By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
In 1990, I was in my first year as music editor and columnist at City Pages. We had just completed our annual baseball issue, which included a preseason writers' poll. The issue hit stands on a sunny spring morning, and I was driving to St. Paul when I had the idea to start a similar poll about local music. I wasn't interested in who would win; I was feeling overwhelmed and out of touch and merely wanted to know what bands people were talking about.
Twenty years later, we are inundated with picks and clicks and cliques and what bands people are talking about. Music now competes with the latest crap, app, link, text message, status update, etc., and, one could argue, has never been more disposable. Which is why I'll argue that Picked To Click may matter today more than ever.
To wit: The other night my favorite band was playing the 331 Club. I scanned the room, dark with true music listeners; about 75 people and not a cell phone in sight. A half hour into the set, four young women paraded into the room, sat down at a table in front of the stage, and promptly opened their phones, creating the familiar green-glow campfire of the perma-connected.
Now. Seven feet away from them on stage was a lithe, powerful rhythm section, a fiddle player and trumpet player shadow-dancing with each other, a guitarist playing a sinewy Telecaster, a keyboard player hailing from the church of psychedelia, and an up-from-the-basement-into-the-world singer/songwriter. A live band. Nothing quite like it. Yet all four women, in unison, without looking up at the stage, instinctively, addictively, and wholly out of the moment, needed to see if something else was going on.
Which would have been dispiriting for anyone who believes that bars are the most interesting human zoos we have at our disposal, and that live local music contains the freshest organic ingredients, around which all else revolves. Thankfully, the next day my friend Meg enthusiastically told me about Bring That Shit, a new hardcore/thrash band that sports a ferocious female singer. The following night, I was at the wedding of my friends Brianna Riplinger and James Fitzgerald, where the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank, a.k.a brothers Teague and Ian Alexy, made a trippy original racket with guitars, vocals, and stomp boards. The night after that, I sat in the living room of my friends Brianna Lane and Greg Neis, where a potluck dinner turned into a house concert featuring magnificent Wisconsin songwriter Blake Thomas, who recently relocated to the Twin Cities.
This was also the year I discovered Pink Mink, Zoo Animal, the Poor Nobodys, Dark Dark Dark, the Shiny Lights, Blue Sky Blackout, and dozens of others; it must also be said that perhaps the best set I caught all year was turned in by that new-old wonder Curtiss A and his Jerks of Fate on a free Thursday night at the 331. What's more, the best stage farewell I heard this year was from the forever new Gretchen Seichrist, who concluded Patches and Gretchen's opening set for Aimee Mann at the Dakota with, "If there's an orthodontist in the house, come see me. Single mom. Guest list for life."
That's why I still go out. That's why I still listen to many, if not all, of the local CDs I get in the mail. That's why tonight I'll turn out the lights, put on the new Ben Weaver CD, and listen to what the pollsters say.
Jim Walsh is a freelance journalist/columnist and the songwriter/guitarist behind the Mad Ripple traveling rock & roll band. He is also the author of The Replacements: All Over But The Shouting: An Oral History (Voyageur Press) and is currently at work on a history of the first-wave Twin Cities punk scene for the Minnesota Historical Society Press.
We asked 108 writers, DJs, photographers, bookers, promoters, sound engineers, label owners, and otherwise active participants in the local scene to list their top-five favorite local bands or solo artists who have what it takes to "click." Each voter's top choice was awarded five points, second choice awarded four points, third choice award three points, and so on down the line. Unranked choices received three points each.
The band with the most points was declared the winner, and the acts with the top 10 scores are featured in this issue. For more on this year's voting, a complete list of ballots, and the runners-up for our 20th annual poll, head to gimmenoiseblog.com.
Just 10 short months ago, Christy Hunt wanted to call it quits.
Hunt had just wrapped up two solid years on the road playing guitar in the Von Bondies and found herself back home in the dead of winter feeling directionless. "I'm really thinking of hanging up my rock and roll shoes," she wrote on her Facebook page.