Picked to Click XVI

This one goes to 11!



WE WANTED TO GIVE YOU OUR TOP 10 NEW BANDS POLL. THE MINNESOTA MUSIC SCENE INSISTED ON 11.



1. The Alarmists

Nick Vlcek

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

As the freshly commissioned City Pages music editor, I have been searching for a way to make our annual list of 10 promising new bands a little more rock 'n' roll. Not literally, mind you—screw rock as a genre; if the list comprised equal parts Dixieland/Tuvan throat-singing fusion groups and gutter-bluegrass cabaret acts, I would look forward to the upcoming year of concertgoing as if it held the boundless delight of 365 successive birthdays. No, it's the rock 'n' roll spirit that catches up city aldermen and harried waitresses alike, provoking them to take off the day-job uniform—that's not the real you—and head down into the basement for the first night of band practice. And what better way to embody this ferocious, never-say-die spirit than by pushing a 10-point scale all the way up to 11? Well, maybe by eating all the ballots and then puking them up onstage during the ceremony for the Minnesota Music Awards on Sunday. That would indeed be pretty fierce, but it would do nothing to address the problem of what to do when your Top 10 poll has multiple tie scores. So, I'm sticking with the whole "11" idea.

There were 117 voters this year—knowledgeable insider types, mostly; your club owners and bookers, your music geek writers, your record label mafiosi—each of whom submitted a ballot of five bands numbered according to personal preference. First place on a ballot was worth five points, second place was worth four, and so on down the line. If the voter listed bands but didn't bother to rank them, each band on the ballot got three points flat. The band with the most points won.

There were an unbelievable 280 new musical acts in this town, and in the following pages, you can read about 4 percent of them. (The top 4 percent, even.)

—Sarah Askari

Clicked in the Club

Friday: Gay Beast perform at Big V's, 1567 University Ave. W.; 651.645.8472. Saturday: The Alarmists perform at the Summit Big Brew 20th Anniversary Party on Harriet Island (at around 12:30 p.m.); 651.265.7800. Chooglin' play an in-store at 7:00 p.m. at Aardvark Records, 924 Lowry Ave. NE; 612.781.3404. Black Blondie perform at Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St.; 612.825.8949. Sunday: The Alarmists, the God Damn Doo Wop Band, White Light Riot, and Birthday Suits perform at the 26th Annual Minnesota Music Awards at First Avenue and 7th St. Entry, 701 1st Ave. N.; 612.332.1775. Vampire Hands play the Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave.; 612.333.7399.

PTC 06 Top 5s from Top 11 bands:

Top 5
by Kat Naden of the God Damn Doo Wop Band
1. Pretty Boy Thorson and the Falling Angels
2. The Awesome Snakes
3. The Gateway District
4. The Strait A's
5. Captain Geech and the
Shrimp Shack Shooters

Top 5
by Danny of the Awesome Snakes
The Evening Rig
The God Damn Doo Wop Band
The Retainers
MC/VL
Chooglin'
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Maria Isa
Angel
Tisch Jones
Back-Up Plomo
Leroy Smokes
DJ Don Cuco
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Angela Gerend of Gay Beast

1. Synchrocylcotron
2. Skoal Kodiak
3. Vampire Hands
4. Jose Bove
5. Total Fucking Blood

Top 5
by Ian Anderson of One for the Team
1. Tapes 'n Tapes
2. Hockey Night
3. Haley Bonar
4. Plastic Constellations
5. A Night in the Box

Top 5
by Mike Schwandt of White Light Riot
The Alarmists
The Debut
Tapes 'n Tapes
Happy Apple
The Bill Mike Band
(no particular order)

Top 5
by the Alarmists
Solid Gold
Bridge Club
The Hasbeen
The Debut
The Maps of Norway
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Brian Vanderwerf of Chooglin'
Birthday Suits
Cockfight
The Awesome Snakes
Spider Fighter
The Honeymoon Shockers
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Hideo Takahashi of Birthday Suits
Chooglin'
Skoal Kodiak
His Mischief
Vampire Hands
God Damn Do Wop Band
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Tasha Baron of Black Blondie
Maria Isa
Mystery Palace
Omaur Bliss
iQuit Music Series
M.anifest MC/Four Shades
(no particular order)

Top 5
by Colin Johnson of Vampire Hands
Mute Era
Gay Beast
Shahs
Skoal Kodiak
Synchrocyclotron
(no particular order)


Rock 'n' Roll Junior High School
POLL-TOPPERS THE ALARMISTS MET AT A JUNIOR HIGH TALENT SHOW. THEY'VE HAD A LONG TIME TO GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER.

By Rod Smith

Picking new bands may be a matter of taste, but sampling beer—that's a science. "Taste this," Ryan MacMillan of the Alarmists says to Eric Lovold, sliding his newly delivered brew across a weathered wooden table at a south Minneapolis restaurant. "Probably a dirty tap. Notice that sugary, kinda butterscotchy, flavor? That's microorganisms in the tap line. Grain Belt's not supposed to taste like that. It has more of a salty flavor."

Lovold takes a drink, pauses, nods, and slides the glass back. A black watchman cap covers the frontman's shaggy blond hair, and he wears a moustache that's so meticulously contoured it could have come off the top shelf at Theatrical Supply. Which is to say that Lovold looks like an actor portraying a '70s cop disguised as a gay longshoreman.

Suddenly remembering that I like microorganisms, I gesture toward MC Crow's glass. "May I have a hit of that?" While years of First Avenue Budweiser have deadened my palate, I can feel the microbe buzz settling into the back of my brain after one sip, and push the brew back to its rightful owner.

MacMillan, with blond hair and an air of casual restlessness, looks so goddamn rock, you'd never guess that he's moonlighted as a drum 'n' bass MC for the better part of the century. I first met him back in 2001, shortly after he started working with DJ Madkid, one of the Midwest's most prominent junglists before he moved to Hollywood a few years ago.

"Madkid's coming back for a visit," MacMillan says. "We're hoping to do a few shows together."



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

The guitarist isn't the only Alarmist with an electron-filled agenda. The band is also constructing a studio that will host an impressive array of synths, including the Korg MS 20 and MS2000 that provided A Detail of Soldiers with its panorama of subtle bleeps and squiggles. The band's debut EP also brims with more conventional keyboard parts, guitars (lots!), bass, drums, and vocals (more still). All this instrumentation goes to the service of songs that draw equally from American indie rock and a U.K. pop tradition that harks back to the British Invasion. (Guitarist and keyboardist Joe Kuefler, with his new navy Z-Vexx track jacket and dark pop-star locks, certainly looks the part.)

Local writers have already compared the Alarmists to a shitload of bands, but one consistent comparison makes me wonder if my colleagues have spent less time with English music over the past decade than Dick Cheney has with Noam Chomsky. More about that in a second.

Drummer Ryan Mach and bassist Tony Njam amble up to the table, beaming sheepishly. Their short hair, long sideburns, and Dutch porn-star moustaches make them look like guys trying to score coke from Lovold's cop character. "Sorry we're late," they say before grabbing chairs and ordering beers. "We took a little detour."

Emboldened by my own bottle of Hacker-Schorr, I pop the question: "What do you guys think of all the Oasis comparisons?" The quintet responds in raggedy unison: "Nyahh!"

"I don't think I've listened to an Oasis record in three years," says Lovald. (Being that all the band members are in their early 20s, three years seems like a long time.) "But I don't really care who anybody compares us to. Smashing Pumpkins are a huge influence for me. And for Ryan. And for Ryan. And for Tony. And for Joe." With each "and," he gestures as broadly as the crowded seating arrangement will allow. "I think every one of us can safely say that we just love them. But we'd never try to write like them or sound like them."

"I'll admit that I do like Oasis," says Mach, leaning forward. "But there is no Oasis influence whatsoever in what we do."

"Obviously, the Beatles are a great source of inspiration for us," Kuefler says gravely, "just as they were for Oasis. Something might be coming through in that sense."

MacMillan joins the fray: "Everybody hears 'New Romans'"—the Alarmists' semi-acoustic, sing-along pop hitlet —"and says, 'sounds like Oasis.' I don't think it sounds like Oasis in the least. I personally like that a few people have said that we sound like the Jam. I'm a big '70s punk fan, so that's pretty sweet."

MacMillan's musical interests were significantly different a decade or so ago, back when he, Lovold, and Kuefler were growing up in White Bear Lake.

"When Joe and I were 13 years old," says Lovald, "just out of eighth grade during the summer, we met Ryan, who was playing at a high school talent show. Joe and I went to this event. Ryan and the other guitarist both had wireless rigs. They came onstage from the back of the room, already playing."

"They were playing a Deftones song," Kuefler recalls, "and everybody was like, 'oh—that's Ryan MacMillan—ahhh.'"

Lovold continues, clearly relishing the moment: "After we left, we saw Ryan and our friend Justin, who plays in a metal band called After the Burial. We were like, 'Oh yeah! We gotta start a band.' These kids were amazing guitar players at 13. Joe and I had never played an instrument in our lives and here we are, down by the railroad tracks by my house on our bikes, talking about our band. Within a month, we both had these really shitty Mexican Strats. Years pass. We kinda learn to play. But we never did anything until we were 18."

Plunging every cent into gear, Lovold and Kuefler started writing songs and exploring their instruments in earnest. Like literally hundreds of kids in the metro before and after them, they interned at the Alternative Distribution Alliance with Go Johnny Go sage and local music scholar John Kass.

"We have a great mentor in John," says Kuefler. "Every time we've hit some kind of barrier, he's helped us find our way around it."

"He's never steered us wrong," adds Lovald. "Ed Ackerson has been great for us too. When we recorded with him at Flowers [Studio], he told us: "Here's what you need to do: You need to buy a G4. You need to buy Digital Performer. Then you need to set up camp and learn how to record."

Seduced by the Cars covers that wafted into his band's practice space from across the hall, Mach became an Alarmist a couple of years ago. The band snagged Njam, who grew up in Lebanon and holds a degree in mechanical engineering from the U of M, after seeing him play at a party. Like his bandmates, the nominal bassist is a capable multi-instrumentalist. But he took a very different route to Alarmism.

"In Lebanon, they'd ban metal and hard rock, so you'd have to go to a special shop and get pirated tapes. The first tape I ever got was a Best of Nirvana tape that the guy had just made. I still have it. I know it sounds clichéd, but, when I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I was like, 'This is my music.' I probably listened to it 20 times that day. I couldn't get my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar, so I saved my money and got one myself."

As if sensing that we're talking about a cash-for-goods transaction, our waiter produces a check. Lovold fishes his wallet out and says, "I got it, fellas."

"We've written 16 songs since Tony joined," says Kuefler. "We're thinking we'll put the next record out, then start thinking about touring. We don't have a time limit. We don't have any deadlines. We'll take six months if we have to. All we want to do is make it great."


Are You Ready for the Rapture?
BLACK BLONDIE: TWO DIVAS. ONE BAND.

By Sarah Askari

Samahra Linton just got fired. "I was waitressing and I missed a Sunday morning staff meeting," protests the singer. "It wasn't even written on the schedule!" Linton's wide crimson mouth moves rapidly as she spins her misfortune into entertainment for her bandmates, while simultaneously teaching a nearby toddler how to use a toy plastic banana as a phone. The four other members of the genre-fusing group Black Blondie look on from seats on couches and the clean expanses of carpet in a toddler-proofed south Minneapolis living room. Visually, Black Blondie are a Benetton rainbow of multiculti allure; sonically, they're a mélange of trance-inducing rhythm and blues. For a new band, their sound is full and layered; it takes over a room like a dense, sweet cloud of pipe tobacco. Although the group has only performed together for six months, their unusual blend of jazz, hip hop, and R&B has made them so popular that only a few votes separated them from this year's Picked to Click winners.

Curly-haired, olive-skinned Linton is the room's noisy epicenter of jokes, dimples, and attitude. Her perfect counterpoint in temperament is her counterpart in Black Blondie's vocals section—stately Sarah White, the toddler's mother, who has a complexion like caramelized sugar; a smooth, high forehead; and a serious demeanor. Linton and White, who have known each other since their days at Minneapolis's Anthony Middle School a decade ago, started singing together last winter. White had been performing with underground hip-hop act Traditional Methods. Linton, an occasional vocalist with the burlesque variety show Le Cirque Rouge, was "1-800-HipHopHooks," pitching in with local groups including Unknown Prophets and Kanser Troop.

After the women began writing songs, they recruited the rest of the band. Double bassist Liz Draper has a scrappy, childlike build, wide-set prairie-girl eyes, and a formidable head of ash blond dreadlocks. She looks like an unlikely cross between Holly Hobbie and Erykah Badu. The daughter of a professional jazz drummer, she grew up in rural Fairmont, a piss-stop off Interstate 90. "I was considered kind of weird," she says with a shy toughness. "I actually got spit on." ("By who?" interrupts an indignant Linton, threatening, "I'll get my brass knuckles!")

Like Draper, keyboardist Tasha Baron is also a jazz lover with years of formal training. Her experience playing with Atmosphere and Heiruspecs made her a natural fit for the new band. The only real blondie of the group, Baron is an intellectual multi-instrumentalist with a commander-in-chief's sense of organization and purpose. Drummer Kahlil Brewington, a mellow, self-assured graphic designer, is the proud owner of the sole Y chromosome of the group. He was a Craigslist find, a perfect first date who clicked with the band after several other don't-call-us experiences. One gets the impression that being surrounded by women isn't exactly unfamiliar territory for Brewington.

"I was out of town when they first found Khalil, and they were all, 'Wait till you see our new drummer. I was like, 'Guys, how does he sound?'" giggles Linton.



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

Common sense (and compliance with policies from most of the national insurance underwriters) requires most groups to maintain a low diva-to-band ratio of 1:1. But in Black Blondie, two strong, very different female voices share the stage. The women draw inspiration from disparate sources: Linton loves Cyndi Lauper, Janis Joplin, and Billie Holiday; White prefers the cooler, chilled-out vibe of Nina Simone, Sade, and One Self's Yarah Bravo. White's voice flows in a low alto with a dusky timbre. She explains that a voice teacher once told her "she'd never worked with anyone who had such a low range, so she thought maybe my vocal cords had been damaged as a child. She said maybe my mom gave me milk that had been heated too high—I guess that can happen." She breaks out into rap during some songs, but can also sing word-packed verses with the rapid precision of Fiona Apple working in the lower registers. Cutting through the top of Black Blondie's cloud of soul like an aggressive sunbeam comes Linton's nasal-edged R&B voice, floating and emoting, her lungs hooked up to some unseen wah-wah pedal that lets her glide back and forth over a single syllable.

A force unto itself, the Black Blondie rhythm section occasionally performs without the vocalists. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that some of these events were genie-bottle-openings; the three have a sultry sound that's hypnotic enough to turn the common club into an opium den. Baron makes like Mesmer behind her Rhodes, her electronic chords and scales warping the atmosphere into waves. Draper's upright bass lays down a cool, gutsy vibration—the dark roots underneath the frosted tips of Brewington's light-handed beat-keeping. A Black Blondie set works like a hunk of resin incense on a just-lit charcoal briquette; it heats up, begins to smolder, and then really starts to smoke.

The band books gigs with the excitement of a new kid in town who's finally getting invited to some really cool parties. A few minutes after White and Brewington list artists J*Davey and One Self as recent favorites, they reveal that Black Blondie will be opening for both acts in October. But if you go there, the merch table will be bare—for they have yet to record an album. They've worked out about a dozen songs, but want to expand their repertoire before heading in to record.

"We want the right studio, the right mix of songs," says Draper. In the meantime, it seems almost criminal that they don't have a licensing deal for a full line of Black Blondie apparel—with a name that catchy, fans will be running up T-shirts at home if the band doesn't start selling them.

And what about that name? After all, Black Blondie won this paper's "Best of the Twin Cities 2006" award for "Best Band Name," (This honor puts them in the questionable company of single-talking-point acts Cousin Dad and Happy Mother's Day, I Can't Read.) Well, last fall, White and Linton were having drinks at Café Barbette on a night when White looked particularly striking, her hair done up "in a 'frohawk, with a really wicked outfit." An admiring Linton exclaimed, "You look like the black 'Blondie!'" After the words came out of her mouth, "her eyes lit up with excitement," remembers White. "We knew right then, before we had any band members but the two of us."


Blitzkrieg Doo Wop
DESPITE THEIR PROFANE NAME, THE GOD DAMN DOO WOP BAND'S SOUND IS MORE SHIRELLES THAN RAMONES

By Steve Marsh

She boop de boop. Oooh waaah. Oooh waaah. Dum didde dum. Oooh waah.

If only it were that easy for the rest of us. Politicians could use it in their stump speeches. Or it could come in handy for novelists trying to get through that key paragraph. Even journalists struggling to come up with the right lede could throw that in as a substitute. If only the rest of us could scat through life like the God Damn Doo Wop Band. If only. If only. She doobie doop.

When talking about the God Damn Doo Wop Band, people have already started throwing around the term "punk rock doo wop." Sure. Three women with suicide-girl tattoos in prom dresses, singing pretty harmonies, backed by four dudes playing clean, slow, and tight. But their lyrics, about crushing on bad boys, moody boys, boys who play saxophones, boys who stay, and boys who go, aren't very punk at all. The three girls, Carissa Coudre, 25; Saumer Jackson, 30; and Kat Naden, 28; all met while working at Muddy Waters coffee shop. When they're not working, they hang out and smoke cigarettes on the picnic tables outside. And they do other punk stuff like watch skateboarding on TV. And listen to the Muffs in their bedrooms. "When people actually see one of our shows it's like, okay, they're singing these sweet innocent songs and stuff like that, but we're not total fucking pussies," says Kat. When Kat swears, it seems like she's forcing it a little. She giggles nervously. "Oh, I think I used that one before." She takes a drag from her cigarette. "Sure, every once in a while we do the dresses and stuff like that, but the fact is that we get up there and have fun and are fucking obnoxious or whatever." That's why they're punk.



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

Kat is small and boyish looking, with olive skin, a pierced septum, a flat chest, and short, dark hair. She's wearing a black hoodie and ratty black slacks. She's the mother of a six-year-old, who's playing video games in the next room. We're in the bedroom of her house in the Wedge, where she writes most of the band's material. Her background is a perfect mix of 1955 and 1977: She grew up the daughter of a Methodist pastor in Wisconsin. They moved around a lot: Sheboygan, Eau Claire, Madison. Her father encouraged her to sing, but she rebelled, sullenly ensconcing herself in his office to play solitaire during choir practice. But when she was 15, and they were in Barron, Wisconsin, she played bass and sang harmony with an all-girl band named the Rag Dolls in the basement of the church. It was the Rag Dolls' first and last performance (somebody's mother broke it up), but that was all it took to hook Kat on the shoob be doo wop de bop.

The three women of the God Damn Doo Wop Band got the idea to form a group after singing karaoke together at Grumpy's. When they sing now, they trade the lead vocal back and forth, skipping and trilling through their three-part harmonies. Kat writes the music on a four-track in her bedroom before bringing it to the rest of the band for full instrumentation. Does she actually sit down and write "Doo woop dee doo" when she's coming up with a chorus? "I think when I was teaching Dylan [the new bass player] some of the bass lines, I was going, like, 'dum doop dah doo/doo dah dah doo.'"

Nobody in the band seems too worried about the stylistic constraint that comes with their chosen genre, even though most of the bands that performed it, back in the '50s and '60s, were one-hit wonders. For their part, the guys are just adjusting to a style very different from the noisy punk they were accustomed to. "It's hard learning how to play guitar clean," admits lead guitarist Ross Fellrath, 28. "I've never been in a band where I didn't have it wound up. I've been listening to a lot of Beach Boys stuff."

Listening to the album, recorded quickly during that last Fourth of July heatwave (the entire band was forced to record in their underwear), you might wonder what real punk rock doo wop might sound like: 9/11 was an inside job/oooh waah. Or, Sleep tight, my Abu Ghraib-y, my Abu Ghraib-y/Dum diddy doo. But Kat isn't ready for full-scale subversion yet.

"When I write, it comes out in spurts," she says. "When I'm upset about a boy, it's going to come out. When I'm upset about the war in Iraq and have a song in my head chances are it will probably be about that. But it hasn't happened yet." She giggles a little too loudly. "Obviously, I don't like being a sappy girl. It drives me nuts. It drives me crazy that boys can have such an effect on the heart, and I would love to write other things, but I'm not going to make a conscious effort to do it. Because then it doesn't mean anything; if I'm writing something just to write something different."


Bad Moon Rising
CHOOGLIN' BRING HORNS AND HOT LICKS
TO THE MIDNIGHT EVILS' AFTERPARTY

By Chuck Terhark



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

To choogle, or not to choogle?

That was the question facing Brian Vanderwerf in late 2005 when the fickle rock 'n' roll sun set on his band, the Midnight Evils. A bawdy bunch of eighth-note junkies with a live show so raucous they were twice voted "Best Rock Band" in these pages, the Evils were an antidote to the gently weeping guitars and foreplay-as-lyrics ethos of the early millennium. (Seriously, "Your Body Is a Wonderland?" Come on.) Vanderwerf's take on '70s-era guitar rawk, while certainly nothing new, felt fresh, for no other reason than because it cut the sweet talk and got right down to the drinking and fucking.

Which, of course, is what "chooglin'" is all about. To quote John Fogerty on the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Keep on Chooglin'": "You got to ball and have a good time/And that's what I call chooglin'." Vanderwerf cites Jerry Lee Lewis as the prototypical choogler, and describes it variously as "doin' it to the death" and "keepin' on keepin' on." That's what the Midnight Evils had been doing through three albums over five solid years. Then midnight struck, their evil rock dream turned back into a pumpkin, and—to extend the cliché—Vanderwerf was left holding the glass slipper. Or maybe it was a Les Paul. Whatever. Point is, the ending is a happy one: Vanderwerf kept on chooglin'.

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.


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

By Peter S. Scholtes



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.

8. Last year Isa performed in the JD Steele-scored musical Snapshots: Life in the City, at the Great American History Theatre in St. Paul.

9. Isa says the best place to see new local music is down the corner. "You can go down to Station 4 in St. Paul and see students from McNally Smith just meeting each other and getting down," she says. "Or at open mics—the Blue Nile on Tuesdays is where I first saw [rapper Back-Up] Plomo spit a rhyme. Open mics are where everyone gets their first shot."

10. Isa's debut album is due in February on the local label Emetrece Productions.


By Any Other Name
WHITE LIGHT RIOT DO WHAT EVENING GLOW COULDN'T

By Lindsey Thomas

Call it trivial, but coming up with the perfect name is even more important than, say, choosing the right outfits and styling products. (Just ask Robert Zimmerman.) So when a young, local band decided that their laid-back name didn't live up to their dynamic, contagious melodies, Mike Schwandt and his mates came up with something a little flashier. As of press time, the band was in the process of signing a deal with an undisclosed label, and recording their first full-length at the Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls. Look for a national release from the band currently known as White Light Riot in February.

City Pages: When Picked to Click comes out, people always argue that some of the bands aren't technically new. You guys have been White Light Riot for less than a year, but when did you start as the Evening Glow?

Mike Schwandt: We started out a little over two years ago. We didn't play much because we just couldn't get gigs at first. But we played for a solid year and then decided to record. The EP came out last November, and that's when we changed our name.

CP: I heard changing the name was [The Dark Is Light Enough producer] Erik Appelwick's idea.

Schwandt: He just said, "Your music doesn't really sound like the Evening Glow." We agreed immediately because [the original name] just came out of someone's mouth on a night when there may have been alcohol involved. And we didn't realize it was also a women's cosmetics line.

CP: I'm picturing Erik as a cigar-chomping old man, telling the kids how things work in "the biz."

Schwandt: [Laughs] No, he brought it up subtly. He said you might want to change it and after that we all became self-conscious about it.



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

CP: Do you remember any other contenders for the new name?

Schwandt: We wanted to be Thick as Thieves for a while but that was taken by a metal band in California. And then we were going to go with Saints by Stereo. But we didn't want to have a band name with "stereo" in the title; there are just too many of them.

CP: Kind of like "super."

Schwandt: Mm-hmm. And then we came up with White Light Riot and we were thinking of Velvet Underground and the Clash with White Light/White Heat and "White Riot." We're all big fans of both of those bands and we thought it would be a cool tribute. And it kind of describes our music. The white light is the melodies and soaring choruses and the riot is our breakdowns and bridges.

CP: Has your sound changed at all since the switch?

Schwandt: It's progressed a ton. We used to just emulate our heroes. In the Evening Glow, we were very Foo Fighters-esque. We're huge fans of Dave Grohl and everything he's done. And we're into the indie scene like Death Cab, too. So in our early stuff, there was no real sound because everyone was trying to get a certain style that we liked but we never really had our own style. Even the EP is a little bit all over the place. But it helped us figure out what the full-length should sound like.

CP: So you're at Pachyderm right now?

Schwandt: Yeah, and it's going very well. Brent Sigmeth is producing.

CP: How is the recording different from that of the EP?

Schwandt: Appelwick injected his own ideas, which helped us learn about songwriting. So we understood a lot more at the end of that project. This time, Brent is the tone master, but the song creation is up to us. It's still an open, creative environment, but not as much of a helping hand.

CP: What will the new album sound like?

Schwandt: It's going to be quirky pop rock. It's our own brand of quirkiness but with lots of very strong melodies, very accessible. Definitely some fun craziness involved.


Math Heads
GAY BEAST KEEP IT COMPLICATED

By Rod Smith

Over the course of one year, seven months, two EPs, dozens of live shows, and a recent East Coast tour, Dan Luedtke, Angela Gerend, and Isaac Rotto have established themselves as the nation's—if not the planet's—preeminent progressive post-dance-punk dance band. Granted, they're the first. Still, the trio's talent for marrying tricky time signatures, labyrinthine song structures, and unabashed experimentalism with bold-face infectiousness knows no apparent bounds. Gay Beast twist every trope they touch—just enough.

To wit: The monolithic blocks of sound from Rotto's guitar and Luedtke's keyboard slap over Gerend's jazzily brutal drumming on the intro of "i.d. politics" for a sound just epic enough to hint at metal. Gerend works her snare meticulously on the nervous verse, putting way more hop and skitter under Rotto's impression of Bernard Albrecht as a 24th-century trans-human than any regular rock hack could ever hope to muster. And what about the chorus, with Luedtke melodiously blurting, "Identity politics/That's all it is/Identity politics/Be careful?" Does Patrick Scully know about this?

Their refusal to embrace cliché extends to interviewing style. Lined up in a row on a couch at Spyhouse when City Pages met them, Luedtke, Gerend, and Rotto looked as if they were going to be asking the questions.



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

CP: How does it feel to be the Twin Cities' first two-thirds queer band of note since Hüsker Dü?

IR: I have to work on my moustache.

AG: [Chuckling] I've never really thought of us in that context.

DL: I like being that—but not relying on it. It's nice that music people are into what we're doing, and everyday queer people are into what we're doing, even though their points of reference are completely different. I like straddling those two worlds.

CP: What do you think about the "math rock" brush some people insist on tarring you with?

IR: We don't really have a problem with it. But we don't want to become too much like, say, Don Caballero, where everything is subsumed in the service of precision. I'm really fond the old Captain Beefheart stuff. I feel like we're starting to get a little bit like that.

AG: We like a certain rawness—precision in the service of chaos. I've been interested in complex rhythms since high school. Fives are nothing to us now. We're trying to take it to another level."

DL: As cheesy as it might sound, we've been approaching the writing process in a more serialist way, actually considering the math. You can break down a nine in so many different ways. We like our songs to offer room for flexibility, so that we can put a little something extra in. We'd never want to be in a position where we had to play the same song exactly the same way every time. I hope it doesn't come off as a gimmick, like we're writing these complicated rhythms just to be clever. It's just what comes naturally to us.


Snakes is High!
THREE THINGS ABOUT THE AWESOME SNAKES
THAT ARE AWESOME AND SNAKELIKE

By the Awesome Snakes

Three things about Danny that are awesome (by Annie):

1. Danny is scared of nature. It is awesome when he cries about it. Cries like a big, stupid baby. It also confuses him because he thinks that all dogs are male, and all cats are female. How stupid is that?

2. Danny is extremely muscular. He sometimes tells people that he competes in muscleman competitions. He is a liar.

3. It is awesome when Danny stuffs his fat face full of hamburgers. It's REALLY awesome when he gets ketchup all over his new shoes and cries. Like when he's in the nature.



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

Three things about Danny that are "snaky" (by Annie):

1. Danny has no sense of smell. That's why he stinks all the time. Smells like a dirty stinky rotten snake rotting.

2. Danny can't draw. Have you seen the front cover of the record? He held his breath until I gave in to that idea.

3. Danny lies. Danny cheats. He fights children and old people. He'll throw sand in your eyes, then he'll punch you in the crotch and run. He's a real shit-eating sonofabitch.

Three things that are awesome about Annie (by Danny):

1. Annie is awesome at the hula hoop. If you go over to her house, that's all she ever talks about. Stupid hula hoops this and stupid hula hoops that. Always with the hula hoops.

2. Annie is awesome at being an overweight hog.

3. Annie is awesome at eatin' the shit outta some potato chips.

Three things about Annie that are "snaky" (by Danny):

1. Annie hardly ever shares. If Annie had exactly nine dollars in her pocket, here's how much of it you could have: none of it.

2. Annie does not have a snake. For her to be in a band called "Awesome Snakes" and sing songs about snakes is an all-the-way "snaky" situation. I don't have a snake either, but big deal, Annie's a more serious, powerful liar than me.

3. Annie shot a snake at summer camp in 1988. The snake was a jerk and he/she deserved it. Every great once in a while you'll encounter a snake that's just plain-ol' pissed-off or real mouthy.


Let the Eagle Soar!
BIRTHDAY SUITS GET NAKED, APOLOGIZE TO AMERICAN ICONS

By Molly Priesmeyer

City Pages: You guys are currently on an East Coast tour. Are you bummed that you're going to miss the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy?

Hideo Takahashi (guitarist, singer): I don't know what Grey's Anatomy is. I don't watch TV. I only watch Japanese comedy on YouTube.

CP: Since you missed it, do you at least have any strange road stories from this tour?

Takahashi: It's not from this tour, but when we were driving outside Las Vegas a few months ago, we hit a flying eagle.

CP: You are "Birthday Suits," with no "the." What's your aversion to the word "the"? Does it bother you that I just used it three times?

Takahashi: I'm still learning English and having hard time knowing when I'm supposed use "the."

CP: As a duo, who takes the role of the "good cop" in the band?

Takahashi: For sure I'm the good cop. I do all the band's business side jobs. I make Matthew [Kazama, drummer] feel guilty about it and he ends up driving more in the daytime. Matthew is the bad cop because most of time he's drunk after the show and I end up driving during the nighttime. He is drunk right now, too. He is so bad.



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

CP: In the lyrics to "Rochester Moon in Toledo," you say you want to kill Rochester. What do you have against that city? Did it break your heart?

Takahashi: I don't have anything against Rochester. I don't think I even have been there. The word "Rochester" fit perfect in the line. I'm sorry, Rochester. Please don't hate or kill me. We love you, this country, and eagles in Nevada.

CP: You're known for your explosive live shows. What's the best live show you've ever seen?

Takahashi: I'm getting old and can't remember them all, but I have to pick from Japanese bands. Many of them do great shows, such as Guitar Wolf, Gasoline, and King Brothers. However, my pick will be Firestarter. They're ex-Teengenarete. I saw them three or four years ago in Tokyo. They don't do crazy stuff or move around but they have so much energy just playing and singing. They're amazing.

CP: What's the most embarrassing thing you've done lately?

Takahashi: A few weeks ago I was drunk and called the booking guys at Turf asking about booking at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. You don't want to give me your cell number. I might call you about City Pages A-List at 3:00 a.m.

CP: If a CD got stuck in the player and was on repeat for the rest of the tour, what would you hope it would be?

Takahashi: Any of the Marked Men CDs. I love them so much. I don't like listening to loud music when I drive. I don't like listening slow music either. It makes me sleep. The Marked Men would be so perfect.

CP: What would be the absolute worst CD to be forced to listen to on repeat for two weeks?

Takahashi: I don't carry it around, but if Birthday Suits CD got stuck in our car, it would be absolute worst.


A Modern Taxonomy
of Ian Andersons

ONE FOR THE TULL… UH, TEAM

By Sarah Askari

Yes, Ian Anderson is this band's founder, vocalist, and chief songwriter. No, we are not talking about Aqualung's pulmonologist. In the interest of the public good, we present a guide to discerning the difference between Ian Anderson, frontman of flute-rockers Jethro Tull, and Ian Anderson, frontman of pop-rockers One for the Team.

Multi-dimensional Frontmen

Jethro Tull (JT): Ian Anderson, 59, Scottish, is not only a musician; he also cultivates diversified business interests including real estate holdings and salmon farming.

One for the Team (O4T): In addition to captaining One for the Team, 21-year-old Minneapolis resident Ian Anderson nails down his "Most Likely to Succeed" status by editing Sliver Magazine, an online indie music publication; running local label Afternoon Records, home to fellow Picked to Click favorites God Damn Doo Wop Band; and completing his undergraduate coursework as an English major at St. Olaf College.

Stage Moves

JT: Ian Anderson accompanies his flute blowing with a madcap dance in which he pogos on one leg like a spring-soled flamingo.

O4T: Keyboardist Sam Gerard (also of Squareshooters) is a boogie dynamo who pauses between synthesizer chords and tambourine shakes to shimmy around the other band members with a tightly coiled, hyperactive physicality oddly reminiscent of Jeremy Piven's performance as superagent Ari Gold.



1. The Alarmists

2. Black Blondie

3. The God Damn Doo Wop Band

4. Show Pages

 
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