[Editor's note: A correction ran concerning this story; see end of article.]
Where the Big Pants Are
BEER-GUZZLING TWENTYSOMETHINGS have lots of options for catching loud, live music near the University of Minnesota--Sally's on Washington Avenue, a half-dozen bars on the West Bank. But for the under-21 majority of undergraduates, choices are few: Bon Appétit in Dinkytown, and now, at the other end of the East Bank, the Campus Grind (2515 University Ave. SE). The new Stadium Village coffee shop-cum-music club opened late last semester, and it promises to fill the hole left by the Whole since it closed for renovations (along with the rest of Coffman Memorial Union). Through April, at least, bands will play without pay every Friday and Saturday night, with the door charge going to cover a permanent PA system.
On the February evening I drop by the club, a small but enthusiastic crowd gathers for three local bands: the Smack, AKA C-4, and screaming punk headliners Grimace. Thirty-year-old skinheads play pool between sets and mingle with tight-sweatered sorority-girl types and teenagers with pants big enough to clothe a rag army of gutterpunks. It's a big room, with high ceilings and dark walls, though the bright incandescents are harsh--great for studying, not so great for presenting bands. There are video games, pinball, darts, and computers, theoretically for Internet surfing, but the terminals are unfortunately positioned alongside the dance floor. There are also comfy couches in the corner, even if the overall feel of the place is still sterile.
That all changes when unclean Grimace takes the small stage and starts their set with help from a singing stuffed Ernie doll, a gesture that garners more groans than amusement. But soon the crowd is happily moshing to the band, who embody the feel of old-school hardcore shows in deadpan stage banter ("This is a song about riding the bus...") and the never-ending quest for "more monitor."
Owners Christy and Mike Dols say they plan to expand the music schedule to include Thursday and Sunday nights as well, and book a broader range of styles, including hip hop. For now, most acts fall on the heavy side, which, if Grimace is any indication, sits just fine with the caffeinated after-school set. (Bridgette Reinsmoen)
A Cure for That Not-So-Fresh Feeling
THE SHEER MAGNITUDE of Freddy Fresh's discography is daunting. The internationally renowned, St. Paul-based techno pioneer has recorded some 150 12-inch singles spanning just about every disco derivation from hip hop to drum 'n' bass. The Last Real Family Man alone, his album released last year on London's Eye-Q, served up everything from lascivious Latin house to the bully-boy big-beat of his Fatboy Slim collaboration, "Badder Badder Schwing." Yet it gave precious little indication of the rougher, more experimental material that Fresh made his name with--not to mention the legendary decks skills that enabled him to cram some 97 records into a two-hour spinning session for London Radio One's Essential Mix.
Happily, the new XFade Master Mix Vol. 5 covers much of Fresh's groundbreaking early work, squeezing 33 selections into 61 rough, head-spinning minutes, opening with brisk, menacing acid-techno that will sound familiar to old-school ravers who considered themselves part of the mid-Nineties' "Midwest Hardcorps." Slowing things down with the dawn-breaking-through-the-clouds synths of "Abraxas," the disc changes tempo constantly, never staying in one groove too long. Fresh moves through playfully abstract hip hop (the telephone-dialing melodies of "Buggin' Electro" and "Dust Bucket"), industrial grooves (the Meat Beat Manifesto-ish "Beatz"), acid-trance ("Tangerine"), and jungle-cum-Atari Teenage Riot-style digital hardcore ("Marbles").
Unfortunately, the CD is only available with the January issue of U.K. dance monthly XFade, a sort of cross between Mixer magazine's DJ-lifestyle puffery and the gearhead shoptalk of Modern Electronics. Should your local store carry it, look for Seb Fontaine on the cover; if they don't, and if you crave insight into the roots of Minneapolis techno, check the mag's Web site at www.xfade.co.uk, or inquire for back issues at email@example.com. Until Fresh starts playing the Twin Cities more often, this will more than do. (Michaelangelo Matos)
Correction published 3/1/2000: In the original version of this story, the band in the photo caption was misidentified. The above version reflects the corrected text. City Pages regrets the error.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment