Occasional Detroit | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Occasional Detroit

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Occasional Detroit, a self-described "experimental hip-rock" group from (duh) Detroit, is the brainchild of a man who calls himself Beyababa. In 1995, two years out of high school, he and a friend who'd inspired him in art class formed a lo-fi duo, equipped with a guitar Beyababa had bought while in the marines, an ancient tape recorder, and a microphone. The lineup has changed several times since, but the aesthetic hasn't: it's still as awkward and amateurish as an open-mike poetry slam, with the same potential for cringe-inducing disaster or inexplicable brilliance. These days Beyababa, who serves as lead vocalist, guitarist, and drum-machine master, has two coconspirators: sweet-faced glamour-puss Frenchie plays her synth on the floor, sometimes by stepping on it in her high heels, and likes to sing diva style, indulging in all kinds of pitch-impaired glossolalia; "hype man" Imito freestyles unintelligibly and creeps around the background in dark clothes, sometimes wearing a gold mask a la Eyes Wide Shut. On the group's eponymously titled self-released CD, which sounds like it was recorded on a boom box, the songs are all over the map: one track is 51 seconds of a heavy-metal guitar riff, and another is an eight-minute doomsday-dub booty shaker that segues from a breezy, faux-Caribbean melody to something better suited to a cheesy sci-fi thriller. Though Occasional Detroit don't pay too much attention to "flow" on the album--instead digressing into piglike snorting, incomprehensibly reverbed ranting, aimless ambient filler, or broken breakbeats--in concert they can ride a slinky groove until they've worked everyone in the room, themselves included, into a frenzy. They carefully prepare the stage to resemble a living room after a long, strange party--piles of T-shirts and CDs strewn everywhere, butcher-paper banners drawn in Sharpie spread over the floor, the odd maraca or tambourine--and their skits rarely make sense to anyone but the band. They tend to get so wrapped up in their performances that they just keep going, improvising or rambling, until someone at the club tells them to stop--and since tonight's scheduled headliner, Princess Superstar, has canceled, that could be an awfully long time. Friday, July 26, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Suzy Poling.

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