By noon, temperatures in Detroit rose past the 90-degree mark, humidity wearing on the citizens of the city like a record whose needle is perpetually scratching back and forth. By the time Silverghost (a two-piece fronted by the Von Bondies' former guitarist Marcie Bolen) struck their first chord, opening up the Lollapalooza Pre-Party (presented by Spin, Fuel Detroit, and Live Nation to help promote the weekend's festival and celebrate Detroit bands) at St. Andrew's Theatre downtown last night (July 31), the simmering evening was brought to a full-on boil of amplified beauty.
With Deleano Acevado sharing vocal duties while manning the synth/drum machine, Bolen attacked her six-string with a subtle yet sultry swagger, and hips from wall to wall started to shake. With sweat soaking every inch of face and floor, Silverghost, who sound kind of like MGMT rubbed across a piece of heavy-grit sandpaper, well-played the party starter role - unrelenting and well-rehearsed.
Next up was Friendly Foes, an undeniably fun, and equally frenetic, band who brought a spastically structured brand of mid-'90s indie rock. Helmed by Thunderbirds Are Now! frontman Ryan Allen, the newly formed Foes ripped through their frantic set of pedal-pushed pleasers, and through the heated haze of the crowd all one could make out were lit cigs and glowing grins.
Making their first trip to Detroit were Indianapolis' folk-pop dreamsters Margot & the Nuclear So & So's. The somber group rolls deep, filling the stage with eight tranquil musicians who unwrapped a solid and heartrending set of tracks. After their opener, frontman Richard Edwards, in a rare interactive moment, mumbled to the crowd, "This is the hottest I've ever been in my life," then covered his head in a towel for the remainder of the set.
On the opposite end of the interactive scale were Detroit's indie-pop darlings the Silent Years. Riffing on the evening's party theme, the band came equipped with noise makers, party hats, and silly string, reawakening the crowd and startling the audience with their achingly catchy, superbly penned blend of immensely textured melodies. Josh Epstein might very well be the best indie singer in the country - hell, the Silent Years might be the best indie band in the country for that matter.
Pulling from their catalog of contagious crooners, they had fans singing along to signature tracks like "Someone to Keep Us Warm" and "Sharks," along with cuts from their soon-to-be-released masterpiece The Globe, namely "On our Way Home" and the epic "Open Up Our Eyes." Equally comedic and romantic was their reprise of Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," which they played through the house PA, going into the crowd and encouraging people to slow dance with whomever they were standing next to.
It's fair to say that everyone in Detroit last night was under the thumb of the unrelenting heat, submitting to the delusion-inducing temperature. But for all of us at the Lollapalooza Pre-Party, we suffered with a smile.
Check out photos from last night on page 2