Dead Friends

Anthony Viola

When a band called Death picked up their instruments in Detroit in the early ’70s they probably had no idea their punk sound would survive. Especially in snowy Marquette where Dead Friends calls home.

Dead Friends embodies the gritty, fast-paced ethos of punk. They play in people-packed basements, shouting almost unintelligible lyrics, to short, hard songs with an energy that is distinctly punk rock.

Senior English writing major and bassist for Dead Friends, Mike Metcalf, said punk rock appealed to him because it is fast, intense and actually has an agenda, unlike many other types of music.

Senior metalsmithing major and guitarist Jaquelyn Lambert said Dead Friends got the name from her five-year-old niece.

“I have some sewing mannequins that are just torsos and I lent one to my sister for a photo shoot and my five-year-old niece started calling them dead friends,” Lambert said. “She placed them in the car and put the seat belt on them.”

Dead Friends grabs its inspiration from bands like The Dum Dum Girls, Eno, The Flaming Lips and Ween.

“Pretty much before I was in the band, we were just hanging out and listening to records, a lot,” Metcalf said. “I remember the ones that we cover are the ones that we listened to.”

Although Marquette may not be a breeding ground for punk rock, the city has raised drummer Alex Babcock and Lambert to carry the legacy which started all those decades ago in Detroit.

Babcock said he started playing drums in school for band class. He has continued to play because he enjoys playing for people.

“I like playing shows, I like practicing for shows, something to look forward to, an end game, I like parties, playing parties, watching other bands play, rock ‘n’ roll,” Babcock said. “I like loud music.”

Lambert got her start in music because she looked up to her older sister.

“I started playing guitar in fifth grade because my older sister played guitar,” Lambert said. “I thought she was really cool; she is really cool.”

Metcalf said he started playing guitar because of his dad. He keeps playing because, like Babcock, it gives him a reprieve from the everyday grind and provides a goal to work toward.

“Playing in a band is so fun  not to do something school-related or work-related,” Metcalf said. “But you’re still doing something, working toward a common goal.”

But, regardless of how they started playing music or why they keep playing, the years of picking up their instruments and listening to music has manifested in Dead Friends.

Metcalf said people often relate punk rock music to violence, but that idea is false.

“Punk rock, you have to relate it to community,” Metcalf said.

That community is The Merlot Mansion, affectionately called The Mansion by frequenters, which has hosted underground shows for close to a decade. The tenants have changed too many times to count, but the ideal which grows and lives in that beer stained, dank basement continues.

It is the alternative, the place where bands can play punk, or black metal or anything in between and be heard.

“I’ve seen my fair share of weird shows [at The Mansion], it’s awesome,” Lambert said. “It’s really cool that it’s been handed down to all of our friends and people have agreed to pay more rent to keep the mansion going, because we need a music venue and they’ve never been weird about having parties and shows and it has always been a              cool community.”

Metcalf said The Mansion is important because it provides a platform for bands that don’t fit into the bar scene.

“People that go to The Mansion are people that want to hear music,” Metcalf said. “I don’t like playing at bars, I’ve played at bars before, I hate it. Because those people just want to get drunk and listen to some band that’s easy.”

Dead Friends plays Sunday, Nov. 23 at The Merlot Mansion for Classic Fest ’14.

Classic Fest is 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 and Sunday, Nov. 23 at The Mansion.

Go and enjoy the show,  but abandon all hope.