Local Music Yearbook '05

Rappers were hot. Smokers were cold. Rockers were on Myspace. And sometime after the last Katrina benefit, we wrote it all down for you.

The Current hit the airwaves. The Varsity opened. Atmosphere played eight nights in a row. And that was just January! How could 12 months that began so well go so wrong? As the Minnesota music community mourned the death of Soul Asylum's Karl Mueller—then watched in horror as another community downriver was washed away—some of us took comfort in the diversions a scene can bring: Zombie Pub Crawl! Scavenger hunt to find a band's CD-release party! Jordis on Rock Star: INXS! Here are the Hopeful highs and Low lows from a year nobody could possibly text-message.

January

Minnesota Public Radio launches a new station, the Current (KCMP-FM 89.3), with Atmosphere's "Shhh," a locally recorded hip-hop track touting the benefits of Minnesota living. "If you can drink tap water and breathe the air, say shhh," raps Slug in the chorus. But the new MPR building has no running water and is filled with diesel fumes—power was accidentally cut during construction, leaving a backup generator in the basement and the accompanying stench of truck stop. Within weeks, "anything on the Current" becomes a hot seller at local record stores, including the Minnesota music championed by longtime local radio personalities Mark Wheat and Mary Lucia.

In an echo of the Replacements' five-night stand at the 7th St. Entry in 1985, Slug plays eight nights in the same room backed by a live band. The shows kick off an ambitious year for the Rhymesayers, who expand their national roster, renovate their Fifth Element record store, and transform themselves into a Vatican-style nation-state that then buys the city of Minneapolis.

Not to be outdone, Mark Mallman plays seven free nights at the Hexagon in July, celebrating seven years and seven releases. (Wait, isn't seven Slug's lucky number?)

The 90-year-old Varsity Theater in Dinkytown reopens as a music venue for the first time since 1991, with DJ nights, theater events, and beds for seats. The club closes for renovations in March, but reopens again in April. Across town, the all-ages Speedboat Gallery merely closes. Other venues to leave the scene this year include the Norshor Theater and "the MAC" (Twin Ports Music and Arts Collective) in Duluth, BC Night Club and Urban Wildlife's "rock room" in Minneapolis, and the legendary Ralph's Corner Bar in Moorhead, where everyone from Hüsker Dü to the White Stripes played, and where Fargo rockers Battle at Sea send the venue off in May with pyrotechnics and splintered guitars.

R.I.P.: Joel Hickman, musician and programmer at MIDIRingTones.

February

Doomtree rapper Dessa gets her hair cut onstage at the Triple Rock Social Club, as the DJ plays Pavement's "Cut Your Hair."

The Jayhawks quietly announce they have broken up, 20 years after they formed. The band reunites in December to celebrate First Avenue's 35th anniversary. Quad Muth, meanwhile, who play a squealing bleach bottle and wear fake muscles, loudly announce their own demise. Other ex-bands of 2005 include Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears, Tin Horns, V9R9D, Martyr A.D., and the Midnight Evils—whose final show in September sets an all-time bar sales record in the 7th St. Entry.

Officials at Winona Senior High School send home senior Carrie Rethlefsen for wearing a button that reads "I (heart) my vagina." Other students show solidarity with "I (heart) my vagina" and "I support your vagina" T-shirts. In May the administration allows students to wear this gear on school grounds—but only during a rally around the flagpole. Six months later, five students are suspended for refusing to remove the straps from their "bondage pants."

R.I.P.: Paul Storti, big-band trumpeter and educator.

March

Sibling rockers Brother and Sister coax 100-odd fans into joining an elaborate scavenger hunt to find...Brother and Sister. Notified by e-mail, the participants gather at a cul-de-sac in Dinkytown, where a co-conspirator hands out clue workbooks and secret agent badges. (According to the scenario, the duo has been "kidnapped.") Soon various teams puzzle over clues such as the following words painted on the Washington Avenue Bridge: "Go to Difficult Mathematics—Heavy Thinking" (i.e., go to the Hard Times Café.) Nine clues in, two contestants run into a masked girl outside the Triple Rock Social Club who forces them into the back of a Budget van. It peels off, barely muffling the sound of live music inside, and a Brother and Sister cover band plays for the captive audience as the vehicle circles the neighborhood. The hunt eventually ends at the downtown YWCA, where the real Brother and Sister play a pool party.

Unique in most respects, Brother and Sister exemplify the year's oddest trend: a proliferation of local rock two-pieces, including Mute Era, Knife World, Birthday Suits, Ova!, Dead Swayze, Ghost Band, and Awesome Snakes.

In a more modest stunt, the STNNNG hold a meat raffle at the Dinkytowner, perhaps eventually tipping the scales in the City Pages "best new band" poll, which they win in September.

The Turf Club in St. Paul gets a new owner, spurring the departure of longtime booking agent Rob Rule and his band, the Mammy Nuns, who played Tuesdays for 10 years as part of the Saint Paul Music Club. Clown Lounge manager Dave Wiegardt also leaves, taking his clown decor with him—though he's back by summer, sans decor. (The basement's jazz regulars, meanwhile, relocate to the Acadia Café in Minneapolis.) The Turf keeps its rep, and eventually reopens the downstairs bar. In October, longtime SPMC soundman and Ol' Yeller frontman Rich Mattson announces he's moving back home to the Iron Range, and it's the quiet end of an era.

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