Dinosaur in Trouble: proudly serving Twin Cities music geeks

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Retribution Gospel Choir

Alan Sparhawk of The Retribution Gospel Choir (Mark Kozelek represented by glowing green orb)

For all of you living in a vacuum, The Retribution Gospel Choir is a brand new touring “supergroup” featuring Alan Sparhawk (Low, Black-eyed Snakes) and Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon). Exciting, isn’t it?

I had this genius idea of comparing The RGC (sans Kozelek) at the Uptown Bar with last night’s RGC (avec Kozelek) at the 400 Bar. Well, turned out, Mark Kozelek’s throat infection still hadn’t settled, so he had to postpone his 400 Bar appearance (for the second time). The Retribution Gospel Choir (sans Kozelek) still played, along with openers No Wait Wait, but I chose lie low for the night.

So, no geeky comparisons today. Sorry. However, I can tell you this: Alan Sparhawk (and his drummer and bass player) seemed to have everything under control during Friday’s (8/19/2005) show at the Uptown Bar. Their set was so solid and seemed so complete that I’m having a hard time imagining what Mark Kozelek could possibly add to The Retribution Gospel Choir.

I arrived expecting some half-finished, tongue-in-cheek rock-n-roll songs. I was dead wrong. Deeaadd wrong. Sure, the songs rocked – there was screeching feedback and guitar solos (don’t let Low’s simplicity fool you; Al is a master axman). But The Retribution Gospel Choir was more like Low than the Black-eyed Snakes in that the lyrics were thoughtful, and the emotion behind the music was powerful and passionate.

Now, I’ve seen Alan Sparhawk solo performances, and I’ve rocked out to the Snakes, but The RGC seemed much more significant. The addition of another cult hero (if Kozelek’s throat ever heals) might be a little overwhelming. But if Kozelek can successfully integrate into this already ideal side project, my opinion of supergroups might forever change (don’t get me wrong, I love The Traveling Wilburys as much as the next guy).


If you can believe it, after The Retribution Gospel Choir left the stage, the floor of the Uptown Bar started to get really packed. The familiar faces I noticed during the Choir’s set were soon replaced by boys in white baseball caps and girls in fancy makeup.

The following is a transcript of the conversation held between the angel and devil sitting on my shoulders:

Devil: Lee, why are you still standing among these frat boys?

Angel: Wait, you don’t even know if they’re frat boys. Even if they were, why would it matter? Lee, you’re well aware of the dangers of prejudice – don’t be a hypocrite. You know as well as I do that not all frat boys are rapists. Plus, anyone who’s out supporting local music can’t be that bad.

Devil: We’ve been through this before: frat boys flock to bad music. Get out of here while you can.

Angel: Divorcee isn’t that bad. Just wait until you see them.

Devil: Divorcee isn’t playing until later. The frat boys are here for a band called Robotboy.

Angel: It’s impossible to judge a band by their fans. Lee is not a snob. He’s going to keep an open mind, and he’ll probably really enjoy Robotboy’s music.

Devil: Lee, Robotboy doesn’t need you – they had a full-page write-up in the City Pages, and they obviously already have a lot of fans.

Angel: Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to form your own opinion. Give them a chance, Lee.

Devil: You’ll be sorry. Ha! Look at that gigantic drum set; that’s already a bad sign!

Angel: Now you’re just being prejudice for the sake of being prejudice.

Devil: Oh, look at those band dudes. Aren’t they pretty. I wonder how long it took them to do their hair.

Angel: See, Lee? You’re tapping your foot. You’re bobbing your head. I told you they’d be alright.

Devil: What are you talking about? Lee, this is the type of derivative, polished pop punk that has made you shudder for years! You just finished watching an amazing band. Why would you want to taint that experience by lowering your standards to this crap?

Angel: You’re missing the point. You don’t need to take everything so seriously. Robotboy is meant to be a fun band. They’re great musicians, and they do write fun songs. So just relax and have fun with it. Who are you trying to impress, anyway?

Devil: I hope you’re happy. We’ve sat through several songs, and nothing’s improved. I can’t believe we’re missing Malachi Constant for this.

Angel: What!? We’re missing Malachi Constant!? Let’s get the fuck out of here!!!

P.S. Check out HowWasTheShow's review of Robotboy's set for a more open-minded perspective.

Low @ First Avenue: February 12, 2005


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