The Growlers Ryan Hooper/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

The art world of Detroit never stops spinning.

Even with Movement 2011 lurking less than 24 hours away, droves of well-dressed denizens ventured to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on Friday night for the opening of the museum’s latest exhibit, “barely there.”

In the past three years, the MOCAD has made a habit of launching controversial shows on the eve of the most significant electronic music festival in North America -- and “barely there” was no exception. Boasting a multigenerational line-up of artists with works as fresh as yesterday and as vintage as the 1920s, “barely there” focused on broad, abstract statements made with minimal assembly. James Lee Byars, Jason Dodge, Lee Lozano, Wilfredo Prieto and others rounded out the diverse line-up. 

null Ryan Hooper/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

The Growlers

To complement the launch of “barely there,” MOCAD unraveled the Growlers to a Detroit audience. Hailing from the “beach goth scene” of Long Beach, the group unleashed a set that should have them in the front running for Quentin Tarantino’s go-to house band.

Equipped with mop tops and all, the Growlers seemed to be California flower punks traveling through time picking apart the best of ‘50s country showmanship, bubblegum psychedelics of the ‘60s and the adventurous aesthetics like your acid-dropping uncle rocked in the ‘70s. (For the record, these guys rolled up in a school bus painted white with a basketball hoop hanging off the back and “California Church Teen Choir” painted on the side. We loved it.)

Detroit Desperado

A perfect one-two punch combo was tossing Rodriguez on the bill, Detroit’s designated desperado dressed in black. In ’69, Rodriguez releases “Cold Hart Fact,” arguably one of the greatest rock records never heard. While Australia and South Africa eat it up in frenzied proportions, Detroit and the rest of the nation sleeps on Rodriguez until 2008 when Light In The Attic Records reissues his underground masterpiece.

Somewhat notorious for drinking his way through shows, Rodriguez kept things tight with the help of all-star backing band put together by Brad Hales, owner of People’s Records (recently voted one of the best record stores in the nation by Rolling Stone).

The evening was a far cry from the strobe light blitz of Movement -- no turntables, no color-coded pills and no break dancing (that we saw). But as the world heads to the festival grounds in downtown Detroit, a refreshing crash course in the wide variety of art spectacle that Detroit can offer is in full review. Movement might bring traffic to a stand still, but the art world of Detroit refuses to stop spinning.

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