single and an album on the way!

And check out this list of special releases – many with limited availability.

You can find your local participating record store here. Now get your ass to a record store…and bring someone along with you!

National Record Store Day!

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Taking It To Detroit, Part 2

Day Two of the manic weekend found me heading downtown to the Alley Deck in the Majestic Theatre complex to catch a set by one of my rock’n’roll heroes, Greg Cartwright. Having missed the Oblivians concert the night before (cloning is not one of my abilities) I knew I could not leave town without catching his solo set…even with a seven hour drive and two border crossings staring me down. I crawled in the door after midnight, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

An American Original

An American Original

Greg apologized for being of raw throat and said he’d sing as long as he was able, then smiled and added “…but I will further fuck my voice up by smoking this cigarette“. The warning was all for naught;  he wound up playing two sets to an appreciative crowd of fans and fellow musicians… and I lost count at thirty-six songs.

Besdies a catalogue rich in great material, Cartwright had the crowd in stitches between songs – his story about Jack Oblivian selling his guitar to Jack White was classic. But he also paid genuine props to his peers, pointing out a friend who introduced him to an early Detroit single that’s now a live favorite, or how he learned how to better sing his own song “Bad Man” after hearing Rachael Nagy’s interpretation with The Detroit Cobras.

While there were some planned songs in his set, he also frequently took requests with the caveat that he might not remember all the words. Fumbles were rare, but when he hit the wall during “Two Thieves” he simply stopped and said “when I am beaten by my own brain, I will stand down“.  Then, laughing, he fired up the next tune. I’m not certain who had more fun, Greg or the audience. He’s an approachable guy who is the antithesis of the rock star persona, which is probably why so many other musicians are almost reverential when his name comes up in conversation.  

The set list touched upon all his band associations like The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers but mostly drew upon The Reigning Sound, with at least one new track (“Pocket Full of Broken Things“) from their upcoming album Love & Curses. Hard to pick highlights, but “Reptile Style”, “We Repel Each Other”, “Time Bomb High School” and “Stop And Think It Over” each lit the place up like a rocket.

The Reigning Sound is now headed for Europe, but will return Stateside by mid-August to prepare for a tour to support the new album. Do not miss the opportunity to see not only one of America’s finest bands, but a true icon of independent music. I’ll hopefully interview Greg later this summer as part of a feature article about the band.

 Stop And Think It Over

Bad Man

We Repel Each Other

detroit 2

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Filed under Features and Interviews, Music, Reviews