Picked to Click XVI

This one goes to 11!

So much so that he even named his new band after the Fogerty principle, though it wasn't a decision he put much thought into. "I don't even really like it," he admits when City Pages catches up to him via cell phone. "It's just so hard to find a good band name. I had to come up with one quick, because I got us booked at the Triple Rock for our first show, opening for the Detroit Cobras. And they were like, 'You're gonna lose your spot unless you tell us what your band's name is.' I think the song was playing in the background at the time, so I just said, 'Okay, Chooglin'."

That moment proved to be synchronicity at its finest; not only did Chooglin' make their debut at the Detroit Cobras show (where they began their ascent of this poll by stirring the crowd into an ass-shaking frenzy), but they also stumbled onto a name that fits them like a tight pair of Levi's. Sure, it's a little goofy, and most people can't stand it (those people should try repeating it a few times in their heads, like a Zen mantra—it's guaranteed rock 'n' roll affirmation). But what better way to describe this band, with its endless guitar solos, bang-a-gong drumming (courtesy of Shawn Walker, one of the raddest drummers in town), and Larry-the-Cable-Guy lyrics (as in the single "Do It to It"), than to use the vocabulary of Southern swamp rock? (A Deep Purple reference, maybe. But there's already a band called Machine Head.)

Midnight Evils fans cheered the arrival of Chooglin' with hopes that Vanderwerf would continue the good work he began with the Evils. They were doubly thrilled to see he had Evils drummer Jesse Tomlinson in tow, now showing off his considerable guitar chops while allowing Walker to take over the kit with his best Keith Moon impression. If the resultant groove didn't convince those fans that Chooglin' wasn't just another version of the Midnight Evils, the horn section certainly did. The brass section's roots are in a 12-person ensemble called Eleganza, which Vanderwerf formed for the annual First Avenue Cover Band Contest. (They won the contest with their set from the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Vanderwerf's favorite record). Vanderwerf was so pleased with the sound that he invited "the Horns of Eleganza" to help Chooglin' record their first album, which he plans to release in November.

Vanderwerf is recounting all this while driving around downtown Minneapolis, running an unfortunate errand that further illuminates the choogler's lifestyle: He's looking for his guitar. The night before, Chooglin' opened for British psych-pop legends the Zombies at the Fine Line Music Café. Rolling Rock beer sponsored the tour, and true to their name, Chooglin' made the most of the corporate sponsorship by drinking the backstage cooler dry. When Vanderwerf woke up the next morning, his Les Paul was missing.

"I was pretty drunk," he admits. "I hope I just forgot it at the club." That's exactly where he would eventually find it, but not before sweating a bit at the thought of losing a thousand-dollar guitar. For all its glamour, chooglin', it turns out, ain't easy.

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So You Want to Be a Reggaetón Star
10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT MARIA ISA

By Peter S. Scholtes

 

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1. The Alarmists

2. Black Blondie

3. The God Damn Doo Wop Band

4. Chooglin'

5. Maria Isa

6. White Light Riot

7. Gay Beast

8. (tie) Awesome Snakes

Birthday Suits

10. (tie) One for the Team

Vampire Hands

1. Maria Isabelle Perez Vega was born in St. Louis Park. Her mom made the commute to Methodist Hospital from their home on the West Side of St. Paul.

 

2. Maria Isa's parents grew up in the New York City Housing Authority's Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Isa still has relatives there, as well as in Puerto Rico.

3. Along with being a singer, rapper, and student at McNally Smith College of Music, Isa is a teacher. "I'm only 19 years old, and they're already plastering up 'Twin Cities diva,'" she says of her press. "This is what I do for a living: teaching kids every Saturday and Sunday at El Arco Iris Center for the Arts." (Isa also teaches a rap class for girls on Thursdays at the Old Arizona cultural center in Minneapolis.)

4. Isa hung out with Jennifer Lopez twice last year—once outside the studios of KDWB-FM (101.3), and once at the opening of the J.Lo boutique in Chicago. "She was like, 'Hey, what up, homegirl?'" says Isa. "She was cool, and she didn't have to be."

5. Last time Puerto Rican reggaetón star Tego Calderón was in town, Isa took him to the Mall of America. Calderon needed sneakers.

6. One of Isa's collaborators, DJ Snuggles, won the Beatbox Battle at this year's Scribble Jam in Cincinnati. "He's my cuddle bear," she says. "The great thing about this hip-hop community is that we all support one another, and we've all become friends."

7. According to Isa, label offers began pouring in last year after a member of Slipknot heard her rapping on the local CD compilation A West Side Story, a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club on the West Side of St. Paul.

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