Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Sunday, March 27, 2005

North by Midwest

Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart and Caralee McElroy

In my desperate attempt to recreate SXSW, I spent the entire day yesterday going to shows. About an hour after I woke up, I headed down to Aardvark Records to see an in-store performance by John Peel favorites, Midnight Evils. The Evils were celebrating the release of their new album, “Breakin’ It Down.” Their actual CD release party was later that night at the 7th St. Entry. The show at the Entry promised to be a chaotically good time, but I opted for the Aardvark show because my night was already packed. Of course, the crazy garage punks had no problem rattling the walls of the tiny record store. Luckily, I carry earplugs with me everywhere I go. And people used to laugh…At least I won’t be completely deaf by the time I’m 30. The show can be summed up in the words of the guitarist (after he was exhausted from singing a new song): “A whole lotta hootin’ and hollerin’!” Needless to say, the Midnight Evils rock, and so does their new album.

Next up was an early show at the Triple Rock that I’ve been anticipating for quite a while. The headliner has been the object of my obsession for about a year. You guessed it, the incredibly beautiful mess that is Xiu Xiu. Since I actually got to the show on time, I had to wait in line to get into the venue – thus far, I was doing an excellent job of recreating SXSW. Vox Vermillion kicked off the show with a bunch of pretty songs that will appear on their upcoming album. They performed their entire set sans drummer. But if you had never heard their music before, you wouldn’t even realize that they are supposed to have a drummer. They worked so well as a threesome. I was not disappointed at all.

The Dead Science played next. The whispered vocal intertwined with avant-garde jazz-inspired experimental indie rock was an ideal build-up for Xiu Xiu. The music was pretty low-key, but the singer would make sure we were awake by, every once in a while, letting out a Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten) pterodactyl screech. Was their music pretentious? Yes. Did I like it? Yes. Am I listening to it right now? Yes.

Jherek Bischoff (the bassist from The Dead Science) and Sam Mickens (the singer/guitarist from The Dead Science) appear on a lot of Xiu Xiu’s recorded work, so I was expecting the stage to be full of people during Xiu Xiu’s set. But it wasn’t so. Jamie Stewart and Caralee McElroy were perfectly content performing unassisted. Not a problem. Now, I’m going to admit something that could potentially be embarrassing or expose my sissiness. Xiu Xiu does crazy things to me when I see them live. There’s nothing like it. As soon as they start playing, all of my senses focus on the music. I enter into a trance, and I no longer notice any of my surroundings. I get butterflies in my stomach and I feel like I need to cry. I spent their entire set squeezing my fingers. I can’t really explain why Xiu Xiu has that effect on me. It’s crazy, but Xiu Xiu did the same thing to me the last time I saw them, and I wasn’t even familiar with their music back then. I know I’m not alone in this. Last night, during lulls in Xiu Xiu’s music, you could hear a hair drop. Aside from applause, the audience was completely silent. I don’t even know if anyone was breathing. There were no side conversations, there were no cell phones, there were no trips to the bathroom. Everyone was completely engrossed in what was going on onstage. I’ve never experienced a band that has that kind of power over an audience. Xiu Xiu is seriously an amazing band. And judging from the new songs they played last night, their new album is going to be another masterpiece.

As if to prove to myself that I’m not a complete sissy, I went to a rock show at the Hexagon Bar immediately after the Xiu Xiu show. Story of the Sea was supposed to play, but they decided to ditch the Hexagon in order to open for The Heavenly States at the Triple Rock’s later show (I bet that was an awesome show – I love The Heavenly States). To fill the void left by Story of the Sea, Knol Tate of Askeleton played an impromptu solo set. Among a set of songs that I didn’t recognize, he did his cover of The Modern Lovers’ “Girl Friend,” and another cover of Wire’s “Heartbeat.” It was nice, but considering that everyone from Low to Big Black does a cover of “Heartbeat,” you’d think that he could have chosen a different Wire song.

Well, I was there to see Tin Horns. And yeah, they rocked, as usual. Almost as entertaining as the Tin Horns was the interpretive dancing in the audience by the guys from Clair de Lune. Funny. For one of their songs, the Tin Horns were joined on stage by none other than Kelsey from Vox Vermillion. What a coincidence. Small world, isn’t it?

Dallas Orbiter played last. I had never seen them before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I liked them a lot. They were very noisy, and their music was layered with many instruments and effects. Like a space-rocking shoegazer band that doesn’t gaze at their shoes. Speaking of coincidences, my wish for a different Wire song was granted when they decided to do their version of Wire’s “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W.” They also did a rockin’ Mark Bolan number. Their original stuff was just as exciting.

It was a great night. But by the time I got home, my eyes were stinging from cigarette smoke and my clothes absolutely reeked. Hey, in one more week, that will no longer be a problem. Hennepin County goes completely smoke free! Some bar owners in Minneapolis have complained that their customers will desert them for St. Paul bars where they can still smoke. Well, they should expect the opposite to happen as well. As much as I love St. Paul venues like the Turf Club, Big V’s, and Station 4, I won’t frequent them as often now that I can watch music in comfort in Minneapolis. It will make decisions on which shows to attend that much easier (I had to choose among eight shows last night). The smoking ban is bad news for nicotine-addicted hipsters, but great news for music fans like me who want to be able to go to shows and not worry about our health.


Post a Comment

<< Home