Six Shows, Three Days: MP Johnson’s Fifteenth Column

Since my last column addressed the magic that can happen when you don’t go to a show, I thought this one should demonstrate what can happen when you have a show overdose. Last weekend, I went to six shows in three days. I’m not saying this is a world record or anything, but it’s definitely my record, and I’m proud of it. From the basements to the bowling alleys, here’s my account of the fun:

Day One

The action started Saturday evening at a basement I had never been to. It wasn’t hard to find the place, what with dozens of punks littering the front yard and sidewalk, beers in hand. I joined them for a bit before wandering down into the basement in time to watch the Red Devils spend too long tuning, play one song, and then ask the audience, “Are the levels okay?”
            I wanted to scream, “Yes, the levels are fucking fine! Nobody even cares about the levels! You are in a basement in front of twelve sweating people. What next? Are you going to bring out your drum tech? I don’t think you thoroughly sound-checked the cymbals!” I tried to internalize my rage, but judging from the smell emanating from my armpits in that hot basement, I may have sprung a leak.
            After they played, I went back outside for a bit. Kate showed off her rad beer cooler. It’s a cylindrical case that looks sort of like a blue quiver that she carries over her shoulder. Instead of arrows, it holds cans stacked one on top of another. Her dad had won it in a cigarette promotion seventeen years ago, thus the slogan on the side that said “Summer ‘90.” Needless to say, people were impressed.
            I rushed off to the Turf Club for show number two. At this time, I feel obligated to point out that I did not attend the six shows in their entirety, as that is nearly impossible, since most shows take place at roughly the same time. I do not believe this is cheating and I do not feel it takes anything away from my accomplishment. If you feel otherwise, then you just keep it to yourself, turkey.
            At the Turf, I chatted with Kevin, the singer and mastermind behind Pink Reason. He mentioned that he was living in Columbus, Ohio, where the streets have been plagued by kids smashing car windshields with bricks, causing him to have to travel by bus. Every time I see PR, they are a different band, in terms of personnel and, more importantly, sound. Their first show was in a candle-lit basement in Green Bay. Dax, their singer at the time, had covered his head in duct tape. He looked like the villain in a forgotten 1980s slasher movie, and the ambience that night seemed just right for washing knives with the blood of punks. It’s important to mention that Dax is deaf, so his vocal style was unique. Between then and now, I’ve seen them as a destructive acoustic duo, flopping around on stage and seemingly ready to explode. I’ve seen them as a full-on punk rock band, drunk and pounding on walls.
            This evening, they were the most physically subdued I have ever seen them, which allowed the force of the tunes to come out and speak for itself.
            Mute Era played next. I sat in the back and read the Onion because they didn’t interest me. Yeah, sometimes I’m a jerk.
            Next, Grant Hart took the stage, alone with his guitar. The crowd thinned out considerably. I expected that such a key player in the history of Minneapolis music would attract more people. Somehow, he did manage to attract a gaggle of thick-necked jocks, complete with those short, fat mohawks (I like to call them jockhawks) and armband tattoos. These meatheads seemed to know Hart’s solo songs, which seemed odd, because the tunes aren’t exactly built for psyching people up at football practice.
            These guys were completely blasted and intent on pissing Mr. Hart off. In one of the most absurd displays of heckling I have ever seen, one of these turds stood directly in front of the stage, lifted the back of his shirt over his head in an impersonation of Beavis (of Beavis and Butthead fame) and yelled, “I am the great cornholio!” He supplemented it with the expected chortles.
            When various people in the crowd laughed at this, Grant Hart cried, “No! Don’t encourage him.” Then he stormed away, disappearing backstage as he slammed the door behind him.
            The dorks were asked to leave, or at least make themselves scarce, and Mr. Hart returned to wrap up his set with some intense renditions of classic Hüsker Dü tunes.
            I took off before the final band, hoping that maybe I would catch the final moments of the basement show. Instead, I found an “‘80s dance party” that somehow involved modern hip hop. Time to go.

Day Two

At five-ish, we arrived at the Triple Rock. Hardcore bands. Pandamonium. Dios Mio. Cross Examination played the thrash. In Defence, who have corrupted me into misspelling the word “defense” way too many times, wrapped up the show. My friends – Micci and Nate – and I had a brief discussion about why the local band was playing after the touring band. When they played, I realized the answer was simple: because they fucking rule. They are easily my favorite Twin Cities hardcore band at the moment. Their tunes combine intensity and comedy. For other bands, those two elements might contradict each other, but for In Defence, they go together like milk and chocolate, like thrash and hardcore, like peanut butter and a punch in the face.
            Nobody wanted to go to the next show with me, and I mean nobody. When I got to the 7th Street Entry, the weird little closet attached to First Avenue, I was one of maybe six peeps there, and that’s including the opening band. As the show moved along, a handful more wandered in: a pack of people who were obviously friends with the band, and a random assortment of kids in Slipknot shirts.
            Why were they in Slipknot shirts, you ask? Well, because the headlining band, Dirty Little Rabbits (which, as far as I can tell, is the worst band name ever), is the side band of Slipknot’s drummer. Now, you might be thinking that I have some weird Slipknot love going on, but that’s definitely not the case. I was there because the band also features the majestic vocalizations of Stella Katsowobopoloulis (or something like that), formerly known as Stella Soleil.
            Let me tell you a bit about Stella Soleil, because she’s had a fairly bizarre career. Early on, I believe she did some background vocals for a bunch of mainstream industrial bands, such as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. She was a member of a band called Sister Soleil, who put out one full length. It could safely be described as easily listening industrial. What Kenny G is to wind instruments, Sister Soleil is to synthesizers and drum machines. I thought it was cool.
            In the midst of the female pop star wars of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, her record label decided they needed someone to compete with Christina, Britney, Jessica and the gang. Stella was blonde, reasonably attractive, and had a nice voice, so they figured, “What the heck; let’s throw it against the wall.” Needless to say, it didn’t stick. At the time, pop music was all about being ultra manufactured and bland. Her music was too elaborate. She was too spastic.
            She disappeared for a while, doing a few random things like collaborating with some obscure European techno guy. Then she reappeared just a couple months ago with this Dirty Little Rabbits thing.
            Anyway, after the “mic check, mic check, mic check,” the band took the stage. Stella handed the microphone over to the keyboard player. Shaking, the dude leaned over his board and leered at one of the ladies in the audience.
            “Cindy, will you come here a second?” he asked.
            The girl approached. They stared at each other awkwardly. “Will you marry me?” he asked.
            “Yes,” she replied.
            A bit of tepid applause and then the band burst into their weird circus metal, Stella all flailing around and screaming.
            But wait! What the fuck was that? What the fuck kind of half-assed marriage proposal did I just witness? There was no ring, for one thing. Not even some makeshift stand in for a ring, like a froot loop. Nothing. Isn’t there supposed to be an engagement ring? Second, there was no kiss. This scruffy-haired keyboard player asked this chick to marry him, she agreed and simply trotted to the back of the room in her high heels. If I hadn’t heard her reply, I would have thought she politely declined. Third, out of all of the times and places that he could have proposed to her, like maybe in front of a big hometown crowd of friends and family, he decided to go with the grimy 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, Minnesota in front of ten kids in Slipknot shirts who snuck in with fake IDs?
            It seemed a little retarded. Somehow, I think Mr. Keyboard sensed my disdain, because after the first song, he threw a gong at my feet. A fucking gong! I had to step aside, and he just acted like it was no big thing. I should have taken that damn gong home with me.

Day Three

Things got a little mucky on day three. I was high on accomplishment, ready to attend the final two shows of the run, when I learned that the final concert had been cancelled. This was bad news. Theo and the Skyscrapers, fronted by the former singer of the Lunachicks, was to be the grand finale, but their bus broke down in St. Louis or some shit. Obviously, they had little consideration for what I was trying to accomplish here.
            Hopeless, I tried to come to grips with the fact that five shows in three days wasn’t so bad. I guess I could have lived with that. Then I found out I didn’t have to. Another show existed. I would get my six shows after all! Hooray.
            That evening, I went to the Alamo House promptly at seven, which was when the show was supposed to start. That wasn’t quite the case, but eventually the Useless Wooden Toys took their place on the basement stage. The Alamo House is my favorite basement out of the ones I’ve visited thus far in the Twin Cities. The walls are covered with enough punkffiti (punk + graffiti) to accent the gray of the surrounding concrete without necessarily overcoming it. If I were to reach into the right little cranny, I could pull out a hand covered completely with cobwebs, and maybe even tiny baby spiders ready to burrow into the pores of random punks. It’s just about the right size, big enough for people to jump around and thrash, but not so big as to leave them thrashing in a sea of nothingness.
            It was also just the right size for Conquest For Death to play their hardcore while bouncing off the walls. They were the highlight and, even though they were followed by three other bands, they were where I reached maximum rockitude.
            Hung out in the backyard. Trees. Nightfall. Secret farts.
            Then came time for the final show. My ultimate triumph. We cruised over to Memory Lanes, which is a bowling alley that frequently hosts the punk rock. They have flashing lights running up and down between the lanes. A little stage is set up right in the center, where you would expect some balding man to be showing off his years of bowling practice in front of everyone. It is fantastic. A band played and I didn’t catch their name. Maybe it was Dreadlocks Vs. Butterflies With Hammers. Let’s go with that.
            Next was Conquest For Death, again. They blasted a set of hardcore that was so perfectly executed that it made my elbows tingle. With more room to run around, their singer bounded all over the place. He was like a cartoon character hopping unrealistically from one thrash scene to the next. I was tired from all the shows, so my memory is a little foggy, but I’m nearly certain that a giant hardcore elephant erupted from the laminated wood floor of the bowling alley and the show ended in a majestic display of bodies impaled on tusks and punks shaking their fists at the fluorescent lights.
            I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the levels were just right.
            I have broken formula and not included any reviews in this installment. My next column will break the formula again by featuring complete review insanity. As always, feel free to visit http://www.freaktension.com/ to learn about more cool stuff.