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Detroit Rock City

While the mass media is insisting that one must board a plane to Sweden for a true, sweat-infused rock ‘n’ roll experience, this Saturday’s line-up will prove that the style’s birthplace, Detroit Rock City, still lives up to its title.

The city’s current crop of garage-bred bands, as featured on the recently released Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit compilation from Sympathy for the Record Industry, thoroughly researched their local music history, familiarizing themselves with R&B and soul classics before stripping them down to an MC5-like howl. While Jack White has promised to hit the road with an all-Detroit revue, three of the city’s best have taken it upon themselves to show the states what Detroit is made of.

In a scene that has always taken pride in its history and geography (The Motor City inspired the names of both Motown Records and the MC5), the Detroit Cobras betray allegiances to both. Aligning themselves by name to their hometown, the Cobras play a repertoire entirely of covers, ranging from Mary Wells to Otis Redding, with sincerity and soul.

The Dirtbombs’ most recent recording, Ultraglide in Black, was mostly covers as well. But one can expect the substantial group, ex-Gories singer/guitarist Mick Collins backed up by two bassists and two drummers, to throw in originals from their previous records as well. KO and the Knockouts, who play raw ’60s-style rock with a touch of the Replacements’ power-pop sensibility, formed in order to record a track for the Sympathetic Sounds record and have since become a solid group, releasing their eponymous album this year.

Their propensity to play the music of their forebears is one sign that these groups will put on a rewarding performance. Unlike the next “garage-rock revival” group that will emerge from the suburbs with “That 70s Show” haircuts and accompanying belts, these are people who take the legacy of their city and its music seriously and will play with hiss and vigor, not just flashy dance moves.

Perhaps it is no surprise that Sweden, home of no-frills furniture outlet IKEA, should be one scene that is reminding the world of what makes a rock band effective.

Just as IKEA put a back support onto a wooden stool and America remembered what made a chair, bands out of Sweden and Detroit have stripped their music down to its purest essence, the foundation that really makes it useful and important.

By forgoing the temptation of irony in favor of honesty, these groups remind their listeners of the feeling that got them into music in the first place and, working themselves into a frenzy, attempt to conjure that spirit through their own overblown amplifiers and crackling PA systems. There is no irony in the feeling that accompanies a heartfelt rock performance, and a scene like Detroit’s just may prove to the world that sincerity is still the best entertainment.

For full details on time and venue check the Arts & Culture calendar on page 7.