Local Music Yearbook '04

We crowd-surfed with R.T. We bar hopped on light rail. And between some of our precious last sucks on a cigarette at the club, we scribbled it all down on a cocktail napkin.

First Avenue closed. First Avenue reopened. Mark Mallman played nonstop for three days straight. As we look back over 12 months of Minnesota music, it's tough to imagine a year of more idealistic highs or dispiriting lows, tough to imagine more benefit shows or more need for benefit shows. So let's play the weirdest tracks from Now That's What I Call Twin Cities 2004!--"The Babylon Burns," "Prince Becomes Cool Again," "Farewell Flyte Tyme," and "The Only Winners I Know Are in the Dead Pool."

JANUARY

image The Gustavus Adolphus Hall on East Lake Street goes up in flames, on the day before local punk band Damage Deposit is scheduled to play at the eight-decade-old institution. Over the years, the building has housed everything from raves to Creole restaurants. The collectively run Babylon gallery and cultural center is lost in the disaster, along with the PA system of punk booker Felix Havoc and the entire collection of art by Iraqi immigrant Haider Al-Amery. Havoc is forced to relocate his Midwest Hardcore Fest the following day to an Elks Lodge in Brooklyn Park. (By year's end, Havoc and the Independent Music Foundation are booking all-ages punk shows in the basement of the Walker Community Church.)

Eerily, the day after the Babylon burns, St. Paul's Bangkok City Supper Club (formerly Club Metro) is also totaled by a fire.

image With rapper Slug replacing the phrase "respect the cock" with "respect hip hop" on "Trying to Find a Balance," Atmosphere make their live national TV debut on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live. Atmosphere go on to join the Warped Tour and collaborate with the Roots at Northrop Auditorium. They also play the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on a stage facing the sun, leaving DJ Mr. Dibbs to fling warped vinyl out into the crowd.

image R.I.P.: Carty Fox, writer, publisher, and musician in Pleasant Stitch, Overblue, Control, and A Most Happy Sound.

FEBRUARY

image With the introduction of CD turntables for DJs, cheaper iPods, MP3 blogs, and other harbingers of a new age, Pepsi and iTunes launch a campaign to give away $100 million in free music downloads, with a soundtrack provided by Green Day covering

"I Fought the Law." Even predatory retailer Wal-Mart gets in on the rebel-downloader biz, with a little help from L.A.'s Liquid Digital Media--a software company once run by Twin/Tone founder Paul Stark.

Meanwhile, more local musicians than ever feature music on their websites. E-mail boxes clog with DJ remixes of the "Dean Scream." Having already picked up a CD turntable, techno-savvy local hip-hop collective Doomtree descends on the Fifth Element record store one night to buy every last copy of Dangermouse's The Grey Album--a remix combo of Jay-Z's The Black Album and the Beatles' The White Album. Not to be outdone, local mashup king DJ Cheap Cologne issues his Double Black Album--Jay-Z's Black Album combined with Metallica's Black Album.

image Kicking ass with Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards, Prince initiates a year of relevance. Subsequent kicking of ass is reported from his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, several sold-out shows at the Xcel Energy Center, and reunions with old friends back at Paisley Park. Speaking of old friends, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis close their local Flyte Tyme Studios this year, making "the Minneapolis sound" the byword of a lost vocabulary.

MARCH

image Artists and musicians acquire a 3,000-plus-square-foot building in downtown Duluth with enough room for two stages and ample gallery space. Soon the MAC (Twin Ports Music and Art Collective) opens its doors as a rare all-ages venue in a city where alcohol is the fifth food group. Unfortunately, even local celebrities can't draw an audience to the dry spot. With his new band the Housing Project, Low guitarist Alan Sparhawk plays a series of Monday nights for the sound guy, two friends, and whoever wanders in wondering what's going on. In October, the venue hosts a giant sleepover called Slumber, with bands playing from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. in front of projections of 1950s industrial videos. If Thousands declare that they are proud to put listeners to sleep.

image Duluth's NorShor Theatre fares slightly better this year, reopening late this month under new ownership--then closing again, then opening again under still newer ownership.

image In a warmer clime, actress Minnie Driver croons with the Hang Ups at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Other groups raise their profile in 2004: Keston & Westdal at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Mark Mallman on San Francisco's Bad Man Recordings, Likehell and All the Pretty Horses in their own movies, Low on Sub Pop, Rob Skoro on Yep Rock, the Steeles and Wain McFarlane in collaboration with Parisian soul-jazz man Denis Colin, Dosh and Lateduster on Merck, the Bad Plus in the New York-based music press, and Shadow Box simply in New York, period.

APRIL

image Declaring its mission to "fight the cycle of closing clubs and band breakups," free glossy music periodical Rift Magazine arrives on stands with extensive reviews of local music, filling a void left by the defunct Lost Cause Magazine. The mag joins a proliferating media focused on local culture, which in 2004 comes to include Industry Magazine, Trendsetter, Static in southern Minnesota, and the now-monthly-and-glossy Ripsaw in Duluth.

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