Local Music Yearbook '03

We Sang. We Danced. We Set things on Fire. And Sometime after the Bar Closed, We Wrote It All Down for You.

The Fine Line burned. Atmosphere signed to a major. Har Mar Superstar made out with Kate Moss. As we look back on the most startling, historic, or just plain weird events from the past 12 months of Minnesota music, it's clear that none of our New Year's resolutions from 2002 stuck. But by going way back in time--back to the olden days before the 2:00 a.m. bar close, before Wellstone World Music Day, before Paul Westerberg started drinking again--maybe we can figure out where the year went wrong.

 

JANUARY

Packed with show announcements, sex diaries, and musings on the beauty of tanks, the online message board TCPunk.com kicks off the New Year by shutting down for good. The community it created lives on, however, throwing benefit shows in the 7th St. Entry for one of its own, Steve "Moldy Ramone" Moldenhauer. Known for his no-holds-barred rendition of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" at Tubby's punk karaoke, Moldy dies after a long battle with cancer in July. He's mourned by older punks across the city.

Elsewhere, music fans use their dial-up connections to build communities in other scenes. Sites such as MNVibe.com (for dance music), and DUNation.com (for hip hop), become the town halls these local audiences never had. And by the year's end, bands are promoting their shows on Friendster.com--a social networking board.

 

FEBRUARY

The day after 21 people are trampled to death in a Chicago nightclub, a pyrotechnic display by the Seattle band Jet City Fix sets the Fine Line Music Café ablaze. Though witnesses compare the spread of flames across the ceiling to a scene from Backdraft, security manages to get everybody out safely in less than two minutes. Three days later, 100 people die in a Rhode Island nightclub when the venue is similarly set afire by stage effects.

In the wake of these tragedies, club managers across the state reevaluate their safety procedures. Local city officials crack down on fire-code violations. And previously pyromaniacal bands such as Flipp are reduced to blowing up feather pillows. Absorbing an estimated $1.5 million in damages, the Fine Line invests in new bathroom fixtures, an expensive sound system, upscale tables and chairs. In a July grand reopening ceremony, patrons arrive to find the place looking...pretty much the same.

 

MARCH

After years of trying to secure an FM signal, Radio K (KUOM-AM 770) strikes a deal with St. Louis Park High School to move its transmitter to a taller building and share the boosted signal--thus making the slogan "real college radio" technically inaccurate. The arrangement allows high schoolers to broadcast during daytime class hours, while turning the rest of the time over to collegiate DJs. With a neighborhood-wide range, the K signs on to 106.5 FM for the first time. DJ Lindsey Thomas commemorates the moment with XTC's "Radio's in Motion."

In Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest music conference, cult R&B singer Har Mar Superstar performs with the Sugar Hill Gang at an undisclosed location. For the rest of the year, it becomes possible to believe just about everything you hear about the guy. Recording with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O.? True. Being immortalized as "seed art" at the Minnesota State Fair? True. Touring with Kelly Osbourne? True. Singing a cover of Phil Collins's "Against All Odds" with the Postal Service? True. Making out with Kate Moss? True. Partying with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat? True. (Well, not really.)

After moving to London, Ibiza, and then Hollywood, he visits home in November with a shambling, 40-minute set at the Triple Rock Social Club, opening with the words "I'm really wasted"--never a good sign. Can Behind the Music be far behind?

Performing at First Avenue on March 19, the guitarist of Montreal rock orchestra Godspeed You! Black Emperor announces from the stage that the bombs have started falling on Iraq. To boos from the audience, he responds, "You paid for those bombs! Those are your bombs over there!" Motioning to cut the lights, he leads the band in total darkness.

 

APRIL

Congress passes the RAVE Act by sneaking it into otherwise benign legislation designed to create a new media-based system of response to child kidnappings. The law holds property owners and promoters liable for illegal drug use on their premises (even if they took steps to prevent it). This is the last nail in the coffin of outdoor rave culture. Happily, dance music explodes in local clubs. Says DJ Lonnie Mneumonic: "The people who said they were in it for the music have become fundamental in keeping it alive. The others have gone into rehab."

 

MAY

Anti-Clear Channel sentiment reaches an all-time high, if for no other reason than that the largest radio, concert-booking, and billboard conglomerate in town is still there, and ready to benefit from loosening FCC regulations.

At a Big V's show, a member of punk band Heads and Bodies wears a "Fuck Clear Channel" T-shirt. Local music magazine Lost Cause publishes a special issue on Clear Channel, urging readers to boycott the company's concerts. In the June issue, Clear Channel booker Rich Best appears in the magazine to answer his critics.

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