The last time I attended a Stools show was on February 14th, 2020 at Outer Limits Lounge. Somebody in the audience passed out after their first song and I left because it was stressing me out. People were freaking out, but turns out the guy just had low blood sugar or something – he was fine. That being said though, if you’re gonna pass out at a show, it’s probably gonna be at a Stools show. The Detroit-based garage rock revival band is known for their high-octane performances that feel like having a front row seat to a drag race. These invigorating shows are what drive people to see bands live in the first place, and are undoubtedly what fans have been missing the last fifteen months of shut downs. Luckily, The Stools – Will Lorenz, Charles Stahl and Krystian Quint – have just released their first 12” Live At Outer Limits, which brilliantly captures their rapturous performance and is almost as good as the real thing.
The album was recorded on December 28th, 2019, and released digitally in May 2020; the vinyl came out a few days ago and has already sold out on their Bandcamp, but you can still grab a copy via Big Neck Records. The band seems genuinely surprised by this success. “I am always surprised when I see so many orders come in, because I really don’t know what to expect,” says Lorenz. “Without playing shows all the time, it’s easy to forget that people outside of our little bubble exist and buy records too! I hope some of the success is due to the snapshot in time aspect of it, a little more than we originally intended though since you can’t see us play for now.”
Lorenz says that the choice to press their live show wasn’t exactly scientific, but simply due to the fact that it was their longest release to date; the band has favored releasing their songs four or five at a time on small runs of 7″ EPs, including 2019’s When I Left (via Third Man Records), as well as Car Port (via Goodbye Boozy Records) and Feelin’ Fine (via Drunken Sailor Records), both from this year.
He also credits the band’s endearment to local punk bar Outer Limits as a driving force. “As a band we share a love for live albums as well as Outer Limits Lounge in general,” says Lorenz. “Everybody who works there is great and the sound is always perfect. We just waited until we had a chance to fully book our own show there [to record], but we had had the idea for a while.”
For a band that started out as a manic idea between Lorenz and Stahl, the Stools have reached many milestones faster than some bands ever do. You could make any number of assumptions of why this is, but if I had to guess, it would be because of the band’s genuine chaotic energy. At a time when it felt like garage rock was giving way to shoegaze and “indie rock” (whatever that means), three young guys from Grosse Pointe, Michigan bonded over a shared love of the White Stripes and Black Flag. These influences (as well as youthful angst and energy) are palpable in the band’s live performance.
The record encapsulates the punk microcosm that resides within Outer Limits Lounge. Nested on the outskirts of Hamtramck, MI – a tiny city that lies within Detroit City Limits – the bar literally and figuratively emits the “outcast” vibe that is historically associated with punk rock music. But, once inside, the humble digs serve as an oasis for “music nerds,” fringers, or pretty much everyone. It’s cool but not exclusive, messy but unthreatening. The Stools’ baby-faced frontmen encapsulate these dichotomies and their music serves as an allegorical safe space welcoming rejects of all kinds – or anybody who wants to scream along in their car.