MUSIC REVIEW | Love over Gold, The Icicles, Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Radio Band at the Hill Library

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Mayor Chris Coleman welcomed the crowd to Real Phonic Radio at the James J Hill Reference Library Thursday, October 16. And I have to say, our Mayor is a good sport, reading in the usual iireverant appraoch of regular spokesman, Thom MIddlebrook. He astutely observed that while we had enough entertainment for three shows in Minneapolis, it was all hitting one stage in St Paul—as it does every third Thursday.

Headlining the night was Love Over Gold, which is the combined talents of Pieta Brown, from Iowa and Lucie Thorne, originally from Tasmania, Australia. Both are singers, song writers and guitar players. Upon quick brush they seem alike—both attractive women with pretty voices who sing with a folksy Americana twang. (Maybe the Americana genre has a different name in Australia?) But at closer inspection they have very different styles. Thome has a whispery, almost husky voice. She seems to dance with her guitar to increase the vibration of sound. (An observation made by my 10 year old date.) Brown has a more subdued style and clearer, higher voice. The voices complement each other so well, adding a seemingly thoughtful dimension to their sound.

Thome writes songs about exotic places, such as Bimbaya, South Wales (population 4); while Brown writes about local haunts, such as a song about St Paul written about the time the 35W Bridge went down. Again a nice juxtaposition of stories from places as different as their voices—and yet with a similar tone and tune. To be fair, Thome also had a song about a National Park in Illinois, but framed through an Australian lens as someplace exotic. That was our favorite song as it borrowed from a Violent Femmes song we both love.

Leading up to Love Over Gold, The Icicles played; the band includes Minnesota musical stalwarts and gems—Jake Hanson, Jeremy Hanson and Jimmy Anton. They play sultry surf music. It’s like Los Straightjackets played at half speed. They have the groovy, wavy strong and by the third song the drums started to take front seat with a faster beach beat. There was something frustratingly controlled (in a good way) about their playing. Too cool for someone like me who would let loose in full speed—but again in a good way and great fit for the time and place.

Like last month, the poetry interlude was brought to us by Thom Middlebrook who read a surprisingly sad short story about a the power of a pen, found by a daughter, shared with a father representing the voice of a lost mother. The interesting question raised by the story: how dead was the mother really if her voice was still accessible to/through the daughter in the form of a quill pen.

The night began as it always does with Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Band, consisting last night of Paul Bergen, Frankie Lee and Jeremy Johnson. Koskinen allowed that he had just returned from a 22-hour drive home from Texas. It made for some interesting remixes of songs such as slower, darker version of Devil’s Blues.