Cameras to Shoot Detroit Rock "War"


Eighteen bands will come together in Detroit on Saturday and battle – sonically, speaking – from two stages at the Lager House in Corktown while the cameras roll. WDET’s Rob St. Mary reports on the making a local concert film – “Urgh: A Detroit Music War”.

(click the audio link above to hear the story)

In 1982, a chronicle of some of the punk, post-punk and new wave bands on the international scene landed in cinemas. It was called “Urgh: A Music War” and featured about 30 acts with a broad range of sounds… from the Police…

“Driven to tears”

to the Dead Kennedys…

“Bleed for Me”

to Devo…

“Uncontrollable urge”

just to name a few.

On Saturday, a similar chronicle of local rock music circa 2011 is taking place. Organizers call it “Urgh: A Detroit Music War”.

Michael O’Connor is one of the producers of the event. He’s with the Detroit band FUR… which is playing as part of “Urgh”.

O’Connor says the night blends his interest in the original film with the current state of the Detroit music scene.

"I’ve been a big fan of the movie and I just wanted to put a show together with some of the bands that were some of my favorites and my friends’ favorites in the area.”

O’Connor says the idea bloomed from just a multi-band show into a film when he started talking about the idea with his friend Brandon Walley. Walley is directing and editing the Detroit edition of “Urgh”. He says the goal is to capture the energy of each band.

"I definitely want it… when someone’s watching the DVD… maybe they don’t know the bands… maybe they aren’t fans of music or the genre but it’s going to be riveting and it’s going to keep them glued to the TV and be very entertaining enough where fans will want to watch it all the time and constantly go back to their favorite band."

Much like the original film, the producers of this music war have recruited a diverse line up for the fight. One of the bands is Pink Lightning. Chris Butterfield sings with the group.

“Each band will be forced do like three of their best songs and it will be for a concert film, so in theory, they will play their best set.”

Another of the acts is Duende.

Jeff Howitt is the singer and guitarist with Duende. He says Saturday night’s bill will show what’s happening in Detroit, right now.

“The bands that were really setting the bar for the high-energy rock-and-roll that the city offers… but also with the diversity in mind that it’s not all just rock-and-roll… and they we all come at it from different angles.”

And in order to cover all those angles, the producers of the concert film have created a Kickstarter account to help fund it. Walley says they are hoping to raise five-grand before the doors open… and the cameras roll on Saturday night.

“People can pledge from all over but especially in Detroit… it’s kind of like fan… a chance for them to help create something… something that’s going to be really cool and they should be really proud of backing… even if it’s only a couple bucks.”

Michael O’Connor says the audience can do more than just watch the bands… they can take part in the creation of the film. O’Connor says cell phone technology is making that possible.

“This is sort of a show for you too because I think it should be the one night to celebrate the whole scene… not just the bands. We are encouraging people to use their video cameras to shoot some of it… and we’ll have a link that people can send that into… and hopefully use some of that footage interwoven through the film and be credited for that, of course, too.”

The producers of “Urgh: A Detroit Music War” say interest from bands wanting to take part has been huge… but ultimately… many had to be turned away due to time and space considerations. Jeff Howitt of Duende says there is simply no way a single film can be the definitive look at Detroit music today… but really… that’s not the point.

“It is one snapshot… one night in Detroit.”

Director Brandon Walley says he believes the concert film will have the potential to bring more attention to Detroit’s rock scene. Walley says he expects international film festival screenings and a DVD release this fall.

“Hopefully it can live on outside of Detroit and we can show the rest of the world another positive of great things happening in Detroit right now.”

The 18 band battle, "Urgh: A Detroit Music War" takes place Saturday evening at the Lager House in Detroit.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News.

For more information:

For more information on the Kickstarter:

The Bill: