Heavy metal muscle cars and high octane rock and roll gathered in the heart of Detroit for the first Motor City Muscle Rock-N-Muscle Car Festival.
Motor City Muscle 2018
It was almost too much to believe when I saw the first announcements for the Motor City Muscle festival. A three-day rock festival in downtown Detroit featuring an amazing who’s who of local rock and national bands on seven stages. As if that wasn’t enough, they threw in a vintage muscle car show, awesome food trucks, and beers from local crafters ROAK and Petoskey Brewing.
Some of my favorite Michigan bands were playing each day of the Motor City Muscle festival, yet we only had Saturday free. We missed great acts from Vstrs, Dude, Kevin B Klein, Dead In 5, The Accidentals, Tart, and Sponge. With seven stages, we even missed stuff on Saturday. It was a musical cornucopia of epic proportions.
We arrived early and found easy parking over at Cobo. Picking up our press credentials was a breeze. As a matter of fact, given this was a new festival, it was well done. I’m sure there were kinks we missed, but overall it was great. Bands were on time, sound was great, and the staff working the festival were outstanding and extremely friendly.
In between Campus Martius and the Spirit of Detroit was a display of gleaming motor city metal. These vintage muscle cars from the golden era of automobile looked right at home on Woodward Ave. They were a nice bit of eye candy as you made your way between the stages
Erick and Deer
As we were making our way up to the Campus Martius stage, we met Erick Brown and Deer the goat. The two of them are new ambassadors of peace and community in Detroit. Erick mentioned that his Rock Club Foundation will throwing a battle of the bands as part of the foundations birthday party on September 7th. Check out the Facebook event page for details.
Red Stone Souls
Our first music adventure of the day was the almighty riff titans; Red Stone Souls. If you don’t own their latest album ‘Mother Sky’, head over to their site and get your copy now. Channeling the glory of hard rocking bands such as Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, the guys in Red Stone Souls put their back into a bruising set of rock music. There is nothing better than enjoying a beer under the late summer sun with the heavy grooves of “Nights Watchful Eye” cranking from the stage.
The Black List
On our way toward Hart Plaza, we took in a couple tunes from The Black List at the Spirt of Detroit stage. I didn’t have a choice really as my ears pulled me right up to the stage to enjoy the energetic punk inspired rock. Several other folks were hooked as well by the bands catchy riffs and enthusiasm. If you dig the sounds of Bad Religion or NOFX, check out The Black List.
Over at the Riverfront stage we jammed to the sonic machinations of The Strains. These guys are pure Detroit punk. You had to dig the Stooges and Sex Pistols vibe recalling the glory days of punk. In our current state of dysphoria, we need punk rock and it’s good to hear it being cranked up good and loud in Detroit.
I’d only heard some recordings of The Lows and was excited to see them live. Given that I knew bassist Wolf and guitarist Nick Brehnan would be going full throttle, I assumed the rest of the band would be equally as impressive. They were. Vocalist Angelo Coppola was a tornado of activity with pipes that sounded a lot like Kevin Martin (Candlebox). He made you feel like you were part of the show.
The sizeable gap between the main Hart Plaza stage and the audience, did not faze him or the band. Guitarist Brandon McNall used the roomy stage to move around while nailing some tasty solos. Laying down the mighty groove with Wolf was Duane Hewins on drums. I loved his intensity and swing. They played tunes off their self-titled album as well as a stellar cover of “Why Go” by Pearl Jam and a ripping cover of “Down On The Street” by The Stooges. These guys tore it up and set the bar high for the rest of the day’s music.
Roaming the Underground
Lurking just under Hart Plaza was yet another stage and a mini art festival with killer posters from Dennis Loren and Carl Lundgren. Also on display were iconic photographs from Leni Sinclair, t-shirts from Lost in Sound, and books from Book Beat.
The Savage Rascals were the surprise hit of Motor City Muscle. Paying tribute to Frank Zappa is nothing to take lightly. Take it with sugar and a spritz of lemon zest, but don’t take it lightly. Uncle Frank would have been proud of their covers of “Echidna’s Arf (Of You)” and “Cosmic Debris”. The love of the sophisticated compositions layered in cream cheese and xylophone was smeared all over the stage.
If you are not bouncing around and having a great time at a Stone Clover show, then there is something wrong with you. I’m sure in Gaelic, Stone Clover means fun. They took the Riverfront stage by storm with alcohol fueled jigs that pop you right in the kisser.
Stone Clover played quite a few tunes from their ‘Proper Villians’ album. This included the beer fest anthem “One More Beer” and the uniquely Stone Clover song called “Awesome”. I love that song, because when haven’t I thought “We don’t get drunk, we get awesome”? The music of Stone Clover makes you smile and forget your troubles. They made this festival shine.
Taking on the main stage with all guns blazing was Warrior Soul. Their explosive punk fueled hard rock cranked the intensity of the Motor City Muscle festival up to 11. These guys were ready to throw down. Kory Clarke is a magnetic front man. He raged on stage like a napalm bomb. The band cranked out classics such as “I Get Fucked Up” and “Wasteland”. They also played a few from their latest album “Back On The Lash”. Fans blew past the security gates to get up close to the stage to unleash their demons with the band.
I think that the Muggs embody the spirit of Michigan rock music. They play hard guitar driven blues with spit and a grin. Tenaciously gritty songs that recalls the fighting spirit of this state and Detroit in particular. Their set on the Riverfront stage was raw and determined.
There was an air of thoughtful introspection mixed with a simmering burn to light up the night. The Muggs played some of my favorites such as “6 To Midnite” and the John Lee Hooker inspired “Leanin’ Blues”. The Muggs kicking out some hard-rolling blues is sure to make a summer concert awesome.
My first exposure to Death was through the incredible documentary called “A Band Called Death”. Here I learned of a band of brothers (David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney) from Detroit who tried to flip the word “Death” into a positive direction through pre-punk music inspired by The Who and Alice Cooper. The band split in 1977 and brother David passed away in 2000. However, their original music was re-discovered and the band reformed in 2009 with guitarist Bobbie Duncan filling in for David. Since then, Death have put out a couple of more albums and have a new single out called “Give It Back”.
Taking the main stage at Motor City Muscle, I’m not sure who was more excited; The band or the crowd. The band was energetic and this translated into a vibrant set. They received a heartfelt reception from the crowd with glowed into the twilight.
You get more than just a basic rock concert with the Ruiners. It felt more like performance art set to punk rock. The Ruiners set was audacious, rambunctious, and deviant just like great art should be. They had pulled a big crowd over to the Riverfront stage. Everyone was enthralled with the performance. The band played to the exuberance of the fans with a Cheshire grin.
My first rock idols were KISS. I wore the hell out of my KISS Alive I and II albums. While Paul and Gene were cool, and Peter was edgy; I wanted to rock out like Ace Frehley. As a kid, I was drawn to makeup and theatre of KISS. It wasn’t until later that I appreciated the genius of Ace Frehley’s playing. When you listen to the solos in “Got To Choose” or “Parasite”, you can only listen in jaw dropped wonder at Ace’s tone and emotive playing.
When I saw that Ace would be at Motor City Muscle, I knew I had to go. Ace did not disappoint. Sure, he has set aside the makeup, but he can still make a Les Paul wail. He played his solo tunes such as “Rip It Out”, “New York Groove”, “Rock Soldiers”, and “Rockin’ With The Boys”. They were filming the concert and in particular “Rockin’ With The Boys”, so be on the lookout for that one.
Ace made sure he took care of his KISS fans with “Parasite”, “Love Gun”, “Shock Me”, and of course “Detroit Rock City”. It doesn’t get any better than hearing one of your favorite guitarist playing such iconic songs in downtown Detroit. While the crowd was a good deal away from the stage, they made their presence known with boisterous cheers and rabid applause. Seeing the legendary Ace Frehley was the ultimate nightcap to a full day of music at the Motor City Muscle Rock-N-Muscle Car festival.
Become a Supporter!
Would you like our top 12 hidden gems of Michigan? Become a Patron! Patronage from people like you who enjoy our stories is what keeps Life in Michigan going strong. If you have the means, consider showing your support on our Patreon Page.
Share the News
We hope you like our review of the Motor City Muscle Rock-N-Muscle Car Festival in Detroit. If you enjoyed the story, then share it on your favorite social media venue or send it as a link to your friends and family. This is good for everyone! Don’t forget to check out our gallery for more pictures from the fest.