MUSIC REVIEW | Semi-Twang, BB Gun, Leo Welch and Erik Koskinen at the Real Phonic Radio Hour at James J Hill Library


It was all men, all night on the Real Phonic Radio Hour stage on Thursday night at their monthly return to the James J. Hill Library. Not that I’m complaining but I notice these things.  

Semi-Twang headed up the bill. They are a county or country rock band from Milwaukee and alluded to playing back as far as 1988. Lead singer John Sieger took the stage to start and there was almost a Bob Dylan-esque sound, but as the band members joined the stage the sound rounded out. I was thrilled to hear keyboards; they really kicked in on the second song, The Wrong Side of the Tracks, which had more of a honky tonk feel. The music had a range from honky tonk to alternative country and bringing us around to old time rock with a very Chuck Berry song, followed up by an original Chuck Berry, capped off with a little Buddy Holly. My 9 year old date and I even danced to some of those songs!

BB Gun was a nice balance to Semi-Twang. They feel more like alternative music with hint of country, whereas Semi-Twang is alternative country with deep roots in rock. BB Gun was softer music, in fact at one point they introduced It’s the Way as a “pretty song.” And it was! I especially enjoyed the lyrics of their songs- although that might be because they mention landlines and in my day job I write about broadband. I’m easy that way – but I also found some of the sentiments to be astute. BB Gun is playing at First Avenue on January 30 if you want to check them out.

Ben Weaver provided the poetry interlude. He read a portion of a poem that he allowed was 100 page and still a work in process. I think It was called Ragged as Joy. It started as a epic poem and we followed the protagonist through a series of nature-loving experiences. I loved the use of specific locations and details – such as the Meeker dam site and under the 35 bridge.  

Special guest was Leo Welch, 81 years old from Mississippi. The best description I have for the songs he sang is joyous blues. He had that rich, gravelly voice of the blue and played guitar. Old time bluesy or gospel guitar. After the show I asked my 9 year old what her favorite part of the show was – Leo Welch was it. Some people just have the stage presence that reaches out to all ages. It was really fun to watch him play. He is clearly a master.

Starting off the show, with just one song this week was Erik Koskinen and the Real Phonic Radio band. The band included Paul Bergen, JT Bates and Chris Bates on the bass. They played a song about moonshine that I hope will be on the upcoming album.

Real Phonic Radio happens on the third Thursday of each month. It always has an intimate feel, although the crowds are getting larger. If you bring a canned good for the local food shelf you get a 25 percent discount on tickets.