By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
During the set someone fires a gun out on the sidewalk. This somehow seems appropriate. Nobody is injured. The Get Up Johns continue playing, unfazed.
Yet another sibling act, the Blind Shake have been compared to the deranged '90s Midwestern post-punk of the Cows and the Jesus Lizard. They've released only one single, 2004's "Old Lines, Sore Bones"; their forthcoming debut on Learning Curve Records, Rizzograph, is due October 8. We recently asked guitarist Jim Blaha about a few of his favorite things:
Favorite AmRep album: Hammerhead's Duh, the Big City.
Favorite thing about being in the Blind Shake: My brother Mike plays a baritone guitar, and at first that would kill off 90 percent of the songs. It was just so weird to work with. But once he kind of got it down, it became really fun to use.
Favorite road story: On our last tour, we made it out to New York City and our van died in front of our gig in Manhattan, at Siberia. The club was cool, and the bands were really nice to us. But a big promoter moved in with the Zodiac Killers, and the show was going to be lame. The cool bands play downstairs, and they were going to have us play upstairs. Like, "Oh, they'll hear you when they go downstairs. Just don't play so loud, okay?" I had to hold my brother back; he wanted to fucking fight this guy.
Our van was outside, dead on this Manhattan street, cars honking at it and going around it. So we said, "Let's just take care of the van. Fuck the gig."
We called the tow truck and they're like, "Yeah, you guys can ride in the van. Just stay low so the cops don't see you."
So we're driving almost vertical through Midtown Manhattan, and we become unhitched. Boom--our van smashes into the front of the tow truck and careens off into four parked cars--k-kuh, k-kuh, k-kuh, k-kuh. The tow-truck drivers are like, "Get back in! Get back in!" They hitched us back up quick and took off. We didn't tell a soul. We're like, "We don't care. That's not on us. This day could not get any worse."
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, music is too important to take seriously. (The actual quote swaps "life" for "music," but ask anyone involved in this poll: they're basically interchangeable.) That lesson is rarely heeded here in Minnesota, where--a few notable exceptions notwithstanding--the sad sack is king, the third wave of ska rolled past to crash on distant shores, and the dance music scene is trapped in a Pan-like state of perpetual infancy. As mantras go, "know thyself" is nearly always preferable to "know thy dance shoes."
Onto this fertile-but-dour landscape stomps Fort Wilson Riot, a motley troupe of troubadours with such random and unexpected tastes--rock, waltz, hip hop, polka, bolero, Broadway--that the only discernable unifying theme in their sound is the Pooh-in-the-honeypot giddiness they emanate. The primary perpetrator of this un-Minnesotan blissed-out stage show is frontwoman Amy Hager, whose deceptively demure stage presence gives way under the weight of a hefty voice that ranges from Eartha Kitt growl to Judy Tenuta vibrato, hitting every drama queen in between. Backing up Hager's swagger is a solid base of orchestrated goofiness, most notably from bassist Joe Goggins, an inveterate crowd-pleaser and inventor of "harmono-boxing" (beat-boxing into a harmonica mounted in a flower pot).
The final impression, both from their live performance and their self-titled debut EP released this summer, is that Fort Wilson Riot will try just about anything--better music through democracy. Such playful mix-and-match, like soda fountain suicides, normally requires a bottle of Tums to digest, which is why FWR comes as a surprise. "Who cares about aesthetics/Think about your tummy," trills Hager, lashing out against fine dining in the class-warfare allegory "Heir to a Throne." Fort Wilson Riot, it turns out, care about both.