Last Writes

THE CURSE OF City Pages is back with a vengeance. Beginning around '93, it seemed every new band we championed soon met their demise: the Sedgwicks, Picadors, TVBC, and an incredible funk band called Pink Cabaret were just a few of the early victims. Lately, it seemed that the hex had been contained, but this summer brought unprecedented devastation when a half-dozen of our heartfelt faves disbanded within weeks of each other. And that was just the beginning.

In times like these, I have to laugh to keep from crying. So, with benefit of 20/20 hindsight, here are some unofficial coroner's reports of the more recognized local bands, with some future listening tips for fans and friends of the deceased:

IDLEWILDS

Cause of Death: Natural causes

After 10 years (dating back to their days as the Skivies), real life rears its ugly head for this lovably modest country-pop group. The sweet-singing Finstad sisters are near the end of their graduate school terms, and songwriter/co-leader Brian Swanson is increasingly busy with his own business, Hello Booking. Less than a year since leaving Proton Productions, Swanson already books such workhorses as Tim Mahoney and Mango Jam, has the Carpetbaggers out for three weeks with Son Volt, is readying a blitz for the Billys around the release of their new record, and has corralled national acts such as The Floating Men and Kate Jacobs. Put simply, Swanson's too busy to be in a band.

The Idlewilds, who may regroup without Swanson in the future, built up a strong regional audience but remained underrated, an unfortunate fate that often befalls local bands who improve steadily over time. The observant lyrics and memorable country-pop melodies of "End of the Line" and "My Last Day" are good examples of Swanson's maturation as a songwriter. "We never really shopped ourselves too hard," admits Swanson. "I don't think any of us really wanted to be famous, and I could never imagine even wanting to go to L.A. and put your life on the line to record. It's just such a crap shoot."

Visitation: Saturday, 400 Bar (with Terry Walsh and 2 a.m. presiding).

Last Will and Testament: Grand Forks (self-released CD), and maybe a limited cassette of this weekend's farewell show.

Next of Kin: Marlee MacLeod, Dust Bunnies

MOLLY AND THE HEYMAKERS

Cause of Death: Dismemberment

While the Heymakers' name may live on, the group as we knew it is fragmenting. Miss Molly is about to become a temporary--and perhaps long-term--member of Nashville stars the Mavericks. Recently she'd been gigging under her own name with a new band, and she's nearly completed a solo album, to be released next year on Doug Myren's flourishing Mouth Piece label (Ipso Facto, Hoopsnakes). Meanwhile, many of the old Heymakers have become Revelators, joining Kevin Bowe, who scored a few songs on the new national album by young bluesman Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and is reportedly making inroads on his own record deal.

Visitation (for the new Heymakers): Friday at Fillys in Chanhassen.

Last Will and Testament: Big Things retrospective CD, reissued on Mouth Piece.

Next of Kin: Kate MacKenzie, Mary Jane Alm Band

BRUTUS

Cause of Death:Exhaustion

Most bands record much too soon; this multi-stylistic rap and rock group may have waited too long. A quality new recording might have showcased the fascinating changes they'd gone through in recent years. (Willingness to headline the Mirage may have kept them out of First Avenue for years, leading to further stagnation and frustration.) These days, percussionist/ vocalist Mike Johnson's busy running Hardline Productions, which represents Phull Surkle, Give, and Legion of Boom, among others. He's also recording and gigging with Suckerpunch, and sitting in with Otto's Chemical Lounge and, occasionally, the old national act Badfinger. Bassist Erik Fratzke is still busy in Phull Surkle/Auto Body Experience, vocalist Amy Kayne will dabble around as usual, and Scotty G. and Kip will raise kids and chill a little.

Visitation: Next year's Cedarfest if we're lucky.

Last Will and Testament: Full Metal Backswing cassette.

Next of Kin: Ghost Dance Deluxe, Premium, Tribe of Millions, Phull Surkle, Suckerpunch

CHEROKEE ROSE

Cause of Death: Homesickness

The native Tennessean's many songs about drifting down south were apparently no joke. Rose was gone to Santa Fe without a trace sometime this summer, but reportedly has some recording leads on major indie labels specializing in music by Native American artists. Her local live shows may not have always captured her recorded beauty, but Rose had real potential. I hope our loss is the nation's gain. (Rose is survived, of course, by her sister Karen Therese of Jai Cafe. Sad to say, Karen has plans of her own to relocate in Seattle.)

Last Will and Testament: Tracks South (self-released CD)

Next of Kin: Lojo Russo, Jamison Mahto and the Lakota Blues Band.

PREST ASBESTUS

Cause of death: Irregular heartbeat

Fifth drummer Bob Herbers looked like the one to push this rapidly improving roots-rock combo into respectability, just as the urban country movement was becoming trendy. But like many previous PA drummers, Herbers soon wanted to write songs for his own band. After a winter hibernation, the remaining trio may reemerge in quieter formations, but Prest Asbestus, in name, is dead. Frankly, the name was my least favorite part: Matt Arthur is still a wicked country vocalist, and writing partner Guy Brua is an overlooked lyricist. Somebody bring 'em back alive.

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