Concert Preview: Secret Friends Fest 2016

Way back when UBL was just getting its start, we attended a show that kind of gave us our first glimpse into the budding Detroit music scene. The first annual Secret Friends Fest’s roster was filled with many up and coming bands mostly from right here in the mitten state. In just one evening we were completely immersed in the local music scene, rubbing elbows with some up and comers that would soon become personal favorites of ours.

Fast forward two years and the SFF is bigger than ever. Now the event spans two days, January 8th and 9th, and features a whopping twenty one bands from across the U.S. and Canada. Once again the event will take at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, weekend passes are available now for $16 in advance or pay $10 a night at the door.

Night One: Friday, January 8th (Doors open at 7)

The Idiot Kids (Main stage at 8:30): One of the best things about putting this preview together is that I got to discover all kinds of new bands. This Detroit punk trio is bound to kick of Secret Friends Fest 3 with a bang. Their latest release, Manic, is a punk rock anthem filled album that will thrash and slash it’s way into any heart of a true punk fan. The album has some truly unique tracks on that that range from bouncy and upbeat to straight up dark and at times wonderfully weird.

Junk Food Junkies (Side stage at 9): The name kind of says it all and how can I not be enamored with a band that laces quirky lyrics about food throughout their music? Not to mention that this group of talented ladies knows how to do garage rock that keeps you hungry for more. Mostly their music is fun and will bring a smile to your face because who hasn’t wanted to write a love song to pizza?

JUNGLEFOWL (Main at 9:30): The sounds of this fuzz rock duo actually remind me a bit of hearing Tart for the first time at the first Secret Friends Fest. I was hooked as soon as the distorted guitars of “Undercover Wildflower” came buzzing through my speakers. There’s just enough doom and gloom mixed into the blues and rock vibes of these tracks to leave me wanting more after the short but sweet four tracks finish on Strut.

Leggy (Side at 10): Coming off of spending most of 2015 on the road, this Cincy based trio are looking to release their new EP, Dang soon. The first single from the EP, “Even Lana,” is a dreamy surf rock glimpse at Leggy’s sharper dreamy punk sound. What’s great about the band is that they can mix pop and punk together without it taking any of the edge or energy out. I’ve only just discovered Leggy, but my anticipation for Dang is just as high as any release from a long time favorite band this year.

The Erers (Main at 10:30): From what I hear of their live show, this is not a performance you will want to miss. The shredding and thrashing skills are strong with this Detroit trio and is sure to make anyone a fan. It’s no surprise knowing the caliber of music and performance that comes out of Detroit. The blues rock sound the band produces definitely lends itself well to completely allowing yourself to rock out as hard as you can as your face is melted into a puddle on the floor.

CATL (Side at 11): Coming in from Toronto, this feisty blues rock duo is definitely going to keep the party stomping along into the night. From what I hear, their live show is an intense one which isn’t hard to believe after listening to This Shakin’ House. It’s strange to hear the blues mix so well with punk rock but CATL just does it so damn well. Even just listening to “Lamplight the Way” now I find it hard to resist the urge to get up and thrash along.

Heaters (Main at 11:30): I’m a sucker for vintage sounding rock which means this trio out of Grand Rapids is right up alley. Take “Gum Drop” off their latest release, Holy Water Pool, with it’s spacey guitars and echoing vocals that sounds like it could have come right out of Pink Floyd’s discography. Their psych rock sound may call to mind some classic rock vibes but Heaters has their own, dark and often weird sound that make their tracks truly unique.

Prude Boys (Side at 12:15): It looks like night one is going to be packed with high energy rock. This Hamtramck trio does fuzz rock like they were born with their instruments in their hands. I’m listening to their newest release, Family Style Glamour, now and finding it impossible to resist the galloping drums and droning bass lines. “Stranger’s End” in particular has me up and moving, sounding like it should be featured in a pivotal dance number of the next Tarantino flick.

Tart (Main at 12:45): If you’ve been following us here at UBL then you’re already familiar with this band. They were the first band we saw back at the very first Secret Friends Fest and therefore will always have a special place in our hearts. The Detroit duo has come a long way since then, releasing a scintillating EP last summer. It’s great to see the band go from opening the show to closing out night one of this year’s fest.


Night Two: Saturday, January 9th (Doors open at 6)

Minihorse (Side Stage at 7): This Ypsilanti band might be the chillest on the list so far but that doesn’t make their music any less enjoyable. If anything, their sound makes them perfect for kicking off night two of SFF on the nice and intimate side stage. The band is relatively young but they do fuzz rock with a swirl of pop like old pros.

Rogue Satellites (Main Stage at 7:30): Diving into the newest release, Bees and Snakes, from from this Detroit duo, I’m immediately reminded of the great soundtracks of recent horror films It Follows and The Guest which used John Carpenter’s classic scores as inspiration. “A Slow Darkness” has an opening that has me on edge but in a truly fantastic way. I can’t think of a better way to first experience their live show than in the dimly lit Loving Touch where their doom and gloom sound can slowly engulf you as you groove along.

Human Skull (Side at 8): Surf rock guitar riffs mixed with punk rock vocals and some good ole’ Dinosaur Jr. thrown in for good measures makes this Ann Arbor trio a great find for someone like me. Their album, Demo, carries a pretty consistent tempo throughout but there’s nothing boring or repetitive about it. There’s a wonderful feeling of nostalgia about Human Skull’s sound that I can’t help but dig.

Heaven’s Gateway Drugs (Main at 8:30): Coming all the way up from Fort Wayne, Indiana, this foursome also has a bit of a nostalgic feel to their music. Psychedelic guitars are flowing from my speakers right now that sounds like it could have originated in the late 60’s. What their music does best is transport you to an alternate hazy reality while still being catchy as hell.

Five Pound Snap (Side at 9): The opening of this Detroit foursome’s self-titled EP had me hooked immediately. A fuzzy sample over groovy beats exploded into indie rock guitars that pulled me in and never let go. It’s these flourishes that pull from jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock that makes this band stand out among so many other indie rock acts trying to make it right now. I mean, I’m one track into their EP and I already find myself addicted to their sound, all I need to see now is a fantastic live show and I’ll be completely devoted to these guys.

The Deadly Vipers (Main at 9:30): This is one of the few bands that I had heard of before checking out the lineup for this show. The buzz surrounding them has been growing stronger and stronger and listening to their new Cataclysmic Events EP has me understanding what all the fuss is about. You can hear their energy coming through your speakers as soon as you hit play so I can already assume that their live show is not to be missed especially after hearing them being compared to The Stooges.

Bummers (Side at 10): The Columbus / Cincinnati music scenes seem to be just as strong as Detroit’s. Here’s another talented band that mixes the music of relaxed surf rock with the screaming vocals of punk rock glory especially on the opening track, “Thighs,” of their self-titled album. The guys can do Beach Boys-esque harmonies like no other either. The mix of beachy vibes with punk rock yowls make these Ohioans a perfect addition to the SFF lineup.

TBA: Unfortunately the band, Sam Coffey and Iron Lungs, has hit a snafu at the border and will be unable to attend this year’s fest. We’ll keep you updated as to who will fill this spot.

Friendly Faux (Side 11): Here’s another Columbus band that should be on your radar if they aren’t already. The band describe themselves as “unabashed, no-frills rock” and to me, have a Queens of the Stoneage vibe to them. There’s some wonderful doom and gloom sound that opens their newest release, Abandon Ship, before giving way to good old fashioned 90’s alt and grunge rock sounds. Listening now, I’m so happy that Secret Friends Fest continues to branch out and feature not only great Michigan bands, but bands from across the country that I can fall in love with.

Grand Analog (Main at 11:30): Mixing things up a bit is this hip-hop / R&B quintet out of Toronto. But don’t just pigeonhole them to those genres, these Canadians mix rock, dub, and soul into the mix to keep things interesting. Bringing them to the Detroit area and featuring them at a show like Secret Friends Fest where you expect to find the best of the new and up and coming music acts of the area is a perfect way to hopefully spread the word on these talented Canucks.

Deadbeat Beat (Side at 12): Having just released their first new album in 4 years, Secret Friends Fest seems like the perfect way for Deadbeat Beats to let their fans know that they’re back and better than ever. Their ability to craft catchy tracks that transcend genres make them a perfect addition to this year’s fest. Like many of Detroit’s up and coming bands, they have some swagger that draws you in and has you never wanting to let go again. I think it’s best to get out and see them now just in case it takes another four years to release another record.

Mild High Club (Main at 12:30): These guys are coming in all the way from L.A. to close out the fest this year, and after reading a bunch of buzz about them, I can see why they’re perfect for the job they’ve been tasked with. Their newest album, Timeline, popped up on a few ‘best albums of 2015’ lists and the group managed to score a spot at Levitation Festival this year alongside the likes of Brian Wilson, Animal Collective, and Caribou. There are a bunch of bands that you should be excited to see at Secret Friends Fest but Mild High Club might just be the one that makes you get off your couch and out to the Loving Touch this weekend.