Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Coach Said Not to Say Hi to Your Mom

Eric Elbogen says hi to your teddy bear.

So, for the past week, I’ve been strangely attracted to this band from New York called Say Hi to Your Mom. The songs off their new album, Ferocious Mopes, have infiltrated my subconscious – I find myself spontaneously singing them whenever my mind wanders from my daily chores. None of this is too surprising, considering I’ve always had a thing for sad-bastard indie pop. Say Hi to Your Mom could be prescribed alongside Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Fields, and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone to alleviate a broken heart (or, simply, to soothe the pain left over from the girl who never noticed you in fifth grade).

Surprisingly, I wasn’t even familiar with Say Hi to Your Mom until I saw them open for Coach Said Not To a couple Saturdays ago at the Nomad World Pub. …Or so I thought. As soon as they started playing their first song, a light bulb flashed in my head, and I exclaimed to myself, “Hey, I know this song! I love this song!” Yeah, isn’t it great when you realize that you have more indie cred than you give yourself credit for?

Say Hi were a welcome change of pace from the no-offense-but-it’s-really-not-my-thing Americana of the first openers, The Sirachas. Eric Elbogen (the songwriter behind Say Hi to Your Mom) and his guitar were supported onstage by an excellent drummer and a synth player. The trio’s cathartic instrumentals and Eric’s witty lyrics kept me captivated throughout their entire set, which I thought ended way too quickly. But I suppose they didn’t want to hog all of the night’s glory.

The rest of the night belonged to a very unique Coach Said Not To “remix” show. Normally, Nate, from Nate on Drums, drums for Coach Said Not To. But Nate was nowhere to be found that Saturday – he definitely wasn’t “on drums.” Thankfully, the girls were determined to carry on without him. They enlisted DJ PDA to lay down some beats over their artsy sarcasti-pop. To my astonishment, it actually worked (I’ve been leery of turntables in rock bands ever since Limp Bizkit vomited in a recording studio and sold the end result to millions of frat boys).

I remember seeing Coach Said Not To at one of their very first shows a couple years ago, so I’m always amazed when I think about how popular they’ve become. They’re so popular, in fact, that they’ve completely sold out of their debut EP. But procrastinators like me weren’t completely out of luck – they were selling “limited edition” CD-R’s of the EP at Saturday’s show. Each CD-R came with a Polaroid that the band took during the course of the night. Apparently, most of the Polaroids were action shots of the band members (who all happen to be pleasant to look at). But, of course, the Polaroid that was included with my CD was a picture of the sky. How nice.

I ended up staying up pretty late that night, but I was still able to wake up early enough the next day to catch Stephen Malkmus’s in-store at the Electric Fetus (ok, so maybe some of you don’t think that 5:00 on a Sunday is early). He treated us to a solo acoustic performance of several songs off all three of his solo albums. His music was never really meant to be played acoustically, but who cares – I was just delighted to be in the presence of a true genius.

That was two weekends ago. Last weekend, I went down to Chicago for my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. So, my 13-year-old cousin is now officially a man. Hmm…I think at age 13, I was just starting to get my pubes. I wonder when my time will finally come. But if being a man means trading in my GI-Joe underwear, I’m afraid it’s never gonna happen.

There, I think I’m all caught up with my bloggin’. I’ll try to be a bit more punctual from now on (meaning I’ll only be one week behind, instead of two).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coach Said Not To... didn't they mostly go to Augsburg? I think I saw some of their first shows at the 400 Bar because my friend Carson was in school with them.

Or am I thinking of the wrong people?

1:56 AM

Blogger Teighan said...

Hey. I kind of stumbled upon this...I followed a link from your little personal ad. I know, what a conversation starter! Anyway, I noticed that you're passionate about music...good music at that. So I figured you might benefit from this link. I didn't check the archives of your blog, so maybe you already know about it. There are some great up and coming artists though. Well, here you go (http://www.thedelimagazine.com/)! Have a great evening.

8:39 PM

Anonymous erin said...

I'm so excited that my little fools are coming for a visit. Like, for true.

4:55 PM

Blogger Lee said...

Yeah! While you were posting your comment, I was buying my plane ticket. It's official! I'll see you in a few weeks...fool!

5:42 PM


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Monday, June 20, 2005

Sad Day for Russian Futurism / Triumphant Day for the Artist Formerly Known as Manitoba

I’m doing Caribou a great disservice by writing about their show two weeks after it happened. A show like that deserves immediate praise.

Since my Grand Old Day experience was cut short due to the rain, I was still thirsty for more live music. Lucky for me, Canada was sending down three of their finest electro-pop bands to play at the 400 Bar that night. With such a solid lineup – The Russian Futurists, Junior Boys, and Caribou – it’d be foolish to arrive a second too late.

Turns out, I arrived an hour too early. But it wasn’t my fault. It was the US Border Patrol’s fault. The three bands had played a show in Winnipeg the night before, and were on their way to the Twin Cities when they were detained at the border. Junior Boys and Caribou were allowed passage, but The Russian Futurists were held by the FBI for most of the day. Apparently, there was a mix-up with the Futurists’ visas, so they were denied entry into the US. Just another example of Homeland Security’s hostility toward harmless Canadian musicians. Remember a couple years ago when the FBI held Godspeed You! Black Emperor for questioning as possible terrorists? But c’mon, The Russian Futurists aren’t nearly as “intimidating” as Godspeed. I mean, Matthew Adam Hart wears a Twins hat in all of his promo pictures; what’s not to like about him? Perhaps Homeland Security fears that Russian Futurism is a rogue movement striving to initiate a new era of Soviet world domination. Oh no! They’ve got Canada! The dominoes are beginning to fall!

So thanks to our fascist government, I wasn’t able to see The Russian Futurists. Fortunately, Junior Boys more than made up for the vacancy. After expressing their regret about the Futurists’ situation, they delivered a stellar set of subdued dance songs played at high volumes. Their music seemed to be a perfect fit for the rainy night, as well as a perfect primer for Caribou’s shocking performance.

By the way, it sure is a good thing that Manitoba changed their name to Caribou. I don’t know about you, but every time someone mentioned Manitoba, I assumed they were talking about Handsome Dick Manitoba, frontman of the 70’s proto-punk act, The Dictators. But of course, I’m stupid and completely incapable of rational thought. C’mon, anyone who actually knows who Handsome Dick Manitoba is isn’t going to confuse him with a modern indie-electronic band. And anyone who isn’t familiar with Handsome Dick doesn’t give a shit. Definitely not worthy of a lawsuit. Plus, last time I checked, Manitoba was the name of a Canadian province long before Handsome Dick ever donned his first wrestling suit.

Anyway, for those of you just familiar with Caribou/Manitoba’s recorded work; you ain’t seen nothin’! Caribou’s performance went beyond my wildest expectations. Freakin’ incredible! Dan Snaith tours with two other musicians: a guitarist and a second drummer. It seems like everyone’s doing the two-drum-set thing nowadays, but I’ve never seen anyone use two drum sets as effectively as Caribou did. The intensity and dynamics of Caribou’s live show would be impossible to accurately capture on a studio recording. Considering that Caribou’s recorded work is phenomenal, their live show is purely orgasmic. There’s only so much sound that can fit on a CD. Live instruments pumping out of a giant PA system have the potential to be so much more powerful. Caribou used this potential to the fullest. I experienced a similar feeling when I saw Mogwai live. But what Mogwai does with five musicians, Caribou accomplishes with just three. My goodness! This was an outstanding show, and an outstanding conclusion to a weekend packed with great music.


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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Grand Old Day

Imagine this for 2.5 miles!

Is it really June 16th already? Wow. There’s so much that I want to write about, but it’s kind of futile when I’m ten days behind in my blog postings. Oh well, I’ll do it anyway. But no more of these twenty-paragraph-long posts that no one has the patience to read.

So, thinking back to a couple weeks ago…Sunday, June 5th was Grand Old Day. For those of you visiting from out of town, Grand Old Day is the day when everyone in the state of Minnesota flocks to a 2.5-mile stretch of Grand Avenue in St. Paul to eat mini doughnuts and listen to music. What’s cool is that the bands they bring in aren’t your standard county fair/block party bands. Last year, Guided by Voices played – it was their last show in Minnesota before they broke up. Unfortunately, I had to miss it (well, I can’t really complain; I was enjoying myself in Europe). No worries; if I know GBV as well as I think I do, they’ll do a reunion tour in a couple years and release twenty more albums.

Well, I wasn’t going to miss out on the action this year. I woke up at the crack of noon so I could get to Grand Avenue in time to see local icons, The Hold Steady. Sheesh, it was hot out, and the massive crowds only made things sweatier. My friend, Hema, and I had to vigilantly traverse a sea of bodies in order to get to the block where The Hold Steady was playing. By the time we arrived, The Hold Steady had already been playing for an hour. They still had an hour to go, and Craig Finn’s voice was already showing signs of fatigue. It didn’t matter, though (it’s not like he actually sings). They still tore shit up (sorry, I promise I’ll never use that lame phrase again). To introduce their song “Knuckles,” Craig said, “This song is about those people who give themselves nicknames that never really stick. …I dedicate this to my good friend, Sean Tillman.” Sean Tillman (who self-applied the nickname, Har Mar Superstar) was also scheduled to play Grand Old Day that afternoon.

After The Hold Steady, Hema and I found Chris and Katie at the stage where the Olympic Hopefuls were playing. I’ve seen the Olympic Hopefuls, like, a million times, and their show never gets old. So much fun. Their music is perfectly suited for a hot day in the sun. But I guess a hot day in the sun wasn’t suited for the Olympic Hopefuls – half way into their set, we were besieged by a sudden downpour! Luckily, Katie had the foresight to bring an umbrella (although, it wasn’t quite as effective when all four of us were trying to crowd underneath it). Most of the audience, however, didn’t seem to care. The Olympic Hopefuls continued to play, and the audience demonstrated their loyalty by manically dancing in the rain. What a glorious feeling…

I was looking forward to seeing Har Mar Superstar, but I didn’t really feel like standing around in the storm any longer. I doubt he’d be willing to get naked in that weather anyway; so what’s the point? That’s OK; my personal grand old day wasn’t quite over – I was off to the 400 Bar to see Caribou!

The Hold Steady got the good stuff that kids go for!

Olympic Hopefuls, pre-deluge.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Architecture in Helsinki

Yep, that's all eight of 'em.

A tremendous thing happened last year: I heard a crazy song called “The Owls Go.” Suddenly, I was overcome with an urge to buy an album by a band I knew nothing about. I kept a sharp eye on the used bins of all the record stores around town, but the album never showed up. Finally, I did the unthinkable – I spent $16.00 (yikes!) on a new CD just to try out a new band.

As a mathematician, I know better than to gamble. But sometimes, I just feel lucky. In the case of Fingers Crossed by Architecture in Helsinki, I won the freakin’ lottery! Forking over the big bucks on that album was one of the best decisions I ever made. I fell in love immediately. Throughout the past year, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time doing nothing but listening to Fingers Crossed. It’s quite possible that Fingers Crossed is the strongest debut since Tigermilk. Seriously, I challenge anyone to find a debut album (from the past 5 years) that is as creative, innovative, unprecedented, and accessible as Fingers Crossed. I find it perplexing that Architecture in Helsinki came out of nowhere. If a band was about to release one of the best records of the year, wouldn’t you think that there’d be some sort of fanfare or buzz behind them? I mean, I heard all about Arcade Fire long before they released Funeral.

I’m obviously not being literal when I say Architecture in Helsinki came out of nowhere (relax; I’m not trying to insult your intelligence). They actually came from Australia (not Finland). Perhaps that is the reason why they weren’t preceded by any buzz. Throughout the past few years, the only Australian bands to successfully crossover to American markets have been hackneyed garage rock revival acts. No one expected something completely original to come from the land of Jet and The Vines. Architecture caught the world by surprise. In effect, Architecture in Helsinki single-handedly saved the reputation of an entire continent!

I was going to write several more paragraphs explaining the exact reasons why Architecture in Helsinki is one of the greatest bands around, but I found out that I don’t need to. Everyone else is doing it (finally). It was only a matter of time before the general population caught on. I will say one thing, though: Architecture in Helsinki is consistent! They just released their second album, In Case We Die (I wasn’t even tired of their first one yet), and it is already destined to go down in history as one of 2005’s best albums. In Case We Die is a monumental album, and as a result, Architecture is finally receiving the attention they deserve. Music journalists are scrambling to create a name for the genre that will inevitably spring from Architecture in Helsinki’s pioneering work. The name that will probably stick is Pitchfork’s “hyperprog,” which, apparently, could also be applied to bands like The Fiery Furnaces. Hyperprog…hmmm…catchy (as long as you don’t confuse Architecture for Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Yes).

I should make something clear. In order for a band to receive the coveted title of “one of Lee’s favorite bands,” not only do I need to be in love with them, I also have to have seen them live (and enjoyed them). Poor Architecture in Helsinki; they live on the opposite side of the globe. Traveling to Minnesota from Down Under is not an easy task (and it might not be high on their priority list). Plus, it would be nearly impossible to pull off their intricate arrangements and diverse instrumentation in a live setting. Face it; they’re doomed to be an enigmatic studio band.

A tremendous thing happened a couple Fridays ago: I saw Architecture in Helsinki perform live at the Turf Club! Guess what. Architecture in Helsinki is one of Lee’s favorite bands.

As an added bonus, Head of Femur was touring with Architecture. Now, Head of Femur could also fall into the so-called hyperprog genre. As the name implies, hyperprog is very suitable for people with very short attention spans. So if I were to book a local band to open for Head of Femur and Architecture in Helsinki, I would make sure to choose an eccentric band with zany pop sensibilities and a caffeinated live show. Cloud Cult would have been an obvious choice, but they were busy playing their CD release show at First Avenue that night. But there are plenty of other suitable local acts. For instance, Best Friends Forever, Hockey Night, or Belles of Skin City would have fit the mood perfectly. But nobody asked for my opinion, so instead, the ADHD kids in the Turf Club had their patience tested by the experimental noise-pirate duo, Beatrix*Jar.

Now, it is possible to appreciate Beatrix*Jar (see my write-up of the Menomena show), but it requires a determined attention span (and an ability to tune out their unnecessary attempts at singing). I wasn’t up for it. I became more and more restless; I desperately needed some Architecture in Helsinki.

Head of Femur helped perk me up. They were touring to support their new record, Hysterical Stars. All but two of the songs they played were from the new album, so there were no Brian Eno covers this time around (all of their original stuff is great, but I freakin’ love their version of “The True Wheel”). I was really impressed that the Turf Club stage was able to fit all eight members of Head of Femur. That was a good sign, considering that Architecture in Helsinki also needed to fit eight people on the stage (as well as a million crazy instruments).

Ooh, and then things got really exciting. The epic intro to Architecture’s song “Neverevereverdid” started blasting out of the Turf’s speakers. As everyone’s attention turned to the front of the club, eight shadowy figures came crawling in from backstage (literally, on their hands and knees). Without conversation, they settled themselves into a big hog pile on the stage. As the intro came to an end, the musicians slowly emerged from the heap of bodies and grabbed their instruments. As soon as they hit the first note as a full ensemble, I realized that I had just witnessed the evolution of the perfect rock band.

If you think eight musicians is a little extreme, what would you think of eight multi-instrumentalists who aren’t content with playing the same instrument for more than two minutes? During the span of a single song, the band members would run around the stage trading guitars, percussion, trombones, tubas, keyboards, flutes, and singing duties. The excessive multi-instrumentalism, and the endearing interplay among the band members reminded me a lot of a hyperactive Belle & Sebastian. And amazingly, they pulled it off without a hitch. Turns out, Architecture is not one of those clever studio bands with eyes bigger than their stomachs. They are an incredible live band fully capable of recreating the eccentricities of their albums, and then some. I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.

The show just got better and better. I did not want it to ever end. I highly doubt that I will experience as much fun and amazement at a show for the rest of the year. Oh wait, I take that back – Architecture said that they’ll be back in the fall. Yes! I’ll be there! And so will you.

Tuomiokirkko (The Lutheran Cathedral) - a fine example of architecture in Helsinki.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, I was waiting for you to post one of your lovely detailed reports on the Architecture in Helsinki show. All I had to go on previously was my friend Patrick who said, "They were alright but it's not really my kind of music." And I needed more than that.

So yeah. Thanks.


7:34 PM

Anonymous erinlein said...




1:08 AM


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Saturday, June 04, 2005


A lot has changed since I last saw The Stunning. For one, they have followed in the footsteps of bands like LFTR PLLR and S PRCSS and removed the vowels from their name. [Curiously enough, STNNNG’s music can be imagined by combining the idiosyncrasies of LFTR PLLR and S PRCSS (with a definite influence from The FLL’s Mark E. Smith).] Now, this spelling change presents a slight problem for anal people like me. All of my CDs must be properly alphabetized. Do I pretend that the vowels are still there and place their CD between The Strokes and Suede on my CD rack? Or do I ignore the phantom vowels and place their CD between The Stills and The Stone Roses? This is what keeps me awake at night. But my conundrum is nothing compared to the problem experienced by unaware radio DJs when they’re forced to pronounce “STNNNG” on the air.

Which brings me to the next few changes that have taken place. STNNNG just released their debut LP, Dignified Sissy, in April. The record has been widely lauded around the Twin Cities – half for its distinct and exciting songs, half for its unforgettable artwork (see picture above). As a result, their popularity has skyrocketed. I can’t turn on the radio without hearing STNNNG (which is much better than that time I couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing that horrendous Santana/Rob Thomas song, “Smooth”).

I remember a year or so ago, Radio K had a STNNNG demo that they played on their local music show. The first time I heard the demo, I was shocked. I immediately called up the station to find out who it was. I rushed to find a pen, and I scribbled “The Stunning” on the back of an envelope. I’ve been excited about STNNNG ever since. The recent buzz has only added to my enthusiasm. Without this elevated level of excitement, there’s no way I would have gotten off my lazy ass last Saturday to see a show.

Gosh, I was so tired on Saturday; I had no motivation to do anything except sleep. Finally, around 9:00 pm, I told myself that I could prevent the day from becoming a complete waste if I got out of bed to see STNNNG at the 7th Street Entry. So I wiped the sleep from my eyes, got dressed, and headed downtown.

Nothing like loud, raging rock and roll to wake you up. Although I was too pokey to catch Muncie, Indiana’s Ari Ari (which is a real shame according to the reviews I heard), I arrived in time to catch the end of Her Flyaway Manner’s set. The two songs I heard from this Lincoln, NE three-piece helped me forget that I was just sleeping a half hour earlier. After the show, I told the bass player that I wish I could have seen their entire set because I really liked the last two songs. He modestly replied, “Oh, those were our two good songs.”

Her Flyaway Manner wasn’t the only Nebraskan band to grace the Entry stage that night. Rent Money Big also decided to come and stir things up. Talk about spaz rock! The few recordings I’ve heard from this band don’t adequately capture their live sound. Live, there is more screaming, and more bodies flying through the air. Since they kept me thoroughly entertained, I forgive the singer for throwing his keyboard at me (well, he wasn’t aiming at me, but it hit my foot on the bounce).

Die Electric! (formerly known around town as The Volts) was next in line. If any band is deserving of an exclamation point after their name, it’s them. High energy is the name of the game. They are so much fun to watch, due in part to their between-song banter. It seemed like Dave Gardner (the bass player) was reverting back to his former Selby Tigers persona, Sammy G, the Frenchman. He told us that tonight was all about the French (referring to France’s vote on the EU constitution that was to happen the next day).

But the night wasn’t all about the French; it was all about the STNNNG. They were wild! Their singer, Chris Besinger, was all over the place, as usual. One minute, he’d be crawling on the floor; the next minute, he’d be hanging from the ceiling; the next minute, he’d be sitting on the shoulders of an audience member. He reminds me a lot of Tim Harrington from Les Savy Fav. But Chris doesn’t take all of the attention away from the rest of the band. They are all crazy in their own right. The entire stage was a riot. I was very grateful that the STNNNG was able to rescue my day from the dumps.

The rest of my Memorial Day weekend was very eventful. On Sunday, I went down to St. Olaf College in Northfield to see my sister graduate. The college went all out for the ceremony. There was an open house, they fed us tons of food, and the commencement speaker was great. Gosh, my graduation ceremony at the U of M was lame. We had some boring speaker discussing economic theory, or something like that. The highlight of my graduation was when they offered free cookies after the ceremony, but that was nothing compared the food at St. Olaf. Anyway, I should write a separate post about my sister’s graduation since it was a big deal. Maybe I could share some pictures too.

Monday was a nice day as well. I meant to spend the entire day getting work done, but instead, I went down to Aardvark Records to see an in-store performance by Lucero. I was a little confused when I was driving to the store because I heard Lucero playing live on Radio K. I thought, “Aren’t they supposed to be setting up at Aardvark right now? Oh I see, maybe the in-studio was prerecorded.” Nope. They were still at Radio K. The temperature in the tiny record store rose about 20 degrees as the swarm of people waited patiently for Lucero to show up. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and I didn’t mind sitting outside the store, people watching. Finally, after about an hour, Lucero drove up in their big white van. After apologizing for the wait, they delivered a stellar performance. The focus was on their brand new record, but they made sure to play at least one song from all of their records. Shortly after they finished playing, they packed up and headed off to their show at the Triple Rock. Busy day for Lucero.

Boy, I’m running behind on these blog posts. Memorial Day Weekend was an entire week ago. I really want to tell you about my amazing, incredible, extraordinary experience at the Turf Club last night, but that will have to wait for now. Sorry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucero? Aren't they from the south? I have this friend from Alabama who put a song of theirs on a cd for me a few years ago.

Also it's very funny to hear you talk about those Nebraska bands because I know who you're talking about. I've been heading to Omaha a lot lately.

I hope you're well.

11:52 PM

Blogger Lee said...

Yup, Lucero hail from Memphis, TN.

By the way, I'll be expecting a call if your voyages about the Midwest bring you back to the Twin Cities.

1:22 AM


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