He packs his notebook and slowly walks back to his dorm, reminding himself to reserve a spot on the bus tomorrow. He's heading into Minneapolis to give some promo packets to First Avenue. Along the way he'll work on that review of the Tiki Obmar concert, which, when it appears a week later in print, will make no mention of the crowd. Instead, it will read, "The band's experimental and creative instrumental sound conveyed emotions without any need for words. The show was great."
A few days earlier, Anderson could be found driving his mom's Saturn down I-394 to-ward St. Louis Park and Evening Studio, a recording space that Michael Sandstedt, Anderson's partner in Afternoon Records, built into his mom's basement.
The studio is empty when Anderson arrives. Sandstedt, who is 21 and a graduate of Musictech in St. Paul, is out delivering Jimmy John's sandwiches, which he does nearly every night until 3:00 a.m. in order to fund his studio and pay rent to his mom. The studio itself is impressive, with a big soundboard in one room, computers whizzing, chords tangled everywhere, and a closet that's been converted into a vocal booth. On the other side of the glass window in the wall is a big, soundproofed chamber where the bands set up. Anderson and Sandstedt are getting ready to record the first record by a band of Weezer disciples named Lookdown, a project that Anderson can't wait to finish because then all of Afternoon's bands will have records out on the label.
Each of the five bands on Afternoon Records have come out of suburban high schools and evolved through a fledgling teen music movement of chemical-free teen centers like the Garage in Burnsville, the Underground in St. Louis Park, and the Depot Coffeehouse in Hopkins. Thanks to the experience of playing those stages, and additional support from the now-closed Fireball Lounge and Eclipse Records, the Afternoon family is plump with indie cred. Two of them, Anderson's band Aneuretical and Lookdown, were nominated for the Minnesota Music Award "Best Teen Band" (they lost to Tiki Obmar). The hardcore politico-punk outfit the New Renaissance were finalists in last spring's Battle of the Underage Underground at First Avenue (they also lost to Tiki Obmar). Nero and a three-piece called Peace, Love, and the Common Cold complete the Afternoon Records roster.
"It's indie rock," Anderson says of the Afternoon sound, which he admits is still developing.
Afternoon Records started in Omaha while Anderson waited in a long line for a show. He and his friend Scott Johnson, who would later become the label's webmaster and all-around go-to guy, had driven down to see Cursive celebrate the release of The Ugly Organ with Desaparecidos. Omaha and Saddle Creek Records--whose artists Anderson has been listening to since he was 14, "trying to be Bright Eyes"--were getting big press then, and being inside the belly of such a volatile scene inspired the friends to start a label of their own. Anderson had been helping book shows at the Underground and playing in Aneuretical for a while, so he had a keen sense of what was missing from the scene.
"It's hard for young bands to get into good venues that aren't bars, and that's a big problem," he says. "Young bands have too short of an opportunity to prove themselves, especially at the time when they need the most support because they haven't quite figured everything out yet. They're close, but not quite."
Using Sandstedt's space and some $3,000 in startup money that Anderson had earned by investing in the stock market when he was 13--he bought Intel because he liked the jingle--Afternoon signed five bands, including his own, and started recording and booking shows. Sandstedt took care of the production, Paster helped with the booking, Johnson did the web page and PR, and on August 25 the label held its launch party at the Quest's Ascot Room to coincide with the first four Afternoon releases. It was a great success, says Anderson, with more than 200 people showing up.
Getting that kind of crowd to an all-age, all-local show is never easy. For most bands that age, getting any shows at all is a challenge.
"[The Fireball and Eclipse] were such havens for kids," Anderson says. "It was nice to be able to just hang out there on weekends. Now everyone just goes to Perkins."
The most popular all-age venues right now are suburban teen centers, like the Depot in Hopkins. A nonprofit run by area students and funded by grants from the State of Minnesota and other groups, the Depot opened in 1998 as a chemical-free zone for teens to mingle and sip coffee. Unlike all-age venues, the Depot allows only ages 14 to 18 into their shows, a policy known as "19-minus."
"Outside of places like the Depot, most kids are limited to playing concerts in their basement or garage," says Jonathan Kent, a Hopkins High School junior who chairs the Depot advisory board. "Part of the reason why so many bands come to us is because we not only let them play onstage in front of their fans and provide them with a sound system, but we do it for free. Playing at the Depot, bands feel like their music actually matters."