Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash

Storming the stage with postpunk pirates Lifter Puller

Finn drops more science. "Those big pirate ships moved really slow. Imagine looking out, seeing a Jolly Roger on the horizon, and thinking, 'Those guys are really going to kick our asses in two or three days.'"

It's possible, I learn, to leave the freeway and make a left-hand turn onto Snelling without touching the brakes. There are no atheists in the Lifter Puller van.

Jenny shouts, "Patches down!" We obey, each covering an eye. Discussion of the advantages of binocular vision ensues.

Stay awake: Lifter Puller members (left to right) Craig Finn, Tad Kuebler, Steve Barone, and Dan Monick
Tony Nelson
Stay awake: Lifter Puller members (left to right) Craig Finn, Tad Kuebler, Steve Barone, and Dan Monick

In full garb, with Jolly Roger flying, we march into the Turf, where the band Triangle is integrating armchair drum 'n' bass and twee rondos into a surprisingly kitsch-free polyrhythmic mix.

"Originally, we were going to be dead rock stars tonight," Kuebler says. "I wanted to be Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, but I figured it might be too hard to pull off."

Monick is explaining what a pirate song is: any tune you can rock your arm to like you're holding a tankard of rum. "You know, like 'She Floated Away' off the last Hüsker Dü record."

"You mean a waltz?"

"Yeah. Whatever."

Disguised as cowhands, Walker Kong and the Dangermakers take the stage and begin emitting their garage disco pulse for an appreciative crowd. Barone is dancing with the Jolly Roger like Bono at Red Rocks. Kong (a.k.a. Jeremy Ackerman) announces, "All right. Let's bring it down now." The groove drops to a softer vamp.

"When you bring it back up, I am going fucking nuts," Barone screams at him.

The thought of never bringing it back up flickers momentarily but visibly across Kong/Ackerman's face. "I'm not afraid of pirates pretending to be punk rockers," he taunts instead.

"We'll take your shit on!" Barone bellows. Lifter Puller draw swords and rush the stage. The Dangermakers put up a valiant struggle, shielding themselves with instruments and taking advantage of their easily defensible higher ground. Plastic blades prove no match for the solid polyurethane whomp of a Fender bass. The stage remains unboarded.

Lifter Puller has no time for wound licking. The Turf is running behind schedule, and it's evident the band will never make it back in time for their own show if we wait to see the headliners. A little after midnight, still in the Dangermakers set, we reboard the van. The Selby Tigers are safe. For now.

 

The Soap Factory used to be just that. Today it's a factory only in the Warholian sense, a scrappy gallery programmed by No Name Exhibitions, and an unheated refuge for the young, gifted, and slack denizens of the arty fringe. Tonight it has been rechristened the Cave of the Whispering Shadows, and it's plenty cavernous, even with several hundred people milling within. Strips of white fabric dangle near the entrance. The third Velvet Underground album echoes on permanent repeat from within.

A bald dude eats fire and hectors a crowd into the Castle of the Shrieking Dead Spookhouse, the baroquely disturbing haunted house next door. When he takes his act into the factory proper, an alarm erupts, inspiring mass fear of sprinklers among a crowd that has been listening to Tulip Sweet ranting like a chanteuse in her cups.

We encounter a smattering of costumes inspired by characters from Lifter Puller songs. Patrick Costello of friends the Dillinger Four is Nightclub Dwight, the shady lurker described in several songs on the new album. A woman in midriff-baring fur and heels and a man in an eye patch linger by a slab of wood protruding out of the stage, helpfully labeled "The Plank." She's "Katrina," I learn, another of Finn's lyrical creations, and he's yet another--"the Eye-Patch Guy." It's getting a little too Rocky Horror in here for me.

By the time he gets onstage, Finn looks as little like a pirate as one can in a three-cornered hat with a parrot perched atop it. After a quick Dangermakers plug ("If they were here, you'd be having a good time by now") the opening chord of "Lonely in a Limousine" sends Finn reeling away from the microphone. He leans forward, batting the mic stand back and forth like a cat pawing a captured rat. It falls, and Eye-Patch Guy scrambles to right it.

According to Monick, "The way Craig lags, it's almost a hip-hop thing, like the way Wu-Tang falls off the beat then slides back in and you go, Whoah." Or maybe it's like a rare strain of Tourette's that makes you blurt out the wrong answers to SAT verbal practice quizzes.

But his voice is a percussive force, to be sure, and producing its sounds seems to send him into a fit of intense concentration that makes him oblivious to his bandmates' antics. At the Loring Block Party earlier this year, Kuebler and Barone closed the band's set with a barrage of fireworks. Only aware of wariness in the faces in the crowd, Finn wondered afterward, "What happened?"

Kuebler gulps Jim Beam between songs. "Okay, okay. Everyone quiet," he commands. "A friend of mine just called." No one onstage or off knows what he's talking about. "She's coming by in five minutes or so. Now," he pauses, palms upraised in petition, "I want everybody to hide before she gets here."

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