At 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 25th, I was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding my bicycle.
I’m still in some significant discomfort, for sure.
But I lived.
As this news made the rounds via friends and family on social media, some openly wondered why this wasn’t covered in the local media outlets. There are three main reasons for this.
First: Don’t let those half-assed, crammed-in bike lanes on Broad Street fool you: The City of Mankato doesn’t give a shit about cyclist safety, and by extension, neither does its police force. My incident is the third such occurrence I’m aware of (anecdotally) within the last three months, and each time the Mankato Department of Public Safety has seemingly expressed zero interest in pursuing the assailants. This isn’t surprising, considering that up until recently, their employees feigned ignorance as to whether parking a motor vehicle in a bike lane was illegal. At the time of the incident, they didn’t even ask me for a statement, meaning that no report of this potentially felonious occurrence likely exists. (Update: According to a journalist with Southern Minnesota News that reached out to me via GoFundMe, the police stated that they made a report within 5 hours of the incident. If this occurred, it was done without any input from anyone directly involved.)
Second: I declined to give a statement to the local news. An employee from the Mankato Free Press reached out to me via Facebook Messenger the day after the incident, and upon returning her call, the conversation basically amounted to something along the lines of well, the police don’t have much information, so if you could provide the basic info, that’d be great. When I asked if there were any questions that she’d like to ask me about the incident, there seemed to be little interest in actual reporting or inquiry, so I declined further statement.
Here’s the deal: My face was riddled with freshly-congealed scabs, my shattered heel was awaiting surgery, and my opiate cocktail was in full effect. The last thing I wanted to deal with was being misquoted in a local fishwrap with a highly-questionable editorial reputation and an online readership comprised of pasty MAGA chuds frothing their jowls at the opportunity to dogfuck tired-ass CYCLISTS BREAK THE LAW TOO AND THEY DON’T PAY TAXES tropes in the Facebook comment sections at my expense.
How I dealt with my own trauma was my own fuckin’ business. I don’t need to martyr myself in the press for your knitting group that spends its time advocating for more Specialized parking at the next Styx concert.
Third: Independent journalism in Mankato is fuckin’ non-entity, or I would’ve gone that route. Yeah, we gave it a shot for a minute there, but life is hard. ANYWAY
If anyone was going to hear the real story behind this thing, I was going to have to do it myself. But I shelved this draft for weeks and weeks, because honestly, it comes off as really bitter and angry. Which is to be expected, given the situation, but the outpouring of love from my fiancée, my family, my Fun.com crew, the Cactus Tattoo collective, and everyone that’s contributed financially has made the usual bile that drives my writing dissipate.
I just ain’t that mad anymore.
But, popular demand is a sonofabitch, so here we go: For those interested in how to nearly kill someone with a 2,000 pound weapon and get away with it, here’s your guide.
At roughly 1:30 a.m., my attorney, Adam, lured me away from Lower North to Blue Bricks for last call. I ordered a High Life. I wanted to get up early and roll the Red Jacket + Dump Loop with the Flying Penguin brigade in the morning, and I didn’t need an IPA headache. (I’d already been pegged as hipster trash because I ride a heavy-ass bike and rarely wear a helmet, so I didn’t need to perpetuate the stereotype with a wicked hangover from “too many growlers.”)
After sticking around for a few uneventful minutes, I made the move to leave, but I was faced with the eternal late-night dilemma: Should I ride home across the Veterans Memorial Bridge, with its drunk drivers weaving to-and-from 2nd Street and its dodgy transitions onto the off-street path? Or take the Cherry Street bike lane down to Hy-Vee, in order to hop on Poplar Street on my way to the North Star Bridge?
The latter option was poorly lit and laid out like shit, but that night, my gut told me it was the way to go.
Plus, it was just a nicer trek. The summer air was crisp and cool, a perfect 60 degrees, the kind of weather where you could just mash away in jeans and a sweatshirt without breaking a sweat. Crossing the North Star and the rolling straight into Lower North is just a rad little ride that’ll never lose its charm.
So eventually, I was rolling up Poplar in Kato, sweet-ass mullet flapping in the wind.
On paper, this stretch of road was designed to be “bike friendly.” Poplar boasts dotted bike lanes going in each direction, with no center line for cars. This was implemented roughly 18 months ago, yet motorists are still largely confused as to how this arrangement should work.
[Helpful Hint: Much like regular traffic lines, dotted bike lanes can be crossed by vehicles while solid lanes cannot. On Poplar Street, if there are no bikes in the lane, YOU CAN DRIVE IN IT. Don’t roll down the middle of the street like a goon. If there’s a bike in the lane ahead of you, slow the fuck down and only pass them when it’s safe to do so.]
These bike lanes just straight-up disappear at the Sibley Parkway crossing, as it’s assumed that cyclists will transition to the small stretch of off-street pathway that materializes here.
This is what I have done each time.
And each time, I have done so with extreme caution, because it’s dangerous as hell.
- Motorists traveling way from Sibley Park rarely come to a complete stop at the traffic sign under the trestle bridge, despite the fact that the Poplar Street cross traffic does not stop
- Motorists are often confused by the web created here by the off-street paths and split streets that allow access to both the Sibley Park area and Minnesota River Trail, leading to a lot of “no, you go!” situations regardless of who has the right-of-way
- There is no signage in this area to notify motorists of increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, so when craning their necks out to see beyond this deep intersection, they’re often just looking for other cars
- It’s a deeply set intersection, so when transitioning from the bike lane to the path, you actually have to move 6-10 feet into the intersection to make the move
- As mentioned previously, the lighting sucks
Each time I make this transition, I rise out of the saddle and put my head on a swivel, looking left and right dramatically, taking precaution to avoid a collision even though I have the right-of-way and am free to travel unimpeded. (This right here is a microcosm for the flaws in our infrastructure: the burden of responsibility and safety is shifted not only to the person that actually has the right of way, but also person with the least-dangerous mode of transport.)
No cars incoming. No headlights at the stop sign to my right. I was good to go.
Until I wasn’t.
I didn’t see anything.
I just felt it.
That blinding-black realization: “ohfuckithinki’mgettinghitbyacar”
The smack/scrape of the pavement.
Then a flash-open. Hyperawake.
I looked up. The base of that off-street path was in sight. I was in the intersection.
I looked down again.
At my hands.
Blood was pooling in my palms, pouring down from my face.
“Well, fuck. I finally got hit by a car.”
The car, of course, was gone. It was 2 a.m. and they’d probably been drinking. They might’ve blown a stop sign. They might’ve hit me from behind. Hell, they might not have had their lights on, for fuckssakes.
I never saw it coming.
What I DID see was a different pair headlights coming towards me, turning off of Riverfront. My right leg was still pinned under my frame, and I was too weak and shocked to move. I managed to outstretch my left arm and feebly flag the car down.
The car stopped. A man and woman came running out.
“Oh, man, are you okay?” he asked.
“I…got hit by a car.”
They both approached me, already dialing 911. I looked down at my hands again, collecting more blood from my face, and looked up.
“Hey, man, do…do I look fucked up?”
“Well,” he replied, “you probably broke your nose for sure, man. And, uh…you’re bleeding. A lot. We’ll get an ambulance.”
I reached into my handlebar bag; miraculously, my phone was intact. (It’s a Revelate Mountain Feedbag and it’s super rad and you should get one.) I called my partner. We had announced our engagement earlier that day.
“Court, don’t freak out. I got hit by a car.
I just need help.”
The next few minutes wrought an absolute STORM of activity; with adrenaline at maximum, my memories are merely snapshots.
Court and Mike rolled up and loaded my blood-spattered bike into his van, where it eventually ended up on display next to the NaKato pool table. (To Court’s immense credit, she did not freak out.)
A paramedic showed up and asked me who the president was. I said “Donald Trump” for the first time. He immediately threw me in the back of the van and pumped me full of fentanyl.
All I’d heard about fentanyl is that it kills people, so I asked, “Dude, is…that okay? I’ve been drinking.”
“Ah, well, you don’t seem drunk, you’ll be fine,” he replied, “and it’s just a little bump, we do this all the time.”
He called it a bump, which didn’t seem hella appropriate. But okay.
“Um…alright, man, do the thing. By the way, uh, my foot kinda hurts.”
Then I blacked out.
Next thing I remember, I was taking this photo.
The timestamp was about 4:30 a.m., and by this time, we had realized that the major damage wasn’t to my glorious visage, but my foot.
My heel, to be exact.
Motherfucker BROKE MY HEEL.
And after a hastily-scheduled Rochester surgery in which they clamped the busted-ass chunks of my calcaneus back together and drove a couple of screws through it…
…one bulbous pain pump mainlined into a nerve in the side of my leg…
…nearly two weeks of couch-bound immobility (and the stench to go with it)…
…two seasons of The Killing (which was basically a played-straight Twin Peaks spread out over one giant episode of Law & Order and it kinda sucked)…
… two August vacations scrapped, three bottles of OxyContin, and well over FOUR weeks of having my independence stripped from me based on the carelessness of another human being…
…I was fucking pissed.
I was pissed that our police force seems more concerned with bragging about their civil forfeiture skills than actual public safety, even with the cratered expectations of someone who believes their entire corrupt-ass institution should be abolished. (They probably knew this is how I felt, too, considering they never returned my calls inquiring about the incident.)
I was pissed that the frauds that run this city think that they can slap a cyclist on their wack-ass “Visit Mankato” logo as a marketing tactic even though there’s no reasonable infrastructure in place for cycling-oriented tourists to access the storefronts that make our city unique.
I was pissed that the Riverfront Drive initiative lacks any meaningful cycling-friendly improvements, making it an instantly-outdated project.
I was pissed that local advocates seem more concerned with free bagel promotions than the safety of the “silent cyclists” that ride squeaky thirdhand MTBs the wrong way down the sidewalk because they think it’s safer than our unprotected, dooring-susceptible bike lanes. (Hint: it’s fucking not.)
I was pissed that none of this is going to change.
The only way for the Mankato police to start giving a shit about cyclist safety is to have them patrol on bikes themselves. But that would require them to leave their steel-and-glass cages and force them to actually interact with the community, and you can’t have that in a workforce culture that is predicated on quashing empathy and treating the citizenry as “the other.”
The only way that the powers that run this city would realize that their line of thinking is lagging behind the times would be to actively seek the input of those that have transformed their cities—look to Madison, hell, to Minneapolis—into safer, multimodal places. And they’re too clannish and myopic to do anything of the sort.
And we all know that our local media won’t hold anyone accountable.
“Well, if you’re mad, get involved! Go to meetings, run for office, start a blog, write a magazine, get involved in the sceeene, man.”
Thing is, here in mid-September, I’m not mad anymore.
I don’t give enough of a shit about bluegrass, cover bands, regressive nu-metal nostalgia, and small pond poseurs to get riled up.
I’m just glad I’m alive.
And nothing’ll make you start a new chapter in life like getting engaged and getting it by a car on the same day, you know?
[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.