As the latest Indie Music Showcase can attest, Hell’s Half Mile has no shortage of quality acts from throughout Michigan to fill our stages. The most recent show at BeMo’s on Saturday, March 28, featured a diversity of stellar acts — Pines, Hawk & Son, MPV, and Nigel & the Dropout.
All four were first-time performers under the HHM banner, yet this fact didn’t hamper drawing a crowd.
The three-piece Pines, from Davison, kicked off festivities. With their distinctive ambient/noise rock experimentation (think Sonic Youth blended with Radiohead), the group started the event on a high note.
Overcome by the sheer scale of rawk, event manager Michael Paulus took to the stage as their set concluded to laud the incredible sounds they strangled from their instruments. Though they set the bar quite high, Pines’ three successors were up to the task to meet it.
Hawk & Son’s blues stomping brand of indie rock kept the momentum going. Heavy with the right amount of melody, the charismatic group from Flint showed a degree of mastery belying their young years. Next up came MPV (an initialism of prior moniker My Pal Val), fresh off a recent stop at Austin’s South by Southwest. The Detroit-based trio of singer-guitarist Elise McCoy, bassist John Missig, and drummer Valerie Klaft held the audience enthralled. Grungy and fierce, the trio occupies the tradition of the Stooges, Nirvana, and Bikini Kill, having enough pop sensibilities to get their refrains stuck in your head without sacrificing any of their punk edge.
As they rolled through their set list, each song came on stronger than the previous, with cuts like the pummeling energizer of “Mister Sister” and the venomous lurch of “Wrong Girl” displaying their strongest attributes — lumbering rhythms, McCoy’s frenetic guitar skills, sing-along choruses, and ear-worming vocal melodies.
Closer Nigel & the Dropout, also hailing from Detroit, were a spectacle to behold. Not simply a musical act, they bring a comprehensive light show with them, with scintillating and vivid imagery synchronized to their percussive synth pop-meets-guitar rock. Don’t think of this as a gimmick, though. No, the duo of Nigel VanHemmye and Andrew Ficker (AKA: the Dropout) bring incredible songwriting chops to the table, merging the aural with the visual for a fully-realized, sensory-titillating experience. So engrossed were attendees, they chanted for and received an encore song from the electronic song smiths.
A special shout-out is owed to Paulus, who managed his first HHM Indie Music Showcase with aplomb. Nary a hitch went off throughout the evening. Also, due credit for their contributions are the Lightnin’ Licks Vinyl Preservation Society, who kept the music going between bands, and Kevin Novellino, who handled sound duties. They’re integral parts of the music culture HHM has garnered in Bay City.
Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the lineup of the next HHM Indie Music Showcase, scheduled for Saturday, May 30, again at BeMo’s.
It will be an all-day event, bands inside and outside. Last year’s attendees witnessed the stylings of YUM, Tokyo Morose, the Mud Suns, Almost Free, the ILL Itches, Jamaican Queens, and Tunde Olaniran — to name a few — and 2015’s day-long installment will surely rival that assortment.