Driving down the Lodge — Detroit’s midnight autobahn — last Saturday evening to 107.5 WGPR’s old-school mélange of disco, house, boogie and techno, I learned that in just over a day’s time, it would all be over. Sometime after hearing Bohannon’s “Let’s Start the Dance” (a song that may be impossible to listen to and remain seated), the DJ quietly announced the station would cease to be by 12 a.m. Sunday. Sold out to urban broadcast giant Radio One, WGPR’s “dance” was coming to a subdued and abrupt end.

*

Coasting off the Forest/Warren Ave. exit, I reached my friend’s Midtown apartment to chat about fading high school friendships, Occupy-wherever and the possibility of going see a show at the Magic Stick, a venue I hadn’t been to since I was worrying about driver’s tests and senior prom. The headlining act was Boris, the storied Japanese noise/metal/pop/oh-what-does-it-matter?

My friend and I planned to show up three hours “fashionably late,” trying to predict the punctualities of a three-band bill with $17 tickets. We ended up simply “late.”

To get to the Stick’s upstairs from the parking lot, you have to head through the Garden Bowl, the country’s oldest-running bowling alley. Walking through a pink and yellow hallway narrow enough to make you think you’re bigger than you really are, pangs of nostalgia, giddiness and nausea strolled into my head.

There, on a stage that seemed much higher in high school, was Boris wrapping up. The band is hairier in person. Atsuo, the Stefani-mic’d drummer, whooped and hollered like a kid on a roller coaster holding up devil horns for the entire ride. Wata, the seemingly perpetually bummed lead guitarist, plugged away at her keyboards dutifully between shredding. Best of all was Takeshi, with a double-necked bass/guitar (that invited irony but did not quarter it) asking the sound guy, mid-drone, for a little boost.

They had a gong and they banged it.

It was loud. They did not wear ear plugs. I think if a member of Boris wore ear plugs it would be the equivalent of whatever selling out can still be. All I could do was smile when the kick-drum shook my chest. My ears accepted their fate.

The first song we caught was very skronk-skronk-duh-duh-doooooooooooooooooooooom-badabadabadadadah, while the second was more PSHAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEloh. The lyrics were Japanese, so I couldn’t understand them. If I knew Japanese, would it have helped?

Can I describe this audience?

It was all manners of whiteness with a healthy leather quotient. Hands were kept in one of three positions — pocketed, crossed or devil-horned. The crowd’s extremities, at the very least, appeared capable of a full range of motion. Depending on intoxicants of choice, the band’s tempo or the onlooker’s lyrical familiarity (rare, but passionate when displayed), toes tapped and heads swayed, banged or drooped. I’d like to say that a great show is one in which the audience wants to clap but has no idea when to do so. This was one of those.

One woman in front of us, leathered-up and somewhere between horny and 35, held her fist out like a microphone and/or symbol of anger and unexpected joy. The same hand found its fingers creeping into the back pocket of her equally leathered date, whose body language seemed to say, “Honey, I’m busy. I’m watching this.”

An obvious Boris-head flailed and stomped with religious fervor, raising his palms in mercy, testifying with every blistered cymbal torrent, baptized. The less active around him looked at each other with remarks of disdain, maybe laughter, maybe jealousy.

*

A few hours after the show, I was speeding home listening to WGPR, a station now hours away from death. Dozing off, a 2 a.m. text from my Ann Arbor housemate lit up my childhood bedroom. “We are old,” it read. Optimistically, all I fingered in response was “A lot of time has passed,” with eyelids closing, ears ringing.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.