Music News

Detroit Cobras in Phoenix: Like Jazz in Japan

I've never understood the obsession with garage rock you'll find in some corners of Phoenix. I like garage rock, sure, but I'm from Akron, Ohio, a Rust Belt town with strong ties to lo-fi punk and garage. Phoenix? Well, Phoenix was mostly ranchland and desert when "96 Tears" topped Billboard's chart in 1966, marking, I'd argue, the peak of the first wave of garage rock.

I was surrounded by the stuff during my college years, living near Cleveland, the first place any band from the budding Detroit garage scene played outside their home city. Phoenicians seem to be jumping in nearly a decade after the revival, still obsessing over Nuggets while the rest of us move on.

The best example of the Phoenix garage rock phenomenon is The Love Me Nots, who released an album called Detroit last year. Detroit struck me more as a tribute to the Motor City's scene than an artifact from it, despite the fact that the record was produced by Jim Diamond, the man behind pretty much every touchstone record from the era, from the first two White Stripes records to Electric Six's Fire to The Come Ons' Hip Check to Gore Gore Girls' Strange Girls.

Well, there's no better time for Phoenicians into garage rock music than Wednesday, when The Detroit Cobras come to town. They are, for me, the perfect embodiment of contemporary garage rock. They flawlessly project the look, sound, and feel, every note oozing Detroit's gritty charm. In fact, when they're belting out one of the old R&B covers that exclusively make up their catalog, there are moments where I almost end up in the uncanny valley, appalled at just how much they sound like a scratched 45.

If you're a fan of The Love Me Nots — a pretty good band in their own right — you'll be enchanted from the moment Rachel Nagy opens her mouth, letting her scruffily seductive vocals pour out. This band doesn't wear cutesy, '60s-inspired outfits with go-go boots to look like a garage rock act, but you'll know what they are from the first note they hit.

In some ways, I feel as if this show is like one of the Count Basie Orchestra's tours of Japan, where the band brings the authentic article to a population of jazz aficionados who got hooked on the music decades ago but rarely get to hear it in person. Those sad bastards are left with only weak local efforts to re-create it and a strong belief that anyone who can hear a master of the genre play every few months and doesn't do it is committing a grave sin.

Poor them. Poor us.

In a town where so many people love garage rock yet are so rarely treated to the real deal, this show is a true thrill.

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Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar