2 DMC Champions, 1 Week, 1 Club


Sean Nye

Q-Bert
8.3.06

Roc Raida
8.9.06
Foundation

As a clubgoer I had about had it with the Twin Cities electronica scene, especially in the Warehouse District. The average club (I won’t name names) seems to draw its vision of a great party from the covers of your average Ibiza Dream Dance mix. Ibiza is the Mediterranean island club paradise that has turned out countless compilations, always with a female pinup in sunglasses looking out over a beach paradise, with the usual mix of progressive trance and house. There is more energy invested in the average gogo dancer than in creating a good vibe or booking good music. Indeed, electronica has been suffering for quite a while in this respect, often becoming a caricature of itself in which fun nights dancing turn into sunglass-wearing wallflowers who have little idea what the music is and seem to walk around with dumb, pleading, confused looks that ask, “Is this where it’s cool? Cuz I’m cool.”

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A tale of two quartets: Jazz-based music in the saturated art market


Sumanth Gopinath

Gutbucket
Suburban World Theatre
4.29.06

Gold Sounds
Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
5.1.06-5.2.06

Note that I refer to this music as “jazz-based,” rather than simply classifying it as “jazz.” I do this only to remind ourselves of the divergence between the increasing institutionalization of what is bludgeoned into the American public’s mind as JAZZ: AMERICA’S MUSIC, and that living practice of small-combo and improvised music that continues to flourish in many parts of the world, including the former global center of jazz, New York City. But if we were to dismiss the now-official wisdom of Stanley Crouch, Wynton Marsalis, Ken Burns, et al., and instead see jazz as a wide-ranging cultural practice that extends from smooth R&B and instrumental pop on one end to post-avant-gardist and electronic experimentalism on the other, we would quickly realize that the Twin Cities has received, and continues to receive, wonderful musicians within this practice on a regular basis, including the two New York-based groups reviewed here. Unfortunately, not all of these musicians are equally promoted within the glutted art-market of the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

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The Year of the Apple


Michael McGarthwaite

Happy Apple
1.14.05
Cedar Cultural Center

In true workhorse form, the members of the Twin Cities-based genre-shifting jazz trio Happy Apple wasted no time in getting the New Year off to a strong start, with a set of three concerts over two weekends in early January.

This is with good reason, as 2006 marks the 10th year of performing and recording for the group, without an end in sight. Originally a four-piece on 1996’s Blown Shock Waves and Crash Flow, the group came to be the now-infamous trio of Michael Lewis (saxophones and electronics), Eric Fratzke (electric bass guitar), and David King (drums, percussion, and comedy) by the time of their next full-length recording, Part of the Solution Problem (1998). Since then the band has expanded their reach into the avant-garde the world ‘round, and has received a great deal of acclaim both here and abroad. (Their most recent recording, 2005’s The Peace Between Our Companies, was released in France in an edition different from the American issue.)

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Secular Urban Liberals, Beware “Country” Music!


Sumanth Gopinath

The Gleam and Gee as in Jesus
12.29.05
The Triple Rock Social Club

A funny thing happened on the way past the Triple Rock. A little birdie, ensconced in the A-list of the City Pages, told me that the night’s show was going to be good, and that I had best step inside. Playing that evening were The Gleam, the headlining act glowingly mentioned by some country music fans I’d met at a recent Liquor Pigs show, and a group I hadn’t heard of, Gee as in Jesus. This latter band was the focus of the weekly paper’s recommendation, and the description, I am now ashamed to say, intrigued me. It told of clever allusions to and deep reverence for old-time music, regaling with tales of sweet harmonies, electric banjos, and the often-invoked name of the Son of Man.

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A Low Christmas Special: Lessons for the Left?


Sumanth Gopinath

Low
12.09.05
First Avenue

First Avenue’s performance space was transformed into a theatrical setting that, at first glance, aspired to the status of a candy-coated holiday spectacle. Plastic spruce trees were scattered decorously about the stage, at once signaling that the night’s show would be nothing less than a bona fide Christmas special. A strangely solemn rendition of “Little Drummer Boy,” familiar from its appearance in a Gap commercial some years back, filled the hall. The stage was packed with people, including, at various times, a choir with over a half-dozen singers, the retro-hippie musicians from the Duluth-based oddball bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles (the opening act), a keyboard player, and, in the center of it all, the members of Low, the renowned “slowcore” band, also from Duluth. The married, devout Mormon couple at the heart of Low, singer/guitarist/songwriter Alan Sparhawk and singer/percussionist Mimi Parker, gave a wonderful performance of their atmospheric, rarified music with a new bassist, Matt Livingston, who replaced the band’s longtime bass player, Zak Sally.

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Freakwater: Evil Country for You Heathens


Sumanth Gopinath

Freakwater
11.26.05
400 Bar

Around midnight on an early winter Saturday, the 400 Bar seemed even darker than usual. A modest audience of about fifty people watched in mostly-rapt attention, their gazes fixed on Catherine Ann Irwin and Janet Beveridge Bean, the two singers who front the idiosyncratic, neo-traditional (alt-)country band Freakwater. A colloquialism for moonshine, the compound word “freakwater” perfectly encapsulates the group’s stylistic contradictions: a “naïve,” ostensibly water-pure, Carter Family-esque musical style pressed in the service of relaying strange, enigmatic, and darkly humorous lyrics. As self-described purveyors of “evil” music, the band’s doyennes delivered a compelling, low-key performance that, for one night, made the 400 Bar unequivocally the best place in the Twin Cities to drown one’s tears in alcohol.

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