It's the first blustery cold day of the season in Detroit. After the longest fall in recent memory, winter is here. I'm cruising down Woodward Avenue with Marcie Bolen and Deleano Acevedo of the pop duo Silverghost. The red Chevy Impala is packed with the pair's signature vintage amps, guitars and keyboard. We're warming up with coffee from Tim Horton's drive through, waiting for the heat to kick in.

Desolate is the typical flavor for Detroit's streets, even more so on an overcast Sunday morning – most of Silverghost's fanbase no doubt sleeping off the night before. The cloud cover is thick and monotonous – like a bucket of primer has been spilled across the sky. The scant activity and dismal weather of the day are opposite the atmosphere Silverghost conjures up – an ethereal mix somewhere between a mid-summer's lawn dart tournament and a shuttle landing.

Heading south from the duo's home in Ferndale, we pass neighborhood after neighborhood of blighted properties, fast food joints and pawnshops. Ultimately coming upon a livelier scene in the city's cultural center. Into the Cass Corridor, it's the classic Detroit tour. Magnificent, classic brick mansions in varied states of renovation and upkeep, a bakery with a line shooting out the door; but crank your neck and there is a crumbling facade being swallowed back to nature – and then another one. Vibrancy and desertion within the same breath. This is Detroit.

We enter the gated parking lot in front of the former Burton Elementary – an institution for decades of Detroit students until being shuttered in 2003. A resurrected building in a city pushing for rebirth, it's become the home of artist spaces, an architecture firm, a day care, and one of the few movie theaters left in the city proper.

But on stage today, it's not a movie to be watched, rather a band to be filmed. Before the Single Barrel Detroit shoot, we tour the entirety of the former school, even taking a cigarette break in the boiler room. A trip to the men's room is an encapsulation of the transformation. Dented lockers line the walls. "Class of 2003" graffiti is splashed across the hallway – the marks of the last students before Detroiter Joel Landy bought and played Doc Frankenstein on the abandoned building. Now the restroom even boasts a functioning pool table.

The Burton Theatre is an exquisitely nostalgic time warp. A quartet of antique chandeliers hangs from the ceiling. At the concessions stand, delicious fresh popcorn is served with real butter, coffee is roasted within the building and a rainbow of Faygo flavors is served in glass bottles. The service and atmosphere are both refreshing.

Patrons can sink into about 150 vintage, red cushioned seats to watch documentaries "Sandy Bull: No Deposit, No Return Blues", the hilariously absurd "Troll 2," Crispin Glover's beyond bizarre "It's Fine! Everything is Fine!"; the classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the heartwarming "Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas."

From their vintage Danelectro Silvertone guitar to the background videos to their own unique styles, Bolen and Acevedo have arranged a site that fits the band's sound – visual.

The filming of "Crystal Mountains" begins amid laughter in the main theater, in front of a screen depicting epic avalanches. Acevedo is on keys and drum machine and Bolen on guitar – both sharing vocal harmony duties. Next it's a quick move into the projection room where set-up begins all over again, and quickly launches into the next song – pausing only after Acevedo half chokes on a popcorn kernel.

The band is fully warmed up now, sending good vibrations throughout the school as Acevedo and Bolen keep their musical momentum through each take. The songs have an infectious melody, with unyielding pull giving a warm feeling to the stark day and even to the vacant playground visible from the classroom's window as filming starts for "D.N.A."

The sweetness and humble simplicity of even Silverghost's more electronic songs make the perfect soundtrack for exploring the Burton School – it itself undergoing a transformation both sweet and humble.

- Megan Frye
"Detroit Public Schools installed the Burton school with new alarms, smoke detectors, windows, heating and cooling systems and more. Then the district decided to build a brand-new school in Corktown instead, leaving this one vacant." (Wright.)

Nathan Faustyn, David Allen, Jeff Else and Matt Kelson had shared a vision of creating a viable independent movie theatre within the city limits. Their search, which included false leads such as the Alger Theatre (Grosse Pointe) and Russell Industrial Center, to name a couple, eventually led them to Joel Landry – a local preservationist and entrepreneur who had recently acquired the Burton International School. He opened his doors to the foursome and the rest, as they say, was movie magic.

"The actual silver screen they found 'belonged to some weird dude in Lansing,' Allen says. And the seats? They're from the old State Theatre, which was upgraded when it became the Fillmore." (Wright.)

Burton Theatre continues to carry on in its original mission today – to bring an array of independent films to the city of Detroit and it's most serious film lovers.

Excerpts taken from Metro Times article Projecting Corridors Future by Travis Wright.

[Download MP3]


[Download MP3]

She Survives

[Download MP3]

Crystal Mountains

[Download MP3]
Chris Breest
Brandon Wheeler
Ryan Hyland
Justin Ames