By Colin M. Colbeck, Guest Writer
Christmas is a time for family, tradition, and love. But for the punk rock community of Detroit, Christmas means a little bit more. It means a time to slick up the Mohawks, put on the studded denim vest, and rock out to some of Detroit’s best punk, ska, and hardcore bands. That means it’s time for the annual Black Christmas Gala and rock fest.
This annual event took place on four different stages set up throughout the whole of the Majestic Complex, including the Magic Stick, The Majestic Theater, and the Garden Bowl in downtown Detroit off of Woodward Avenue.
The concert featured huge names in the world of underground rock, such as Fordirelifesake, Fireworks, Wilson, The Koffin Kats, Mustard Plug, and Detroit’s own punk rock royalty, The Suicide Machines.
The crowd was packed into every crack and crevice of the complex. At the completion of each set, attendees would scatter from stage to stage hoping to get a place closest to the entertainers and catch the bands they were there to see live and in the flesh. The concert in itself was like a mini-festival going from 6:30pm to 2am.
Each band brought their own unique style of showmanship as they played for the crowd of over 900 people, barely under the theatre’s legal capacity. Up front by the stages, there was moshing and dancing, and in the back there was singing and drinking. The show had its own unique flare, unlike many you see today.
The stages were set differently with the smallest stage in the main entrance of the Garden Bowl, where bands like Pears, Destroy This Place, and Dewtons, packed fans into the small cafe with little room for movement as they listened to the bands.
From there, you would go upstairs to see acts like Fordirelifesake, Fireworks, The Koffin Kats, and Mustard Plug on the two stages set up as bands would alternate from one stage to the next like a crazy game of rock and roll tag that was both fun and entertaining.
If you wanted to, you could return back downstairs to the Majestic Theatre, the namesake of the complex. This is where the “headliners” Poison Tongues, Walls of Jericho, Meatmen, and Negative Approach built up the crowd finally culminating in the nights main featured band, Detroit’s own Suicide Machines, playing songs from all six of their albums across their 13 year musical career.
The stage was set with holiday ornaments around their instrument to keep a festive atmosphere, even going as far as to have a fully stocked bar on stage with old St. Nick slinging drinks for the duration of the set.
The set included some of the band’s biggest works, all coming to climax by honoring Detroit’s very own MC5 with a cover of the band’s classic, “Kick Out The Jams.” For the lucky few able to make it over to the Garden Bowl, an additional set
from Suicide Machine’s front man Jason Navarro’s side project Hellmouth was performed, but most looked on from the cold, a pane of glass separating them from the party inside.
It is extremely hard to describe this event in words. The feeling, the energy, the atmosphere, and the acts were electrifying to say the least. Each band put in 110 percent, and the audience responded in kind.
One can only say each and every person in attendance left with their ears ringing, their bodies sore, and their hearts full as they sang the songs over again on the drive home.