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A Night Out with ... Aliccia Berg Bollig

“I’m more librarian than rocker,” says Aliccia Berg Bollig in earnest, as she takes a hearty sip from her Amber Wheat. Perched on stools at the Motor City Brewing Works in Midtown on a recent Thursday evening, Bollig is trying to make sense of her totally hectic, almost implausible dual life.  

A scientist who toils away 10-plus-hour days at the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Bollig (who looks nothing like a librarian) is also the persistent leader of Slumber Party, with it’s rotating cast of girl-musicians, including past members who have gone on to play in bands like The Von Bondies and Come Ons. “I don’t think I’m an over-achiever. I just think I have all this spare time,” she says.

When I ask what exactly she does at her day job, she laughs and answers: “Wear a lab coat and carry a Sharpie.” But that’s her endearing way of softening the seriousness and complexity of her work. Then, with the patience of an elementary schoolteacher with a challenged student, she explains the research she conducts, engaging deliberately in scientific minutiae: studying human breast cancer cell cultures; adding inhibitors to anti-tumor drugs; investigating of the regulation of estrogen receptors. On cue, she orders another round and gives a modest shrug. “It’s very basic stuff though. It’s not glamorous.”

We talk about her Minnesota upbringing, which she admits, makes Detroit seem like the biggest city she’d like to live in. Her father, who raised her and her two siblings, worked at the paper mill on the Mississippi—where she took summer jobs. But she was already in training to be a scientist. At the dinner table, her dad would quiz her: “How many grams in a pound? How do you imagine that space is infinite but it’s still expanding?”

Our conversation veers from Lansing (where she went for her PhD at Michigan State and hated) to Australia (where she’s going on tour with Slumber Party) to Vivio’s in Eastern Market (where she goes for the best Bloody Mary’s), just as the bar fills up with people to celebrate The Fonda’s CD release. Ironically, the band is one part a former member of Slumber Party, which also just released a new CD, "MUSIK," and planned to party at the same place.

This album is one they are really excited about. Not that they haven’t been excited about their other work, but “this is a different record than the others,” she says. “It is more focused...it is a more sophisticated concept than the work I've been involved with in the past.”

When she talks about the conception of Slumber Party, it’s all impromptu kitchen floor concerts and madcap collaborations. It’s about the sheer originality of the people in Detroit. “People are really talented here. It’s a craft,” she says. “It was never a dream of mine to start a band. I just started coming to Detroit, and I was inspired. I played with so many people and liked what they did. If I would have gone to say, Rochester, NY for school, I probably would not have a band. And it would probably be better for me, because I would focus on my job.”

I would have had a hard time imagining the impeccable, tall and very pretty Bollig in a rock band if I hadn’t seen her perform just a couple weeks ago. She was playing a solo show on a makeshift stage, marked by an inflatable bat hanging above, on the second floor of the Corktown Tavern. It’s an exercise in training she braves from time to time to keep her chops up. “I had some new songs, and I wanted to practice,” she says.

There were about two handfuls of people, sitting in rickety chairs, smoking, on the rainy Sunday night—probably because, beguilingly modest, she didn’t tell anyone what she was up to. But those who showed, by accident or otherwise, got a glimpse into what it must be like to hang out in Bollig's living room while she strums away for her own edification. With a mellow, moving voice, almost referencing Nico, Bollig's sound is decidedly monotone—in the best possible way.

When it comes to supporting local bands, she’s torn. On one hand, she gets it. “You get home and you’re fucking tired. And your friends can’t go to every show.” But she’s also discouraged with the lack of support and local buzz—whether it’s about Slumber Party or some other Detroit band. “People don’t like something until the national news tells them to like it,” she says, matter-of-factly.

Somewhere around 11 p.m., we decide to head over to the new patio at Slows Bar-BQ, where two of the owners are spinning “Yacht Rock”—super smooth 70’s and 80’s tunes in the vein of the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins. People are dancing autonomously, albeit strangely, next to the DJ table set up near the corner. Otherwise, it’s a breezy, serene night, and groups of people are scattered across the modern-perfect patio, lit by up-lighting and evening sky, evincing none of the grit of the corner on which it sits. We take a seat at a communal table with five gay men, one of whom immediately recognizes her. “You’re in Slumber Party,” he says, nodding his head in approval.

Sounds like her theory about their lagging Detroit fan base might not be all that air-tight after all. Not that we’re trying to make the matter scientific.



Aliccia Berg Bollig's band, Slumber Party, plays Oct. 4 at St. Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress.



Photos:

Aliccia Berg Bollig at The Motor City Brewery

Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute

Slumber Party CD

Aliccia Berg Bollig at The Motor City Brewery



All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger

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