‘Watchman Upstairs’ fuels heavy metal music scene in Port Huron

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By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

Port Huron isn’t known for its heavy metal. That’s something Darcy LaFrance wants to change.

As the guitarist for the heavy-metal band, Watchman Upstairs, LaFrance remembers the first show he and his three band members performed together.

“It was great, really high-energy. We weren’t sure how we would be received considering we are a little bit of a different style than other bands,” LaFrance said. “People who have never let heavy bands play in their bars have asked us back now.”

Months later, the Port Huron-based band was told it would open for Puddle of Mudd at Harpo’s Concert Theatre in Detroit on Feb. 21.

Watchman Upstairs has three shows prior to Harpo’s, but headlining for a national act is heavy on the members’ minds.

“We are about the music and making our own sound,” LaFrance said. “This will be the first time we play with an international act. It’s a big honor to be able to play with someone of that caliber. People don’t realize the talent that comes out of this town. We’ve got Chad Nicefield, who is now with (the band) Wilson. Hopefully, we can follow in his footsteps.”

The band’s members are made up of LaFrance on guitar, Mick Papineau as lead singer, Dan Ganim on drums and David LaFrance — Darcy’s cousin — on bass.

David has been playing bass since he was 11 years old and, before joining Watchman, he performed for 20 years with a band called Petty Cash.

Although they are first cousins, Darcy and David had never jammed together prior to the band forming. After David’s band went on hiatus, he called Darcy and said, “Hey, let’s do something.”

LaFrance said once he and David teamed up, he noticed Ganim had made a few posts on Facebook in search of a band. It didn’t take long for the four to get used to one another as they picked the music and refused to dictate the direction in which they performed.

“The relationship I have with the other guys, it’s just unreal the way we interact with one another,” LaFrance said. “In such a short time we have become a family.”

That interaction can be seen in the band’s process of coming up with songs.

While LaFrance comes up with the melodies, Papineau writes along to the sound of it.

Vocalist Mick Papineau performs a song, Monday, Jan. 5, with the rest of his Watchman Upstairs band mates. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

Vocalist Mick Papineau performs a song, Monday, Jan. 5, with the rest of his Watchman Upstairs band mates. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

“We’ll just come up with a riff and build on that and create a song,” David said. “Mick puts the lyrics together depending on how we feel. It’s like we are going in the same direction at the same time.”

After three months together, Watchman Upstairs has an about-45 minute set list. LaFrance said the band already has songs everyone expects and requests at their concerts, including “Hooligan” and “Poison Society.”

Even their fans have embraced the band’s mentality by dubbing themselves Hooligans, David said.

The band’s name can be traced back to its bassist’s apartment. Outside of his work with the band, David is a night watchman for a storage unit upstairs near his apartment.

Leading up to a show, David said, each member of the band has his own way of getting ready.

“It’s a release of all the stuff we try to put together; we finally get to show it off,” he said. “I think every one of us has their own little thing, relaxing or getting your mind ready.”

The band has created a half-dozen songs in its three-month existence, and with the success the band already has experienced, David said, “Maybe someday local bands will open for us.”

“No matter how big or small, we will always try to support the local scene,” David said. “Right now, it’s a dream come true. I would say music is right up there with one of the most important things of my life.”

LaFrance said the band’s future only will get better after the Feb. 21 concert.

“The way it’s taken off already in such a short amount of time, if we are all still together five years from now, I can see us touring nationally,” he said.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 7, 2015)

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