Following on the success of the benefit for Gaza earlier this year a smashing First of May was had at the United States Social Forum benefit party last night in Detroit’s Corktown. Excellent money was raised, food eaten, music played, libations imbibed and conversations had. A perfect spring evening in Detroit with two porches to choose from, a keg of beer and banana nut bread with an inexplicably perfect cake-to-nut equilibrium. The easy solidarity of old friends, even among those just acquainted, and a healthy dose of the best of Detroit music were it’s hallmarks. The revelry went on well into the night and ended only with exhaustion.
With this community the line between the audience and the band is pretty blurred, but for clarity’s sake we’ll list who played and who came. Here’s who played:
Thollem McDonas, acclaimed creative pianist who lives in San Francisco even as he has been adopted into the Detroit family of musicians. Piotr Michalowski, multi-instrumentalist from Ann Arbor. Michael Carey (sax), a proponent of old time Fire Music! playing with The Raw Truth and is a regular with Faruq Z. Bey and Northwoods Improvisers. Kenn Thomas played keys. Skeeter Shelton (sax) stopped by when he heard who was playing, a serious voice in Detroit jazz his coming was a real treat. James Cornish (trumpet), also a co-host, is working on an opera about the battle to unionize Ford. Joel Peterson (bass) plays with Immigrant Suns, Odu Afrobeat Orchestra, The Sure Shots and half the other decent bands in town. Joel was the curator of Detroit’s badly missed Bohemian National Home. Kurt Prisbe (drums) has played with most of these people over time. Marco Navatchcoff is a multi-multi-instrumentalist. Alan Scheurman performed solo acoustic including a song called “Reds” dedicated to all the comrades gathered there that night. He was heard to comment on the night’s political/cultural/social event: “let’s make these second nature”. Indeed! The Sure Shots, readying themselves for a tour soon, laid down a seamless swoop of country sounds that had the party dancing and swaying until the early hours. Nick Schillace plays steel guitar and banjo, Joel Peterson on bass, and Jennie Knaggs on guitar and vocals.
And here’s who came:
A refreshing mix of generations and scenes which doesn’t happen enough at social events. UAW activists, including recently laid-off auto militants, highly feared labor lawyers (the real tough kind), members of Jewish Voices for Peace, folks from Student Environmental Action Coalition (instrumental in the No Coal Days of Action in DC last November). Teamster members, Centro Obrero and Jobs With Justice folks. Activists with the Green Party, including candidates and state-wide leaders. Too many long-standing Detroit socialists to even name and folks whose first political events have come in the last year. Anarchists, members of Solidarity and the League of Revolutionaries for a New America and Wobblies. Students from Wayne State and Eastern Michigan Universities. Michigan Welfare Rights Union and Labor Notes folks. Fans of the music and loads of unaffiliated friends.
People spoke a little as well. Brad Duncan, the evening’s co-host, paid rousing tribute to the movement that began May Day and those that fell in the struggle; the Eight Hour Day (how we miss you!) and the Haymarket martyrs (never forgotten). Will Copeland of the USSF Detroit organizing committee spoke about what the USSF is and what it could accomplish…communicated in verse no less!
Many new people learned about the USSF and all of the musicians were sympathetic and excited to play for international workers’ day and the USSF. There is still much to do in the lead up to 2010’s conference. We hope this event contributes to that work. The community of last night’s fun was a wonderful antidote to the atomized and depressed feeling one gets all too often in Michigan these days. A breath of fresh, spring air.
Thanks to Brad and James for opening their home for the evening.