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Motor City Patron Saints

The live wires of Bantam Rooster have paid their rockin’ dues

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Detroit is Hell on earth. You let the place lead you by the scruff of your neck and you’re in big trouble, buddy. No one compromises with the Motor City. You can bend or shape it a bit, but you still have to heed its call. But all is lost for the big D—the way to survive is to use the environment to your advantage in a way that doesn’t mean turning tricks or hustling. How about starting a band?

It’s like any city: start your band, pay your dues, take a step back and check out your gig. It’s hard work. Thomas Jackson Potter worked his scrawny ass off for Bantam Rooster and has paid his dues, again and again. Potter is a vet of the Lansing scene and kin to a number of bands in the ‘80s, when at last he began his own three-piece KillDevilHill in ‘92 (one single on the Easy Action label). In ’94, awkward band chemistry and an unreliable rhythm section led Potter to quick-change his steps and recruit Gravitar drummer and all-around-good-guy Eric Cook, and in no time the two-piece had a crude lo-fi demo out the door. Crypt Records reeled the duo in 1996, releasing their first single, “Miss Luxury,” and the full length Deal Me In that followed.

Potter left the bosom of the Capital City and headed for Detroit around ‘97 to battle the city’s omnipresent curse. No one knows what happened, but the city started to churn its gears and clean out the muck. Cool bars like the Magic Stick, the Gold Dollar and Zoot’s (RIP) started to house decent local and touring bands, record labels started popping up, the city stopped sleeping.

This meant more work for Bantam Rooster. A second LP, The Cross and The Switchblade, was the last Crypt release for the band, but that didn’t mean the bread and butter wouldn’t stay fresh. A mess of singles followed throughout on Flying Bomb, Hate, Estrus and Big Neck. A lineup change also transpired with the induction of metal-head racketeer (and another all-around-good-guy) Mike Alonso on traps, and a new LP, Fuck All Y’all, laid down the proof that the Bantam Rooster sound just keeps getting better and better.

It’s all about the live-wire performance that hooks you by the ear. Potter’s intense Telecaster sawing and Alonso’s quick-draw beats create one hell of a chemistry. They never fail to crack a grin from a soused harlot or a jaded critic. It is rock and roll, no, let me rephrase that: It’s real rock and roll. Stripped down but ballsy enough to cover an entire room and your attention, too. Buy these boys a shot of whiskey when they’re in town. They deserve it.

Bantam Rooster plays Jay’s Upstairs Monday, June 18 with the International Playboys and One Point Plan at 10 PM. Cover TBA.

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