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Friday, March 24, 2006

Tapes 'n Tapes 'n Voxtrot


Tapes 'n Tapes

It’s crazy the kind of perspective being a month behind in your blogging can give you. For instance, when I saw Tapes ‘n Tapes’ remarkable performance at the 7th Street Entry on February 27th, I had no idea that they would become international superstars the very next day. A Pitchfork “Best New Music” review will definitely do that to you (think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). Now their name is everywhere. They were one of the most talked about bands at this year’s SXSW, and they were even raved about in the New York Times. Hype tends to make me bitter, but as for this Dinosaur-in-Trouble-endorsed band, I couldn’t be happier. I say it’s about time. Their debut album made my 2004 top-10 list, and I’ve been listening to The Loon nonstop ever since it was released in November.


Tapes 'n Tapes

Curiously enough, I didn’t even go to the Entry to see Tapes ‘n Tapes (the fact that they were there was just an added bonus). I was all about Voxtrot. Ever since they blew me away at SXSW 2005, I’ve been waiting patiently for them to visit the Twin Cities. The long wait was worth it. They were just as I remembered them: awesome. I haven’t heard their new EP (it’ll be released in April), but I own their first one, and even though it is very good, it does their live show no justice. So for those of you who have only heard Voxtrot on record, I strongly recommend that you seek them out live. Until then, you’ll have no idea what you’re missing.


Voxtrot

Milwaukee’s pop rockers, New Sense, opened the show. Even though they were overshadowed by the other two bands, they were equally impressive. Cool stuff.


New Sense

Archives:
Tapes ‘n Tapes @ The Varsity Theater: December 22, 2005
Voxtrot @ Emo’s (SXSW): March 16, 2005

3 Comments:

Blogger rocknrollstar said...

Lee,

Great updates man! You definitely bust them out in spurts... love your attitude on the whole blogging thing...

Re: Tapes 'n Tapes... Yeah, they'll be (h)uuuge (imagine Donald Trump saying that) in 20006...

10:21 PM

 
Blogger rocknrollstar said...

Ha Ha, I meant 2006. TnT are waaay overhyped at the moment (they're good don't get me wrong)...

You should check out lesser known bands such as the Arctic Monkeys...

11:59 PM

 
Blogger Lee said...

Ha! I guess that puts things into perspective. It's true that Pitchfork may be a bit too powerful. But they pale in comparison to the hype machine that is the British music press. Arctic Monkeys, Shmarctic Monkeys!

8:26 PM

 

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Wagner and the Zombie Men, pt. 2

On February 25th at Big V’s, my wish for more Wagner and the Zombie Men was finally granted. But first, I had the opportunity to experience the first and last performance of NOT Cool, Yeah (apparently named to distinguish themselves from local group, Cool, Yeah). Most of the music played by this one-off band was openly lifted from other people’s songs, but they were still very entertaining.


NOT Cool, Yeah

Wagner and the Zombie Men continued their zombie narrative. They started by recapping the storyline from their previous show (through song, of course). But once we were all up to speed, they left us hanging and started a new storyline. The idea is that there are several concurrent storylines that will somehow intertwine and connect in the end. The new storyline recounted a school field trip that was besieged by zombies. Through the sudden realization that his parents were killed by zombies, a schoolboy develops the courage to battle off his classmates and teacher who had all become infected with the zombie sickness. For several of their songs, Wagner and the Zombie Men were joined by a guitar player who added a new dimension to their creepy narratives. This is getting exciting. I can’t wait for part three!


Wagner and the Zombie Men

Although the people I was with didn’t really agree, I thought the third band, Princess Wishingstar, was very appropriate. True, their music was about as ridiculous as anything that Manowar has done. But instead of using metal to tell tales of warriors and dragons, they used shaky space rock to paint a picture of B-movie-style sci-fi. A zombie band and a sci-fi band – could you ask for a better pairing? I apologize for making my friends sit through Princess Wishingstar’s set. But how could you not like a band with a song called “Ctrl+Alt+Del?”


Princess Wishingstar

Archives:
Wagner and the Zombie Men @ The Dinkytowner: January 29, 2006

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Heiruspecs and Brother Ali

Immediately after I returned from Duluth (February 24th), I headed over to the sold-out Great Hall in Coffman Union to satisfy the hip-hop craving that I didn’t really have. I missed most of Kanser’s set, which was really a shame since I’ve been enjoying their recent radio “singles.” It was also a special night for Kanser since they were playing with a full band. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll see them again some time soon.

At least I didn’t miss the always-dazzling Heiruspecs. Be it the clever rhyming, the Rahzel-style sound effects, or the incredible musicians in the band, Heiruspecs shows are always tons of fun. This show was no exception, thanks in part to Heiruspecs’ understanding of hip-hop’s tradition of crowd interaction.


Heiruspecs pack the Great Hall

Next up was the sometimes-dazzling Brother Ali. Aided by The C.O.R.E.’s Toki Wright, Brother Ali brought us up with his lively old-school braggadocio, and then brought us way down with his slicing a cappella autobiographical rhymes. Very touching.


Brother Ali

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Duluth


Curling anyone?

My trip to Duluth last month was work related, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have any fun. I spent the first night (February 22nd) hanging out at Pizza Lucé, taking in some interesting music. Screamo band, Bear Garden, reminded me of just how old I am (I’m sure I would have liked that stuff if it was around when I was in high school, though). And I was a little too tired for punk rockers, Best Friends Fornever (not to be confused with Dinosaur in Trouble favorites, Best Friends Forever).


Cars & Trucks

The middle act, however, made the whole trip worthwhile. Cars & Trucks were a very nice and eerily familiar power pop band. It wasn’t until halfway through their set that it finally dawned on me that the singer/guitar player was Tony Bennett – the singer/guitar player from The Dames. I loved The Dames, but I had no idea what had become of Tony after they broke up. Yeah, one less mystery in my life! I started paying closer attention after I made that connection. Cars & Trucks were much more laid-back than The Dames (but then again, most bands are), but their music was similarly catchy. Their set was highlighted by an extremely satisfying cover of Built to Spill’s “Big Dipper.”


Charlie Parr

The next night, I caught Americana/folk/bluesman Charlie Parr at the Radisson. He had a harmonica player/steel guitar player in company, which definitely added variety to his two-hour set. He put on a very good show, but I had to leave early to get to the heated pool on the roof of my hotel. It wasn’t until I got back to the Twin Cities that I realized Charlie Parr was that week’s City Pages cover story. Whoa, dude.


View of Lake Superior from my hotel room

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Belong and Ariel Pink


Belong

Belong’s show at the 7th Street Entry on February 17th was about as exciting as you could expect from an ambient instrumental shoegaze duo. Hey, they don’t call them shoegazers for nothing. Belong didn’t seem to want any attention drawn to themselves (they hid in the shadows bundled up in their winter gear throughout their entire set). Instead, our attention was drawn to the video projection that sorta went along to Belong’s sonic textures. No, it wasn’t too exciting. But it also wasn’t boring. I actually found it quite pleasant. I now listen to Belong’s debut album, October Language, when I go to bed. It works.

Belong’s set was exactly what I expected (which is probably why I wasn’t put off by them), but I had no idea what to expect from Ariel Pink. I had heard that his shows were questionable, but I wanted to see for myself. I was also drawn by curiosity of his backing band. For this tour, Ariel Pink decided to break his long-standing tradition of playing solo. He announced that the first band in each touring city to send him an email would get to be his back-up band for the day. Justifying his decision, he claimed, “The element of surprise will keep me from falling asleep onstage.” Until I saw him perform, I thought he was just joking about falling asleep onstage.


Ariel Pink

Solo artists who make quirky music with little concern for musicianship generally make up for their shortcomings through showmanship and crowd interaction. Apparently, this idea had never occurred to Ariel. Sure he wore funny clothes, but that wasn’t enough to make his live show entertaining. Ariel didn’t once look at the audience, and he sure as hell didn’t talk to us. As a result, his songs all ran together and became an indistinguishable blob of reverb. His “backing band” didn’t join him until his last song. I thought that things would finally start to get interesting, but Ariel didn’t even introduce the band, he didn’t even talk to them. I gathered that the band was a group of friends from the Perpich arts high school (home to Melodious Owl). They were really good considering that they were able to keep up with Ariel even though he couldn’t (or refused to) keep a steady tempo. They were also much more interesting to watch than Ariel. But apparently his plan worked – much to my surprise, he didn’t fall asleep onstage.


Ariel Pink's Haunted 7th Street Entry Band

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Grrrls!


Portia Richardson of The Haves Have It

Fuck Lilith Fair. With so many innovative female-fronted bands struggling to be taken seriously, why would the one festival dedicated to exposing female artists choose to highlight the safest, most mainstream, most boring musicians? If the organizers of Lilith Fair had any balls, the festival might have resembled the amazing lineup at the 7th Street Entry on February 10th. (For those of you who read carefully, that was probably the worst joke I’ve ever told.)

Riot Grrrl revivalists, and one of my new favorite bands, Baby Guts, opened the show. Wow! Maybe since it was their drummer’s last show, they decided to send him off with a bang by kicking all of our asses. I was definitely sore afterward. And just to prove how hardcore they were, they did an awesome cover of Scratch Acid’s “Cannibal.” I haven’t been this impressed by a new band since the first time I saw The Haves Have It.


Baby Guts

Speaking of The Haves Have It, and speaking of drummers leaving…the night also served as Dustin’s farewell show as he parted ways with The Haves Have It to focus on lazer.forever. But shit, after an amazing performance like that, I can only imagine that he was having second thoughts. The Haves Have It stole the night (luckily they were the only band capable of following Baby Guts). Rarely were their shows ever filled with this much energy, and I had never witnessed them so musically tight. It’ll be interesting to see if a new drummer can live up to Dustin’s legacy.


Dustin's last show with The Haves Have It


Jenn and Portia of The Haves Have It

Spider Fighter (the newest band to feature Arzu from the Selby Tigers) rocked us with their unique brand of pop punk, and then made way for Siouxsie & The Banshees disciples, Maps of Norway. Lilith Fair has nothing on the Twin Cities.


Spider Fighter


Maps of Norway

Archives:
The Haves Have It @ The Triple Rock: January 22, 2006
The Haves Have It @ Dino Porno #3
The Haves Have It @ Club Underground: December 14, 2005
The Haves Have It @ The Triple Rock: September 15, 2005
The Haves Have It @ The Triple Rock: August 12, 2005
The Haves Have It @ The 7th Street Entry: July 9, 2005
The Haves Have It @ house party: May 21, 2005

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Wagner and the Zombie Men


Wagner and the Zombie Men

Yet another reason why the Twin Cities music scene is perhaps the most unique in the country: Wagner and the Zombie Men (pronounced “Vagner,” as in the German composer, Richard Wagner). With little more than a mandolin (played by Chad Zigweid) and a drum set (played by Paul Wichmann), the duo formed around the concept of zombie storytelling. Through music and spoken word/singing, the group recounts a zombie invasion through a continuous storyline that develops and unfolds from show to show.

The whole thing seemed a little kooky until I finally saw Wagner and the Zombie Men play at the Dinkytowner on January 29th. To my surprise, the concept actually worked. As I watched them play, I almost forgot that their music was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. I got really caught up in the storyline. The spoken word segments (which were sprinkled with interesting sound effects) were extremely engaging, and the songs were really, really good. Their set ended with a cliffhanger that may or may not be resolved during their next show. Well, at least I know one thing: I’ll be at their next show.

Power pop band, Gazillion closed out the night. They sounded just fine, but since I was afraid that zombies were waiting for me outside of the Dinkytowner, I didn’t pay much attention.


Gazillion

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The Plastic Constellations


TPC: hottest ticket in town

Is it acceptable for me to write about a show that happened two months ago? No? It defeats the purpose of a live concert review? Ha! I don’t care. I don’t do this for your benefit. I document these concerts just to prove that I was there (you know, like that LCD Soundsystem song). But I agree, my blogging negligence really does suggest that I’m “losing my edge.” Anyway...

January 27th - Triple Rock Social Club:
The day after The Plastic Constellations were featured in every single publication known to man (including the Star Tribune, City Pages, Pulse, and Pitchfork), the Constys packed the Triple Rock for two back-to-back shows celebrating the release of their Frenchkiss debut, Crusades. I managed to squeeze into the second show.

Dinosaur in Trouble favorites, STNNNG, opened the show. It is my impression that STNNNG sensed that half of the people in the crowd were fair-weather local music fans, so they decided to be louder and more obnoxious than usual. As can be imagined, they effectively divided the audience. Oh, I loved it.


STNNNG

When it comes to dividing audiences, however, no band in the history of Minnesota music has been as successful as The Hawaii Show – just ask the thousands of angry Nickelback fans (please don’t ask me what The Hawaii Show was doing opening for Nickelback). For any non-Minnesotans that might be reading this, The Hawaii Show is the band formed by Lifter Puller guitarist Steve Barone (a.k.a. Mr. Hawaii Dude) after Craig Finn and Tad Kubler moved to New York. The reason for their infamy is their gimmick of lip-synching all of their songs (as well as their conversations with the audience). Their songs, which are generally topical parodies of other people’s songs, are usually accompanied by a ridiculous stage show complete with wardrobe changes and homemade props. Genius, if you ask me.


Steve Dude of The Hawaii Show

The Hawaii Show’s performance at the Triple Rock diverted from their usual set in that it was a full-fledged lip-synched stage drama. The saga followed rapper Ludachrist’s fall from grace as his lip-synching scheme was uncovered and betrayed to the Romans. Not the most original storyline. But then again, who else would think of combining Ludacris, the New Testament, and lip-synching?


Ludachrist


After crucifying famed lip-synchers Milli Vanilli and Ashlee Simpson, the Romans seek out their next target: Ludachrist.

The final opener, Doomtree, had a stage presence that was just about as chaotic as The Hawaii Show’s. With just a few more days until P.O.S. released his new album, a lot of the people in the crowd were just excited to see Doomtree as they were to see The Plastic Constellations. Since a very large chunk of Doomtree’s beats are produced by The Plastic Constellations’ Aaron Mader (known as Lazerbeak to the hip-hop world), it was very appropriate that they shared the bill. For Doomtree’s finale, TPC joined the stage for a rocking rendition of Doomtree’s chant-along theme song. Pretty cool.


Doomtree from left to right: P.O.S., Paper Tiger (DJ), Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan


Sims and Cecil Otter

Let me tell you something about The Plastic Constellations. When I first moved to Minneapolis in 1999, everyone was talking about this high school band called The Plastic Constellations. Thanks to all-ages venues downtown like the Foxfire Café, young, creative bands like TPC actually had a chance to amass a following and to be taken seriously. Without that kind of support, The Plastic Constellations could have easily fizzled out like so many high school bands before them. Seven years later, The Plastic Constellations are one of the longest-running, most successful rock bands in the Twin Cities.

So here’s a call for more all-ages venues. The Foxfire is long since gone, the Fireball is long since gone, the Bon Appetit is long since gone, the Babylon is long since gone, Eclipse Records is long since gone. It is truly tragic that the survival of a music venue is so heavily dependent on alcohol sales. The lack of all-ages venues in the Twin Cities really suffocates our scene. Young talent is shut out before they even have a chance develop. How many Plastic Constellations have we unwittingly abolished in recent years with our ageist music scene?

Anyway, in the years I’ve been watching the Constellations play, they’ve never put on a bad show. Their show at the Triple Rock was extraordinary mainly due to the enthusiastic sold-out crowd. As balloons fell from the ceiling, The Plastic Constellations got sentimental by retiring their song, “Let’s War” – their raison d’être from their high school years. The fact that almost everyone in the club was singing along to the song shows just how important The Plastic Constellations are to our music scene.


The Plastic Constellations

Archives:
The Plastic Constellations @ The Whole: October 14, 2005
Dessa and Cecil Otter @ The Triple Rock: January 22, 2006
Doomtree @ Nomad World Pub: July 21, 2005
STNNNG @ The 7th Street Entry: January 14, 2006
STNNNG @ Top 10 Albums of 2005
STNNNG @ The 7th Street Entry: May 28, 2005

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