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November 18, 2004 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-18

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14B - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Michigan Dail

continued from page 6B
always an undercurrent of struggle."
In the 1950s and '60s, in a city eco-
nomically dominated by the auto-
motive industry, Motown used the
traditions of "assembly line" produc-
tion and hard-working ethos to cre-
ate its entertainers and their sound.
Christophe Zajac-Denek, drummer
for the band Hard Lessons, champi-
ons the group's "working-class drum-
"It's necessity," he says. "Detroit,
in itself, has people who really want
music with no fluff. There's a lot of
heart and history coming up from

Detroit. Hard Lessons reflect that, a
lot on the music side. It's funky, but
it's got a simplicity, too."
Zajac-Denek, who's been drum-
ming for 10 years, shakes up some
"rock and soul" with vocalist/guitarist.
Augie Visocchi and organist/vocalist
Ko Ko Louise of Hard Lessons. They
have their core in rock'n'roll music,
but as Visocchi notes, "We also draw
a lot of influence from the stacks and
45's - the blues and soul music that
comes out of Detroit's Motown. We
try to put some soul in there because
it sets us apart from the rest of the
As for the "Motor City," Visocchi
is quick to respond: "I'm definitely a

product of the auto
companies, and I
hear that come up
a lot. My family
came to Detroit to
work in the auto
factories. I almost
gave up going to
college to work in
an auto factory.

"Detroit, in itself, has people who really want
music with no fluff. There's a lot of heart and
history coming up from Detroit. Hard Lessons
reflect that a lot on the music side. It's funky,
but it's got a simplicity, too."
- Christopher Zajac-Denek, drummer for Hard Lessons

That's what your
dad did, what your uncles do. Detroit
isn't necessarily a city where every-
one's just going away to college and
being in their hippie band. It's unique
in that everyone's just sluggin' it out
and playing their music."
So Detroit, this Motor City, hears

a reflection of its culture in bands like
Hard Lessons and Saturday Looks
Good to Me, playing in bars and
basements, and sometimes in larger
venues like the Magic Stick.
The Majestic complex has been
around in the city since the 1910s




N ::>




get there
e h

when the buildings were built. Fam-
ily owned and operated since the
'40s, three generations later, the
Majestic still offers a unique and
culturally creative option different
from just another stop on the music
circuit. Although sometimes the
Majestic or the Magic Stick draw
in local acts from the area, Baise
notes, "a lot of the bands we have
here don't have the draw. It's really
competitive." Music will always be a
struggle. It's frustrating, thorny and
intricate and entangling, but behind
it all is the music. As Visocchi says,
"Rock'n'roll is what we do. We sleep
on floors; we sleep in cars; we smell
like smoke constantly."
With radio waves dominated
by the same 10 songs on replay,
repetitively rerun, processed and
packaged, with a musical climate
of "celebrities" rather than artists.
Clear Channel's recent overgrowth
of monopolized concert venues and
airspaces, while frustrating, adds
a depth and struggle to the music
which highlights the enduring
fragments of Motown's traditions.
As Thomas so aptly says of Clear
Channel, "In the Dark Ages, they'd
be this dragon you had to conquer."
Weber remembers that before the
Clear Channel invasion, she and
husband Carl Hultgren played the
Magic Stick three or four times a
year. "Since then," she says, "We've
only been asked to play once."
Instead, local bands turn to their
local bars: Small's, Belmont and the
Painted Lady in Hamtramck; the
Lagerhouse on Michigan Avenue,
and even to the Detroit Art Space.
Detroit's music is an eclectic and
inventive innovation, flavored with
the heartbeat-rhythms of Motown's
soul, marinated in the hard-work
ethics of middle America and laced
with the struggle of the "under-
dog" in a corporate-controlled radio
space. At the nucleus of this contem-
porary movement, whether it's an e-
mail group called -313 that circulates
only Detroit electronic music, or the
unique presence of women rocking
out in Detroit bands, "up front sing-
ing, playing bass, playing drums,"
quoting Visocchi, to the Detroit
Jazz Festival, the largest free jazz
festival in North America, there's
Detroit. The form it takes varies;
its expression branches; but always,
the allegiance to Motor City lingers
somewhere behind the vinyl scratch-
ing, guitar-rocking, hip-hop poetry
slam, funky backbeats, bluesy pas-
sions and enduring charm of our
music today.
Early in his career, Jack White
recorded some of his favorite Detroit
rockers all over his house and in
his neighborhood; it has become, as
Visocchi notes, the "cornerstone of
what the media has come to know as
the Detroit scene." The Sympathet-
ic Sound of Detroit, as the album is
entitled, doesn't represent all of the
sounds of Detroit. What is does rep-
resent is a form of local initiation, in
the tradition of Motown records.
As Thomas says, "Much of the
Detroit music scene is just teenagers
from around town, packaging records
in living rooms and making record-
ings in basements. It's the success
story of pure art."

By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Arts Writer
DETROIT - The city gives off
an eerie sense of abandonment as
one drives through it. Whole streets,
wide and bare, are left empty as traf-
fic lights flicker red and green. Park-
ing lots with single cars, dented and
rusty, deserted in the center, some-
how make everything look more
neglected. The low hum of city traf-
fic is strangely muted. Detroit seems
like an urban ghost town.
Everywhere the city shows signs
of its old glamour. High buildings
with fancy cornices built of fading
stone are boarded up, their windows
broken and their doors nailed shut.
Streaked stone angels stand on the
side of Gothic church facades, reach-
ing their hands up to the heavens.
Against the sky, buildings' peaks
and church spires point toward the
sun, standing against a grey sky that
fades in cloudy squares toward the
Detroit River. The asphalt in plac-
es is broken up, churned over with
dust and dirt and the last flutter-
ing threads of yellow tape. Some of
the streetlights are broken and their
poles are taped over with paper fli-
ers too faded to be read. Occasional-
ly on a corner a man can be spotted,
draped in layers of fabric, clutching
bags, shoes flapping at the soles. He
stands all alone and he never has to
wait to cross the street, for there are
no cars.
It seems ironic that in this once
booming automotive city there is
little traffic. The streets between the
buildings become more and more
empty as they approach the center of
Detroit. Incongruously against the
backdrop of grey slate and stone is the
massive bulk of Comerica Park, an
ostentatious construction of cement
and steel. It shines while most of the
buildings have faded, a glaring mod-
ern contrast to the increasingly sad

emptiness of a once-great city.
During the 1950s, Detroit saw glo-
rious times. The rise of the American
motor industry and the Big Three
(General Motors, Ford and Chrysler)
turned Detroit into America's Motor
Capital; its population was booming
at 1,849,568 in 1950.
Throughout the past 30 years
Detroit has seen many of its key
industries leave for other locations,
including Cadillac, which closed its
Clark Street Plant in Detroit in the
early 1990s. The 2003 census esti-
mates revealed that Detroit's popu-
lation was 911,000. Its crime rate,
though improving, is among the
highest in the nation.
Walking along any street is a pre-
lude to surprise by the echoes that
bounce back from empty alleyways.
Steam rises from the manhole cov-
ers, pale twists of white that dis-
solve against the cold concrete and
graffiti covered walls. A single man
walks down the center of a four
lane avenue, surrounded by nothing
but empty air and space. He walks
slowly, hunched, his shape growing
larger in the shadows cast by the
edifices that loom above him. Trash
cans, dented and open, flutter with
fat pigeons that peck at loose crumbs
and wing their way up the buildings,
their shadows chasing them along
the sides of the walls, a sad arch of
darkness against a dim background.
But still, there is life. Once in a
while, you'll stumble over a fire
hydrant painted vivid colors, abstract
designs that pop from the bleaker
shades of urban life, as if some art-
ist decided to plant a flower in the
middle of a wasteland. You'll see
people in groups wrapped against
the cold, hands together, heading
towards the Detroit Opera 'House
or the Greektown nightlife. As you
drive by bakeries, you can smell the
aroma of cooking bread and sweet
cookies and the ripe scent of coffee

Here's the deal:
one price, no haggling.
This "student discount" offers substantial
savings on new Ford Motor Company
vehicles based on set prices established
by Ford's Employee Purchase Plan.
There's no catch - it's a unique offer,
exclusive to select schools like yours.
Save even more when you apply the
current national incentives available on
the vehicle you select.
The best part? You get what you
expect. The style and features you want.
No-hassle dealer experience. A payment
that's easy on your wallet and lifestyle.

that permeates the air. The casinos
vibrate with neon and thrills to be
had for a quarter a pull. You'll pass a
cluster of laughing teenagers, snap-
ping their fingers and singing songs
you can't hear because your win-
dows are closed, and you'll think of
the Motown era, when singers belted
the sultry melodies that still vibrate
in the rhythmic undercurrent of the
Despite Detroit's seeming decay,
construction is everywhere. Roads
are closed, detours raised in vivid
orange signs, traffic cones snaking
across sidewalks as Detroit prepares
for the Super Bowl in 2006. The city
is holding its breath, waiting for one
last turn of the key before the engine
turns over, for one more curtain call.
This old girl will lumber on, even
if all her windows are boarded, her
houses razed, her sidewalks stained


A window of the abandoned Michigan Central Depot in Detroit.

with urban refuse. And you can st:
hear the voices of Detroit's pas
They shout from the rusty screech
the People Mover. They whisper
the splashes of the river. They ecl
from the white graffiti figures c
the dark gray slate, alone and lonel
indelible and fading, a testament
Detroit. They will always be there.


It's how you
ge t ther(

~ r


k ct. 0 ,. v X.. :. I at ,,,zbw.a rTy}k ? ,'

The Spirit of Detroit outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

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