Thursday, December 02, 2004 — 11:54:39 AM EST

Ready to 'grind'

By MARK WILCOX, Gazette Writer

HOUGHTON - Due to the ongoing National Hockey League lockout, when Detroit Red Wing Forward Darren McCarty comes to the Copper Country Friday he'll have a microphone in his hand rather than a hockey stick and the only ice around will be in the cocktail glasses of fans at Up Hill 41.

The hard rock band Grinder will be in town for one show Friday at the Hancock night spot. Formed in 1997, the band features McCarty on lead vocals and Detroit area rockers Bill Reedy and Eli Ruhf on guitars, James B. Anders on Bass and Eric Miller on drums.

The band grew from a benefit for Red Wing Vladimir Konstantinov and trainer Sergei Mnatsaknov, who were injured in a traffic accident days after the Wings won the 1997 Stanley Cup. Although the CD was a one-time project, McCarty, who had been interested in singing, hooked up with Reedy and Grinder was born.

Band manager Reed Hurrell said that because of McCarty's hockey commitment, the band has been a summer-only endeavor. The NHL lockout, which has delayed the start of the season and may cause its cancellation, has given the band an opportunity to hit the road.

"This is really exciting for them," Hurrell said. "They haven't been able to play in college towns when school was in session. We expect a great crowd and a great show."

Hurrell said the band generates interest from both hockey and music fans. McCarty says he knows that his notoriety as a Red Wing attracts people, but feels the music will keep them.

"I know we're a celebrity band," McCarty said. "That's what gets many people through the door. But we're also a good band and our goal is to give people a good time. It doesn't matter why they came, people want to have a good time and they will."

McCarty said music, like hockey, has always played an important part of his life and in many ways the two are similar.

"I'm an adrenaline freak," he said. "There are a lot of similarities with music and hockey, they really go together. I listen to music before a game to get ready. But with hockey you put in a 30 second shift then have to sit down for a few minutes. With rock and roll you're up on that stage non-stop for an hour and a half."

McCarty's success as a hockey player is largely due to his work ethic. As a member of Detroit's "grind line" he is known for his hard work. He says the band's name reflects his hockey persona.

"We got the name from the kind of hockey I play , but I still think it's a great name for a band," McCarty said. "There are a lot of bad band names out there. I'm really thankful to be in a band with a cool name."

Not only does the band have a cool name, but a cool Web site. It was the Web site that led to Grinder's U.P. gigs. Ernie Beutler of Up Hill 41 said he received a call from Hurrell asking if there was any interest in booking the band.

"He said that they were getting a lot of activity on the Web from the Houghton, Hancock area," Beutler said. "The Web site asked people if they wanted to see the band in their area. There were so many responses from around here, that their manager called."

Not only did Beutler book the band, he called club owners he knew from Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie to see if they were interested as well.

Grinder will be at the Satisfied Frog in Sault Ste. Marie, tonight, Up Hill 41 Friday and then will play at Up Front & Co. in Marquette on Saturday. The band plays both original songs and covers. But selected cover songs.

"You won't hear us doing 'Three Doors Down,'" he said with a laugh. "We do some really cool covers of tunes by the Stooges, MC5, Motorhead and others. We also play eight to 10 original songs."

While McCarty is enjoying the time with his band, he knows it will stop if the NHL season starts.

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