Kato X: The Future is Now

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What’s the best way to attract visitors to the Greater Mankato area?

What about potential renters and homeowners from the Twin Cities or out-of-state?

How do we get even a percentage of the thousands of young professionals that pass through the hallowed halls of MSU to stay in the River Valley?

Okay, those last two issues are tough to tackle, at least in the space allotted. But visitors, right? Let’s start there.

Mankato and North Mankato are trying to STIMULATE GROWTH by relying on conference centers, sports complexes, and sporting events to work as magnets to draw revenue from peripheral populations.

So, again, what’s the best way to not only attract visitors, but entice them to spend their hard-earned $$$ at local businesses so they’ll support the entities that are unique to our city…

…while ALSO easing the tax burden we placed on ourselves to erect these sport-centric hubs in the first place?

Should we represent the best aspects of our city at a major regional sporting event that will draw upwards of 3,000 out-of-towners instead of letting attendees scavenge the big-box wastelands of East Mankato for the nearest Olive Garden?

Or should you make a VR simulation of PETTING A GOAT in a park named after a guy that sentenced 303 people to death without due process?

 

I think the choice is clear.

Thanks, Greater Mankato Growth.  THE FUTURE IS NOW

Nato Coles is Coming On Saturday and You Should Go

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[photo:kendra sheetz]

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band are playing at NaKato on Saturday. You should go.

There’s been a lot of effusive wordage spilled about this band in redjacket pages past, so interest of avoiding redundancy: Just go to the damn show. Especially if you have an affinity for Springsteen, Lynott, or whoever the hell that guy from the Gaslight Anthem was. Listen:

Music starts at 10. Disclaimer: If your ideal evening of live music involves some quaintly-Minnesotan combination of beards, mandolins, and unnecessary scarves, bring earplugs.

Speaking of earplugs, it’s New Metallica Day, and old kids like me were mildly excited to hear the band’s first new record since 2008’s dull-ass goodwill gesture Death Magnetic. For the most part, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct continues that album’s core mission: turning Metallica from a band that attempted to flirt with artistic relevance and crossover appeal into one that just plays the fuckin’ hits, maaaaaaan.

The Classic Rock Act transformation is completed here, as they rely on familiar, self-aware riffs to tick as many fanservice boxes as they can. Sometimes it works, and it doesso at a higher rate than Death Magnetic. But sometimes it feels contrived, and like everything this band has done since 1988, it’s WAY too long, which makes the Load meets Sabbath Bloody Sabbath vibe of the mid-paced tracks an absolute chore.

But there are some true bangers here in the form of “Atlas, Rise!” and “Spit Out the Bone,” proving that Dad Thrash is alive and well:

Anyway, yeah. Play some air guitar tonight and get hype.

See you Saturday, Mankato.

 

 

RJKT III: November Coming Fire

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[Yes, I know I’ve used that Samhain reference for every post I’ve made in November since the advent of dial-up. Fight me.]

Okay, remember when we said RJKT was going to be a bi-monthly print publication?

If you didn’t notice, we lied. But not intentionally.

Putting together Issue 002 last summer was one of the best experiences of my life, but it was also one of the most stressful. I got to work with some of the coolest people in this tiny city and create something that was totally independent, totally unfiltered, and (for the most part) totally rad. And the reception was great—which kinda sucked, actually, because that meant that we had to make more of them.

Despite the stress involved in getting that issue cranked out by our self-imposed deadline, I was ready to hit the ground running and blast out some more content once the dust had settled.

Then I got drunk.

For a few months.

See, the problem with being a functional alcoholic is that sometimes, the level of actual function grinds down to the barest of Bare Minimums: Show up for work. Pay your bills. (Better late than never.) Shower a few times a week. Vote. Buy more gin.

And after a while, you wake up and realize that time flies when all you’re doing is surviving.

But that months-long haze wasn’t devoid of moments of clarity. One revelation? The truth about keeping free, fun projects like RJKT fun is to keep them generally free of constraints. If there’s one thing I took away my years-long, unpaid career as a music “journalist,” it’s that a hobby is only a hobby if it’s actually fuckin’ enjoyable. As soon as it becomes a job, it, well, becomes a job. Most people hate their jobs. And with RJKT, we didn’t want to start hating the damn thing before it even got off the ground.

So, while our little crew was busy crushing tequila shots and locking themselves in a Halloween-costume warehouse for 40+ days and running for city council seats, we broke a promise. To the seven people that we’re waiting for Issue 003 to drop already: We’re sorry. But we’re going to make it up to you. Here’s how:

  • Issues of RJKT will still cover a two-month period, but we’ll put them out whenever the hell we want. One of the reasons why this blog kinda died is because entertainment events in Kato are both highly repetitive and really, really streaky, making them a chore to cover. This summer brought a buzz of activity, but did you really need a printed alt-monthly to tell you that Nelly was coming this fall? (That shit sucked 15 years ago, people.) Or that a bunch of cranky, white-haired out-of-towners were going to shut down Belgrade Avenue every Thursday to worship decrepit, moblie relics of the fossil fuel industry? Not really. I DIGRESS
  • We’re going to update the blog more often, even if the posts are just short bursts of inanity with a Bandcamp embed attached
  • We’re going to do a new issue very, very soon
  • It’s going to make good on a promise from back in the early blog days, and it’s going to be killer (This one’s for you, Joe)

So yeah. See you soon, Mankato.

Also, listen to Stage Four.

 

Happy Labor Day, Mankato (or: I Have A Crush On You So I Made You A Playlist)

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The Twilight Sad

Labor Day oft signifies the final day of summer. (And if you think that’s all it’s about, I suggest you start brushing up here. And here.) This particular summer has been one of the most intense periods of my life, both physically and mentally. It’s been awesome. It’s been awful. It’s been fuckin’ ALIVE.

Three things amplified this:

1) My increased connection with my city, which I love dearly; I’m proud to call Mankato my adopted hometown.

2) The direct and indirect support of my friends, both old and new. You’re beautiful people and I love you all.

3) A rekindled relationship with ridiculously uncool music.

So, in the interest of both giving back and being a self-indulgent prick, I made us a Spotify playlist.

Here’s, like, fuckin’, 96 tracks spread across 7 hours of music. No genre rules, no calculation or organization. Just a bunch of songs that kicked my ass or put it back together in a particular way between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Now, if you DO decide to fuck with this playlist, there are a few disclaimers:

A) It MUST be listened to on shuffle and this is NOT negotiable; I put zero thought into the track order–I just went alphabetically and filled in some blanks while backtracking–and randomizing the tracks will only make it weirder…in a good way.

B) Be warned that there’s a lot of wonderfully bad bullshit on here–from mid-80s INXS to mid-90s Napalm Death–mixed in with some brand-newish jams that I think are super legit.

C) On that note, if we’re friends because you knew me from a time when I styled myself as some kind of “authority” on forward-thinking extreme metal, this is effectively a eulogy for that era; there’s enough dad punk and synthpop on here to make a death metal juggalo eat his camo cargos.

D) Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to hear what Jason Molina sounds like sandwiched between Municipal Waste and Lupe Fiasco, your opportunity has finally arrived.

So, as an act of gratitude to the wonderful people of my city, take this little slice of my life and crank it up. Let’s get weird together.

[Also, thank you for your total support of RJKT002. Issue 003 is currently being constructed and will hit the streets this fall. Look out.]

Love, Riffs, and Videotape: An Interview with Fury Things

photo: Darin K

photo: Darin K

[This interview also appears in issue zero of our sister publication, RJKT. Pick up a hard copy at any of downtown Mankato’s finer alcohol, coffee, and tattoo distributors.]

Minneapolis trio Fury Things have spent the past few years whipping up a storm of DIY activity, bashing out colossal riffs (and bigger hooks) at a pace that teeters between blue collar and breakneck. Their prolificacy has paid dividends. In 2015, City Pages named them Best Rock Band, and they’re riding into 2016 with the rare momentum of a young band that’s constantly rewarding their fans. With their latest release, VHS, Fury Things doubled down on melodies without losing an ounce of fuzz-fueled fire, and the result is their most fully-realized statement to date.

In the run-up to the band’s appearance in Mankato at PHE 9, we reached out to guitarist/vocalist Kyle Werstein to talk about the new record, nostalgia, CASH MONEY, and other things that kick ass.

 

2015 seemed like quite the year for you guys. An EP, a high-profile First Avenue set in support of Bob Mould, and a full-length that dropped in December. Is 2016 just going to be about hitting the road and flexing some muscles on the strength of last year’s momentum? Or do you have any fresh tricks up your sleeve?

I think we’ll be doing a bit of both. Success for us as a band involves maintaining momentum. So, yeah, I want us to get out there and play more shows outside the Twin Cities. We’re definitely looking to do some touring around the album and play out more regionally. At the same time, we’ve got some other songs recorded, I’m working on new material and we’re going to be releasing another video before spring. It’s tough to juggle everything, but we’re just trying to stay as productive as we can.

 

Most music scribblers, when pressed to find descriptors for the Fury Things sound, reach back in time for obvious touchstones, such as Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du. In titling your new record VHS, is there any fear that you’ll be perceived as a throwback act? Or is that the intention? Or doesn’t it matter?

The whole VHS concept was kind of a joke that stuck. It’s kinda hilarious to us to see a record with the art of a blank cassette tape. I never particularly intended for us to sound like any band or consciously seem like we’re of a certain era. We got together and the songs sound the way they sound. I’m always trying to write songs I’m proud of and that I hope others enjoy. The same extends to the artwork and design concept of the record. I want people to form their own opinions about our music. If one person thinks we’re trying to be a throwback, that’s cool. It’s totally not my intention, but I can’t control the experience of others. I would hope that for every one person like that, there’s another that simply enjoys the tunes.

 

VHS, at least in terms of title and cover art, taps into an 80s/90s vibe that’s hypercool right now, as evidenced in retrowave (Makeup and Vanity Set, Perturbator), synthpop (M83, Carly Rae Jepsen), and even animated comedies. Are we a doomed generation of suckers that are just as susceptible to the pangs of nostalgia that befell our lame-ass parents and grandparents? Or did that era of pop culture truly, honestly kick that much ass?

Who knows? I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about the rise of the 80s/90s vibe. Personally, I just like what I like. I’ve always been fascinated with infomercials and consumer culture and media in general. I love Tim and Eric and the Found Footage Festival and I think there’s something warm and tactile and otherworldly about blank cassette tapes. As a graphic designer, the aesthetic has always been influential to me. And vaporwave, as a genre, piqued my interest, too. But what I get out of it may be different than what you or Carly Rae Jepsen gets out of it. Obviously for some, the use of the aesthetic stems from borrowing nostalgia because they want to be a certain way. I guess I’m reluctant to say we’re all doomed suckers, but I feel like the tiny details are what separates those who really found something in all that pop culture that resonated with them, from someone just doing it to be ‘cool’. Like, I love Com Truise from a musical and visual perspective because his vision of this neon 80s/90s synth wave world feels so real. There’s a difference between someone like him and someone casually applying filters to their videos in an app. The same goes for Tim and Eric or anyone trying to speak that visual language.

 

But then there’s also an equally big part of me that wants everyone to create things. Like, who am I to judge? I feel like we’re all doing our thing and it’s important to have taste, but not be overly judgmental of others at the same time. So.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

This is your fifth release, but first LP. How important is the EP format in this interconnected Age of Too Much Goddamn Information?

The EP is important, for sure, but more important than that is just releasing stuff consistently. Our LP came together naturally. It actually started as our third EP, but material just kept coming together. We release just about everything we write and that consistency is important for progressing as a band. I think our releases will continue to be a mix of longer and shorter collections, but it really doesn’t matter what it is as long as we keep at it.

 

The final song on Saskatchewan is called “Money’s Dumb.” How dumb is it, and why will it expedite the eventual unraveling of humanity?

The full-line is “money’s dumb when you have none,” and I think that’s true as a creative and a twentysomething and as a passive observer to this strange-ass existence in 2016. I think one of the toughest things you face as an independent musician is the feeling that so much is just out of reach for financial reasons. But we’re a DIY band and we make the most out of every opportunity. We hand-make a lot of our merch and we travel light and make the most of the time we can take off work. But still, people scoff at you when you say you want to be a musician. It’s tough out there.

I imagine money’s pretty sweet when you have enough of it. Or if you live in a country where people see the value in musicians and artists. I have friends in other countries who can’t understand why we don’t tour more because they have things like publicly funded higher education and single-payer healthcare. The song is pretty tongue-in-cheek, but it stemmed from some bitterness toward the system.

 

Final shout to the Mankato masses: Five Minnesota bands that are killing it right now and why:

It’s really, REALLY tough to narrow down a list to five, since there are a lot of cool bands doing cool stuff. But here are a few acts we’ve been thinking about lately:

Strange Relations: I saw these wonderful humans open for The Thermals at the Entry and had zero idea they were a local act. Instant band crush for me. I was mesmerized by the depressingly beautiful melodies they were kicking out and incredibly impressed by drummer/singer Casey’s ability to hold such complex rhythms while totally belting these awesome vocals.

 

Kitten Forever: They consistently kill it and deserve every bit of praise they receive. For me, their ability to energize a room is extremely inspirational. Also, they throw down harder than almost any other band I can think of. Super important messaging and songs. Also, it’s just fun. They played our record release show and it was kind of a dream come true. Recently they opened for Babes in Toyland in the Mainroom at First Avenue after like a decade as a band and I’m sitting here thinking, “Why the hell did it take this long to get them on that stage?”

 

Ego Death: These are some of the hardest working musicians in the Twin Cities right now. They totally beat us in the sheer number of shows they play per month. The songs are beautiful. Jeremy’s a great guitarist. They tour a bunch and you can feel their heart in the music. That’s super important to me. Also, they’re some of the nicest people you could ever meet.

 

Waveless: The first time I saw Waveless, I could have thought I was floating. Plus, I saw Lou Barlow mention their record and it made me incredibly happy. The way the harmonies sit atop this crazy pile of noise…the way it translates live. Their new album, Spirit Island, is definitely worth a listen.

 

The Blind Shake:  Everyone should know about The Blind Shake by now. If I had to pick a singular band in the Twin Cities that I idolized from sheerly their performance, it would be The Blind Shake. It’s incredibly humbling that we get to play with them in April, because every time I get to watch them, I think, “Damn, how can I do that?”

We Didn’t Go Away…We Were Busy Getting Stronger

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This spot has been quiet since bitching about the ineptitude of Mankato motorists and the police officers that are usually eager to generate revenue from their transgressions. For that, I offer exactly zero apologies.

In the interest of brevity (for your sake) and sanity (my own), we’re going to get back up to speed with a numbered breakdown of rant-worthy material. Here’s what’s been brewing behind the scenes:

Regarding the Past

  1. The Mankato Free Press issued their Best of 2015 Reader’s Poll last April, which was promptly skewered for being wrongheaded and shitty. (If the NBA and NHL can’t get fan voting right, the odds of a small city comprised of uncultured, quasi-suburban white people getting their votes correct are pretty abysmal.) At the end of that post, I promised to offer up a real-ass, unsnarky redjacket version of Mankato’s Best of 2015 at the close of, well, 2015.
  2. I didn’t.
  3. There’s a reason for that. I was planning on using the Free Press’ article featuring the winners as a template, making some soft counterpoints and–hopefully–agreeing with some of the selections. Unfortunately for just about everyone involved, the Free Press brain trust published the winners in Mankato Magazine. Which means that their hyper-specific target audience–people without smartphones in waiting rooms–were the only ones privy to the victors.
  4. Since I don’t frequent the DMV or the YMCA men’s locker room, I never came across the final results, and the response piece died.
  5. I’m sure it would’ve been fun, especially considering that Free Press readers voted for Erbert and Gerbert’s over Tandem Bagels for “best sandwich shop.” But…
  6. …it’s pretty easy to tell people what’s up without preaching. Pro tip: cut out the hilltop entirely and do your thing in downtown, Old Town, and Lower North exclusively.
  7. Furthermore, this 10 Best Restaurants list from The Culture Trip is pretty dead-on, rendering any commentary on these pages kinda irrelevant. MOVING ON…

 

Regarding the Present

  1. The Mankato music scene isn’t strong enough to warrant regular updates here, which is why output has slowed.
  2. The reopening of the What’s Up Lounge, hailed by out-of-touch paid writers as a saving grace, hasn’t really made a noticeable impact, and it has failed to become a destination where people actually want to spend their time.
  3. Furthermore, their business strategy seems to be head-to-head competition with Buster’s for has-been/never-will radio rock market share; Buster’s has responded by booking AARON CARTER, proving that capitalism is a sham and that everyone always loses.
  4. Benderz is still awful.
  5. There haven’t been any cool cycling stories to tell because it’s February and February sucks. (Well, Stupor Bowl was okay, I guess.)

 

Regarding the Future

  1. The first print edition of RJKT will hit the streets within the week, featuring an interview with Fury Things amidst a 16-page preview of Midwest Art Catalyst’s Post-Holiday Extravaganza 9.

 

We’re gonna get physical.

physical

AND we’re going to cross-post the articles here, so don’t stray. We’re only getting started.

See you next week, Mankato.

 

Mankato Has New Bike Lanes, But Don’t Worry, You Can Still Park In Them

As you may have noticed, Mankato laid down the first phase of downtown bike lanes in late autumn. Thus far, reviews have been mixed across the board.

A vocal minority of aggressive, uneducated motorists threw their usual shitfit via–what else–Facebook comment threads. (My favorite? A call for a petition to remove the bike lanes, as if the city hadn’t been planning this publicly for well over a year.)

Cyclists and motorists alike were confused by the Poplar Street modifications, which were eventually dissected by the Freep’s Ask Us column. Even so, citizens shouldn’t have to depend on a letter to an editor to learn to how use a slice of road properly.

And avid cyclists have felt a little squeezed by the Broad Street lanes’ proximity to parked cars. The risk of getting doored is high, especially in a town were drivers aren’t accustomed to looking behind them (or pocketing their cell phones) before flinging their doors into the street.

So there are flaws. But as a year-round commuter, it’s tough to see the lane installation as anything but a success, if only because it sends the strongest message possible that bikes belong on the road, not on sidewalks. Furthermore, prioritizing these routes shows some serious vision on the city’s part, as they connect to the off-street/multi-use trails around town with ease. I use them almost daily.

But there’s a problem: People keep parking in them. Especially on the weekends.

I tolerated it for a couple of weeks. This is a new thing for a lot of people–especially Buick drivers–so there was bound to be an adjustment period. Also, cramming driving lanes, bike lanes, and parking spots into the Broad and Cherry Street real estate was a difficult task. Some overhang was to be expected.

After a certain point, though, a keen eye can separate the clueless from the lazy. A full-sized sedan parked the bike lane in front of a church? Okay, you’re probably old as hell and don’t know any better. A glistening BMW parked in front of a law office, though?

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Eat shit, pal.

Immediately after snapping this photo on Saturday, I rode over to the Mankato Public Safety Center, which is a taxpayer-friendly euphemism for POLICE STATION. Typically, I’m averse to contact with cops as they’re usually, you know, assholes.  Yet there was truly a matter of PUBLIC SAFETY that needed attention, and that’s what the front of the building advertises. Parking in bike lanes isn’t just a dick move, it’s a dangerous one:

So, upon arrival, I called dispatch via the telephone in the entryway, and approximately seven minutes later, an officer came down to talk to me. While he didn’t seem particularly interested in the plight of the cyclist, he did take down the information he required: My name and driver’s license number…but none of the identifying characteristics of the offending vehicle.

According to him, their procedure for dealing with this offense is merely to chalk the vehicle’s tires. If the chalked vehicle hasn’t moved in 24 hours, the driver is subjected to a $25 parking ticket.

This is the same penalty for leaving a car parked on the street anywhere in downtown Mankato.

Let me be as plain as possible here: According to this police officer, there is absolutely ZERO penalty for parking a car in Mankato’s bike lanes. You can leave your vehicle in the middle of a bike lane for nearly an entire rotation of the Earth without repercussion.

This is perplexing, because a bill introduced in the Minnesota State Legislature in 2013–and subsequently passed–states that obstructing a bicycle lane with a parked car is prohibited.

Take a quick glance at Minnesota Statute 169.34, paying special attention to number 14:

169.34 PROHIBITIONS; STOPPING, PARKING
Subdivision 1.Prohibitions.

(a) No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device, in any of the following places:

(1) on a sidewalk;

(2) in front of a public or private driveway;

(3) within an intersection;

(4) within ten feet of a fire hydrant;

(5) on a crosswalk;

(6) within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection;

(7) within 30 feet upon the approach to any flashing beacon, stop sign, or traffic-control signal located at the side of a roadway;

(8) between a safety zone and the adjacent curb or within 30 feet of points on the curb immediately opposite the ends of a safety zone, unless a different length is indicated by signs or markings;

(9) within 50 feet of the nearest rail of a railroad crossing;

(10) within 20 feet of the driveway entrance to any fire station and on the side of a street opposite the entrance to any fire station within 75 feet of said entrance when properly signposted;

(11) alongside or opposite any street excavation or obstruction when such stopping, standing, or parking would obstruct traffic;

(12) on the roadway side of any vehicle stopped or parked at the edge or curb of a street;

(13) upon any bridge or other elevated structure upon a highway or within a highway tunnel, except as otherwise provided by ordinance;

(14) within a bicycle lane, except when posted signs permit parking; or

(15) at any place where official signs prohibit stopping.

 

In light of these developments, I’ll leave it to the City of Mankato to answer the following questions:

1) Why did you install bike lanes without implementing a plan to educate motorists about their use?

2) Why are public safety officials ill-equipped to enforce state laws in regards to bike lane blockage?

3) What steps will you take to rectify these oversights?

 

We’ll be waiting for the answers.