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The View From Nowhere: Nightclubbing

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Nightclubbing and the local music scène. This corny 1 940s image always pops into my brain when I thinkof that word - sort of riding around in a black limo, drinking scotch and martinis, checking out Duke Ellington at the Cotton Club or Billie Holiday at some Harlem cafe, lots of smoke and way too little sleep. Yep, with lots of gangsters hanging out too. Ok. Back to reality. Nightclubbing in Ann Arborin 1996(for all of you readers who happen to be seeing The View From Nowhere and AGENDA for the first time this month) is almost as legendary, but not always as smoke-filled and can be more caffeine-buzzed than alcohol-powered. It can be a world class singersongwriter (yet undiscovered) playing on a Tuesday open mike night or a hard core guitar noise from rock and rollers just signed to a major label deal. Whatever your poison, you are a very smart and lucky individual to have chosen Ann Arbor as the place to satisfy your lust for music. Your grandparents have no doubt told you all the tales of how Bob Seger (before he became a Republican) was the local rock and roll hero, how Iggy Pop & the Stooges redefined and jump-started mindless rock (eons before their anthem 'Search and Destroy' was ripped off by slave labor exploitation masters Nike), and how the MC5 may have been the best American rockers of all time. What about now? Seeing a bad band in a good club is no fun. Likewise, seeing a good band in a lousy place is usually a waste of your precious hours too. To make it easier to get off the ground, the following is the official The View From Nowhere jump start to some amazingly important and entertaining music stuff. Frank Allison & the Odd Sox at the Blind Pig. If you are seeing only one band in one club and then forever swearing off rock and roll Frank A. and the boys are the hands-down Ann Arbor choice. Originally a basement blues club where the likes of Boogie Woogie Red, Walter Horton, Roosevelt Sykes and other legends gigged in the 1970s, the Pig transformeditself afteran upstairs expansión and became one of the most important small clubs in the Midwest for scores with shows from bands like Nirvana, 10,000 Maniacs and various blues and world music outfits. The sell-a lot-of-beer, college hangout motif has all the warmth of a morgue on a bad night (depending on which waistcoat are working...). But, when Frank Allison, a goofy, gasolinepowered genius who's a cross between Charlie Chaplin and all three of the Stooges (as in Moe, Larry and Curlie) with his stage moves, and Alex Chilton and John Lennon with his songwriting is ON, his huge crowd of fans have the dance floor packed and they're singing along with EVERY song like a Springsteen show forgod's sake. It's a special and unique kind of rock and roll. Audrey Becker at The Gypsy Cafe. Located on Fourth Avenue in a still bohemian part of town, the GC has nice food, great coffee, no smoking and a backroom stage area that is as relaxed and laid back as a living room. The multicolored scarves flying over the small stage are as anti-showbiz as you're going to get and seem to bring out a similar warmth from everyone who performs. Music booker Larry Miller (himself a guitar ace with a long resumehistory of great bands and records) has good taste and an ear for giving a performer a first gig. The three setsthree acts a night idea works nicely too and the mix of these elements makes for a mighty nice spot to hear folk-ish music. And there is nobody better to catch at The Gypsy Cafe than Audrey Becker. Ms. Becker has a powerful, sweet yet grainy pop voice and sense of song structure that belies her age. Her debut CD, "Where I Draw The Line" is due out this month, and if the recording captures a fraction of the emotional firestorm, the power and the spark or her live gigs, then look out. Her voice and songs will just take you away. Big Dave & the Ultrasonics at Rick's American Cafe. Yep, Rick's is what you cali a classic rock and roll club. Sure, there' s way too much smoke, way too many beer drinking, loud, smartass chumps who you might want to push down a flight of stairs (go ahead, no one will notice) but once a really hot band begins to play, everything is one big, r and r celebration. The bartenders are always cool too, which is important. On a Big Dave gig night, with the boys blasting through their catalog of origináis and roots classics, there is this FLASH of everything that's great. Ann Arbor does have other r&b bands, and you could check out B ig Dave and the Ultras at this year' s B lues and Jazz Festival or on their new live Schoolkids CD ("No Sweat") but a beer drinking bar at one in the morning on a Saturday night is where all the planets are in a line. Big Dave at Rick's American Cafe is where everything falls into place. WIG at the Cross Street Station. Ok, so the Cross S treet is in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor' s low rent neighbor to the easL Big deal. The A2Ypsi club scènes go hand-in-hand and you should never make the mistake of separaüng the two, ok? Next toEastem Michigan University, the Cross Street is a neighborhood bar that favors loud rock and rollers of the guitar persuasión. Take WIG. With one CD out on Island and another coming this month, this band' s gigs have taken them to all the other hot spots on the local circuit but the Cross Street is where they shine. With their almost symphonic wall-of-noise screams for love and redemption, a stage intensity that brings to mind a death in the wings, and enough teen appeal to be pop idols, this is a band that some local critics andradio programmersHATE. Butnightclubbers with style and taste love 'em. What else? Keep an eye out for The Prodigáis at The Tap Room. The band is four surfrock and blues aces that pump out dance floor scorchers and The Tap is a 1940s art decodive masterpiece with an amazing juke box. Also in Ypsi and right across the street from The Tap is the all ages, former meat market (in the literal sense...) The Green Room, where you should just toss a dart at the calendar and go any night. Rummage sale clothing, great jelly beans, and coffee, this is one place the atmosphere is more important that who's on stage. The Deterants at Theo-Doors (near EMU). If you take a bar that seems always empty (until 25-cent beer night) and that looks like an old old old bar and nothing more and bring in a band that writes origináis that bring to mind the Who or the Replacements or the Clash and turn up the amps, you can prove that a great band can transform an average bar into a heart pumping experience. And after all of the above you can cap off the night with Lisa Waterbury at Cava Java on S. University. CJ's is a small basement coffee spot with a nice PA and low key lighting and booking by Ann Arbor music type legend Joe Tiboni. Ms. Waterbury is a slightly off key emotional roller coaster of a singer that' s an acquired taste bu t one of the most intense artists to emerge from this town since who knows when. The night is young. What are you waiting for? The View From Nowhere. Agenda, 220 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104. MUSIC


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