As you may gather from the title of this particular entry, I appear to be back in my hometown, Detroit, Michigan for the time being. Upon my return, I may have got kinda tipsy and teary, going on and on about how much I love this city. It's funny, Detroit never felt remotely like "home" to me growing up. It felt more like an unfortunate, sad locale that I had the terrible luck of being born into it. However, after spending a good couple years in Chicago and Cincinnati before my return, trying desperately to find my place in the world, returning to the Motor City (or "Hockeytown", if you will) felt more natural than it ever had in my 20 year tenure as a Michigander. It's something about the skyline of the city as seen from downtown Hamtramck, the sight of the DIA or the Science Center as you get off the freeway, and, of course, the grungy, real, unpretentious music scene that I grew up with. This is my home. You can take the girl out of Detroit but no matter what, the moment a White Stripes tune comes on the ol' iPod shuffle, her roots shine through.
Home, however, is really where "the heart is". Yeah, yeah, it's cliche and it's kind of lame to say it but it's cliche for a reason: Because it's true. Right now, a good piece of my heart is in this awful mitten shaped state but I doubt it'll always be like that. A good portion of this blog has dealt with those terrible things called "emotions" and how "feelings" affect me. One day, hopefully soon, I'm gonna find where my heart really is. And I'll go there. Hopefully with a good paying writing job in tow. But until then, I'm back in Detroit, doing what I do best: Rocking and rolling.
Miniature Tigers aren't exactly a "Detroit" band. In fact, they aren't a "Detroit" band at all. They're a Phoenix-L.A.-New-York hybrid of sunny pop melodies and indie sensibilities and this blog is no stranger to the foursome. First seeing them all the way back in the beginning of 2009 on the Kevin Devine Brother's Blood Tour and seeing them since with fun. and later solo, Mini T's have quickly risen to the ranks of one of the few bands I get genuinely excited for when they hit the Midwest. They're not "Detroit" by any means but seeing as I popped my Detroit-concert-re-virginized-cherry at the Majestic Cafe seeing them, I figure this review is as good as any to start off my new series of show reviews around the great state of Michigan.
The first time I saw Miniature Tigers, I had never heard them and was taken aback by the pure catchiness and dancability of their tunes. They have an immediate appeal that's hard to deny and their songs don't tire after repeated listenings. However, the one thing that was severely lacking live was lead singer Charlie Brand's stage presence. Lackadaisical and occasionally stiff, Brand's lack of enthusiasm didn't hinder the band (the songs were still damn good) but it certainly didn't help with their appeal. In the past year, though, I've seen the Tigers somewhere around 7 times and with each performance, Brand has gotten more confident, more natural, and all around more likable. How can I fella wearing a vintage sweater covered in teddy bears not be likable, after all? (Side note: That really is a damn fine sweater. Many, myself and my old roommate included, have offered to take it off of his hands to no avail. I can say with confidence that anyone who wears that sweater probably gets much attractive ladies.) Brand's upwards trajectory of awesome seems to have culminated with the April 13th Majestic Cafe performance when Charlie took his mic into the crowd and danced with the audience during one of the band's new songs, off the forthcoming LP Fortress. I've said before that nothing builds likability more than audience interaction and I stand by that. If I hadn't been won over by the Tigers charm about a year ago, this performance would have certainly sealed the deal.
Playing a few catchy favorites off debut LP Tell It To The Volcano, including the title track and the mood-brightening "Cannibal Queen", the band's set relied mostly on new material and while it wasn't my first time hearing songs destined to become sing-alongs after Fortress is released in July, it was definitely the most enjoyable. Hearing the progression of songs like "Coyote Enchantment" had perhaps been the coolest thing about seeing Miniature Tigers so many times.
The new material seems slightly less organic, as you can hear in the aforementioned "Coyote Enchantment", snagged off every blogger's best friend, youtube, below, and while it's a common argument here in Hot Half Headquarters that organic is better, Miniature Tigers sound seems to have progressed while staying true to it's origins, become something bigger than before without changing the Tigers overall sound, making the new material just as pristine and all-around fun as every track off the band's debut.
Something also has to be said for the fact that the band's lineup, after seeing more than a few shakeups since Miniature Tigers inception, has evolved into something just about perfect. Original Tigers Brand and Rick Schaier (also of the fantastic Alvin Band) have been joined by Algernon Quashie and Alex Gerber to create not only an amazing lineup but an all around amazing group of guys. You'd be hard pressed to find a sweeter, funnier foursome in indie rock and niceness goes a long way. I'm willing to bet everyone that got to brush shoulders with the band during their brief Detroit tenure is going to remember them for quite a while as amazing fellas that deserve your $8 for a concert ticket next time they make the Midwest rounds.
It seems like Fortress is going to take the Tigers to a new level, moving them more to towards the indie mainstream and into the collective consciousness of every hip kid in Detroit, Northside, Logan Square, and, you know, all those hipster caches outside of the Midwest.
Photos by Regina Prager and Sarah Kelly for The Hot Half Life.