Michigan’s indie elite packed the appropriately named Small’s in Hamtramck Thursday night for Canada’s Hot Hot Heat. Detroit virgins, these synth-pop throwbacks provided an impressive first showing, cranking out an energetic 50-minute set of catchy tunes that got the crowd dancing the second the band took the stage. The only touring act on the bill, it was clear whom the crowd was there to see. However, Detroit natives Blanche almost stole the show before Heat had a chance to take it back.
Dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing and incorporating a banjo, steel guitar and autoharp, Blanche’s bluegrass style was surprisingly embraced by the jaded scenesters. The band did look a little out of place, comprised of a Lyle Lovett-esque lead singer, a busty female bassist in a white floral dress and two other guys that could have easily been the fathers of any of the kids there. While the room clearly dug the interesting change of pace, as soon as Blanche left the stage, the crowd began to chant and demand the funky Canucks. Hot Hot Heat gladly obliged.
The band ripped through songs from their debut LP Make Up the Breakdown, as well as a track or two off their EP Knock Knock Knock. All was well received by the decidedly younger crowd, as the kids sang at the top of their lungs and shook their hips with reckless abandon.
A unique mix of classic ’80s style songwriting and a modern indie ethic, Hot Hot Heat’s music translates into an incredibly fun live show. The band’s instantly catchy songs were made to be played in front of a couple hundred excited fans.
Lead singer Steve Bays, all limbs and hair, took every opportunity to leave his keyboard and shout vocals into the face of anyone in the first three rows. The band exuded an upbeat vibe that clearly transferred to the crowd. It was a welcome change to the all-too prevalent self-loathing and introversion of the indie scene. Hot Hot Heat wanted to be there as much as their fans and their performance reflected that.
After they finished their last song, fan favorite “Bandages,” the place was sweaty, hot and crying for an encore. Bays assured the crowd that they would return in the coming months. Detroit will be patiently waiting.