July 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

Trading gavel for guitar, Detroit bankruptcy judge Rhodes doesn't miss a beat

Band members: Ted Gavin, left, Dillon Jackson, Jack Esher, John Good, Michael Richman, George Kelakos, Mitch Ryan, Jordan Kroop, Tom Salerno, Steven Rhodes. (Band photo)

Detroit— The 29-song setlist is packed with tunes to go broke to.

There’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” for impaired creditors and “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” for secured creditors. For debtors: “Running on Empty.”

“That’s your bankruptcy theme song,” musician Ted Gavin said. “We’ll be playing that.”

Gavin, a turnaround expert from suburban Philadelphia, Pa., plays alongside Steven Rhodes, the judge handling Detroit’s bankruptcy case, in a rock ‘n’ roll cover band called The Indubitable Equivalents.

The band of about a dozen off-hours rockers who work in the bankruptcy world have a two-hour gig tonight at the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Northeast Bankruptcy Conferenceat Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont, one year and a day after Detroit filed bankruptcy. The gig gives Rhodes, one of the band’s rhythm guitar players, a break from the stress and spotlight of the biggest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history, and a chance to be normal, not “Your Honor.”

“From everything I know about bankruptcy judges, they have to physically remove themselves from the community,” said Gavin, 44, managing director of the Delaware-based Gavin/Solmonese consulting firm. “One of the good things about (the concert) is instead of being a bankruptcy judge and a source of knowledge and wisdom is an ability to just be a person. That’s gotta be re-energizing for him.”

According to his band biography, Rhodes learned to play at age 15 after picking up a guitar from his father, a classical guitarist. He later wooed his future wife by playing “The Sounds of Silence” and “Sloop John B” and strumming at a daughter’s bat mitzvah and another daughter’s wedding.

“He’s passionate about music and passionate about the law,” Bloomfield Hills bankruptcy lawyer Douglas Bernstein said. “I suspect that’s one of his releases.”

The band has been together for a decade and formed after bankruptcy experts started meeting on the sidelines of conferences.

“Invariably, there would be a piano in the hotel lounge,” Gavin said.

Tonight’s setlist is heavy on classics from the ’60’s and ’70’s. A little Lynyrd Skynyrd, some Doobie Brothers and Rolling Stones.

“Stuff that, frankly, a room full of bankruptcy lawyers will dance to,” Gavin said.

The band members’ far-flung careers and rare performances leave “staggeringly little” rehearsal time, Gavin said.

“We get together, gel quickly and the ensemble stays pretty tight,” Gavin said.

Rhodes, who plays a Taylor T5 electric/acoustic hybrid guitar, declined comment about the concert or his role in the band.

“He does a mean intro for ‘Venus,’ ” Gavin said.

The Detroit bankruptcy gave Rhodes an elusive, monster case near the end of his career.

“He planned on retiring and could have continued with that path, but with Detroit being his home, he wanted to be able to give all of his time and efforts to it,” Gavin said. “I don’t know that he relishes the spotlight in that regard, but from everything I know about him, he appreciates all the attention being paid to the case because of the seriousness of the issue.”

On stage, however, Rhodes doesn’t appear to hog the spotlight. In one YouTube clip, the judge is hard to spot from the crowd, sandwiched between bandmates and an amplifier.

Rhodes said during one bankruptcy hearing that he isn’t used to being told “no.”

Saturday night, he’ll jam with a group of guys who can get away with overruling his suggestions.

“When he has a suggestion, we listen,” Gavin said, “but ultimately it’s about the music.”

As in court, Rhodes occasionally gets the last word.

“He is the reason why the band ends every set with ‘Free Bird,’ ” Gavin said.