Stealing Allan's Rights
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Stealing Allan's Rights

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"Worshiping Venus"

It’s a quandary every musical group has faced at some point: playing with shitty bands.

Sometimes, you just gotta do it — to fill out a lineup, to secure a gig, to get in with a particular venue; it goes with the territory.

Even in such a musically rich city as Detroit where the talented, envelope-pushing bands far outweigh the sucky ones, musicians can still have a tough time creating a flowing lineup, often being forced into playing with bands with drastically mismatched sounds.

It was this universal conundrum that initially prodded songstress Diana Balsama to organize the Venus Ball collective — and the fact that it focuses on chicks in rock just makes it that much cooler.

Balsama, singer for the band S.A.R. (and a junior high choir teacher by day) spent many years flexing her pipes in the blues scene, along with such luminaries as Thornetta Davis. A few years ago, she was asked to sing backup for the Orbitsuns’ appearance at the Detroit Music Awards. When she showed up for rehearsal, she was blown away by the number of talented female musicians she ran into — one was nationally celebrated singer songwriter Liz Larin.

“We were all talking about how we never get to see each other play,” recalls Balsama, “because we’re busy doing our own shows, and I thought it would be great to book a show with all these women so we could play together.”

Larin and Balsama put their heads together, and brought in Emily Rogers, bass player for RIB, who was recommended for her organization and management skills.

The first Venus Ball was held in December 2002, closely followed by a Valentine’s show in 2003 and a gig at Mount Clemens’ Emerald Theatre shortly thereafter. Each show sported a diverse lineup of female musicians, ranging from folk to rock to singer-songwriters.

“I definitely feel more camaraderie playing with other women,” says Balsama. For some reason there’s a lot more energy. There’s this myth that women are competitive, and I

I haven’t seen it [with the Venus Ball]. It’s very open and supportive.”

And not hostile to the Y chromosomes either. Men are welcome to perform; organizers only ask that at least one band member be female.

“We didn’t want it to be, ‘If you have boys you can’t play,’” says Rogers. “And the guys love it — at least, the guys in my band do!”

This year, the Valentine’s show will spread over an entire weekend, with scheduled performers including Liz Larin, Whit Hill and the Postcards, Thornetta Davis, Carolyn Striho, Tamara Bedricky, S.A.R., RIB, the Killer Flamingos, Iris, and Rachel White.

The lineup for the Venus Ball is also unusual in that no single performer is featured as a headliner. Instead, the evening begins with more subdued acoustic acts, and gradually builds to a crescendo of rock, rhythm and blues by the end of the evening.

“It’s something the audience has really enjoyed in past shows,” says Balsama.

And, of course, an event organized by women is bound to pay attention to the finer little details: the venue will be decorated in a Middle Eastern theme, with draped fabrics, carpets and statues. Artist Chris Kastor will set up a large canvas onstage alongside the bands, and paint throughout the night.
“He doesn’t come in with a fixed idea. He just lets the music dictate it,” says Balsama. “The musicians just love it.”

A woman’s touch, indeed.

Catch the Venus Ball’s Valentine’s show at the Magic Bag (22920 Woodward, Ferndale) on Friday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 14. Call 248-544-3030 for lineups.

Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail
- Metrotimes


Wasn’t the Halloween of 2002 a weirdo experience for everyone? Honestly didn’t you fell just a little overkill with the devils, demons ‘n death thang’? As much as I love monsters, the thought of laid-back, liquored-up gatherings with friends around a freshly-cut conifer seemed more appealing this year than ever. Add the familiar female element, and voila – The Venus Ball.

In their bio, Ravenwood has a Fleetwood Mac thang’ going on. Live, it was like a girl-folk version of Creed. Iris’ songs were total attitude power, such that it was Aretha’s spirit which opened this event.

R.I.B. persuasively let the Venus love thang’ flow, when Daphne “Voice Like a Wood Nymph in Autumn” Briggs casually acquired the stage with her smooth, R&B presence. This band could get the mojo going in all three gears of groove.

Seems like line-ups change at the drop of a hat, and headliner Liz Larin chose to go on third instead of last. This Strat-wielding songstress and her band kicked into some recognizable folk-rock, definitely industry standard stuff.

At this point, I realized I had a mixed commitment on this evening, so a-hoofing I did go to the New Way Bar to catch the party.

The Kingsnakes had just plunged into a set of classic grove rock with a striking metallic twist. What charged the well-attended venue the most about this clan was their electric fun stage presence. Look out for these rockin’ reptiles in 2003.

So, just who was shake ‘n baking the Bag when Marky returned? Some Assembly Required had the house booty booming with the total Venus love beat. Dynamite Diana was up front with her crew, spreading the holiday cheer in a Melissa E/Gloria E. “Miami Sound Machine” sort of way. Props go out to her band, especially the guitarist, sweeping the crowd away with the S.A.R. sound.

This was their night, and S.A.R. shined warm and bright. Star Wars art man with the plan Matt Busch was on hand, along with a bevy of Detroit celebs, so you know this was the place to be on Friday.

Hats off to sweet Stacia for pulling last slot. She followed up when many national acts would have been blown away after S.A.R.’s party blast. Stacia’s tasty tunes were slow and sultry, and perhaps she should have launched the Venus Ball.

But again, though, after the S.A.R. lambada, the house had paired off in search of mistletoe. Cheers to Heckler Entertainment for another mojo-booming party of ultra proportions. Likewise, best wishes to for a successful start up year. Chow wow wow!
- Detroit Jam Rag

"Breaking the sound barriers"

It may help increase the visibility of female musicians in Detroit, but for Venus Ball concert organizer Diana Balsama, there’s a simpler reason behind the gig as well.

“[I wanted] to do a show with people I want to hang out with,” said the vocalist, who fronts the pop/rock band S.A.R.

On Dec. 6, S.A.R. will share a stage with internationally known pop/rock singer/songwriter Liz Larin, the Celtic/Led Zeppelin-influenced alternative rock/pop band Ravenwood, the funk/rock groove of RIB, and pop/rocker Stacia at the Magic Bag Theatre in Ferndale during the first Venus Ball, a showcase for female songwriters. The bands may vary musically, but all feature a strong female presence.

Balsama, a Clinton and Shelby Township native, began planning the show with friends from the local music scene, including Larin and Emily Rogers, bass player for RIB and Ravenwood.

“There’s not really a lot of support in the Detroit music scene,” Rogers said. “People don’t really come together like they should. We’re trying to build a community, and hoping Detroit supports us. We want to salute some of the awesome women in rock, because it’s such a male genre.”

The event is a chance for the bands to network, build their audiences and put on a show that allows organizers to exercise their creativity. If it goes well, Balsama said organizers hope to put together similar shows in the future, although they may not all be organized based on gender.

“We’ve gotten great responses [so far],” Rogers said. “This is the first one we’re doing, and we hope it becomes an annual event.”

Since most of the bands feature men as well, Balsama is quick to note that “it’s not to say we’re more important than the guys in the band.”

Unlike the standard gig, in which bands plug in and play, Venus Ball organizers are taking the big picture into account, with plans to deck the hall and build ambiance.

“More than anything, it’s about bands connecting and sharing, not just showing up for a gig,” Balsama said.

You can reach K. Michelle Moran at
- C&G Newspaper

"Creative differences keep S.A.R. together"

In their nearly five years together, the pop/rock band SAR (a.k.a. Stealing Allan’s Rights) has grown musically — in more ways than one.

Besides honing their songs and stage chops, SAR has added instrumentation (keyboardist Jeff Rebrovich of Clinton Township), and will be adding another female singer, Anamaria Ylizaliturri (whose credits include singing with the Michigan Opera Theatre and Prince).

The result, said guitarist and Sterling Heights native Steve Caldwell, is “a nice, full, round sound — live especially.”

Caldwell is among SAR’s core members, who also include singer/lyricist and Shelby Township native Diana Balsama and drummer Pete Cvetanovski of Sterling Heights. Although the band is in search of a permanent replacement for former bass player Irfan Sheikh, well-regarded local bass players John Dunn and Luke Sayers (of Tangerine Trousers) fill the gap for now.

SAR’s founding members bring different musical tastes and backgrounds to bear in their performance and songwriting. Balsama sang blues and R&B in the years before SAR, while Cvetanovski’s tastes run to heavier fare, and Caldwell said he prefers more melodic music. Those varied interests, as well as the band members’ sharp musical skills, are evident on “Coming Back Around,” SAR’s new CD, which was released in July. Balsama said SAR hopes to book college shows in Michigan and neighboring states, and said the band will continue its involvement with the Venus Ball concert series, a showcase for female-fronted musical acts that Balsama and several fellow musicians launched last year.

For all of the band’s successes in the last couple of years, there have been a few hurdles to overcome, too. SAR was originally known as “Some Assembly Required,” but after performing under that name, they were contacted by a Roseville musician who said he’d been in a band by the same name in the 1980s. After the musician (identified by SAR as “Allen”) reportedly refused to sell the band the trademark for the name, the members of SAR opted to change the meaning of the acronym to Stealing Allan’s Rights.

What keeps SAR together, say members, is the room they give each other to explore and experiment.

“Every time we write a song, it’s just like a new thing, and we always go different directions [with it],” Caldwell said. “We try not to limit ourselves … so I think that really helps keep it all together, because it’s always something new, and there’s really no restrictions. We’re not

trying to achieve a certain sound, per se, but yet when we write a song, it always sounds like us.”

Cvetanovski said they’ve also developed musically.

“Four years in a ‘relationship,’ you tend to grow and go through good and bad together, which makes the music that much more true,” he said.

There’s an internal closeness as well.

“We fight like [siblings], and I like it that way, because we can just tell each other how we feel, and then after being mad at [my bandmates], I can leave [practice] an hour later and have a flat tire and call Steve … and he’ll say, ‘Where are you at?’” Balsama said.

Ultimately, the members of SAR say they’re united by creative understanding and belief in the band.

“With all of our differences, and even as strong-willed as we all are … we can still accomplish so much in a short period of time,” Balsama said. “I really wouldn’t want to be in another band.”

You can reach K. Michelle Moran at

Catch the concerts

SAR will be performing an in-store concert at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Harmony House, 28297 Woodward in Berkley, (248) 544-1700, and a show with RIB at 9 p.m. Oct. 25 at Greektown’s Music Menu, 511 Monroe in downtown Detroit (313) 964-MENU. “Coming Back Around” is available at Tower, Harmony House and some other retail outlets, as well as directly through the band; visit for more information.

- C&G Newspapers


"Coming Back Around" LP Released in July, 2003
"Before You Sleep" Single--Streaming -Radio Play in Germany
"Over It" Single --Streaming
"My Favorite Everything" Single --Streaming
"You Chose Me" Single --Streaming
"Once Upon A Time" Single --Streaming



Originally established in 1999 as Some Assembly Required, STEALING ALLAN’S RIGHTS has survived the many obstacles and challenges brought on by the tumultuous currents of the music industry. From being forced to change their name, to having to let go of long-time friends and musical comrades/personnel, this popular metro-Detroit, original rock band is committed to delivering one thing and one thing only: timeless music that is “true to the songs,” and powerful, high energy shows. Through all the changes they’ve endured, songwriting partners and co-founders of STEALING ALLAN’S RIGHTS, Pete Cvetonovski (drums) and Diana Balsama (lead singer), believe in a “no compromise” philosophy when it comes to taking this band to the next level.

They released their first full-length album, Coming Back Around, in July of 2003 with original members, Irfan Sheikh (bass guitar) and Steve Caldwell (lead guitar), and by that time, they had already earned a loyal fan base and professional credibility within the Detroit music scene. Opening for such national acts as MEN AT WORK and SPONGE, and performing in houses such as THE MAGIC BAG, EMERALD THEATRE, and THE MAGIC STICK, STEALING ALLAN’S RIGHTS pleases any audience of all ages. In April of 2004, Coming Back Around lent them the nomination for the DETROIT MUSIC AWARDS in the “Outstanding Pop Artist/Group” category.

2002 proved to be an extremely busy year for STEALING ALLAN’S RIGHTS as well, and not just because of their own music accomplishments, but also because of the birth of Balsama’s theme show, VENUS BALL, which launched its debut that December. As a collaborative effort, Balsama (backed with the support of Cvetanovski and Caldwell) invited popular local musicians, Liz Larin and Emily Rogers, to help create an event that celebrates and supports the vision of female musicians and songwriters. Through this experience, they are able to support a very important facet in the Detroit music scene—to give women musicians/songwriters the respect they deserve. Since then, VENUS BALL has proved to be an exciting show that STEALING ALLAN’S RIGHTS looks forward to every year, as it provides Detroit’s best Rock and Roll music to a constantly growing audience.

As 2006 begins, Cvetanovski, Balsama and Bass player Rik Latta are creating their most exciting album yet with such singles entitled, “Suddenly,” and “Before you Sleep,” produced by Nolan Mendenhall and recorded and mixed at Roscoe’s Recording in Detroit. This album will reveal the raw Rock-Nostalgic sound that supports the lyrics and the stories the songs tell. With all of the changes they’ve endured, Cvetanovski, Balsama, and Latta eagerly embrace this new album with one thing in mind: to create timeless music with no compromises whatsoever.