Detroit Rock City’s Ground Zero
The seeds planted by Bill Graham at the original Fillmore in San Francisco bloomed in many other cities, but few flowered as brightly as Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. Inspired by Russ Gibb’s 1967 visit to the Fillmore, the Grande became a melting pot of flower power and urban grit, and a centerpiece of Detroit’s music and cultural scene. When Kiss sang “Detroit Rock City,” they were singing about the Grande. The city’s industrial culture bred tough workers and industrial strength, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll. Gibb’s fortuitous connections to Detroit’s art scene and alternative community led to John Sinclair, and ultimately the MC5 and numerous other local luminaries. The Grande’s imaginative booking policy turned the venue into what Don Was calls “The Mecca of Hip,” hosting local and national bands, and establishing itself as a lynchpin in the U.S. tour circuit of British acts.
The 74-minute documentary includes interviews with Gibb and Sinclair, ballroom manager Tom Wright, alternative publisher Harvey Ovshinsky, poster artist Gary Grimshaw, light show artist Chad Hines, and musicians Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson (MC5), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Scott Morgan (The Rationals), James Williamson (The Stooges), Dick Wagner (The Frost), Ted Nugent and more. A few of the interview clips feel short, but there are many great stories, including that of the Who’s first Grande gig. The Fillmore is rightly lauded for its seminal place in music history, but San Francisco and New York weren’t the only happening spots. The Grande stands alongside Cleveland’s Agora, Chicago’s Kinetic Playground, and San Francisco’s Fillmore, Carousel, Matrix, Avalon and Winterland as one of rock’s great halls, and Tony D’Annunzio and Karl Rausch’s documentary tells its story grandly. [©2016 Hyperbolium]