[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?”
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
- 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.
- I didn’t.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- …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.
- 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
- The Mankato music scene isn’t strong enough to warrant regular updates here, which is why output has slowed.
- 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.
- 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.
- Benderz is still awful.
- 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
- 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.
AND we’re going to cross-post the articles here, so don’t stray. We’re only getting started.
See you next week, Mankato.
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?
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
(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.
It’s Thursday already, so let’s get down to business. While most of this weekend’s festivities are going to be quite familiar to locals (more on that later), if you’re into the whole “live music” thing, Kato’s going to be on fire this Friday.
2nd Annual NYDM 5SRC Toys for Tots Drive (Busters, 9 p.m.; $8 cover, $3 with toy donation)
Scheduled well in advance at Busters after the What’s Up Lounge reopened with a “no hip-hop or extreme metal” policy (which has since been rescinded because money), this benefit is headlined by Mankato death metal heavyweights Face of Oblivion. This will be their second (?) show featuring new vocalist Jesse Watson, who replaced ex-Origin vocalist James Lee earlier this year.
It’s rare for a Midwestern town of Mankato’s size to boast a DM act of this caliber, so it’s cool to see the five-piece ramping up their activity.
Rounding out the bill are local-ish metalcore upstarts HeirAfire, Anoka ReverbNationals Beauty of Decay, and MPLS melodeath manipulators Echoes of the Fallen.
The Last Revel & Charlie Parr (Mankato Brewery, 7 p.m.; $7 advance, $10 door)
Sneakily, Mankato Brewery has become one of our city’s hottest spots for live music. (An ample stage, quality sound, and a steady flow of fresh beer seem to be working in their favor.) Bluegrass / folk shredders The Last Revel have been absolutely buzzing over the course of the last eighteen months, peerlessly triggering shoeless sashaying and mirthful pogo-ing amongst artsy Caucasians.
While The Last Revel have styled themselves as a semi-regular attraction, Charlie Parr’s trips down from Duluth are rare, so this is your best opportunity to catch the crusty folk legend without having to endure the Solstice marathon.
[It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in the Brewery, but if the Mad Butcher IPA is still on tap, CAPITALIZE. While MB may have stumbled out of the gate, the release of this Haymaker killer, along with last summer’s delightful, surprising Kato Lager, means that our hometown beermongers are officially on a roll. Extra bonus: Lola‘s totally righteous food truck is lumbering in from New Ulm, so y’all are SET.]
Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band (NaKato, 10 p.m.; no cover)
This is almost a last-minute booking at the NaKato, with the event page surfacing on FaceDUMBRACISTYELLINGbook just yesterday. At first glance, it looked like this might’ve been another tough Lower North gig for Nato & Co. (their last NaKato appearance was during Boogie on Belgrade and attendance was lackluster), but hey: That Brewery show starts at 7. Nato throws down at 10. If you’re on the right side of the bridge, a doubleheader is mandatory, because this is the best rock n’ roll band that travels to our southern wasteland on the reg. Those that caught their set opening for Cheap Trick at RibFest this summer already know what’s up.
Let’s do this shit…
Yeah, this entire post looks really familiar, doesn’t it?
It’s not a copy-and-paste job. Our scene is just getting that stagnant.
After a little over a year of writing (sporadically) about Mankato nightlife, this blog has been losing steam. Frankly, it’s not that exciting to write about local and regional music when there hasn’t been anything new or fresh that has blown our doors off in ages.
Mankato’s music scene has been in a transitional period for the past year-plus, but the reaction of bookers and promoters hasn’t been one of injecting newfound adventure and excitement. Instead, they’ve displayed trepidation and restraint. While there have been a couple of highlights in 2015, the last time this town was blessed with truly buzzworthy Minnesota music was the Fury Things / Hardcore Crayons show last winter.
Many were clinging to the hope that the What’s Up would jumpstart the scenery once it reopened under new management, but quality bookings have been sparse. The Kult of the Wizard / Highgraves show was a gem, sure, but we’ve either been subjected to scenester stuff that doesn’t appeal to the 21+ crowd or outdated mallrock for the painfully uncool. Their big “get” to close 2015 is “National Recording Artist” Saliva, whose sole hit, 2001’s “Click Click Boom,” likely only triggers excitement among people that watched Sons of Anarchy for the chase sequences. At this stage, it feels less like a hotspot and more like a reanimated corpse.
Meanwhile, most bars seem to be treating live music as an afterthought. Chopps has been doing well with hip hop, and Moonshiner seems to finally be stretching its wings a bit, but as a city, we’re stuck in a rut. The formulas that are working right now are only going to work for a finite period of time, and if bars and venues don’t take risks, the cautious, cyclical booking they’ve been riding for the past 12 months may wear dangerously thin on an increasingly-jaded populace.
Let’s get out there and light some fires, Mankato.
Disclaimer: This post is about professional wrestling.
Well, because. Last Friday, I returned to the repainted n’ rebooted What’s Up Lounge to catch WarRooster–who’ve been highlighted here before–and Nebraska’s Universe Contest, who sounded like a bunch of squathouse anarcho-punks that adopted a violent strain of post-rock instead banging on buckets and ukuleles. And they tore the house down.
Following that, my attorney yanked me away from the SAMCRO-clad Charlie Daniels fans barfing on the Oleander’s patio and threw me headlong into the ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT, where I drank way too much in an effort to compensate for the overall grossness of the late-night / early-morning endeavor and eventually washed up on Saturday’s hungover shores feeling like a withered, soulless, 32-year-old manchild.
Naturally, the best course of action here was to curl up in my bunker and watch a shitload of pro wrestling, because there was a shitload of pro wrestling on television.
WWE hyped their three-day stint at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to near-Wrestlemania proportions, putting on an NXT Takeover show Saturday night and extending Sunday’s SummerSlam card to a full four hours. While that’s an enormous amount of wrestling for any sane human to digest, especially this long-retired indy fan turned newly-minted casual, it largely delivered. The NXT show featured Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s surreal WWE debut, the best women’s title match ever exposed to a national audience, and a superb ladder match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens.
But Sunday. Whew.
In the aftermath, most of the Internet chatter has directed negativity towards SummerSlam’s glut of screwy finishes. Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev ending in a double count out? Bad. The epic Seth Rollins / John Cena title confrontation ending with a Jon Stewart heel turn? Hilariously awesome.
But the false finish / restart that capped the main event bout between The Undertaker, a mystical, undead entity that can somehow teleport, control lightning, AND survive an early-aughts flirtation with Limp Bizkit theme music, and Brock Lesnar, former NCAA wrestling champion and UFC heavyweight titleholder, was the most well-written piece of pro wrestling storytelling in recent memory.
And people hated it.
Here’s why they shouldn’t.
From the outset, Lesnar / Taker matchup had a robust MMA influence running through it, far deeper the mere presence of Lesnar and the character he currently portrays, and unlike anything heretofore seen on WWE programming. Taker has been using an omoplata (known as “Hell’s Gate” in WWE jargon) as a finishing maneuver for years; Lesnar, since his return from his UFC stint, been using a modified kimura to “break” opponents’ arms.
Furthermore, the announcers have been making strides to sell the Undertaker as “the best striker in the WWE,” while Lesnar consistently works double leg takedowns and delivers short shots and hammerfists from side control. While not as blatant as the MMA-style bouts that Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe experimented with nearly a decade ago, the WWE has gone to not-so-subtle lengths to make this particular feud lean more on the “sports” side of sports-entertainment.
Rolling with this “sporting” aspect to the storytelling, The Fed needed a semi-plausible way to end this bout with a non-finish, because only a fool would’ve suspected a clean pin here.
Could they go with a double count-out? Hell no; that was a horrible option even in ’89, and when they pulled it on a meaningless undercard bout on Sunday, the crowd took four dumps on it.
Could they go with a ref bump + interference combo? Well, they already did that earlier in the evening with Rollins-Cena-Stewart, and there wasn’t really a logical third party to do the deed and still keep the storyline centered on the duo.
But most importantly, ref bumps don’t happen in actual sports. Shitty officiating, though? It happens all. the. time.
So here’s how the main event ended, after some back-and-forth action that easily eclipsed their concussion-marred outing at WrestleMania:
- Lesnar locked in his kimura (seen in the header image)
- Seconds later, the timekeeper rang the bell, signaling the end to the match, however…
- …referee Charles Robinson hadn’t called for the bell, leading him to chew the timekeeper a new asshole
- While assholes were being chewed, Lesnar stood in the ring with his back to the Undertaker
- Seizing the opportunity, Taker kicked Lesnar in the dick and locked in his omoplata, restarting the match that Robinson never actually ended in the first place
- Failing to escape the chokehold, Lesnar chose to flip Taker the bird and pass out rather than tap, surrendering victory to the old dead guy
The live crowd didn’t know what to think, until INSTANT REPLAY–something used in the WWE Universe solely for the benefit of home audiences, not for determining actual match outcomes–showed that the Undertaker did in fact tap out to Lesnar’s kimura, yet outside of the ref’s view. The timekeeper, however, saw the tap on the Titantron, and thusly rang the bell to “end” the match.
It was a botched call.
This happens all the time in the NFL. It happens even more often in the UFC, where athletic commissions often don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Split decisions can go to the losing fighter. Refs can had out iffy DQs (see the records of Silva, Erick and Jones, Jon). But the UFC bout that runs the clearest parallel to SummerSlam’s main event? Yoel Romero vs. Tim Kennedy at UFC 178.
At the end of that fight’s second round, Kennedy rocked Romero with a flurry of punches; the “Soldier of God” was clearly saved by the bell. Between rounds, however, he was gifted extra time on the stool to recover–possibly giving Joe Rogan an aneurysm in the process–and came back to KO Kennedy in the third. Now, he faces Jacare Souza in a middleweight title eliminator at UFC 194.
It was a miscarriage of justice, assuredly. Timekeepers, cornermen, cageside doctors, and referees all dropped the ball. But when humans are involved, errors occur. And that’s the angle WWE was gunning for here: The humanity of sport. Leaps of logic and suspension of disbelief can occur in entertainment, because there are no rules; but to draw lines of logic in an arena that often blatantly defies it is ballsier than fans and critics are giving it credit for.
Want decisive finishes? Stick to baseball.
I’ll be hanging out here in the gray area.
Now that dewpoints have dropped, things are starting to heat up. It’s shaping up to be a great weekend for music in Kato (and north from here, for that matter), so let’s crack the lid and dive in:
Drag the River with Pocket Genius [NaKato, 8 p.m., no cover]
While many were mourning the supposed death of Mankato’s music scene during the What’s Up’s hibernation, the NaKato quietly became the spot to see relevant, original music, and it isn’t even a music venue. (And let’s be real: If the What’s Up continues to book plastic/poseur nu-retreads in the vein of 3 Pill Morning, a return to prominence probably isn’t in the cards.) This Thursday, NaKato keeps the streak alive, booking Colorado punks-gone-alt-country-troubadours Drag the River for an off-date before they play First Avenue with Social Distortion on Friday.
Get your shit together and catch a national act at your corner bar.
Oh, hey. Pocket Genius, too. (Seriously. Get your shit together and do this.)
Cheap Trick with The Suburbs and Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band [Vetter Stone Amphitheater, 6 p.m., $5 or $10 depending on whether you have a job]
We outlined the RibFest lineup a few weeks ago, but Cheap Trick hadn’t been formally announced as the headliner, so Minneapolis mini-legends The Suburbs were forced to lay the rails for the hype train. And that’s probably for the better; interested parties were able to to do their homework without being distracted by the looming apocalypse of “I Want You to Want Me,” which is arguably the most obnoxious classic rock zombie this side of “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
But there’s a lot more to Rick Nielsen’s crew than that lowbrow, cash-generating hit, as a cursory listen to …at Budokan‘s “deep” cuts will reveal.
While the opportunity to see a couple of legends–on decidedly different scales–is appealing, the non-throwback draw of the evening is MPLS’ Nato Coles & the Blue Diamond Band, who have developed a deserved following in the Kato area for their blue-collar, Lynott-and-Springsteen-infused punk.
Get there early. Like, quit-your-job early. $5 cans of Schell’s await.
Live with Fastball [Vetter Stone Ampitheater, who:cares, $ribs]
Earlier this week, Smash Mouth announced that they would be pulling out of their RibFest appearance due to illness. (Hey, maybe Guy Fieri’s bestie contracted a YEAST INFECTION after he was PELTED WITH BREAD.) While this will likely disappoint my friend in the VW convertible that was blasting “All-Star” at the intersection of Victory and Glenwood last weekend, I can’t imagine a situation where Live is a downgrade. Their 1994 sophomore album, Throwing Copper, shot the band into MTV rotation on the strength of Ed Kowalczyk’s vocals…
Live’s original lead singer Ed Kowalczyk left the band in November 2009.
Oh. Now it makes sense.
Live without Kowalczyk seems like it’d be similar to Bush touring without Gavin Rossdale. Who would want to witness a band that was shallow and opportunistically-marketed the first time around rendered even sadder and more impotent?
I guess fans of one-record-wonders from the mid-90s have finally found their version of the Sebastian-Bach-less Skid Row.
(And I still don’t know what Fastball sounds like.)
High on Fire with Pallbearer [Mill City Nights, 7 p.m., $20]
Remember when I told you (a few grafs ago) to quit your job to go see Nato Coles? ULTERIOR MOTIVE: You’re better off jobless for the trek up 169 on Monday to see the mightiest power trio in metal at Mill City.
High on Fire just released their seventh album, Luminiferous, which sounds like a High on Fire record. Meaning, it’s AWESOME.
Have they been basically writing two songs (the fast one and the slow one) since Blessed Black Wings? Yep. Does it matter? Nope. They’re basically locked in Slayer / Motorhead mode, yet still at their peak, playing to-eleven rock driven by Des Kensel’s increasingly iconic hitting and Matt Pike’s increasingly increasing waistline. They’re the baddest dudes on the planet, and have been for some time now.
They’re getting direct support from Pallbearer, the most critically-acclaimed doom act since…
…actually, a doom band garnering critical acclaim is relatively new phenomenon. They made waves with a stunning debut that proved to be a robust variation on Warning‘s Watching From a Distance, and they pushed that sound through a Disintegration filter on last year’s Foundations of Burden.
This spot doesn’t often advocate 169-ing, but if you feel like extending your hangover into next week, take the trip up the highway this Monday.
See you out there, Mankato.
As recently as this winter, the sky was falling.
Amid a swell of controversy, Mankato’s longest-running dedicated(ish) music venue, The What’s Up Lounge, closed its doors in January. The Free Press, suddenly concerned with local culture, wrote an obituary of sorts–complete with the token Kato antecdote about how great things were back in the ’90s–and essentially went on to speculate on the death of the city’s music scene. (Nevermind the fact that , after the closing, original acts continued to play regularly at the Wine Cafe, Midtown Tavern, Busters, NaKato, and other establishments, while the paper’s “Currents” page preferred to publish features on Christian rock acts gigging in church basements.)
Meanwhile, scene veterans mourned the spot where they saw some of their favorite shows and / or muscled their own band into something stage-worthy. And this blog right here–written by some jackass with the audacity to spend previous portions of his life in slightly-larger cities with more robust music scenes–bid adieu to a venue that had obviously devolved into a pocket-change generator stapled atop the dive bar entrenched downstairs.
Six months later, the sky has been restored…well, the Mankato music venue positioned closest to the stratosphere has, anyway.
Yes, the Oleander Saloon and What’s Up Lounge are under new ownership, and the What’s Up has its grand reopening event scheduled for this Saturday. In preparation, this new team has put forth some positive changes, such as concluding shows by midnight (which makes sense on about every conceivable level) and employing an extra security staffer during shows, rather than leaving the doorperson and bartender to fend themselves.
[Self-Editor’s Note: I don’t want to make it seem like the What’s Up needed additional security due to safety issues. Yes, there were well-publicized incidents, but nothing that couldn’t have–or hasn’t–happened in the revenue-generating ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT that the city so treasures. The difference between those downtown establishments and the previous incarnation of this Old Town stalwart is that the former are adequately staffed. The What’s Up didn’t need security that eclipsed the norm, it just needed an ownership group that cared enough to step up to the industry standard.]
These are positive changes that will hopefully make the venue feel less like a glorified basement and more like something approaching a professional establishment. They’re certainly presenting themselves as such…
…because I’ll be damned if that ain’t a sharp flyer. And snagging a sponsorship from the local Five Finger Death Punch station isn’t a bad coup, either.
More importantly, though: That is a killer lineup right there, featuring three of the most engaging, riff-worshipping acts in Minnesota. I’ve waxed rhetorical about ’em on these pages previously, so we’ll keep this preview brief and packed with Bandcamp embeds.
WarRooster‘s full-blast, un-stoned stoner rock is part Goatsnake, part Clutch, and part Scandinavian-style desert rock (which is actually a thing, I swear). They’re hungry, wily, and tight as hell.
Let It Breathe will be coming off a Friday show with Lungs and freaking ZEBULON PIKE at the Triple Rock, revealing their status as the hardest-hitting Sabbath worshippers in the state to a new audience. Their River Wizard EP from late 2014 made some serious waves in slow n’ low / doom n’ gloom circles, and their first full-length should surface on STB Records…soon-ish.
And Crash Cuddle‘s off-kilter post-rock unpredictability will keep everyone on their toes. Rather than fall into the lull / crescendo heartstring trap that bands like Pelican, Mono, and Explosions in the Sky made so popular a decade ago, Crash Cuddle keeps you on your toes, sucking you into a false sense of security before hitting you with Beehoover-esque bombs.
If you’re keeping score, this basically means that the What’s Up is once again the place to be this Saturday. Yeah, Blues on Belgrade is going down, Hank and Rita are playing the first of two “final”, nearly sold-out shows at Studio Six, and the Purple and Gold will be perched upon the hill, waiting to charge you $42 for parking and the opportunity to buy overpriced merchandise. But if you want to get dirty and feel some soul, get your ass to Old Town this weekend.