In a miraculous turn of events at the Magic Stick on Thursday night, the colliding worlds of hippie jamsters and alt-rock snobs were brought together in a mish-mash of musical styles. The Secret Machines brought their brand of distant space rock to this diverse crowd for a night of arena-sized fuzz. The band took the stage quietly after a disco-charged set by L.A. dance-punkers Moving Units. The Secret Machines’ set ran through most of their debut record, Now Here Is Nowhere, with a few new songs from their developing sophomore album.
Bathed in a sea of blue and pink light, wearing dark suits and perfectly unkempt hair, the boys barely spoke a single word to the crowd. They opted instead to let their dizzying guitar effects and syncopated drumbeats do the talking. The trio faced each other in an intimate triangle setup, while surrounded by a giant techno-bubble of stacks, amps, lighting fixtures and strategically placed strobes. Bassist and keyboardist Brandon Curtis shared singing duties with his brother and guitar noodler Ben. The two remained mysterious, standing in dark shadows as they delivered awkwardly titled tunes with a harmony that was more monotonous than pitch perfect.
At times, especially during their more distant, weightier songs, the stage possessed a strange and disconcerting ambience, like being underwater. The aquatic feeling was comforting, but also tiresome through their slower paced songs. Luckily, this feeling was lifted for crowd pleasers like the sing-along chorus of “The Road Leads Where It’s Led” and MTV2 staple “Nowhere Again.” The sold-out crowd was comprised of a diversified mix of aging and neohippies and their arch-nemeses — 20-something indie elitists. This combo was quite puzzling, but ultimately revealed The Secret Machines’ eclectic appeal to both genres of fans.
This attraction allows them to bask in the college-rock limelight for long enough to secure spots in both Bonnaroo and Coachella, two of the year’s most sought after rock festivals. How did they manage to impress promoters of both coveted galas? Probably the same way they entice their diversified fanbase, who are usually at each other’s bearded/skinny throats. Their appealing mix of ambient, My Bloody Valentine-esque swirling guitars with Zeppelin-fused riffing somehow captivated the attention of the clashing crowd.
Though sleepers like “You Are Chains” caused uncomfortable shifting and uneasiness among the spectators during the hour-long set, The Secret Machines still managed to stun visually and provide wall-to-wall guitar and keyboard riffs for their first headline visit to Detroit. Their homage to heavy–hitting 1970s influences and late-’90s indie stalwarts was a hit with the numerous older fans in attendance, as well as the younger neohippies and psych-rockers. While their atmospheric musicianship may not have been the most innovative arrival to the music scene last year, the Secret Machines conjured enough interest to bring different types of music fans together peacefully for a night of underwater bliss.