Big changes coming to the iconic Magic Stick

It was announced this past month that the Magic Stick, home to all kinds of music acts, from national to local talent, would be transformed into a venue that exclusively houses EDM this spring. Word hasn’t been released on whether the name of the venue will change, but the $250,000 project will include new decor, furniture and dressing rooms, along with a bigger stage, new restrooms and additional service bars. This sounds cool in theory, but the grittiness that’s been the Magic Stick’s signature atmosphere will be gone, and for that, I must say I’m pretty bummed. So here’s my ode to the almost-late Magic Stick.

The Majestic Complex, which now consists of the Majestic Theatre, The Majestic Cafe, Garden Bowl, Sgt. Pepperoni’s Pizza, and the Magic Stick upstairs, was built in April of 1915, for the purpose of being a giant movie theater. Though the Garden Bowl has consistently stayed in operation, eventually the theater closed, and the space became a church, then a photography studio, and then became vacant for about a decade. The space was bought in 1984 and became what we know it as today. Both the Majestic Theatre and The Garden Bowl were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

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Who listens to records anymore?

As someone who has worked retail way too long, I am morally opposed to the battle that ensues in malls and Best Buys across America on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. Some people I worked with would love the adrenaline that came along with dealing with insane women screaming at each other over who was in line first in case Victoria’s Secret ran out of every single one of the tote bags stocked with beauty sampleslargeright before they got to the registers. I remember being bitter every year as I either skipped my delicious family meal or had to eat and run in order to get a couple hours of sleep in before I had to be at the mall by midnight to let the savages barrel past me for $25 yoga pants as I opened the store’s gate. So no, I did not participate in Black Friday shopping this past week, my first Thanksgiving out of retail.

But at 8:45 in the morning I did find myself standing outside of Dearborn Music, along with a bunch of other vinyl-loving hipster fanatics to participate in Record Store Day. So really, I’m no better than the guy with his tent tied up in the Best Buy parking lot, or the woman I saw at the mall a couple years ago carrying a fake baby so that people wouldn’t shove her. But whatever, I wanted the limited-edition American Hustle soundtrack and Against Me!’s Daytrotter Sessions 7″.

In celebration of Record Store Day, which happens twice a year (originally just on the third Saturday of April and now it’s become a Black Friday thing as well) I’m going to highlight my top five record stores in the Detroit/metro Detroit area.

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Against Me! laughs at danger and breaks all the rules

Against Me! has come a long way since its inception as a one-piece anarcho-punk band in Gainesville, Florida back in the ‘90s. Six studio albums and a few lineup changes later, they’re still going strong and coming to St. Andrew’s Hall with supporting acts Tony Molina and Big Eyes, on May 11 in support of their latest album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.”

The road to getting “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” out was a bumpy one. Released in January, it was in the works for quite some time. Written by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, before coming out as transgender, it was described as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, but later turning out to be a bit more autobiographical than that. During the beginning stages of the album, longtime Against Me! bass player Andrew Seward left the band, and so did their drummer, Jay Weinberg, causing them to leave their spot on tour with Bad Religion.

The band kept on keeping on, though. The album was recorded with Grace on vocals, guitar, and bass, and James Bowman on guitar and backup vocals, with NOFX’s Fat Mike filling in on bass, and Angels and Airwaves alum Atom Willard on drums, and released on Total Treble Records, the band’s own label, despite a tree falling on the roof of their studio.

Prior to the release of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the band offered a free digital download of the “True Trans EP” on their website last July, which included acoustic versions of “FUCKMYLIFE666” and “True Trans Soul Rebel.”

“This is definitely a true band-only from start to finish operation. And the fact that Laura produced it also had a lot to do with the way that it sounds, and the songs that are picked, and all that kind of stuff,” says Willard. “So it’s very much representative of what the band is, how the band sounds, and how the band wants to present itself.”

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Caroline Smith bares it all

2Minnesota-born Caroline Smith’s latest release, her first solo record Half About Being a Woman is quite a bit different than her previous records with the folk outfit Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps. She’ll be coming to Ferndale’s Magic Bag on 4/12 along with Detroit natives Seven Birds One Stone and El Dee.

Half About Being a Woman, released this past October, is a feel-good record with a soulful vibe, inspired by the ’90s rhythm and blues. Though she started in the folk scene with the Good Night Sleeps, she feels as if this sound is her to a T. She wanted to record an album that she would listen to, even if it weren’t hers.

“What resonated with me most were women with really strong voices,” Smith says, either the voices themselves or the messages they’re singing about. “Mariah Carey, Natalie Merchant, Carole King, Whitney Houston.” She’s inspired by many of the women she grew up listening to with her mother.

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Christina Perri: Only Human

Christina-Perri-Pub-1-Yu-Tsai-High-Res1Christina Perri has come a long way since she packed up her suitcase and guitar and left her hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in pursuit of a music career in Los Angeles. Her second record, “Head or Heart,” featuring her latest single, “Human,” is due out on 4/1. She’s embarking on a headlining tour with a stop at the Majestic Theater on 4/11.

Creativity has always been in Perri’s blood. She was singing at three years old, and writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She wrote her first song at 15, “As an emo 15-year old I didn’t know how to handle everything, so I wrote about it,” she says. She’s written hundreds of songs since, most of which nobody will ever hear, but Perri is still always writing.

Her dream wasn’t always to become a musician, though. “I was always way too shy,” says Perri. “I wanted to write songs for other people.” One day she decided that she just had to go for it, despite her fears and insecurities, when she was pulled out of her waitressing job like Cinderella. After that, her music career took off very quickly.

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Riding faster with Paulina Jayne

PaulinaScope_1The amount of things on the average high school senior’s plate can be overwhelming. Figuring out college plans and final exams, not to mention the prom details like dresses and dates, can send any 18-year-old into a frenzy. Paulina Jayne, however, seems to be balancing all of that and a developing music career with plenty of grace.

The up and coming Detroit country artist will be playing at her favorite metro Detroit venue, St. Andrew’s Hall on 3/29 with Annabelle Road and Matt Austin for the first show of Live Nation’s Faster Horses Series.

“I love the staff, I love the stage, I love the crowd,” Jayne says. “Everybody is just hyped and extremely excited.” She’s had a good time every time she’s been to St. Andrew’s, whether it’s been performing herself, or seeing Kacey Musgraves or her favorite band, Blackberry Smoke.

Jayne has been writing music since she was a young kid. She started taking piano lessons and quickly learned to experiment with notes and chords. The first songs she wrote were classical, and she slowly began delving into other genres until country and the “good ol’ three chords” really stuck with her. “I love the genre,” she says. “It’s where my heart is.”

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Clap your hands with Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band

There aren’t many bands as dedicated to touring as Brown County, Indiana’s The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. Averaging more than 250 shows a year, they’re making a stop at the Magic Bag on 3/15 on their Big Damn Blues Revolution Tour with Dom Flemons of Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Dexter Romweber Duo. Despite their exhaustive schedule, the Big Damn Band takes pride in their energetic, passionate performances.

“It’s going to be a very special show, very unique,” said the Reverend J. Peyton of the Magic Bag show. We can expect some new songs from The Big Damn Band, some collaboration with the openers onstage, and of course, lots of dancing and hand clapping.

The country blues trio isn’t what came out of your grandpa’s record player. The Big Damn Band is known for their eclectic mix of nontraditional instruments. The Reverend J. Peyton is on guitar and vocals, using a National steel bodied guitar, an acoustic and a three-string cigar box guitar onstage. His wife, “Washboard” Breezy Peyton plays, well, a washboard. She’s crafted gloves with thimbles attached to the fingers, sometimes resulting in her literally setting the washboard on fire while playing. Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell plays a drum kit that includes a five-gallon plastic bucket with drum hardware.

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The Witches cast at the Magic Bag

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There is a Detroit urban legend of a small red dwarf, called the Nain Rouge, who lurks around the city, only to be seen when there’s misfortune in the midst. Known as the “harbinger of doom,” the Nain Rouge was the first topic of conversation in our talk with Troy Gregory, the singer and founder of The Witches.

The Witches will be headlining a show on 2/28 at the Magic Bag with Mexican Knives and Pretty Ghouls. Contrary to popular belief, The Witches are not “back from the dead,” because they never died.

“The Witches has been my main deal since about ’95 or ’96,” says Gregory. “It’s just been a little difficult to keep up. The Witches never broke up.” This show is the band’s kick back in to the Detroit music scene.

Though all of the members of The Witches are involved in other projects, it hasn’t stopped them from releasing four records and a compilation album, entitled A Haunted Person’s Guide to The Witches, in 2011. The current “coven” consists of Gregory on vocals, a couple of his former students from the St. Clair School of Rock, Craig Adams and Peter Geloso on guitar, Stefan Carr on bass, Mary Alice on keyboard, and Evan Hakim on drums. Eugene Strobe, a veteran Witch, will be on drums for the Magic Bag show.

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The Muggs go full tilt at the Magic Bag

TheMuggs3_photo_credit_Maggie_BouchardLove is in the air in metro Detroit, just in time for the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Ferndale’s Magic Bag on Saturday, 2/15. On deck for the night are, The Muggs, Amy Gore & Her Valentines, The Hatchetmen and Audra Kubat. Massacre headliners, blues-rock trio, The Muggs, consisting of vocalist and guitarist Danny Methric, bassist Tony DeNardo and drummer Todd Glass, caught up with us to discuss the upcoming show and some projects to look forward to.

“It’s our first time in a couple years playing at the Magic Bag,” says Methric. “So we’re really excited.”

All of the bands on the bill have shared the stage with The Muggs at some point in their 14-year career, and they’re always glad to play shows with friends.

“Audra is one of my all time favorites in this town,” says DeNardo. “Any excuse to get her on the bill is special. She is the Judy Collins of Detroit.”

It’s not just Detroit musicians that The Muggs are faithful to, but metro Detroit venues as well. They’ve toured through the United States and Europe, playing plenty of festivals, and even placed in the top 10 on FOX’s short lived “The Next Great American Band” in 2007. But the Muggs always enjoy coming back to Detroit. They’ve played Arts, Beats and Eats and Winter Blast in the past, and they’ve made regular appearances at the Magic Stick, PJ’s Lager House, and they’re looking forward to playing at Ferndale’s The Loving Touch. The Mugg’s 2013 live album, Full Tilt was even recorded at the Cadieux Café, the place that DeNardo refers to as “The Muggs’ heart and soul.”

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Knoxville to portray film’s “Bad Grandpa”

It’s that time again. “Jackass” and MTV Pictures are teaming up for a fourth film, “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” Set to be released Oct. 25, it follows 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville, in plenty of makeup, obviously) on a cross-country road trip with his 8-year-old grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll). It’ll be filled with all of the crass hidden camera debauchery that we’ve come to know and love, with a bit more direction than the previous “Jackass” films. In between pranks and stunts, there is a plot about Zisman and Billy.

“I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’re going to be invested in the relationship between me and my grandson,” said Johnny Knoxville. “There’s a loose narrative in the movie, taking my grandson across the country, deliver him to his father and across the way, we prank people.”

“Bad Grandpa” has been in the works for a quite some time. The idea was actually brought up years ago, but Knoxville didn’t see much potential in it at the time. But once it got going, it took over a year for Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze and Knoxville to write it, and the filming process took ten months. Setup took a long time, because the movie doesn’t just have a few sets. Cameras were hidden in vans, baby strollers and purses, and when the pranks took place inside a business, they would install two-way mirrors the night before. Before shooting, Knoxville had to spend three hours in makeup for his face, and five hours for skits that involved him being shirtless.

“I started looking forward to it because I could spend those three hours in the chair thinking about what we are doing that day and writing and thinking about the scenario we’re going to try, and just try to troubleshoot every possible thing that could happen,” said Knoxville. “So if something happens, I’m one step ahead. So that was actually very beneficial.”

At one point in the film, Zisman decides that he doesn’t feel like taking Billy across the country and decides to ship him instead. Not on a plane or anything, in a cardboard box.

“Before the prank, I’m like ‘OK. This one is way, way in left field.’ Nobody is going to fall for this or buy it,” said Knoxville. “But we found two ladies in North Carolina. I was pranking them for 30 minutes and I had to stop because I didn’t know what else to do. It was a really unbelievable reaction.”

Since Zisman is a staple character for anyone who has seen any of the “Jackass” films, Knoxville and the rest of the crew make a point to try not to waste their time pranking someone who knows that Zisman is just Knoxville in makeup. They even ask the owners of businesses in which they’re pranking employees not to have people who are known “Jackass” fans work that day, to make sure the prank isn’t given away.

Knoxville cannot get enough of Nicholl, the kid who plays Billy. “He is eight years old and completely fearless,” he said. “And sometimes, if we were pranking someone and we didn’t get the desired result, he would yell an insult at them as they walk away … He’s unbelievable, I can’t wait for you guys to see Jackson.”

A father of three and a family man himself, Knoxville doesn’t exactly see himself as Zisman in the future.

“I hope that I’ll be a much better grandfather than Irving Zisman, but hopefully I’m years away from being a grandfather. But I won’t be downing beers with my grandchildren,” he said. “But my body is so banged up that I almost walk like Irving anyway.”

The “Jackass” franchise has always been in good fun. Well, except for the time a man named Jack Ass, who blamed them for ruining his credibility and good name, sued them. “That actually happened,” said Knoxville. “You can look it up.”

They’re not trying to shock people or push boundaries, they’re just trying to make everyone laugh.

So, is “Jackass” nearing the end? After the show ended in 2002, they said they were done with the whole stunt thing. Then, two movies later, they said they were done. “So, now we’re not going to say ‘No, we’re not doing anything else,’ because then we just look like assholes a third time,” said Knoxville. “What brings us back, I love it. We love it. We enjoy what we do and that’s what keeps bringing it back.”

View the original post at the Eastern Echo.