Ann Arbor may be a mecca for folk and indie rock music, but one often has to make a pilgrimage to Detroit for some old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Ann Arbor musician Chris Taylor is aiming to change that this spring with a new event called Fuzz Fest, which debuts April 10-12 at Woodruff’s. Taylor, who also fronts the geek metal band Blue Snaggletooth, says he was inspired by gigs he played last year at Small’s in Hamtramck. Those shows packed numerous bands into a single night by alternating between two stages in the same venue, a technique Taylor will also employ at Woodruff’s to feature eleven bands on each of Fuzz Fest’s three nights. Although Taylor is focusing the lineup on rock music, particularly of the “heavy” variety, he says he’s learned a lesson from the Psych-Out Fest he organized at the Blind Pig in 2010. That event was limited to the rather specific genre of stoner rock. Taylor says Fuzz Fest will be “rock-centric, but with variety in the rock genre.”
While headliners the Ruiners and Beast In the Field will close out Fuzz Fest on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, the most noteworthy headliner is Friday’s show-closer: the Muggs. The bluesy Detroit rock group is a long-lived fixture on the Detroit scene and a staple at annual festivals like the Metro Times Blowout and Arts Beats & Eats. However, the Muggs don’t often venture to Ann Arbor–which is a shame, because their boisterous, electric rock is a real treat. Guitarist Danny Methric and bassist Tony DeNardo, better known as Danny Muggs and Tony Muggs, make up the band along with drummer Todd Glass. A true modern power trio, the group recalls the original hard rock of Cream and Led Zeppelin. Methric’s guitar is consistently front and center, delivering assertive power-chord riffs, fiery solos, and bluesy slide workouts with equal aplomb. DeNardo and Glass make a powerful rhythm section, with Glass’s high-speed, high-precision drum fills a particular standout. Fittingly, the band has opened for acts including Robin Trower and Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes. But unlike the Muggs’ classic rock forebears, there’s not a lot of showmanship to their performances; all the energy onstage is channeled into driving, majestic, hip-swinging rock.
Yet the Muggs are just one band among thirty-three in Fuzz Fest’s outstanding lineup. Also from Detroit, the Amino Acids are not to be missed on Saturday night. The band’s creepy uniform of grinning white masks and black clothing is memorable enough, but their mixture of dark surf guitar, vicious punk drumming, and theremin accompaniment is truly unforgettable. Ann Arbor garage-rock girl group Van Houten, on Friday night, recalls the proto-punk poetry of Patti Smith. Another Friday highlight is pure, tight, classic punk from Ypsi’s Chit Chat. In three jam-packed nights, Fuzz Fest promises to bring a lot to the table. There’s something for everyone–or at least everyone who enjoys big drums and even bigger guitars.