Let us not forget that Christmas is not only a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward mankind, but it's also a time to evaluate those around you.
Yes, Santa Claus is as much a jolly gift-giver as he is an ethically pontificating asshole who doles out fossil fuels as admonishment for bratty behavior. In this grand tradition of Yuletide judgment, City Pages has taken a look at the local music scene to see which Twin Cities affiliates will be lavished with gifts and which will be unwrapping lumps of coal.
Feliz Navidad, you morally dichotomous scenesters!
Bands That Broke Up
Frozen Teens, Zoo Animal, and Pennyroyal all earned coal this year for calling it quits on us. Joining them was the supreme, almost serial disappointment of another Replacements uncoupling that still has us WTFing silently in the back of our cerebral cortexes. Every year we lose a batch of bands that were just too good for this world, and 2015 was a particularly onerous one for good bands. At the very least, Stereo Confession's collapse gave us Cherry Cola, but we can't help but be horrified for what 2016 might hold. Will it be Gramma's Boyfriend who's next on the chopping block? Disasteratti? Please not the Suburbs. For planting the doubt alone, these five quitters deserve no figgy pudding.
Aqua Nightclub/Fine Line Music Cafe
While Myth may be King Shit of the awful local music venues, Aqua/Fine Line's 2015 digressions have nothing to do with the viewing experience. Back in September when the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) filed copyright lawsuits aimed at various venues across the country, Aqua — whose owners acquired the Fine Line in 2013 — was one of the 17 named for failure to obtain a blanket license to pay artists for royalties. Since the owners of Aqua and Fine Line profit from using musicians' copyrighted works during karaoke, DJ sets, and cover bands, ASCAP alleged they owe the artist organization around $5,300 per year since 2010. Though the courts have yet to decide who's in the right here, St. Nick has already made his verdict.
An anonymous, sarcastic back-patter emerged from the Twittersphere in 2015 to challenge Facebook's Brad Jesperson for the crown of the Twin Cities' most irreverent pseudo-personality. Like Jesperson, @Go893supporter runs off a smarmy algorithm of tire-pumping anything related to Prince, Bob Dylan, or the Replacements. While the tweeter's enduring anonymity has chafed more than a fair share of the writers, photographers, and musicians who've found their way into @Go893supporter's mentions, the cyber jabs have added some balance to the under-critiqued local media. Too bad so much of it is derivative. To whom does Santa address this lump of coal to?
As the only Parental Advisory candidate on Rhymesayers Entertainment, Minneapolis party-boy Prof is bound to offend. Last year, he sparked a beef with '90s sitcom icon John Stamos, and his 2015 release, Liability, continued his dickish ways by taking shots at, among others, Michael J. Fox, Rosario Dawson, and Miley Cyrus. Beyond the cute shit, the album had the worst-performing Bechdel test results of 2015, including a song that's basically a prolonged catcall ("Farout") and lyrics like, "Nowadays pussy don't mean shit / They throw it all around 'til they land on some dick" ("I Had Sex in the '90s"). The rampant misogyny of Liability is something you'd expect from Psychopathic Records rather than Rhymesayers and is grounds for a blue Christmas for King Gampo in 2015.
The thinly mustached Prince, singer of such raunchy classics as "Head" and "Jack U Off," is a first-ballot naughty lister for his unabating horniness alone, but the 57-year-old funk imp induced more groans than boners in 2015. Maintaining a ubiquitous presence in the news cycle for his uber-secretive Paisley Park soirees, dubious charity concert in Baltimore, and sudden allegiance to TIDAL, the Purple One set expectations high for his LP, HITNRUN. However, after listening to the album and its surprise successor, all the attention feels like wasted effort. The Artist's 2015 exposed him as rock music's Ben Kingsley — an autodidactic talent who is equally capable of turning in a dud as an expert performance. Maybe the postponed Prince Spotlight: Piano & A Microphone European tour and some time away from the limelight will restore amity toward Prince, but 2015 has left Twin Cities denizens overstimulated and embittered.
Bands that Got Back Together
Life is about maximums and minimums, and for all the groups who called it quits, there were gargantuan reunions that help balance the scales. Lifter Puller, 12 Rods, and Babes in Toyland, three of the Twin Cities' biggest acts from the past, all pulled off stellar comebacks in 2015, with the latter making another trip through their hometown next month. Additionally, cult favorites Morticia and Cows also reappeared to the delight of their fanbases, making 2015 a feel-good year all around. Unlike their counterparts who called it quits this year, these groups gave us hope that 2016 could feature rekindlings of the likes of Semisonic, Hüsker Dü, or, uh, the Replacements again! Light the tree in these folks' honor.
Triple Rock Social Club
In a banner year, the Dillinger Four-owned club Triple Rock proved that it's evolving as a venue more and more every year. In 2015, the dive bar hosted JMSN, Andrew W.K., and even JoJo, showing the extent to which the bookers are willing to go to diversify their bills. T-Rock has also been a dutiful host to local talents, including Marijuana Deathsquads and Bruise Violet. But really, the crowning achievement was D4'th of July, in which Craig Finn's original band, Lifter Puller, reunited to celebrate Dillinger Four's 21st birthday. Hats off to this scrappy West Bank room for the widening array of good music it has committed to bringing to the Twin Cities since opening in 1998.
89.3 the Current's Andrea Swensson has been a dedicated — if not overly enthusiastic — supporter of the Twin Cities music scene for as long as she's been an adult, but 2015 was a special year for the former City Pages music editor. In addition to running 89.3's Local Current blog, Swensson increased her influence in the local scene by hosting a new podcast, The O.K. Show, and taking over the reins of The Local Show following David Campbell's departure. Moreover, she's been the most outspoken ally of the Twin Cities' female population, using her expanding podium to champion local bands like Swimsuit Area, Gospel Machine, and Bruise Violet and dispel misunderstandings around feminist lightning rod Lana Del Rey. This gender-equality advocacy was solidified when Swensson hosted the popular Girl Germs showcase earlier this month.
Cultural archivists aren't always welcomed in the gritty punk rock scene, but Manny, Jennifer, and Gravey from UnderCurrentMPLS move in symbiosis with the world they document. The tireless threesome have compiled nearly 2,000 videos from basement and warehouse shows in the Twin Cities, and were finally rewarded for their efforts with a three-night residency at the T-Rock. As chronicled in our March cover story, UnderCurrentMPLS operate on an entirely thankless DIY platform that earns them no cash, and their relative anonymity doesn't net them much in the way of celebrity. But their altruism hasn't escaped the notice of the North Pole, who award UnderCurrent with these meager words.
After their fuckin' weird, morally ambiguous "drone not drones" set at 2013's Rock the Garden, Duluth folk-rock act Low felt, for the first time, the ire of their local fans. This past year was largely a redemptive arc for Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Steve Garrington, who showed plenty of local goodwill by headlining Electric Fetus' garage sale and putting on a gorgeous homecoming set at First Ave. Next month, they'll double down on the Minneapolis rededication by making good with 89.3 the Current and playing their eleventh birthday party. All this would've been enough, but the release of Ones and Sixes is seen as a welcome return to form for the college rockers — leading City Pages writer Tigger Lunney to wonder, "Is Low Minnesota's last great and sustainable indie-rock band?" Perhaps, but either way, we were glad to have them in 2015.
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- Tickets on sale for Prince's 'once-in-a-lifetime' piano shows at Paisley
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