(originally published in Avenue magazine, August 2005)
By Ceri-Louise Frid
For the last year downtown Wilmington has enjoyed rock music from The End of Detroit, a seasoned group of musicians – lead singer Stephen Gossin, lead guitar player Kevin Ennis, bass guitar player and vocalist, Cristian Skilone, and drummer Al Sivers.
Formed last summer (Ennis joined just weeks ago) they are experienced players. Gossin, who had been playing local acoustic shows for the last five years, is responsible for the beginning of the band.
“Playing by yourself is only so much fun,” he says.
The group formed with a plan to play a mix of cover songs and their own originals, and in that time, they have earned weekly gigs at The Whiskey, Rox, The Sandbar and The Firehouse. They have no problem waking up the audience with upbeat covers of “The Boys are Back in Town” and “Teenage Dirtbag.”
Playing a mix of their own songs and covers is simple for lead singer Gossin, who previously played with bands Sycamore Grove and Captain Zippy. Gossin says he and the band like to straddle the line between writing their own music and playing to the crowd, simply because they all just love to play.
“There are two kinds of bands,” Gossin says. “There’s blue collar bands that are in the trenches playing bars. That’s where the money is. Then there are bands that are in the game. They have something to prove. They don’t play bars, they play venues.”
The name of the band came from Gossin, citing his fascination with the downward spiral of the U.S. auto industry based in Detroit.
“Everyone is drawn to tragedy,” he says.
Not that these guys think of themselves as a tragic band; instead they lament the truth of the tragedy that out of all of those 15-year-old boys who buy a guitar with dreams of becoming a rock star, only a thimbleful actually achieve it.
“We just exploit the tragedy for what it is,” Gossin says.
Skilone, who joined the band after leaving previous group, Serial Saddles, says that as a group they click musically, and that is extremely important.
“Even the tiniest difference can lead to the downfall of a band,” Skilone says.
Sivers, the band’s second drummer, replaced original drummer Matt Mabray, last winter. A friend of Gossin’s brother, who plays in another Wilmington band, Sivers moved down from New York to join The End of Detroit after leaving old band, Carlisle Group. Also hailing from upstate New York, lead guitarist Ennis joined upon invitation from Gossin, Sivers and Skilone not long after he moved here from Boston, where he attended the Boston School of Music.
With their biggest influence being Third Eye Blind, the band describes themselves as “post punk.” One highlight of their show is a medley of songs different in style but combine to great effect, thus showcasing an ear for good tunes and rhythm and an eye for upbeat material. Though the crowds enjoy their signature medley rock of the three songs – The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone,” and Cracker’s “Movie Star,” they have good responses to original material.
“I Missed My Calling as a Military Strategist,” according to Skilone, “is kind of power pop with a touch of post-hardcore. It’s a really catchy, energetic song.” And “I’m Not Afraid of Phenylketonurics,” has “a real cutting edge driving rhythm but with a little darker mood to it,” Skilone adds.
As the band is busy with shows, day jobs, school and other commitments, they don’t have much time to practice.
“We have more shows than practices,” says Sivers. “We’d rather be out there working,” Gossen says.
While the guys say they love living and playing in Wilmington, it’s not the easiest place for a band to make its start. “It’s very competitive,” says Skilone, who has only been playing bass for three years, all in the Port City.
Gossin, who has toured around the country and played in New York City for a while with previous bands, admits it’s a bad place to play, but, with a knowing smile, says “anywhere further north is too cold, anywhere further south is too hot, anywhere in the Midwest isn’t worth it and anywhere on the West coast is too expensive.”
The guys laugh as Gossin finishes his geographical guide to music venues, and Sivers chimes in that “Wilmington is a great place on the East coast, so why play anywhere else?”
Though the band jokingly suggests that further south is too hot, the truth is, they are in the South – an area that enjoys rock and roll and country music. And how does that affect their taste in music? Interestingly enough, while Sivers laments country and Skilone hates it, Gossin says he loves the musicianship and the stories of country music.
“I guess we like half of country,” Gossin admits with a slight grin.
Being in the South has its benefits for the band; where else would they be continually asked to play “Free Bird”? The guys get asked to play it at almost every show, and they always do, unafraid to give the audience what they want. But, with an album on the way, the band is eager to develop its own material.
Below is a video of the band performing in 2007 at Mayfaire Town Center.