Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Summer of 2013

Nice Beaches at the Fine Line Music Café July 6th 2013
As I write this it is now the last day of summer 2013.  The summer has passed in a blur.  The long days of warmth provided the lulling serenity that drives the apathy of indulgence.  After a long cold and snowy spring, the brief Minnesota summer blew by in a haze of humidity with a pervasive din of humming cicadas.  The oppressive heat refused rain fall and the grasses soon showed the signs of a prolonged and thorough drought.  The usually luscious green grasses of the northern climate fell dormant and brown as week after week passed without reprieve from the dryness. 

Jelly Project at the Cabooze July 13th 2013
Naturally Minnesotans savoured the sunny warm weather, absorbing the sun's refreshing rays and relishing in the fleeting phenomena that is summer in this dynamic climate.  Summer in Minnesota is the season of backyard barbecues, block parties, lazy afternoons, and road construction.  With so little of the year reliably snow free, the government and industry goes into high gear to squeeze in as many projects as possible before being constrained by the whimsy of mother nature. 

Step Rockets playing at Lake Harriet Band Shell August 13, 2013
Though I intend to cover a good many of the events from our summer season, I should highlight one new band in particular.  Among the great surprises of the summer was the resounding response received by Step Rockets for their second single "Kisser".  Within the first month it was released they received over 100,000 plays on their Soundcloud account alone!  People in the music industry all over the globe started to take notice as music reviews and blog posts popped up across the internet in response to their catchy new summer hit.  Sure, Robin Thicke and Miley Cirus stole the nation's attention with their raunchy and controversial performance at the MTV VMA's, which ironically overshadowed the blatantly racist African American women backup dancers in bear costumes.  None the less, in my humble opinion the real song of the summer was not the Marvin Gaye sounding Blurred Lines, but rather the new Kisser single by Step Rockets.  This is a tall order indeed, but naturally the national media's attention profoundly overemphasises the major labels in lieu of the litany of smaller releases by bands whose originality and creativity dwarfs the monolithic industry giants' posterchildren. 

La Madness at the Cabooze July 13th 2013
Step Rockets were not however the only ones to make releases this summer in the Twin Cities music scene, but I will cover those in due time as I look back on the events in the last few months.  So without further ado, it is time for a recounting of those happenings.

I should begin with the start of July when Vita.mn took a pole of their readership and the local community to make their list of lists.  http://www.vita.mn/best-of/215711651.html Along with recounting the best in fashion, drink, and dining, they presented the musicians of the area with a few categories to compete for position as the best of the twin cities in 2013.  In the music category there were lists from the best record stores in town, the best rappers, and the sexiest band, to the best bands to see live.  There was a list for everyone's interests.  Although some of the lists compiled for the music section did not make it into the print version, most of the lists are available online to represent the interests of the community at the time.  However, I do have a bone to pick with their decision to omit the list of best bands to see live in the cities.  Many of the bands who were on that list, along with their supporters, resent the indignity they received in response to their hard work and determination.  Many in the local music scene were dismayed, but we collectively shrugged off the inconsistency in coverage to disrespectful attitudes within the magazine toward the artists they do not specifically endorse that managed to sweep the top ranks.  It was a disrespectfully saddening slight to the hard working original music writing underdogs of the local music scene in the Twin Cities.  As one person put it, they were not surprised since Vita.mn is less a reputably impartial observer and more a tabloid magazine interested in pop culture at the expense of the camaraderie that holds the network of starving musicians in the area together.  So it is what it is.  The musicians will continue to strive for exposure in lieu of the expected recognition from vita.mn.

Moving on, independence day 2013 brought the Enormous Beast CD release party at the 7th Street entry with Danger Ron and the Spins.  Conveniently located down-town near the river, it was just a short distance to walk to see the fireworks display by Saint Anthony Main.  After the display, the bands celebrated our country's independence with an intense show.  

Via at The Pourhouse July 19th, 2013
The next big event was the VIA CD release party at the Pourhouse July 19th.  Their intense grunge rock style has taken the Minneapolis alternative music charts on reverbnation.com by storm.  They currently rank #1 on the Minneapolis Local Alternative music Chart and people in the industry are really starting to take notice!  Definitely check them out. 

Poverty Hash at Palmer's Bar for Palmfest 2013
Later that weekend on July 20-21 was Palmer's Bar's PalmfestPalmer's Bar is one of my favorite venues in the cites.  It's a small "dive" bar on the West Bank area by the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.  The liquor pours are reliably generous.  The crowd is a diverse blend of hipsters, hardened souls, college students, and long time regulars.  The indoor space is small, intimate, and offers two options for stages depending on the size of the bands playing.  Though larger bands are put in the corner by the entrance to allow for a modicum of space in the tiny bar, I feel the small stage at the end of the bar near their patio door acoustically provides one of the best sounds for any venue in the cities because of the conical shape of the room.  However, that day much of the music was being played outside on a temporary stage set up on their expansive and uniquely iconic patio in the back.  The event was lively and entertaining with a range of Twin Cities musicians from different genres.  I only attended a few of the performances, including a few particularly entertaining bands I've seen before: The High Crimes, Poverty Hash, Southside Desire, Blackmarket Brass, and Black Diet.  Regardless of the brevity of my stay, the festival was a resounding success as can always be expected from the West Bank music scene. 

On Sunday July 21st I was invited by the band La Madness to join them for the filming of the music video for their song "Got Me Wrong".  However, I will be devoting a whole post to the shoot after their Video release party this next weekend, so as not to spoil the surprise.  Suffice to say at this point that I had a fantastic time.  It was a true honor to be invited to see the process. 

The warmth of the summer continued unabated with beautiful weather greeting us every day.  Soon it was August already.  My 29th birthday passed on August 5th without much fanfare since it fell on a Monday this year.

On august 8th a local artist one of my old high school friends told me about, named Sasha Mercedes, released her new album "Captives" at the Three Crows Café and  coffee house.  Although I missed the show, I would definitely suggest taking a listen to her soulful Americana music.  She has a beautifully relaxing voice. 

The following weekend was the 10th annual Pizza Luce Block Party on August 10th, 2013.  This year the Pizza Luce block party was held next to their down-town location, rather than the usual Uptown location, in honor of the down-town location's 20th year serving some of the best artisanal pizza in the Twin Cities.  Along with the nationally renowned bands After the Burial and Motion City Soundtrack closing out the night to enormous crowds, the festival also featured some of the Twin Cities' best lesser known musicians including: Pennyroyal, who sport a few employees of the Luce pizza chain; one of the most impressive local rap artists, Sean Anonymous; and the up and coming band BloodnStuff, who's song "Fire Out At The Sea" was getting regular play on Minnesota Public Radio's The Current this last winter.  Overall the block party was a huge success.  Through the support of The Current and the local news publication Cities Pages, the crowds thronged to the streets to see one of the summer's most anticipated events.
Cannons North
Martin Devaney
Sean Anonymous
Frankie Lee
After The Burial
Motion City Soundtrack

The night did not end with the Pizza Luce Block party however, there were a couple other shows that followed.  I dropped by briefly to the Kitty Cat Club in dinky-town where San Dimas, Enormous Beast, Space Cats, and Nice Beaches played.  However, I had a purposeful destination right by the Pizza Luce Down-town location I soon headed to.  At the Fine Line Music Cafe there was another Itmusic.us promoted show with the bands Hog Nosed Basterds, July Fighter, Tender Meat, and The Style Biters.  That night Itmusic.us had broadcast their intent to hold a dance competition during The Style Biters set for a $50 target gift-card.  They are an intense video game music inspired electronica/rap/band hybrid that breaks down the barriers between nerddom, pop culture, and local music.  As an avid dancer to local music I made it a point to be there for the dance competition, and I succeeded in winning the prize!  Overall it was a fantastically fun day packed to the brim with great local music. 

The Style Biters at the Fine Line Music Café

Later that weekend on Sunday August 11th I went to Cause Spirits and Soundbar to see Danger Ron and the Spins play.  They have recently released a new EP called Petition for Peace that showcases the newest music they have been performing over the summer.  They are great people and really fun to see perform live.  The other bands were new to me and included a local band called Chalk and a really fun band from Iowa called The Olympics

Later in August I missed the 23rd art opening at Cause Spirits and Soundbar on August 16th because I was headed out to my first ever music festival in south-west Minnesota at the Minnesota River Valley Sanctuary and Retreat.  The festival was put on by Seahorse Productions and it was called the Valhalla Music festival.  This was a small festival by comparison to others that happen nationwide, but it was a very fun intimate reasonably sized gathering of local musicians and their fans.  From bands I knew like Dead Larry, MeMeMe, and Thee Evil Creatures, to all the ones I didn't, it was a very entertaining weekend filled with debauchery and relaxation. 

Late August brought the Minnesota State Fair as always.  I did not make it out to the fair this year, but I should note that my friends in the A Capella group Six Appeal were lucky enough to perform there on August 22.

Enormous Beast at Cause Spirts and Soundbar August 23rd
Iguano at Cause Spirits and Soundbar August 23rd 2013
While the fair was commandeering much of the populace to their indulgently succulent food and variety of live entertainment, I headed to Cause spirits and Soundbar once again to see Space Cats, Nice beaches, Enormous Beast, and a band that was new to me called Iguano.  My heart goes out as always to the crew of Space Cats, Nice Beaches, and Enormous Beast for their enjoyable music and drive to perform.  I was likewise impressed with Iguano who have a truly interesting diversity of sound to their songs.  Overall it was a great show.  I will definitely be looking to see more of Iguano.

On August 25th Step Rockets had their "Kisser" single release party at Cause Spirits and Soundbar in Minneapolis.  As I have already stated earlier, this song has literally made people across the globe from Los Angeles, California to Sidney, Australia take notice of this up and coming group of local musicians.  With over 130,000 plays on soundcloud by today's date, this song rightfully serves as the song of the summer for me. The other bands to accompany the Step Rockets that night were Magikatz and the Joseph Walker Band with DJ Kasper filling in the music in between sets. 

The next day Monday August 26th was the Aitas CD release party at the 7th Street entry with Space Monster, Headband Jam, and Kind Country.  I sadly missed that show.  None the less, they are a fun band to see and they deserve acknowledgement for their achievement.

On Tuesday the 27th of August, at the request of my friend Simon Calder, I went to Moto-I near Cause Spirits and Soundbar in the Lyn-Lake area of Uptown to see him perform at their open mic night.  To my surprise the level of talent represented at their open mic night is much higher than most.  Additionally, they constrain each performer to only two songs each and keep the pace moving so that upwards of 30 people can be fit into one night!  With such a large draw of musicians the crowd is quite impressive and the music delivers great entertainment.  Along with the tasty Sake they brew in house, and local beer from The Herkemer next door, I was so impressed by the musical ordeal that I soon made it my goal to write and perform two songs there myself.  I decided to give myself two weeks to prepare two songs and on the 17th of September I succeeded in fulfilling that goal.  Early in the evening September 13th I played two original songs for my first ever live performance of originally written music! 

But I've jumped ahead a bit, The last big event of August was Minnesota Foodstock 2013 at the Cabooze.  As the name subtly implies, this was a benefit show to support the local food-shelves.  People brought food to donate and some of the revenues were likewise donated to the cause.  The list of bands was extensive and served to demonstrate the pervasive generosity of the local music scene to give back to the community even in spite of the fact that most musicians already essentially donate their time, since it should be acknowledged that few are able to break even on their band expenses by gigging or make a profit.  So, hats of to the generosity and candour of the local musicians and patrons for their philanthropic engagement. 
Hot Damn! at Foodstock 2013
La Madness at Foodstock 2013
Nice Beaches at Foodstock 2013
Alicia Rea at Foodstock 2013

Simon Calder and friends performing at the Kitty Cat Klub September 8th
As the summer hours slowly waned, despite remaining hot and exceptionally dry, early September brought the usual confusion of schools starting for the children and young adults of our society.  As a frequent show goer I had almost forgotten how dramatically the crowds at shows near the University pick up after the start of the school year with the young twenty something juniors and seniors at college looking to procrastinate their studies. 

On September 6th I once again traveled to the Nomad World Pub to see Danger Ron and the Spins, Snowbank, Enormous Beast, and Thee Evil Creatures for an Itmusic.us Residency.  To my surprise the bar was packed already before the show started because the Nomad World Pub happens to be the gathering place for the niche of people interested in watching the USA football (Soccer) team games.  So in spite of the patrons being somewhat distracted by their engagement in the game, the musicians were able to bring their music to a totally different crowd from the usual local music show goers.
Danger Ron and the Spins


Thee Evil Creatures

Moving Parts at Memory Lanes September 14th, 2013
Junebug at Memory Lanes September 14th, 2013
Just over a week later on September 14th there were a few events to get to again near the West Bank.  Early in the night I headed to the Memory Lanes Bowling alley to see Moving Parts, Junebug, and What Tyrants.  Though I didn't end up staying through the whole night, it was great to see Moving parts and Junebug again.  Memory lanes is another of my favorite venues in the cities.  Not only do they have cosmic bowling on Saturdays with black lights accentuating all the bright colors and making things glow, but the stage is actually set in the center of the bowling alley on top of the two center lanes.  Although the expansive space of the bowling alley dampens the sound, it actually becomes much easier to hear the lyrics than at most shows at local venues.  Plus, as one of my friends once put it, it's the kind of visually impressive venue he would choose to play on guitar hero. 

Turn Back Now at the Nomad World Pub for their 5 year Aniversary
Breakfast Anytime at the Nomad World Pub
Later in the evening I headed north a bit to the Nomad World Pub to see Turn Back Now's 5 year aniversary show with Nice Beaches, Devil Baby, and Breakfast Anytime.  It was another great show with high exuberance in line with the celebratory nature of the show.

The next day, on Sunday September 15th, I travelled to Saint Paul to join in the shooting of the music video for Thee Evil Creatures' song Dead Soldiers.  The make-up artists made us all into zombies and we had a terrific time pretending to be the living dead while enjoying some beer and socializing.  The final result turned out great.  I am so happy I got the chance to be involved in their music video.

The final weekend of the summer came upon us suddenly.  The warmth of the summer continued unabated in the days, but we finally received a bit of long awaited rain to refresh the flora before the fall season hit.  The evenings began to show the signs of the waning daylight.  The temperatures began to drop much more dramatically overnight into the 50's, foretelling the coming autumn color change.

Calabooze playing in the backyard of a House Party
Fuzzy Machete at Club Underground
Friday September 20th there were two CD release shows I hoped to get to.  Unfortunately I didn't make it to the CD release show for Jon Wayne and the Pain at The Cabooze.  I did however make it to North-East Minneapolis to see Rachel Schroeder's EP release at Club Underground with I Am Fuzz, Fuzzy Machete, Turn Back Now, and The Jelly Project.  On my way there I also dropped by a house party near by to see a friend's band called Calabooze play their first set in a year in their spacious backyard.  In addition to the EP release for Rachel Schroeder, The Jelly Project were also promoting their Kickstarter campaign by having a raffle.  The items included their former beards framed for all time, a couple of the masks from their Stupid Animal music Video, and the original music and lyrics for their song "Need You" on their upcoming album Debaucherous.  To my utter delight I won the latter!  I am now the proud owner of the original sheet music and lyrics for their upcoming song Need You.  Overall the night was full of energy and enthusiasm as we Minnesotans understand full well that the beautiful weather in the evenings will soon be only a fading memory. 

Bad Bad Hats at the 331 club September 21st, 2013
To wrap up the summer of 2013, Saturday September 21st Step Rockets returned from touring the Midwest to perform at the 331 club in Northeast Minneapolis with Bad Bad Hats.  It was a fitting way to conclude the summer of 2013. 

Step Rockets at the 331 Club September 21st, 2013
As one final note, please continue to check out my soundcloud channel for new sets of local music.

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