THURSDAY, 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25
Old City Hall, 814 Saginaw St.
Jamaican Queens (Detroit)
What better group to kick off the music side of HHM than this sensory-stimulating trio? Jamaican Queens—vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Spencer, guitarist/bassist Adam Pressley and drummer Ryan Clancy—deal in nuanced and trippy electro pop that is as catchy as it is experimental, merging disparate styles into an infectious concoction. Frequently bittersweet and always captivating, they master that elusive dichotomy of being fun without being mentally flaccid and cerebral without being pedantic. Don’t let their songs’ subject matter of streetside muggings, crumbling codependent relationships, and inevitable mortality scare you off, for no band delivers such material in such enjoyable fashion. Suggestive and playfully coy, their sonic kaleidoscope is a perfect storm of vivid textures, as evidenced on their critically lauded 2013 debut LP, Wormfood. Layered in glimmering and fluid production, the songs take on a new life when performed live, attaining a level of nearly transcendent exuberance.
FRIDAY, 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26
Rusty Saw Ballroom, 1205 Washington Ave.
If the Smiths, Daft Punk and Marilyn Monroe conceived a child and delivered it on the east side of Detroit with the Kills acting as midwife, that child might grow up to be TART. The two-piece sees Adam Michael Lee Padden, former bassist of the Hounds Below and Patrick Davy and the Ghosts, join forces with actress Zee Bricker in a new interpretation of what it means to be a rock band. Resting on a foundation of homemade drum machine beats, Padden serves up blues-inspired guitar riffs soaked in chorus and delay while Bricker holds the audience’s gaze with an enthusiastic stage presence and moody vocals alternating between the sweet and the cynical. Imagined in late 2013, TART recently recorded with Scott Masson and released their debut four-song EP, Knots, in late summer.
Silent Lions (Toledo)
For two men to craft such a large and atmospheric sound is nothing short of incredible. That their sound is so distinctive and inimitable at such an early stage in their career furthers how astounding they are. The spookhouse soul, groovy menace purveyed by Dean Tartaglia and Matt Klein is as nocturnal as it gets, songs like “Runnin’ Me Down,” “Condition” and “Terrible Days” showcasing the multitude of tones they create. With Tartaglia on vocals, octave bass, saxophone and a whole mess of effects pedals and Klein hammering on the drums, they create a depth belied by their limited roster, blues, hip hop, punk and grunge all coalescing in their makeup. A workhorse on the road with two EPs under their belts—2012’s The Parliaments and 2014’s The Compartments—Silent Lions are a darkly mysterious force to be reckoned with.
George Morris & the Gypsy Chorus (Detroit)
How do you like your indie pop? Served up with a dose of unabashed glam rock, hopefully, ‘cause that’s what you’re getting with this devil-may-care quartet. After the dissolution of Morris’s former band, the Satin Peaches, he spent some time performing solo before rounding up this collective of bassist Aaron Nelson (also from the Peaches), keyboardist Helena Kirby, and drummer Zach Pliska. Together, their sound is built around wheezy organs augmented by looped beats, jazzy percussion, ambient keys and crashing guitars. They champion shimmering underground anthems, tunes like “9 Lives,” “Fuck It,” “Girls on Parade” and “Explode” building with a sultry, cinematic groove before breaking open with a sweeping grandeur. On both the full-length Organ Solos and 2014’s Black & White EP, the numbers throb with a subtle vitality, but live, it’s a whole different animal of unbridled energy.
The HandGrenades (Detroit)
Since first playing an HHM Indie Music Showcase in July 2013, this group of melody-making ruffians has become something of a festival house band. They played the main music night of the fest last September and two more dates under the banner since then. In conjunction with that, the HGs have undergone an evolution in both their physical makeup and sonic compositions. With singers Nick Chevillet and Andrew Pawelski (also on guitar and bass, respectively) alternating and merging their vocals, Jesse Shepherd-Bates on guitar and vox, Joby Kaslowski manning the drum kit and newcomer Joel Sanders adding keys to the mix, they’ve progressed from Beatlesesque harmonies and guitar-driven pop structures to more ethereal and experimental tones (compare the instant infectiousness of “A Heart Like Yours” with the spacey “Wrapped in Plastic”). Their most recent EP, 52, was released in May and finds the newly fashioned quintet serving up their finest batch of tunes yet in the midst of this transition. When recreating the EP live—with a few altered versions of cuts from their LP, The Morning After, thrown in—the HandGrenades prove themselves one of the most invigorating and promising bands in Michigan today.
SATURDAY, 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27
Masonic Temple Blue Room, Madison Ave. & Sixth Street
The Mud Suns (Chesaning)
The Mud Suns don’t mess around—they’re raw, nasty, and dirty, but with a glow that shines through the grime, as their name implies. Built on grungy guitar riffs, heavy bass lines and pummeling drums that could blast through a granite slab, the trio of Chadd Mattison, Cole Mattison and Kevin Kuchar pull no punches in their washes of distortion. For point of reference, think of a young Soundgarden with some Delta blues inclinations. Straight to the point, these three guys crank out a no-punches pulled brand of swaggering rock that belies their young age. They released their debut LP, The Hundredth Monkey, in 2011 with follow-up EP ABAB1234 having dropped in November 2013.
The Von Bondies were one of the premiere bands of the aughts’ garage rock revivalism. PONYSHOW is them, but not really. More accurately, PONYSHOW is something of the Von Bondies’ reincarnated progeny, composing three of the previous outfit’s members in a tweaked reconfiguration. Von Bondies’ frontman Jason Stollsteimer is still strangling chaotic melodies out of the guitar, but his new role finds him sharing vocal duties with bassist Leann Banks, with Don Blum the resident drum-banger. As a show of their solidarity, the trio performs live with each member lining the front of the stage. Formed earlier this year, the nascent trio are releasing their first 7-inch in September. As an aside, this is Stollsteimer’s second appearance at Hell’s Half Mile, having kicked off the 2013 festival with his previous band the Hounds Below.
Hollow & Akimbo (Ann Arbor)
Waves of anticipation heralded the February release of this group’s debut eponymous LP. For once, the hype was justified, as the record stands as one of 2014’s best. Composed of Jonathan Visger, Brian Konicek and Mike Higgins, Hollow & Akimbo pulls off that rare feat of being lyrically and sonically compelling in equal doses. Their lyrical concerns find them singing of molecules, singularity, doors to other worlds and more commonplace matters such as the anonymity that can accompany big city living and relationship turmoil. Musically, they fuse the Flaming Lips’ psychedelia, Radiohead’s progressive proclivities and Passion Pit’s textured electronics. What results are aural tapestries loaded with evocative beats at home with idiosyncratic guitar parts, the songs amounting to a sensory experience wherein you can practically see the colors as much as hear the notes. It doesn’t come much more energizing than this.
The High Strung (Detroit)
The High Strung is a band difficult to qualify, as they don’t snuggly fit into any subgenre. Suffice to say, they just flat-out rock in punchy fashion, all crunchy guitars and rapid fire drums. Laden with hooks you’ll find yourself humming after one or two listens, the band’s sound is also defined by the literary quality of their lyrics, which should come as no surprise as frontman and songwriter Josh Malerman’s debut novel Bird Box was published by Ecco in May and they once went on tour performing exclusively in Michigan libraries. But don’t get the wrong impression that these guys are pretentious; on the contrary, they imbue their shows with a contagious sense of ramshackle fun. A staple of the Detroit scene for years, the band has a litany of albums to their credit, once infamously left their tour van on the steps of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is probably best known to area audiences for their ramshackle anthem “The Luck You Got”, used as the theme song for Showtime’s Shameless. To get a feel for them beforehand, check out albums Moxie Bravo and Get the Guests, great starting points for the uninitiated.
Tunde Olaniran (Flint)
With this Flint native, it’s not simply a matter of standing back and watching a musician play a few songs. No, what Tunde Olaniran brings is a full-fledged interactive, performance art exhibition. A mélange of R&B, hip-hop, indie pop and electronica is what this guru of Afrofuturism champions. With his elaborate costumes, female backup dancers and synchronized moves, Olaniran uses the stage as pulpit as he croons and raps in a four-octave range, leading an audience in an energetic narrative. Steeped in a distinctly Michigan-bred social consciousness, his lyrics carry intellectual weight that is provocative rather than heavy-handed. The engaging quality of his shows ratchets up the lush vitality of the studio recordings hailing from his series of EPs. His most recent output, Yung Archetype, was released on Ann Arbor-based Quite Scientific in February. You can try to prepare yourself for an Olaniran show, but your best bet is to just expect sensory overload and ride out the whirlwind as it envelopes you.