MUSIC REVIEW | Sleater-Kinney return to First Avenue after 10 years

In the 10 years since they last played First Avenue, Sleater-Kinney grew into a legend of huge proportions. During the band’s previous run, it was rare for First Avenue to sell out the main room for indie bands of any stripe. Going to a show there sometimes felt like an act of rebellion; that the band, you and the few brave souls in the room were fighting the good fight – to keep rock alive, to fight for rights, to fight for art. Today, 1500 people line up upside First Avenue for hours in 0 degree weather on Valentine’s Day, waiting for their chance to see a band that embodied that fight. The trio of Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss (with backing musician Kate Harkin) made the effort, and the fight, worthwhile.Stepping into the shoes of their ever growing legend, the band brought a light show and backdrop with them that signaled a step up to another level of performance for them—not just “Words and Guitar,” but now “Sound and Vision” too. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Lydia Loveless at the Turf Club: A vicious storm of noise, stress, and gorgeous notes

Lydia Loveless and her band returned to the Twin Cities Saturday, November 29, filling up the reopened Turf Club with a furious noise. The crowd was bigger than her last show in April at the 7th St Entry. That has to be as a result of word of mouth as the last time The Current played her music was a week ago, on the Americana show. Though country-rock is somewhat of a staple of The Current’s playlist, Loveless’s most recent album Somewhere Else and her Boy Crazy EP is not getting the same attention as a Dawes or First Aid Kit or Lucinda Williams does on that station. Maybe we shouldn’t care, but it seems a disservice to radio listeners and music fans. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Ex Hex and Speedy Ortiz pack the 7th Street Entry

One thing was very clear by the end of the Ex Hex/Speedy Ortiz show October 24 at the 7th St Entry, Ex Hex is a big enough draw for the show to have been at a larger venue like the recently re-opened Turf Club. The two bands appear to be switching off headlining duties, but more people had definitely packed into the Entry to see indie rock mainstay Mary Timony and her new trio with bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura Harris. The venue probably wasn’t nearing capacity, but there were enough in attendance to make it a little uncomfortable. Despite that, the crowd danced feverishly through out Ex Hex’s brief middle set as they put on an professional, energetic performance of pop-rock punk.There’s something to be said for the fact that Mary Timony has been involved with one of the best albums of 2011 with Wild Flag’s only album, and now in 2014 with the new debut Rips. Similar to her peers J Mascis and Tanya Donelly, Timony is currently making some of the best music of her career. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Shonen Knife pays tribute to the Ramones in 1,000th show at the Turf Club

The spirit that drives Shonen Knife was apparent in the song that played over the PA as they left the stage: The Ramones’ “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” While Shonen Knife didn’t play any of their excellent Ramones covers for their 1,000th show, held at the newly remodeled Turf Club, all of their music displayed how that thunderous punk rock heart of The Ramones is so important to Shonen Knife. With the recent death of the last original Ramone, Thomas “Tommy Ramone” Erdelyi, being reminded how their soul and energy remain alive in bands today was comforting and up lifting.With their recent album Overdrive, Shonen Knife added some new tricks to their repertoire with riffs that harken back to 1970s albums by AC/DC and Black Sabbath. It says a lot about the longevity of their career when the three songs off Overdrive–“Bad Luck Song,” “Ramen Rock,” and “Green Tea”–are just as strong (if not stronger) than many of the fan favorites they played during the set.Founder Naoko Yamano was joined on stage with more recent members Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums. The three emerged on the stage dressed in matching, but not identical, dresses inspired by Piet Mondrian’s Composition No. 10. You know the one, all black lines and alternating rectangles of white and prime colors. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Lydia Loveless at the 7th St Entry: An important new voice

Country punk rocker Lydia Loveless and her band started their set at the 7th St Entry last night playing opener “To Love Somebody” with the same reckless energy most people play their last rocker of the evening. They maintained the intensity of that song through out the whole show–despite or because of the bottle of whiskey they brought on stage with them–even if they didn’t always maintain the breakneck tempo they had on that song. They performed like a rock n roll hurricane, you were either going to get swept up with them or you were going to be destroyed. Loveless has many songs that embody an emotional core similar to the way they performed–you’re either going to be swept up by her or destroyed by her. By the end of their 90 minute set, Loveless and her band had proved that it was better to join them in their musical mayhem.The band itself was a sight to behold with Loveless looking tiny next to her giant of a bass player, Ben Lamb, who played an upright bass that was almost larger than him for most of the evening. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Amadou & Mariam make you dance at The Cedar Cultural Center African Summer series

It seemed that even as Amadou & Mariam were being led up to the stage, people were already dancing. That wouldn’t stop for two hours, as the couple and their band threw song after song of ridiculously danceable music at the crowd.Most of the material was from their 2012 album Folila, but they also pulled out other songs from their 2005 and 2009 collaborations with Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz). Going into the show, it was hard to tell what to expect of the material from Folila, as many songs feature guest appearances and collaborations. The album was actually recorded twice, once in New York with members of TV on the Radio and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then in Mali, and then brought it to Paris where the two versions were melded and more people contributed. On that record there is a lot of interplay between what Amadou & Mariam do and their guests. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Bombino satisfies at The Cedar Cultural Center, the first in the African Summer series

There is almost no possible way that someone could have walked away from Tuareg musician Bombino’s show at the Cedar Cultural Center (the first in the African Summer series) without being completely satisfied. Having said that, why do I feel like something was missing? Personally, I blame the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.Despite any language barrier or possible lack of familiarity with Bombino’s music, the crowd was constantly moving and dancing to the tight groove that Bombino and his band wove all night. The acoustic three song opening set–performed with Bombino’s rhythm guitarist on percussion and his bass player–had a down home, toe tapping feel that is not at all unfamiliar to the Twin Cities music scene. All three songs had a laid back late night porch groove that culminated in “Ahulakamine Hulan” from Bombino’s recent album, the Dan Auerbach produced Nomad. Continue Reading