Found Sound: A Night at the Old Miami

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By: Cassandra Litten

Detroit takes its music seriously and nearly as important as the quality of the band is the atmosphere of the venue -- The Old Miami in Detroit’s Cass Corridor/Midtown neighborhood is a dive bar of the finest order. Opened by Vietnam veteran Ken Overstreet in 1980, the small, standalone bar has played host to dozens of iconic bands in its nearly 40-year history, including: The Allman Brothers, Booker T and MGs, Iggy Pop, The White Stripes, Rodriguez, Patti Smith, Big Sean, Eminem and Jay Dilla.

With an inexpensive cover charge ($7 the night I went, always free for veterans) and an eclectic crowd, I can certainly see myself popping in without knowing any of the lineup beforehand. The crowd was playful and welcoming, interspersed with regulars and newcomers. People were scattered throughout the entire joint - sitting on couches, crowding the bar, playing pool, or standing around outside on the “Biergarten”/patio. Behind the bar is covered with Vietnam war memorabilia and the rest of the place is stuck with street signs, graffiti and photographs.

The Old Miami is a legendary place in Detroit’s music history, and after closing down the bar on Friday, March 16th, it’s easy to see why it’s held in such high regard.

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Opening the night was a local band called Mochsha (“Moke-cha” -- liberation in Sanskrit). This loud, edgy duo began as casual jam sessions for friends Jordan and Prasad, but quickly evolved into something more permanent with a unique, bone-shattering sound.

My favorite thing about seeing live shows is feeling the vibrations of the music in my chest and when Mochsha played, I felt it everywhere - from my head to my toes, even my boots was shaking in time with the music. That’s something special, particularly for an opening band. At one point, as Jordan and Prasad wowed the entire bar with their skills on guitar and drums, respectively, a man in the audience said “You sure it’s not ten people on that stage? It’s just two people? No fucking way.

Incredibly, it is just two people. And if you’re looking for music that you feel in your whole body, a sound that’s so aggressively loud but still created with the utmost care, then check these two out on Soundcloud.

Following Mochsha was Terriers, four Chicagoans (Connor Boyle, Danny Cohen, Easton Gruber, Joe Grazulis) traveling with the night’s headliner, Scout Ripley, on a Midwest spring tour. Terriers did not have the same brand of energy as Mochsha, but they held their own. Lead singer Danny Cohen has a nice, confident voice that is made even stronger by occasional backup vocals from bassist Easton Gruber and drummer Connor Boyle. Boyle was the most fun to watch, going so hard on his drum set that midway through a song one of his cymbals crashed to the floor.
Terriers play the kind of songs you’d want to listen to when you’re determined to not be heartbroken over someone. The lyrics ultimately express the melancholy truth of the matter, but the music will go hard enough like it’s trying to hide the heartbreak.

Their latest album, I Don’t Still Want to Unless You Want to, is available to purchase on Bandcamp.

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Midnight (Courtney Angel), the lead vocalist of the penultimate band Cast-Iron Cornbread, opened her band’s show by saying, in a low, sultry voice, “I like to feel a heartbeat up in this jungle”. God damn, did she get hearts racing.
A foursome from Detroit, the band consists of Midnight, bassist CJ Jones, Joe on guitar, Kenny Flav on keyboard, and JWall on drums. Together they brought out a sound that I, for one, wasn’t expecting to hear that night. They combined original tunes (“Wild Child” was a personal favorite) and covers of songs we all know and love (the most beautiful version of “Come Together” by The Beatles I have ever heard and “I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge) to create one of the most memorable sets I have ever experienced.

Everyone in the audience was dancing, singing along, and screaming their admiration for this outstanding group. I woke up the next morning and could barely speak. The Old Miami is not a large venue, but the larger-than-life, soul-fueling presence of Cast-Iron Cornbread made me feel like I was surrounded by hundreds of people who were all just so damn happy to be there.
Cast-Iron Cornbread will next be playing live at Trixie’s Bar in Hamtramck on March 31st.

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Despite a set that began at 1:15 in the morning, headliners Scout Ripley brought a lot of spunk to their set. This Chicago-based “despair pop” band is a small, but powerful group: Claire Watkins on electric violin/lead vocals, Ian Young on guitar and Connor Boyle, who drums for both Terriers and Scout Ripley. Claire seemed truly in her element when her violin was tucked underneath her chin, her body moving back and forth, up and down with the bow. When Ian is playing the guitar, he is in a world of his own, dedicated to the music. And, as he did during his set with Terriers, Connor got so into drumming that his cymbal fell from the drumset. Twice.

The emotion this band produces is palpable, their songs often beginning with soft, almost trembling verses that erupt into loud, desperate choruses making you want to fall to your knees and scream at sky for all the times you’ve been hurt.

Their latest album, A Delicate Age, is available for purchase on Bandcamp.

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