Dirtbombs, Electric Six plan rocking Detroit weekend
Detroit music fans are going to wish they could be in two places at once on Saturday night, because two of the most beloved local bands of the past two decades are returning to the city for separate homecoming bashes.
The Dirtbombs, who haven’t played in Detroit since 2013, will make their much-hyped comeback at the recently reopened Magic Stick, supported by Soledad Brothers and Prude Boys. At the same time, raunchy dance rockers Electric Six will host their second annual New Year’s Eve party with Queen Kwong at St. Andrew’s Hall.
Member of the current Dirtbombs lineup come from across the country. Guitarist Ko Melina and bassist Troy Gregory are the only members currently residing in Detroit. Singer Mick Collins and drummer Pat Pantano live in Brooklyn, New York, and drummer Ben Blackwell works at his uncle Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee.
Blackwell says he still considers Detroit home, and is as excited as their fans for this long-awaited Dirtbombs return to the Motor City.
“I still manage to get up (to Detroit) fairly frequently, and it is my eternal connection,” Blackwell says. “I’m always paying attention to developments, and real estate and sports. I don’t feel that connection to Nashville.”
Collins, who moved to Brooklyn in 2010, shares Blackwell’s passion for their hometown.
“When people ask me this question I usually tell them, ‘I still live in Detroit, I just sleep in Brooklyn,’ ” Collins says.
The band had not nailed down a setlist for Saturday night’s performance, but the group has six classic albums, including 2001’s R&B and Motown covers LP “Ultraglide in Black” and 2013’s bubblegum record “Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-blooey!” to pick tunes from.
“In all honesty, I have no idea what we’re gonna play yet,” Collins says. “The band has been asking me for a setlist, and I’ll make one, but I admit a part of me wants to make it up as we go.”
The excitement on social media about the show indicates it will likely sell out.
The Dirtbombs have arguably headlined the Magic Stick more times than any other local act in the past 20 years, and Saturday night’s concert is a fitting showcase for the venue longtime fans have been waiting for since it reopened after a yearlong stint as the ill-fated electronic dance club Populux.
“That club is special to us, and everyone in the rock ‘n’ roll community,” Blackwell says.
The band could have conceded to demand and moved downstairs to the much larger Majestic Theatre, but Blackwell thinks that would have spoiled the magic. “It’s not about accommodation. It’s about that room and that stage,” he says.
Electric Six frontman Dick Valentine, a.k.a. Tyler Spencer, doesn’t feel similarly connected to Detroit. Soon after his band’s 2003 album “Fire” spawned the immortal underground dance rock hits “Gay Bar” and “Danger! High Voltage,” Spencer moved to Brooklyn.
“It’s nice to get on the People Mover and take in the sights, but Brooklyn’s been my home for over a decade,” he says, “I probably have two friends in Detroit at this point, outside the band. I get back there, and it’s nice to be there, but it felt like home in my 20s, and in my 40s it’s just a place I come to.”
The other five members of Electric Six still live in Detroit, and distance hasn’t hurt the band’s success. Since forming in 1996, Electric Six have recorded more than a dozen albums, the most recent being this October’s hip-hop flavored “Fresh Blood for Tired Vampyres.” The band maintains a strong global cult following and continues to play its tongue-in-cheek cocktail of disco and punk to sold-out clubs around the world.
Countless bands from the early ’00s indie rock heyday have since dropped off the radar, but Electric Six is still going strong. The band even recently raised a whopping $77,000 on Kickstarter to fund two new albums: one a covers LP and the other a live set from the United Kingdom.
Spencer says the keys to Electric Six’s continued vitality are dedication and simplicity.
“We just try not to over think any of it, have a good time, do rock ‘n’ roll music, and live in the moment for every show,” he says. “And we certainly do that at the New Year’s shows.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
With Soledad Brothers and Prude boys
8 p.m. Sat.
The Magic Stick
4120 Woodward, Detroit
2nd Annual NYE Party
with Queen Kwong
9 p.m. Sat.
St. Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress, Detroit