Ever experience a cultural event--a 'happening,' to borrow 60s lingo for a moment--so special that you know history is all around you? For those who believe that Detroit's musical heritage is something special, history happened last night.
At the annual Concert of Colors festival, storied record producer, performer, and multi-instrumentalist Don Was assembled what he called a Detroit Super Session, part old-time musical review (house band hosting a series of performers), part multi-act gig (think early 70s Detroit shows where some combination of Alice Cooper, the Stooges, MC5, Mitch Ryder, and Ted Nugent would share a bill), and part celebration of sonic and ethnic multiculturalism in Detroit.
I got to the Opera House early, brought some reading, and staked out a front-and-center seat. And the show didn't fail to bring together some of my favorite artists from the last forty years. Was played bass with the family punk band The Muldoons (hands down the best live act in Detroit right now), as the Muldoon brothers (9 and 14 years old) wailed through a version of "Chubby Bunny." The Was-led houseband hosted Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs, who sang a slow and soulful version of "Stop," during which I missed D'bombs bassist Ko's backing vocals and the loud and agressive stylings of the rest of the D'bombs but really appreciated Collins' voice (the guy's got some serious vocal chops). The houseband also backed The Sisters Lucas, Lola Morales, Mitch Ryder, and the poet John Sinclair of MC5 fame, feeding the excited audience some excellent Americana, soul, salsa, spoken word, and rock to chew on. One song per performer, no matter how legendary.
The houseband surrendered its spot for several performances. The reunited Black Merda--my favorite performance of the night--did a funky version of "Cynthy Ruth" and proved they're not just a great '60s band, not just "the first black rock band," not just a great psychedelic act, and not just a great Detroit act. They rock. Period. Was played bass with the Detrot Cobras on "As Long as I Have You," after which DC's guitarist took disposable-camera pictures of Was, John Sinclair, and herself posing with various musicians. Emblematic of the whole night's fun atmosphere. Black Bottom Collective brought its eight-piece fusion of hip hop, soul, and hard rock and clearly impressed the rock-and-roll-leaning crowd. And members of 70s punk outfit The Ramrods--another of the reunions--showed no "when in Rome..." decorum, Iggy-ing around the Opera House stage as if playing a cheap Cass Corridor pub.
I'm probably overlooking some of the acts. Not a weak link in the whole show. A great, great night for the city.