Blowout in Ferndale. Still sounds strange to me... Was it inevitable? "...Logical?"
It's still a bit early to arouse debates either applauding or condemning the recent announcement by the Metro Times that its annual local music festival, The Blowout, will be hosted in Ferndale for one of its (recently-expanded) two weekends.
It's somewhat of an elephant in our room, though, whether Ferndale is a, what shall we call it, ...a scene?... onto itself...? When typically the music monster of SE Michigan is often simply denoted as "the Detroit Scene."
In any case: The Metro Times Blowout will shift forward, from its usual date of late February / early March to the last weekend of April (4/25, 4/26, 4/27 in Detroit and Hamtramck respectively) and the first weekend of May (5/2, 5/3, 5/4 in Ferndale).
This, as reported by Metro Times music writer Brett Callwood in quoting MT publisher Chris Sexson, is meant "...to elevate Blowout within the metro Detroit community, and Ferndale was a logical choice due to its multiple appropriate venues in close proximity."
On one side:
"I think it's time for a little shake-up," said bassist Raquel Falcon (of Ferndale-based Jeecy & the Jungle). "Plus, more bands will get to perform."
On the other side:
Guitarist/singer Eric Allen, a Ferndale resident and rock-contributor to bands like Kommie Kilpatrick and Twine Time admits a "cultural concern: spreading it over two weekends loses the draw of the common music fan, i.e., the fan that doesn't usually attend shows regularly but still goes to Blowout."
These showgoers, says Allen, are typically more suburban and may opt to just stay-local if given the option.
As a local showgoer and reporter on local music (...and as an inherently neurotic / sensitive soul), I can't help but worry that rifts, however quibbling or legitimate, could simmer over the brim at bar-side exchanges or stage-edge swaps.
Because after 15 years, Blowout is something tangible, dear, to those who attend it religiously. "Ferndale is lovely. But Blowout is Hamtramck. It's Small's. It's Hamtramck-Steve (Paljusevic). It's the Painted Lady. It's snow. It's Jean's. It's the drunk trolley. It's Kelly's. It's Augie (Visocchi of The Hard Lessons) jumping from the upper deck of The New Dodge. It's the K(nights) of C(olumbus) Hall."
Allen's biggest concern was for the "mom and pop--bars that never have shows except for this one time of year" or for the "rock n roll party store(s)" catering to bands grabbing "pre-game beers."
Local bands chime in
"I truly believe," said singer/songwriter A.J. Sherman (of Royal Oak/Ferndale-based The Cold Wave), "that this will bring a new level of excitement to the Blowout. So many people that would never have gone down to Hamtramck will now get to experience this event and Ferndale is the best choice for something on this level. Look at how DIY Street Fair and the Pig & Whiskey have grown in the last few years."
Blowout is, according to Ferndale-based Before Pictures' keyboardist Ray Straight, "too strong to die from being held in Ferndale."
It will exist, in some form, regardless of where; there's just too much creative energy and musical enthusiasm brewing in the metro-area for something on the scale of a 200+ band, multi-date music festival to commence.
"Point is," said Straight, "right now it sounds appropriate to be in Ferndale."
Straight: "Everyone will have their opinion...and until we go through the motions of giving-it-a-try, we'll never know. Something is so successful, why let it get grounded-into a predictable rut? Try on a new hat, try on a new city."
Ray Thompson, singer/guitarist of Ferndale-based Oscillating Fan Club (and spirit-slinging, cocktail-blending barkeep at the Loving Touch) has the same hopes this year as any Blowout-year: "...a culmination of positivity and creativity within our own music community."
Is change a good thing?
Change is a good thing for an arts community, in Thompson's eyes. Change ensures needed "invigoration" in said-community.
Avidly supportive local music fan Juliet Bell has gone the last three years and enjoyed adventurous aspect of Blowout; getting on a bus, traveling around the town.
With Ferndale, inevitably (again, it is just the first year), we will likely see a more compact spread of venues, though no official list has been announced as of this posting.
Bell actually hopes the split - of weekend and locale - comes to be regarded as "two separate events," imagined as two "mini-Blowouts" that could grow into their own things, new traditions, but could, regrettably, never "replace the old Blowout..."
Carey Gustafson, crafter, drummer, singer and Loving Touch bartender, feels confident that Ferndale, particularly its bars and live-music accommodating establishments, will step up to the plate, ready for the flux of attendees and assuring to treat the bands right.
And one big plus, for her, is transportation.
"You can park and get everywhere on foot and on time for the bands you want to see. No matter if you tried to drive, run, slide or bus around it is nearly impossible to do it in Hamtown. And isn't the music the point?!"
Yes, music's (mostly) the point -if you ask Allen. But he also thinks Blowout should be about giving people a reason to celebrate.
But only time will tell. Should we assign the Ferndale-featured Blowout days the task of achieving, mimicking, transcending the celebratory, heartening, adventurous vibe of the heretofore Hamtramck-hosted festival?
Or shouldn't we, instead, hope that it all goes well, that everyone has a safe, happy time, and that, most of all, it can become, maybe, it's own thing?
Change is good......right?
All that said..
This will be my final "Trip" for a while. I want to express sincere gratitude to any/all who've logged on / surfed-through / stopped by to read my writings on local music. They'll continue, inevitably, in some form or another, on some site or another...
I'll see you all at Blowout-- in both Ferndale and Hamtramck.
One final note
If I could tell you about just one more local show, a show you've just got to be at... if not for the sake of seeing the clattered, dance-rock chaos of Pink Lightning, and if not for the sake of celebrating the sublime, shimmering success of Pewter Cub's full length album If You Can Hold Your Breath...then let it be for the sake of seeing modern-urban-myth Black Lodge reunite (...again) for another imagining of their fiery post-rock profundity.
February 2nd - at the Loving Touch in Ferndale - ($10 cover gives attendees a copy of If You Can Hold Your Breath on vinyl, via Bellyache Records, with complimentary MP3 download card).