Detroit’s place as one of the centres of US pop music in the ’60s is well-known. Along with the Motown hit factory, Detroit’s garage rock scene produced some of the most important groups of the era: The MC5, The Stooges and Alice Cooper. After that scene declined, and the city with it, few kept the garage flame alive. That is, until the late ’90s, when a new scene emerged centred around The White Stripes, a band that blended garage with blues and folk influences to create something both startlingly new and yet eerily familiar. And the biggest of all their influences? Tonight’s headliners, The Gories.
But The Gories’ influence stretches further than just their hometown. Tonight’s first support, Mincemeat, have taken a leaf out of the Americans’ book; also a garage-rock trio, they throw a Gories’ cover into their set as Mick Collins looks on approvingly. Mincemeat’s take on the genre, however, is more sharp-edged and spiky at times, but gets screamier and sludgier at others. Songs early in the set veer towards surf-rock, with the final couple falling into freak-out breakdowns, with one band member collapsed over the bass drum.
Second support, Ohmns, are all about the freak-out. Grimier and almost dread-laden, they wind up forming a whirling confusion of noise, with each song preceded by shout-outs, the opening lines from ‘Louie Louie’ and/or ’90s wrestling references. Underpinning the whole set is a pounding, non-stop burn of psych-garage fuzz, hooking a growing crowd. The band’s pull, and the reaction they elicit, is a clear signal of their growing popularity and notoriety – easy to understand given their recent live performances.
By the time The Gories take to the stage, the crowd is already whipped up into a frenzy – not least because Ohmns now constitute a portion of the front row. The headliners initially offer the least-nuanced sound of the night, beginning with a set of rootsy, bluegrass-tinged tunes, dominated by Peggy O’Neill’s drum, leading guitarist Dan Kroha to quip “Welcome to our soundcheck”. As the set builds, however, the styles jump around a little with US garage covers and some Merseybeat thrown in. By the time Kroha switches to harmonica, it becomes easier to see the band’s place as both blues-garage fusion pioneers and bearers of the Detroit legacy. The crowd, meanwhile, are on each others’ shoulders and jumping onto the edge of the stage, with two crowdsurfing lads being hoisted towards the Magnet’s low-ceiling. As the set comes to a close, ‘Thunderbird ESQ’ is a raucous delight but, when beckoned out for an encore, The Gories play their ‘hit’, ‘Nitroglycerine’ – and, appropriately, it really goes off. A fitting finale to an explosive night.