Category: Uncategorized

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.]

November Coming Fire: A Requiem for Exhaustion

(October was so crazy I straight-up FORGOT to listen to Type O Negative. Yeah. It was that bad.)

(October was such a blur that I straight-up FORGOT to listen to Type O Negative. It was that bad.)

The only thing worse than opening a blog post with an apology for a lack of updates is continuing that post with a litany of reasons as to WHY said blog has been ignored by its curator.

I’ll meet you halfway by skipping the apologies and getting straight to the excuses.

Before I start whining, it’s best to retrace our steps: The entire premise of RJKT was/is peer into our city’s nightlife and culture. It’s never pretended to be all-encompassing, but its limited scope was usually dependent on my ability and/or enthusiasm for getting out and doing things.

During the month of October, I went full-on hermitcore. I didn’t go out, I didn’t talk to people, and I sure as shit didn’t write. (Well, that’s not entirely true, but more on that later.) Lots of cool things were happening around town, but due to my the seasonal demands of my dayjob–which involves coaxing literally hundreds of temporary laborers into schlepping Star Wars memorabilia at maximum speed, for 60+ hours each week–I locked myself indoors.

Usually, my seclusionary tactics were the result of sheer exhaustion. But often, I felt defeated. My rhythms and routines had been ground underfoot and scattered into warehouse dust. My little pocket of the world had been thrown into chaos and doubt. Would I ever get out to a show again? Would my friends forget about me? Would I ever redevelop a taste for fruits and vegetables after spending an entire month surviving on donuts, Red Bull, and Pizza Ranch?

I was so, so close to losing hope. BUT I NEVER GAVE UP…

…on consuming degenerate art.

Without the therapeutic benefits of human interaction, I was forced to supplement my usual diet of heavy metal and beer with healthy doses of sci-fi in the following formats:

⦁    Last-gen video games
⦁    Hardcover pulp
⦁    Graphic novels

…and honestly, these nerd ‘roids were probably the only things from keeping me from being crushed under the wagon’s wheels.

So, in the interest of getting back on track, consider this the thank-you section of the liner notes for RJKT’s unreleased harsh noise triple-album, October Crust. After we slog through this together, we can return to our regularly scheduled programming: Publicly shaming under-educated bike lane opponents and grown-ass adults that still listen to nu-metal while previewing Kato events that don’t totally suck.

But first, THE SURVIVAL JAMS:

While albums from Clutch, Kylesa, and VHÖL received a ton of pre-release anticipation, the only intelli-heavy record from October to truly cash in on its massive hype was Deafheaven‘s New Bermuda. Next to Royksopp & Robyn’s “Do It Again,” “Luna” was the only thing that effectively charged my batteries when the coffee quit working.

Incidentally, it was an entire pot of dark roast (imbibed at noon) that powered my review of the record, which the Angry Metal Guy himself graciously allowed to desecrate his pages.

While lingering in the AMG offices, my friend and colleague Grymm’s delightfully OTT take on the new Killing Joke album, Pylon, caught my eye. While only a few cuts got me deep–“Big Buzz” being the sharpest–it reignited a love affair with their 2006 opus, Hosannas from the Basements of Hell. New records from living legends don’t have to be revolutionary, they just have to stoke the flames.

Meanwhile, left field winds brought us fresh radness from Beaten to Death, who established themselves as the most effervescent band in grindcore with 2013’s Dodsfest! (which I also ranted and raved about at AMG). Their latest, Unplugged (which isn’t), whips their whims into tighter, more concise assaults, and the result is absolutely batshit.

But against all odds, the month’s king comes from the realm of death metal, as Dark Descent‘s crown jewel, Horrendous, crafted a masterpiece. Old-school DM has been the most played out sub-subgenre for ages now, especially if you still think “occult rock” has legs. But Anareta‘s blend of Asphyxiating vocal delivery, Atheist / Cynic prototech homages, and absolutely bonkers timechanges have prog-pushed the record into AOTY contention. (And actually, everyone’s favorite record-label-ad-revenue-driven heavy metal catalog, Decibel, recently crowned it as such.)

 

And now, some auxiliary acknowledgements, for without these non-aural cathartic devices, I’d have barely survived.

THANK YOU:

The copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution I swiped from We Got Game for $2.99 (TOP-NOTCH sci-fi stealth / RPG yarn that actually rewards you for not being a murderous shitbag, even when thrust into the cold machinations of a libertarian dystopia), bicycles, Transmetropolitan Volumes 5 and 6 (because the New Scum shouldn’t forget where they came from), bicycles, John Scalzi’s The End of All Things (proving that there’s serious legs left in the Old Man’s War saga), Fargo Brewing Company’s Wood Chipper IPA (get it?), bicycles.

NO THANK YOU / SLIT YOUR WRISTS AND LAUNCH YOURSELVES INTO THE SUN:

My janky bottom bracket, Scott Walker (the shitty one), big-ass trucks with North Dakota plates that don’t use their turn signals, Five Finger Death Punch, people that order Coors Light at Boulder Tap House, Wallace and Gromit, the loathsome old crank in the dark blue Nissan Xterra that tried to start a fight with me last winter (with his seat belt still fastened), solitude.

Whew. That felt good. You ready to do this again, Mankato?

Summer Concert Season Kickoff: Old Crow Medicine Show

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Thursday, May 28th marks the beginning of concert season at the Vetter Stone Amphitheater, that sometimes-used bandshell alongside the sometimes-utilized Minnesota River. The first show of the summer wisely capitalizes on the Mankatoan affinity for all things folky, bluegrassy, and lack-of-percussionist-y, featuring twangsters The Devil Makes Three in support of Grammy-winners Old Crow Medicine Show.

Same-day tickets for this Thursday show are a mere…forty dollars.

(That's my purse!)

(That’s my purse!)

Oof.

Okay, look. When a serious national act rolls through this town, it should be our civic duty to attend, especially when the band isn’t confined to a damn hockey arena. We need to show that bands can draw here, even when it’s an act you’re only tangentially interested in. (For instance, I gladly paid to see Jason Isbell last year on the strength of enjoying the six-odd songs he wrote for Drive-By Truckers, and it was a great experience.) That’s the only way this town is going to get out of the rut of booking seventh-rate has-been bullshit like Loverboy, Rick Springfield, and the Charlie Daniels Band.

However, capitalist ventures that depend on charity are kinda gross. (This is basically why I stopped going to Tune Town; after hearing enough um, we can order that for you refrains upon coming up empty in the metal section, I came to the realization that hey, I can order albums, too…direct from the artists and labels from this thing called THE INTERNET.) It’s one thing to want something to succeed, but should the burden really be on the consumer?

To date, the Vetter Stone has done an abysmal job promoting their acts–I only found out about last year’s Low and Cloud Cult show by randomly driving under a banner by Pizza Hut–and they aren’t making this seem like much of a must-see event. And, let’s be real: Forty bucks for a marginally-popular act is a lot to ask in this town, especially on a weekday…and to make matters worse, IT MIGHT RAIN.

Rain = DEATH. For all of our hardiness, Minnesotans are total wussbags when it comes to water that falls from the sky.

Sure, we can shovel our cars out of snowstorm’d parking spots, brave 3-degree weather to drink mediocre beer on the lawn of Schell’s Brewery, and drop a fishing line into a hole in the middle of a frozen lake and call it a “hobby.”

But where many will drop hundreds of dollars on a remote car starter for the winter months, many more can’t be bothered to purchase half-decent raingear so that they might enjoy an actual outdoor activity during the five-odd months when it’s actually tolerable. It’s freakin’ bizarre.

Anyway, for those of you that can handle a few sprinkles and prefer your music with all rhythm removed (for maximum whiteness), the Vetter Stone’s gonna be crackin’ on Thursday night.

Maybe I’ll see you there, Mankato.

Doin’ that civic duty and all.

Springtime in Kato, Part One: Sparklepanels and Sports Complexes

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Things have been relatively quiet at RJKT HQ over the past two weeks, and for good reason. Well…sort of.

In the wake of post-PHE burnout, free hours have been filled with House of Cards’ third season (which seemingly only exists to show that President Frank Underwood isn’t nearly as compelling as Majority Whip Frank Underwood), catching up on neglected household duties, and riding my damn bike all the damn time because IT’S SIXTY DEGREES AND ALL THE SNOW IS GONE WHOOOOooooooooooooooo……….

Yeah.

Yet, things have been happening outside of this procrastinatory bubble, and there are half-baked opinions to be lobbed. Rather than inflate a handful of old-ish news bits and random musings into standalone takes, we’re going to compile some bite-sized bullshittery in the interest of getting this damn operation up to speed.

Part One of Springtime in Kato will consist of shenanigans that have spurred a certain degree of crabassery, while Part Two will be decidedly more jovial.

Ready? (I am. It’s 30 degrees again.) Let’s roll.

 
As reported by the Mankato Free Press, the crown jewel of the downtown ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT is getting something of an aesthetic “boost.” The $32 million dollar addition to the civic center is slated to be adorned with…get this…sparkle panels.

Eww.

Eww.

Key City has a detailed, must-read breakdown as to why this (and possibly the entire convention center concept itself) is a horrific idea, while Nathaniel Hood was decidedly more concise. Practicality and tradition aside, allow me to be frank: This is unbearably tacky.

There’s precedent for this type of thing in just about every aspect of pop culture, but for purposes of this blog, let’s get really lame with our references.

Remember about five years ago, when every homeowner on the planet was addicted to HGTV houseporn and started “updating” their kitchens to keep up with television trends of the moment? (People could still be doing this, but I’ve been out of the loop. I quit the building materials racket long ago, and currently rent an apartment–above a bar–that was erected entirely from wood paneling and Formica.)

Anyway, every boring, cracker-ass couple that was clamoring to drop an extra few thousand into their bullshit mortgage was head-over-heels into backsplash tile, adorning their precious 18 inches of undercabinet space with glass mosaics that were destined to look dated in less than a decade.

People kept doing this, until Vern Yip finally lost his shit and said, “…you know what? This is a trend. And it’s not going to hold up.” Sure enough, in 2015, that expensive glass tile that initially cost upwards of $15 per square foot has all the financial and aesthetic value of your Bobby Bonilla rookie card.

Vern Yip, losing his shit

Vern Yip, losing his shit

Citizens, listen up: This sparkle panel thing is a trend. And it’s not going to hold up. It’s up to you to be your city’s collective Vern Yip. Get loud and tell your lazily-elected officials that you don’t want your new fifty-foot monstrosity in the heart of downtown to boast all the class and grace of a strip club bathroom.

 
In other news presented by the Free Press sans counterpoint, a proposed athletic complex for high school sports–largely funded through sales taxes, of course–is being hailed by proponents as a tool to generate tournament revenue. As in, “if you build it, they will come.”

In this case, the part of “they” is played by the out-of-town folks that will line up by the dozens to shovel red meat and olive-laden Coors Light taps into the gaping voids between their baseball caps and camouflage Under Armour hoodies.

(See, it’s all about generating revenue for the ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT.)

Now, I’m not one to side with the *grumblegrumblemytaxdollarsobama* austerity crowd, but they aren’t going to show up for this battle because sports. So allow me to fire freely. This is basically a proposal to tax the whole of Greater Mankato for the benefit of a select few: those invested in amateur sporting activities. Traditionally, this has consisted of the participants and their immediate relatives.

Boosters are trying to sell this complex to the public by, paradoxically, emphasizing its appeal to people that don’t actually live here.

Essentially, proponents want every single consumer in Mankato to fund their elite, exclusive activities, because 1) it’ll “increase economic impact”, a buzzphrase typically used under the guise of corporate welfare, and 2) Rochester has this stuff, and they’re sexier than we are, at least according to lawyers:

A facility also would help area companies attract and keep talented employees, said Julia Corbett, a managing partner at Blethen, Gage and Krause. Rochester’s facilities are massive, beautiful and modern, she said, and ‘put to shame anything we have here.’

Nevermind that Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic and boasts nearly TRIPLE the population of Mankato; those economically-crucial bits of common knowledge would clunkify a juicy, jealousy-baiting soundbite.

These seemingly innocuous propaganda blasts are the seeds that make wasteful, exclusionary projects become a reality. Soon enough, this thing will get muscled into approval via a sparsely-voted-upon referendum, and we’ll continue down our downward spiral of dumping tax revenue into projects don’t benefit a broad swath of our own citizens.

Instead of taking progressive steps to make this town appealing to the MSU seniors that are ready to bolt for MSP the day after graduation, we’ll cater to short-sighted whims of the aging middle class, and commerce will, once again, usurp culture, and Mankato will perpetuate its propensity for blandness.

There’s a life lesson buried in here somewhere. Those that encourage participation in team sports often cite them for instilling crucial life skills, such as leadership, teamwork, and tenacity. In this case, the only takeaway is that sports participants are entitled to all the shiny new toys that other people can buy for them…so long as they smile, sell hard, and keep winning.

Meanwhile? The majority loses.

 
Part Two goes live when we sober up. Take care, humans.