The Local Scene: Lansing, MI

CAUGHT IN THE ACT the publisher

Renegade recording artist Al Lopez graced the Silver Dollar stage for a snowy Tuesday night concert and cranked up a brave crowd with originals like "Mixed Up Country Man" and "Life Is Good." He also unleashed "How Can I Love You," a new Lopez-penned tune that called for a female lead.

I caught tight, talented classic rockers Noware Fast at DJ's Station House in Owosso. A rather motley crew whose appearance suggests they'd be unlikely to even know each other, they're a refreshing change of pace because, though their covers are all familiar, they're not the same 30 songs every other classic rock bar band plays.

Ron Hyden hosted a night of country music to benefit the Jackson Northwest Junior High School Band Boosters. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Hyden unveiled "For Always," his first duet, with the help of the beautiful voice of Debbie Spry. Ron was also joined by an area line dancing troupe and a few of Jackson's local country singers. Particularly impressive was Brad Wetzel, a young crooner who may be Jackson's next rising star.

Belle Gunnes opened for Warchylde at the Rock House. BG covered "Seek and Destroy" and "Metal Health," but really impressed with a melodic but heavy, Yes meets White Lion original, "The Dark." Warchylde, meanwhile, mixed "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "Dirty Deeds" with several heavy, catchy originals from the band's CD, all the while exuding an imposing stage presence worthy of a large venue concert stage.

I caught three bands at an all-ages show at the Owosso Armory. Dye #9 (featuring former members of Gone Dog) performed energetic, industrial-based, loud, fun moshing music. Small Planet-caliber, Seattle-meets-Lapeer, rhythm section-driven, loud rockers Sin Embargo followed, powering the biggest, rowdiest mosh pit of the evening with their set-closer, the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun." And Glen Related delivered its usual, strong, tight performance, including songs from its CD and newer original "Head Cheese."

Patti Ross shook the Colonial Bar & Grille with tunes ranging from Tanya Tucker to Trisha Yearwood, plus a rendition of "God Blessed Texas" that showcased her drummer's lead vocal-caliber chords.

Slow Children at Play treated a Fox's Den crowd to a hooky, powerful, off-the-wall evening of original, rough-edged rock. "Not My Country" builds to powerful, haunting, oddly almost catchy recurring vocals, while big league guitar hooks (with matching drums) mark another original. SCAP also unleashed a hilarious, spastic cover of "Every Breath You Take."

More recently, I caught a double-bill of Head Injury and Dementia at the Fox's Den. Head Injury's tight thrash and six-packs of candles on stage impressed me, but once I discovered that this was just the band's sixth gig, I mentally upgraded them from "quite good" to "watch "very" closely." The variety in the originals is epitomized by "Sudden Death," whose pace changes unveil a largely mellow, creamy center, a departure from the rest of the songs. High school-aged Dementia is a growl-and-grunt style thrash band, whose loosely structured songs sprinkle sporadic bursts of calmness amid instrumental mayhem. Young guns on a journey of musical discovery that will lead to their band identity, the members of Dementia have creatively developed "funky thrash" by adding a slap bass line.

Singer/acoustic guitarist (plugged) Kim Cramer wowed a Moriarty's audience with his powerful, strong, smooth, full voice on a wide variety of songs from the likes of the Beatles and Jim Croce. Anyone in Lansing who hasn't heard Kim sing is missing out.

Dizzy Pilot rocked an enthusiastic Shop Stop Bar crowd through an evening of blues-based, guitar-driven classic hard rock (along the lines of "Same Old Song and Dance") in spite of some difficulty with guitar strings.

Colonial regulars DC-3 played rockers like Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and twangers like "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Blue Kentucky Girl" for a Red Rail audience.

I caught a couple bands at the Fox's Den's 1st Annual May Day Rock-A-Fair on Memorial Day weekend. The C.E. Band opened the show with some solid, fun, catchy, straight-ahead hard rock, including songs like "Bitch From Hell" and "It's My Life and I'll Do What I Want." The DT's followed with their always-good set of catchy, original, hooky, melodic college rock originals, most notably "Kitchen" and "Be My Lie." The other bands on the bill at the all-day event were Dementia, Lazy Bones, Skull Buzz, Fix My Head, Glen Related, Riot in Progress, Slow Children at Play, and Botfly. Chas Edwards

If you hang out at Rick's on a regular basis on Thursday nights, then you're probably aware that Thursdays are Impact night, hosted by yours truly and featuring some great local talent. For those who haven't had a chance to head over to 224 Abbott on the fourth day of the week, here's what you've been missing:

Dorothy packed the place about a month ago. These guys have shown tremendous maturity in the past year or so, writing some great original material to go along with a crowd-pleasing selection of covers. And anyone who can actually make me enjoy the song "99 Balloons" deserves a lotta credit.

Jes Gru put on their CD release party one Thursday in April. The new one is called "Glow" and features some great straight-ahead rockers a la Live, as well as a rerecorded version of "Pictures of You" from the first disc, "Mumbo Jumbo." With a no-holds-barred live show, don't be surprised if you see these guys on the national scene really soon.

Finally, 19 Wheels packed the house in the midst of finals week. This band gets better and better every time I see them... and they were really good the first time! Opening band The Tearjerks also impressed, with a very loose guitar-based sound and great keyboards. These guys are based in Detroit, but I hope to see more of them in EL soon. Tammie Dennings

In May, the Rock House played host to local band Horror Factor. Just out of the studio with their first CD release, "Coughing Ink," Horror Factor took the stage from warm-up band Atchraforia to perform a loud, in your face, tight, metal, all-original set. They played songs off their CD like "Five Day War," which they dedicated to all the working people in the audience. And they rounded up the set with an instrumental tune titled "Clockwork." Horror Factor has a different style than the average metal band. If you're into heavy metal, this is a must-see.

The Chunky Chicken Stool played at the Small Planet last month. This band is made up of old members of the DT's and Gone Dog. When on stage, they seem to have more fun than if they'd take themselves very seriously. With a few originals and covers from Metallica to the All, you could very well call this band rock and roll with flavor.

Five Story Fall opened a show at the Small Planet recently with their own blend of hardcore metal and a killer lead singer (female). The all original set included songs like "Puppet Head," which they titled their own record company after. (No strings attached.) I'm very surprised that this band is not signed yet. They really have their act together. It's something you must see.

If you'd like Tammie to catch your show, call her at (517) 484-7775. Scott Myers (A.K.A.)

As everyone knows, music is big business. Country and Rock are the ruling genres, but each is the offspring of other types of American music, which in turn evolved from European and African music. In a world that glorifies the imitators, where do the traditionalists go? Answer: the coffee shop. Coffee shops are popping up like beans on a Columbian vine all over the Lansing area. In order to assert their uniqueness, many turn to music.

Of all the shops in town, the Cappuccino Cafe on Lake Lansing Road has been most successful in resurrecting the feel of the proverbial '60s "coffeehouse." Cappuccino Cafe presents everything from folk to jazz to acoustic pop, and they're lucky to attract some of the local music scene's gentry -- including Kitty Donohoe and Ray Kamalay -- to perform.

Jazz seems to be the music of choice in many of the shops. Now, I'm no expert (or fan) of jazz, but I've taken in a couple of sets at Caffe Venezia in downtown East Lansing and Espresso Emporium in Frandor. The shows I've seen were laid back traditional jazz that seemed designed to counteract the effects of the customers' libations. In other words, if you're drinking decaf and it's the band's second set, you're headed for Snoozeville.

Although none of the local java joints seem to have been designed with musical performances in mind, the musicians are undeterred. Personally, I think coffeehouses are more suited to "coffeehouse" music -- a man (or woman) with a guitar and a story to tell -- but the laid-back jazz goes down well with a (caffeine-laced) cappuccino or espresso, too.

East Lansing Art Festival: As usual, talent coordinator Wanda Degen put together an eclectic program for the Festival the weekend of May 20 and 21. The highlight was Robin & Linda Williams on Saturday. Clean, clear harmonies melding two distinctive voices and a band featuring exceptional players on acoustic instruments only: it's folk (with a bit of a country twang) at its finest! I'll mention one other highlight (among the many): Catkin, a relatively new local group that performs Irish American Music. It's made up of Neil Woodward, Robin Pilger and the incomparable Kitty Donohoe. Check them out some Sunday night at Moriarty's Pub in Lansing. Shane Copher

If you'd like Shane to catch your show, call him at (517) 694-5625. Cheryl Bowles

If you'd like Cheryl to catch your show, call her at (517) 351-2866.


The "Renegade" knows how hard it is to know what to expect from a local band. So, to help club-goers, we asked a couple of the Lansing area's local bands to describe themselves briefly. Their answers follow.

Those Delta Rhythm Kings: "We are a 7-piece band with horns, playing hard-core roots blues and some originals" and "Swingin', jumpin', grindin', bumpin' blues!"

Head Injury: "Fun, heavy, horny, loud, happy, angry, sad. We jerk off on stage."

The Band Guide will feature a few local bands each month but won't repeat the same bands very often, so be sure to save this Guide and look for new bands in September.

Bands: Read the "Hey Bands" box on page 5 for info on landing a "Band Guide" listing.


The DT's wowed 'em at Undercurrents '95 in Cleveland recently. Read the Undercurrents article on page 3 for details.

Patti Ross and the Wanted showcased at the Broken Spoke in Nashville May 22nd.

You can catch the Heritage Festival on June 23, 24, and 25 in north Lansing at the Brenke fish ladder. Friday night (alternative night) features local bands from 5 to 11 pm: Daphne Blue, Storyville, Big Blue Couch, and headliner Milo's Eye. Saturday's classic rock begins at 11 am, concluding with headliner Rare Earth. Sunday features oldies and acoustic bands >from noon 'til 5 pm. Turn out and support local music!

Bands: Read the "Hey Bands" box on page 5 for info on getting into the "Band News."