Renting 101


December 13, 2011

Duane to bring his performance-art brand of music to the Blind Pig this Thursday

Teenage Weirdo
“The typical route to pop innovation is to introduce alien or aggressive sounds that provoke people who otherwise would have paid no attention.”  – Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker
All that really mattered, at the end, was that we were talking about it.

Way too soon, now, to even surmise just what it was, or what it came from…what it imitated, what it re-imagined… The impact was quantified in our questions.

And, perhaps, its redeeming quality is that, whatever it was, we didn’t want to cast it off. Not right away, at least.

“It” was Duane, “the Teenage Weirdo” and Detroit’s 19-year-old shooting-star scrambler of goth, glam and sweet snarling punk, swathed with some smoke and mascara, electrified with a throaty, buzzsaw vocal belt and fluttering with torn-up t-shirts and tights slinking off his scrawny frame.

Michael Duane Gholston has been, for the last month, equivalent to Internet wild-fire. Much of what you read here is likely just regurgitated from Google searches that are becoming increasingly plentiful in returns: He’s 19 with a hyper-evolved sense for pop-culture iconoclasm, if a little heavy on “shock,” at times. He studied art in high school, exudes a keenness for freaky theatrics, covered David Bowie and Grace Jones for Simon Cowell’s on the X Factor tv show and has been embraced by a handful of labels, from Detroit’s Beehive Recording Company, to the Black Lips’ Die Slaughterhaus. He also has the interested ears’ of Danny Brown and Jack White.

When I saw him on Saturday night, opening for Human Eye and the Terrible Twos, it was in front of an imposing fireplace, with the mounted head of a ram hung above the mantel. Rows of thick oak tables arranged like a cafeteria sprawled behind me, around which the thronged crowd spilled, toeing towards the edge where Duane crawled, writhed, strutted, skipped, jumped, lunged and splayed all around the floor. There’s no stage inside Detroit’s 3rd Street Saloon.…just a spot under that ram’s decapitated head.

His synth-based, Nintendo-toying, fiery-punk punctured, glammed-up-garage sound is intriguing, that’s sure, but it’s more the delivery that has ensured his impression. His 35-minute set seems to be one well-rehearsed performance piece, complete with curious plot devices that likely only Duane understands and, yeah, that can give it a sort of David Lynch-ian charm, but it’s more his chaotic recipe of elements: Pokemon theme songs, an ornate frame with flapping fliers featuring his own face, his multiple TV screens set up like a shrine at the center of the stage and the fact that some songs only last 90-seconds, if that, and seem to disintegrate away like the attention spans of any Facebook-scrolling teen-or-twenty-something.

Was it intelligent? Was it a paradigm shift of brilliant absurdist profundity?

It can’t be all nonsense, because we’re all still talking about it.

Sure, we’re not sure.

But the music, -a fuzzed-out punk-rock smashed into flamboyant funk and neo-disco romps, seemed to have enough of an effect – girded by his confidence and his mid-high, half-raspy and half-mellifluous growl.

Frank Woodman, a local singer/songwriter and performer, turned to me after the set, both of us having just seen him for the first time (even though he’s been performing around, locally, for a little more than a year now). But with Frank, being over 40 and having come up through Detroit’s “garage explosion,” (the Jack White days and what have you), I know he’s seen a lot, and I could see in his eyes that he hadn’t seen anything like this.

“W-ellll?” he asked me, inflecting upwards on the word, drawn out like a confused musical note.

“Let’s leave it at that…” I said.

The impact is the question.

Duane played in Ypsilanti about a month ago, part of the return of Starling Electric, at Woodruff’s. Now, he’ll be performing at the Blind Pig (December 15th) and he is not headlining (despite the fliers and despite the display upon the Blind Pig’s main site). At least, that’s what Gholston said during Facebook-focused efforts to clarify the line up.

That initial confusion, that push of Duane’s name to the top of marquees like that, is likely symptomatic of the hype.

Even so – if this blog post is ostensibly put up to prop the show headlined by Charlie Slick, the Ypsi-based songwriter/DIY-producer and leader of the newly formed band Thunda Clap (who, by the way, just released Farout Indian, his fifth album) –then it has certainly been preoccupied with it’s words warbling about Duane.

He’s very weird now, because it’s still fresh. This is Ann Arbor’s chance to check it out. But, while you’re there – check out Charlie Slick, he’s bringing a TeePee on stage with him, he’s got a full band (with saxophones and synthesizers) and he’s playing guitar and he’s writing and singing what’s probably his most inspired and fully realized work to date.

And then there’s The Rainbow Vomit Family Band, a blend of rock n roll, weird brassy jazz elements, and jangly/noisy/bewitching psychedelic-bubble-gum transmogrifications. And they’ll be debuting a new line up at the Blind Pig show. You can also look forward to them at “Day 2” (12/29) of MittenFest, at Woodruff’s.

Yes. Heavy on the weirdos. Thursday night at the Blind Pig.

About the Author

Jeff Milo
Jeff Milo
Jeff, the newest member to the iSPY team, has a vast knowledge of the local and not so local music scene. Keep a look out for plenty of album and band reviews as well as blog posts, interviews and more! We're excited to have Jeff as a part of our team. Reach out, say hello, offer suggestions, get your band featured with iSPY!

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