Mick Bassett says the White Stripes have "been the most important band from around here in the last decade," but he's also got an ulterior motive for his decision to impersonate them at this year's Detroit x Detroit II cover-act bonanza. "My drummer Anthony, we're gonna have to outfit him with some breasts to make him look like Meg White," Bassett says. "Actually, I just want to see Anthony with boobs."
Judging by the madness of last year's Detroit x Detroit show, Bassett's drummer growing a pair up there might not even be the craziest transformation of this year's event. The premise laid out for last year's event was simple: 12 Detroit bands, covering 12 other Detroit bands. This year's show bumps it up to 16 acts. "The only guidelines I gave people were it had to be somebody with ties to Detroit, and someone who's been recently active," says Melissa Rowe, who created and organized Detroit x Detroit. Last year's bands took those guidelines and ran with them; in the widely-discussed highlight of last year, Illymack's Jen David close-cropped her hair and dyed it blonde to perform as Eminem. "She was walking around totally incognito and then she just took the stage and killed it," Rowe says.
The members of the Kickstand Band also went all-out last year, covering themselves in blood and wearing white to become a trio of Andrew W.K.s, and they're doing it again this time. Opting for a more locally-known group, the band will be playing as the Amino Acids. Bassist Allison Young says she's ordered multiple masks to make sure she gets the Acids' signature creepy false faces just right. "I like playing up the details," she says. "I think that makes you look authentic." Meanwhile, the Vatican's George Morris is going downright Method for his headlining role as Alice Cooper. "I've been watching a lot of videos of him," Morris says.
For others, the challenge is in technical mastery of the band they're covering. The HandGrenades' Andrew Pawelski will be playing bass on his band's covers of the High Strung, and he says learning the parts isn't easy. "Chad Stocker is like lightning fingers on bass, so I'm just trying to keep up with what he's playing," Pawelski says. Bassett, too, says it's no cakewalk trying to recreate the wild guitar workouts of Jack White. "He's impossible to emulate," Bassett says. "But it's enjoyable because I think it makes me better to kind of go through and learn about a different artist and the way that they write and the way that they play."
Of course, with so many contemporary bands in the mix, it's inevitable that some of the musicians present will be looking at themselves through Detroit x Detroit's funhouse mirror. That's just part of the fun though. Lightning Love's Leah Diehl recalls watching Morris perform as her last year. "It was so cool," she says. "I was really impressed. He wore a dress and tights." Morris remembers it more modestly. "That was actually tough because I had to play piano and I'm not a very good piano player," he says.
The show's general goodwill will expand this year to include a unique charitable endeavor. All proceeds from Detroit x Detroit II will benefit a Detroit x Detroit scholarship fund to sponsor a student for a semester at the School of Rock Rochester. In a way, the show gives Detroit's current crop of talent a chance to give a little gift to the players waiting in the wings–and have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. "It's kind of like Halloween, you know?" Young says. "Except you get to dress up as your best friends." | RDW
Detroit x Detroit II • 4/14, 8 p.m. • Magic Stick • 4140 Woodward, Detroit • 313.833.9700 • majesticdetroit.com • $5