Blog: Brett Callwood

Music writer Brett Callwood hopped the briny deep to follow rockers like the Dirt Bombs and Insane Clown Posse (who got big play in his native England) to Detroit in 2008. This week Brett, author of MC5: Sonically Speaking, the first full biography of the harbingers of punk rock, plumbs the local music scene and its old school influences.

Post 6: Music for the Decades

In the past three years since relocating from London to Detroit, while covering the local music scene for the Metro Times and Metromix, and having written books about two of Detroit's legendary and classic bands in the MC5 and the Stooges, I genuinely feel that I have been able to write about some of the greatest music ever recorded across the decades.

One big thing that I admire about Metro Detroit musicians and artists is their tenacity. They don't understand the concept of giving up. I adore the fact that Scott Morgan, who made such remarkable music in the '60s and '70s with the Rationals and Sonic's Rendezvous Band, is still battling with bands like Powertrane. I wrote about those guys very early on during my time with MT, and I found them all to be genuine and charming. Then there's Jimmy McCarty and Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, both former members of Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels. Before reigniting themselves as the Rockets, these awesome musicians were battling away as the Hell Drivers and I wrote a feature on those guys that I'm also very proud of.

John Brannon, the vocalist who made his name in the '80s with seminal hardcore band Negative Approach is still pummeling all comers with the incredible Easy Action, and I was delighted to give Brannon plenty of press space when I wrote a cover feature on him.
Vinnie Dombroski from Sponge is still out and about in the bands Crud and the Orbitsuns, while I even got to write about former MC5 manager John Sinclair when he recorded an album with experimental jazz-rock ensemble Pinkeye.

I feel like it's this spirit that keeps Detroit alive, keeps it so artistically relevant. Never say die.

Of course, the city will always need the young blood coming through to shine. And shine they do.

The music scene, across the genres, in Metro Detroit right now is as eclectic and exciting as at any time in its history. The artists might not immediately sound like the likes of Nugent, Iggy or Aretha, but the Detroit sound is absolutely there.

Allow me to provide some examples…

When my MC5 book was released in America in September of this year, I had a launch party at the New Way in Ferndale and there was no doubt that I wanted Marco Polio & the New Vaccines to play. I had written a Metro Times feature on these guys, having stumbled across them playing in the streets of Royal Oak outside the Noir Leather store, and I believe that they're one of the most exciting bands on the scene. In spirit, they're very MC5 even if, upon first listen, you might think me crazy for saying that. There's an almost religious, preacher-like quality about front man Steve Puwalski, much like Rob Tyner. He can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand even if initially, as at this years Arts, Beats & Eats Festival, the crowd is fairly disinterested in him and his band. That's why Marco Polio is so important, and why they remind me of the 5. They feel like far more than just a band.

But they are just the tip of the iceberg.