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.
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at Busters after the What’s Up Lounge reopened with a “no hip-hop or extreme metal” policy (which has since been rescinded because money), this benefit is headlined by Mankato death metal heavyweights Face of Oblivion.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.
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.
For a city that likes to refer to itself as a “biking destination,” Mankato–in its current incarnation–is woefully behind the times in regards to cycling infrastructure. Most mocked the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the two-block bike lane in Lower North, but that baby step turned out to be just that. According to the Mankato Free Press, the city is going all-in on two-wheel transport:
By the end of 2016, bikers will have a nearly unbroken route of dedicated bike lanes stretching the length of the city within the Minnesota River Valley — from Highway 14 to West High School.
And within five years, 40 miles of bike lanes covering 20 miles of streets will tie virtually every corner of the city to the system or to bike trails connected to the system.
And there was much rejoicing. Well, mostly. (More on that later.)
But, seriously, this is monumental. To date, the biggest hindrance facing Mankato’s relevance to greater Minnesota has been its outmoded ambition for suburban sprawl. Since I moved here nearly eight years ago, most of this city’s investments have been focused on outward expansion, creating venues for box stores and strip malls connected by miniature highways.
This is symptomatic of a generational defect, a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses thirst for consumption and one-upsmanship. Similar to the weirdly unquenchable thirst for a 2.5-kid family complete with a quarter-million-dollar McMansion, a pair of bank-owned SUVs, and the latest array of home theater equipment purchased via Capital One, Mankato has been little-sistering itself against the likes of Rochester and Bloomington, leaking out from its core instead of embracing the renaissance of downtown revitalization.
Now, many of you SUV-owning, Jimmy-John’s-and-Five-Guys-devouring citizens might be asking yourselves:
What’s wrong with that, you hipster prick?
Well, nothing, I guess, other than the fact(s) that it’s a vaguely depressing and blatantly homogenous. existence. When you force conformity upon a populace under the guise of economic development, an absence of culture becomes the status quo, and local businesses suffer. And then? People leave. (Minneapolis isn’t that far away, right?)
Case in point: Until very recently, I kept one foot out of Mankato’s door at all times, because I was blinded to what made this city special.
The revelation was slow, but it was significant: I didn’t truly enjoy living in Mankato until I started commuting by bicycle daily. Eleven months ago. That means I basically just survived in this town for the better part of a decade. But you know what? I’m glad I did. Because once I got out and experienced the best this town had to offer from beyond the confines of a glass n’ steel cage, I fell in love.
Well, at least like. Let’s go with “like.”
Thing is, it’s impossible fall in like with a city’s quirks when you’re merely shuttling yourself from chain store to chain store. But when you can chain together visits to locally-owned establishments on Front Street, Old Town, and Lower North? It actually feels like you’re part of something greater than yourself.
It’s easier said than done, though. For a small city, Mankato is curiously disjointed. There are thriving businesses in the Front Street “entertainment district,” Old Town is looking the best it has in years–with the advent of Mom & Pop’s and Friesen’s, coupled with the city council’s subtle-ish whip-cracking upon Midtown and the Ole–and Lower North continues to be the most charming corner of the city. Yet, they remain islands unto themselves. These areas are too spread out to comfortably traverse by foot (at least in the midst of winter), and driving to each region is not only a wasteful pain in the ass, but parking is a major issue.
Bike lanes are a perfect, too-obvious solution. Hopefully, this marks a sea change in Mankato’s development style, and local businesses and loyal residents can reap the benefits of the taxes generated by chain restaurants and out-of-town shoppers over the past decade or so.
In the short term, at least, this rollout gives the impression that the “Complete Streets Plan” is on the right track; following the successful Front Street re-vamp, the city’s seemingly scored two victories in a row.
Now if only its citizens would realize it.
[Coming soon! In-depth rebuttals to asinine, unoriginal comments on the Free Press’ Facebook page regarding bicycles. Stay tuned!
‘Til then, go see Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band at the NaKato on Saturday and buy me a beer.]
Rapidfire RJKT update from the subruralban sprawl of Ames, Iowa…
If you’re anywhere near the Mankato area, possess a functioning vascular system, and (rightly) recognize that the electric guitar pairs best with whiskey, you should be HERE tonight:
The Hooten Hallers and Liquor Beats Winter [NaKato, 10 pm]
Two of the raddest acts to call Mankato a regular stop are joining forces to decimate Lower North.
Minneapolis’ Liquor Beats Winter was last seen in these parts as the featured act of PHE 8’s second night, and their anarcho-vagrant Tom Waits filthswing had a largely hungover crowd shaking like they, well, weren’t still hungover.
That they’re returning in support of the Hooten Hallers is so appropriate it hurts. This hard-touring Missouri trio is rooted in blues, soul, and plain ol’ rock n’ roll, but they share LBW’s hardscrabble grit, hurling it forth in balls of punksludge bile that swell and burst and swell and burst and swell and burst…
…and it pretty much rules.
So stop bitching about the state of original rock shows in Mankato and go see some of the realest shit going. The fire is still rolling. Keep it burning.
Hey, will YOU be there?
Well, no. I’m in Ames, Iowa, visiting some good friends. And this evening, I’ll be departing for Bagley, Wisconsin to crush 107 miles of gravel in Saturday’s Dairy Roubaix. But I’ll be there in spirit. Raise some Jameson for me and dance ’til you’re dead.
See you next time, Mankato.
This weekend, local non-profit Midwest Art Catalyst is throwing their 8th Post Holiday Extravaganza, a two-day celebration of music and art that benefits, well, local music and art.
Supporting Greater Mankato’s independent art is a noble undertaking, but it’s probably going to take more than goodwill to lure people out of their climate-controlled caves. Thus: LOUD GUITARS.
If the names on the above flyer seem foreign, don’t fret. (Most of ’em are just from Minneapolis, you filthy xenophobes.) We’re here to school you on some of Minnesota’s best music before it lands on your doorstep.
The festivities kick off at 9 p.m. at the Mankato Event Center–the space formerly known as the Aboveground, located across the hall from the former Buffalo Wild Wings in the formerly (?) thriving Mankato Place indoor mall.
Mankato vets Old Towne Ghosts will be the first to take the stage, rocking a brand of straight-up punk rock that draws from mid-80’s hardcore (you know, before hardcore became hardcore) and 90’s melodicism. It’s pretty timeless stuff, and currently, these guys are the closest thing the Mankato scene has to an institution.
Strap yourself to those sinewy basslines and HOWL.
Next up are Minneapolis’ Buildings, the weekend’s most abrasive act. But those with an aversion to noisy riffs and jagged edges shouldn’t flee, as the trio’s compact, bass-driven bursts rain down like a storm of tiny hammers. (That’s a good thing, if you’re keeping score.)
Their frenetic kinetics are comparable to a band like Coliseum, yet gravel-mixed with noise-rock dredged from the chasm between Big Black and Unsane.
Finally, the evening is headlined by BNLX‘s first appearance in Mankato. A calming wash to counter Buildings’ racket, BNLX weaves robust post-punk (think The Church‘s Starfish, only with Red Bull in lieu of NyQuil) into towering shoegazey soundscapes.
Sensing a pattern here? Three bands culling all the right influences from three decades of punk rock to create something fresh, vital, and wholly of-the-moment.
Three bands. Six bucks. Nine o’ clock.
While Friday evening is strictly a 21+ affair, Saturday’s daytime events are open to enthusiasts of all ages, free of charge.
The Mankato Event Center will once again open its doors, this time from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. On tap? A bake sale, art raffle, silent auction, and other superfun shenanigans. (If you’re clamoring for a sneak peek at some of the initial art submissions, a handful of the offerings have been posted on MWAC’s freshly-brewed Instagram.)
Those craving literal taps can retire to the NaKato Bar & Grill after the daytime festivities, where the raffle winners will be revealed and Liquor Beats Winter will storm the stage / billiards room floor at 9 p.m.
Here’s the deal with NaKato’s musical guests: Most fall within the wide-ish spectrum of folk and roots-rock, from the likes of Teague and Ian Alexy to AARP favorites Ross Kleiner and the Thrill. But the best nights are had when bluesy filth is dealt in spades, from bands that sound like they fell off a train and rolled their ragged asses into the venue leaving a trail of too-warm whiskey in their wake.
(Basically, the nights when The Hooten Hallers swing through town.)
But Liquor Beats Winter wreaks a similar recklessness; a little more ragged, a little more sparse, a little more garage-rock…if they torched the garage and generator-jammed amongst the ashes.
If liquor does, in fact, beat winter, lets band together, take up arms, and bludgeon the thing to death.
See you this weekend, Mankato.