Spades AloneLast Saturday a group of some of Detroit’s most talented local acts assembled, surprisingly, at T.N.T.’s bar in Clinton Township (about 30 minutes west of Troy/Rochester).  Detroit Chic was on scene to cover Spades Alone, Dryvel, CBJ, and Projekt Gift in their romp through an energetic night of music.  The bands each showcased unique talent and promise and did not disappoint.

The show, sadly, was the farewell show for Oxford rockers Spades Alone, who are relocating to Las Vegas, hoping to get a break in the Vegas/California area.  While it will be sad to see them go, it was great to get a chance to see them put on one more dynamic show, reminding those who came of how they earned the label of one of Detroit’s hottest up and coming acts.  The other bands– Dryvel, CBJ, and Projekt Gift– were a treat as well, and really rose to the occasion.  Truly, it was a night of outstanding local rock, enough to make Detroit Chic proud!

(All pictures by Jason Mick/Detroit Chic)

Jason ThumbnailLocated on the Eastern edge of Michigan, T.N.T.’s bar was new territory for Detroit Chic.  The venue was not exactly ideal  for live music.  It, like many bar venues, fell, unfortunately, into the mode where the bar was built and then a stage/live  music area was added as an afterthought.  However it was a bit better than some at least, in that it had a large enough  stage for bands to be active and move around on, and a small hardwood floor for a standing crowd.

The show kicked off at about 9:30 pm with CBJ.  Formerly known as Checker Board Jive, the band shortened its name recently  to CBJ.  The rename provides a rather humorous split between newer and older fans as new fans are left to guess at exactly  what the acronym stands for, and some audience members did indeed guess and came up with some pretty humorous alternative  possibilities for the band’s true name.

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Pictured: Here is the whole fun crowd that is CBJ!

One thing that made CBJ a really enjoyable band was the fact that their music focused largely on having fun and comraderie.   After attending several hardcore or more punk oriented shows, it was rather refreshing to watch some more light-hearted  music.  While CBJ might sing a bit about rebellion, they seemed like they were enjoying themselves, a departure from the  more “pissed off” brand of punk you sometimes see.

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Pictured: Gill helps tenor saxophone player Vanbaak get pumped up during a solo.

The band was composed of a solid brass section, with Mark Vanbaak on tenor saxophone, Adam Gill on trumpet, and Mitchell  Lavender on trombone.  Along with the brass was a solid contingent consisting of vocalist/guitarist Tom Skill, drummer Mike  Land, and bass guitarist Ken Arini.  One strong point of the band was that each member was very proficient at his roles,  and meshed well with the band as a whole.  Together the band offered up a coherent and mature act which blended ska with  punk stylings.  Also, fun was that Skill would sometimes democratically share vocal responsibilities with Lavender or other  band members.

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Pictured: Gill plays some jams of his own, while Vanbaak contributes some backup vocals.

Opening up their set, the band broke into their electrifying tune “Unities Revolt”, which featured an anthemic call to arms  “fight, fight, fight the power”.  They also played another highlight, the more ska-heavy (as one might predict from the  title) “It’s Thursday, It’s Skaday”.  This song highlighted the band’s awesome brass at points.

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Pictured: Skill rocks out during “Unities Revolt”, a punk-edged tune.

Sadly the crowd, mostly middle-aged bar goers who sat as opposed to standing, remained largely apathetic, despite the band  ripping through danceable tune after danceable tune.  CBJ shouldn’t feel bad, though, with their great sound, they only  need to await a real crowd and watch the awesome reaction they will invoke.  Still, a few of the members from the other  bands and I tried to make up for it by skanking and dancing around to the music.

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Pictured: Lavender, Arini, and Land ripping through some energetic ska.

A highlight of their set was when they launched into an energetic cover of Catch 22‘s “Keasbey Nights”.  During the song,  the trumpet player, Patrick “Creeping Weasel” Urso, of fellow local ska act, Staple Salute, jumped on stage and joined with  Skill to provide the vocals.  It was a fun show of ska comraderie.

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Pictured: Staple Salute’s Urso (in tans, also sans checkerboard tie) joins Skill in “Keasbey Nights”.

Soon after, the band went into another highlight, a humorously spirited ska cover of N’Sync‘s song “Bye Bye Bye”.  Lavender  took on the roll of lead vocals.  He was assisted by some google’d song lyrics, which helped him to deliver the song with  style.

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Pictured: Skill is an able vocalist, and among the band’s many strong points.

After Keasbey and “Bye Bye Bye”, the band ripped through more of its own material, including the songs “Change” and “DTS”.  They also At last they finished up after completing a 45 minute set.  Despite the fact that they played a rather long set  for a local show, it really went by quickly and left you wanting more, thanks to the band’s catchy and strong lyricism and  their solid instrumentation.

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Pictured: CBJ is the kind of fun spirited ska it’s hard not to like.

I have a confession to make– I’ve become a bit of a ska fan.  Back in high school my opinion of ska had been prematurely  soured by a few bad ska bands that some of my classmates played in.  It was until recently, when one of my writers  encouraged me to start going to some ska shows, that I finally saw the light and started to learn the fun of ska.  While  I’m far from a ska expert and probably not the best-qualified person to be writing ska reviews, I’m definitely enjoying  learning more about this genre.  And whether you are an amateur ska fan, like myself, or a long time skanker, I think you’d  definitely enjoy CBJ, if their Saturday set was any indidication.

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Pictured: Next up, three-man act, Dryvel, prepares to melt your face with some crazy rock.

CBJ was a tough act to follow, but the next band, Dryvel was up to the challenge.  Dryvel is a veteran band, whom I’m quite  familiar with, having grown up down the street from their drummer.  They started off in my hometown, Lake Orion, and then  grew a strong fan-base in Lansing, while they attending Michigan State University.  Despite their long career, amazingly I  had never seen them play.  It was one of those things I said I’d do and kept putting off.  Well I’ve remedied that and  finally experienced Dryvel, and let me say, they will rock your face off.

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Pictured: The trio offers punk-edged pop with solid instrumentals and catchy hooks.

Dryvel is a really solid band in that no one band member takes all the glory.  Matt Marriot plays the drums, Robert Grupido  plays guitar, and Nick Coccia on bass guitar.  After going through three previous vocalists, Coccia and Grupido share vocal  duties with Marriot providing backing vocals on many of the songs.  Instrumentally each band member has a developed style  and together they join to make a solid rock sound.  Their music has elements of pop-punk, post-progressive, and modern rock  that sum up to an interesting listen.

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Pictured: Coccia takes a turn on the lead vocals.  He and Grupido alternated the lead vocals.

They started off with their song “My Resignation”.  They continued on with such catchy tunes as “The Fall” and “From The  Rifle To The Knife”.  The songs featured a number of cool breakdowns.  From Matt’s intense drumming, to Robert’s energized  guitar, to Coccia swinging his base, the band had a healthy degree of showmanship along with their solid music.

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Pictured: Grupido, wearing a Jet Lag Gemini shirt, pitches in some vocals.  Jet Lag Gemini are among the many national level bands that Dryvel has shared the stage with.

Near the end of the set Coccia quipped that “We’ll let you get to the good band in a minute.”

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Pictured: Coccia is one of those rare bassists who treats the instrument as a craft and plays something actually worth listening to as opposed to the run-of-the-mill boring backing bass.

However, despite the self effacing humor, Dryvel was definitely a good band.  They were a very enjoyable set, particularly  for fans of punk-pop acts such as (older) Thursday or 30 Seconds To Mars.  If any fault could be found, vocally I feel  they’re still trying to find their voice a bit despite good lyrics.  However, this small flaw is made up for by their  experience, instrumental craftsmanship, and the aforementioned catchiness of many of their lyrics.

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Pictured: Coccia demonstrates some rock showmanship with his bass.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of Dryvel in the near future.  They currently are based out of the Rochester area and  are adjusting to leaving their big fanbase in Lansing.  They’re looking for new venues to play at, so if you have any  connections, definitely help out these talented local rockers!

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Pictured: Zen focus– drummer Matt Marriot powers through a drum breakdown.

After two great performances by Dryvel and CBJ, the night’s main attraction, Spades Alone, took the stage for their  farewell tour.  You could tell that the performance was what the audience had been waiting for, because an actual small  crowd materialized in front of the stage, that included some actual fans that had made the long drive to see their favorite  band.

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Pictured: Spades Alone is a solid rock act, which contributed a lot to the local Michigan music scene and will be missed.

Spades Alone is fronted by Crystal Lubick, a sexy front woman, with a strong voice.  On guitar is Adam Kogelman, on bass is  Jadon Warstler, and Joey Page finishes the lineup manning the percussion.

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Pictured: Vocalist Lubick provides ranges from goofy to sarcastic to sad, showcase a broad variety of emotion and vocals.

Some say that Lubick’s voice sounds sort of like Gwen Stefani, during her No Doubt days.  Another comparison I can think of  is that her voice sounds a bit like pop artist Shakira’s (!) during the song “Whenever, Wherever”, though Lubick couldn’t  be farther from Shakira lyrically and stylistically.  It can also be a bit raspy at times.  I can see this comparison  somewhat, but I think it really doesn’t really do an accurate job of describing her strong voice.  The best I can say is  listen for yourself.  Its sort of a blend of ska/punk/and rock attitude that can range from wistful to angry to confident,  sometimes all at once.

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Pictured: The energetic music really got fellow rockers CBJ going!

Overall the band is closest in style to alternative rock or modern rock, though it has a bit of a ska/punk feel to it, in  the instrumentation and vocals.  The band started their set with their songs “How Many Words” and “Open Your Mind”.  Both  of these songs featured really outstanding guitar work, with the former featuring the catchy refrain “how many words does  it take to say ‘I’m sorry’?”  Kogelman provides some backing vocals for the songs, giving them a richer character.

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Pictured: Spades Alone WILL make you dance!

In general Spades Alone treads finally on the line of being catchy and being a bit edgy, with sarcastic and bitter with  songs such as “American Girl” and “Drink Me Away”.  Throughout the set, Lubick’s powerful vocals took a toll on her, so she  used sugar water spray, to help her continue, as it opens up the airways.

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Pictured: Lubick puts a visible amount of emotion into her performance.

Fortunately Lubick and her crew had some help.  CBJ‘s members, which had formed a lively crowd up front, dancing and  skanking, jumped on stage for the song for a cover of the song “Beer” by Reel Big Fish.  The added brass spiced up Spades Alone‘s already fun act, and the small crowd was dancing around and having a good time.  The CBJ crew stayed on stage for a  couple songs, including “Punkness” having fun and interacting with the band.

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Pictured: CBJ + Spades Alone equals a crazy performance!

When at last the band appeared to be done, the crowd cheered for an encore, for the first time of the evening.  Spades Alone and a visibly touched Lubick obliged and ripped through another last musical farewell to the crowd.  At the end of  the set, you could feel the emotion of the band, definitely wistful to be departing the scene that they had loved.  It was  great to get to see them, though before they went away.

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Pictured: The CBJ guys pump up Kogelman, who rips out a sweet guitar lick.

Spades Alone seems certain to catch on in California/Las Vegas.  Probably the band’s strongest point, which ties everything  together is Lubick’s above average voice, however the subtle nuances like the guitar, the other instrumentation, and the  solid lyricism and hooks tie it all together as well.  It’s sad to see them go, but hopefully Michigan won’t forget this  outstanding act, and their contributions to local music.  And encourage them to come back on a tour of Michigan– I for one  am hoping they do!

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Pictured: Spades Alone– good luck in California/Vegas, you will be missed!

After Spades Alone, literally half the bar drifted off, leaving a rather depleted crowd to watch the final act of the night  Projekt GiftProjekt Gift is a somewhat unusual band.  Instrumentally they have a sort of modern rock sound that would  usually turn me off (a la Three Days Grace or Red Hot Chili Peppers). However strangely this brand of instrumentation was  overlayed with some very unusual vocals by Nick Weidner which I would almost border on rock-operatic and have sort of an epic feel.

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Pictured: Weidner, like Spades Alone‘s Lubick, is a strong vocalist, in perhaps a more unusual way.

The sound produced was definitely unique.  The lead vocalist of Projekt Gift at times overstretches himself a bit, but he  provides an unusual range that keeps your attention.  On instruments is Dustin Buckley on bass, Steve Dombroski on guitar, Randy Gray on backup vocals/rhythm guitar, Billy Pierce on drums, and Graham Rockwood, also on bass.  Of the two bassists Dustin Buckley was the one playing on Saturday.  I felt bad that such an interesting band had such a small crowd to cheer it on.  Undeterred they played several original songs that showcased their singer’s rising and falling vocals.

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Pictured: Projekt Gift puts on an energized performance to keep the smaller crowd interested.

They also pitched in a couple more covers to round of the night.  Quite notable was their cover of “All Mixed Up” by 311.   It was their first time performing this song, they announced, but they did a pretty decent job.  The vocals were kinda  strange, but it was interesting, nonetheless.

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Pictured: Guitarist Dombroski provides a bit of ambient backing to Weidner.

Projekt Gift played a bit shorter set than the rest, but nonetheless they proved to be an unusual act, that hopefully we’ll  be seeing more of soon.  Keep an eye out for them, I’d definitely say they’re worth a listen.

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Pictured: Weidener’s pours out some more strong vocals.

In all, the group hand picked by Spades Alone for the farewell show was outstanding, as was Spades Alone.  Lets all join in  wishing Spades Alone the best out in California/Las Vegas, and be sure to support them when touring.  On the same note, be  sure to check out CBJ, Dryvel, and Projekt Gift during their shows in the local area, they each have unique styles and  deserve some support.