Wednesday, December 18, 2002 at 4 a.m.
Summarizing the year in local music with a timeline is a little like playing 22 records simultaneously and hoping to hear a symphony. (Try it yourself with our year-end CD recommendations.) But there are the equivalents of verses, choruses, and solos in the story of 2002--events that were resonant, if not harmonious, in a year more fucked up than Peter Buck on a British airline.
For many, the unheralded greatness of our local musicians was an oasis of meaning in a year spoiled by secret tribunals and BK Veggie Burgers. Which is why the death of blues legend Dave Ray was as painful to many as the untimely departure of Paul and Sheila Wellstone. The 12 months of events listed below only hint at the power and the glory (and the idiocy) you might have missed while you were watching Shipmates. Somewhere between Krispy Kremes and Iraq, between Miss World riots in Nigeria and "Free Winona!" in L.A., commercial culture lost its ability to matter. And not a year too soon.
-- Peter S. Scholtes
DECEMBER 2001/JANUARY 2002
Local rapper Lil Buddy, whose "Woo Hoo" video shows him partying in a bank, pulls a ski mask over his face and robs the Vermillion State Bank in Rosemount with an air pistol. Escaping with nearly $40,000 in a stolen Audi, he is spotted by Eagan police within minutes, and chased until he crashes into a tree. Pleading guilty to the robbery (but not the auto theft), Buddy later attributes his problems to depression and concerns about the health of two of his brothers, who both suffered kidney failure earlier in December 2001. Out on bail, he returns to the studio to record his forthcoming album.
On the first Saturday of the year, rave culture goes into what local techno godfather Woody McBride calls a "club coma." His former partners in the promotions outfit Mile High Productions--DJ Jack Trash (JT) and Compass Entertainment talent booker Rich Best--launch a weekly dance night at the Quest called Plush, the second installment of which is headlined by New York legend Frankie Bones. Plush becomes the most successful local dance-music undertaking of the year.
Disney-owned radio station V105 (formerly Zone 105, formerly X105, formerly Rev 105) decides to address the painful scarcity of U2 on the air by switching to a new alternative format, "Drive 105," whose slogan might as well be "At least we play Iffy!"
The all-volunteer Independent Music Foundation starts booking more punk shows at the Babylon International Café and Gallery, located in the East Lake Street space where Gus Lucky's used to be. Other genres are represented at the venue, as well: In October, absurdist rapper Ice-Rod covers the entire room in a plastic tarp and holds a concert/food fight. Hours are spent cleaning up the spaghetti, pudding, and cake.
After years of conflict with his landlord and neighbors, Bon Appetit owner Samir Elkhoury decides to sell his sandwich-and-beer joint, a haven for underage hip hop in Dinkytown. Live rap goes on to have its liveliest year ever in the Twin Cities, however, with regular nights at Mario's Keller Bar, the Lab, the Red Sea, the Loring Pasta Bar, the Fireball Espresso Café, the Circle of Discipline boxing gym, and the new Urban Wildlife Club.
Meanwhile, headbangers hear that their favorite Columbia Heights hangout, Sharky's, will be closed in March to make way for a Walgreen's. A capacity crowd sends the joint off with a bang in March, rocking to the Slow Children, 13th Step, and Seventh Calling in near darkness. "Most of the neon signage had already been taken down," explains regular Sherie McEachern. "We drank all the alcohol left in the bar, and some of us even thought about buying a bar stool or table that we spent so many hours sitting at." The Sharky's roster moves on to the Main Event in Fridley, taking half of local music's hair with it.
Punk legends Babes In Toyland break up after guitarist Kat Bjelland plays a series of concerts in England billed as "Babes in Toyland," but without co-founder and drummer Lori Barbero.
Babylon regulars the Subversives play a set at the Mall of America before a midnight screening of A Clockwork Orange. General Cinemas is forced to refund tickets to patrons in the adjoining theater after the band drowns out the last half-hour of The Count of Monte Cristo.
Plush talent booker Rich Best leaves Compass Entertainment for Clear Channel Entertainment, the Texas-based radio-and-concerts conglomerate, and Compass all but closes its live music division. This leaves Clear Channel in charge of the bulk of Twin Cities concerts. The following month, fans descend on the Quest to see trance stars Sasha and Digweed, the first DJ tour purchased in its entirety by Clear Channel.
Arena funk-rockers Spymob appear on Late Show with David Letterman backing N.E.R.D. (a.k.a. production duo the Neptunes), with whom they recorded In Search Of... the previous summer. Spymob parlay the association into a deal with Arista.
Michael Yonkers returns from obscurity with a reissue of Microminature Love (DeStijl) and a performance at Treehouse Records. Buried for 35 years, the psychedelic classic captivates a new generation of collectors with its homegrown guitar effects and vividly imagistic lyrics. Sub Pop expresses interest in re-releasing the disc in 2003.
Local prank-rockers Vinnie and the Stardüsters appear live on KARE-11 TV to promote the Geek Prom in Duluth, a night of awkward revelry for former nerds who never got the prom they wanted. To the tune of "Mares Eat Oats," the band sings, "Marx was fat and Freud was bald and Hitler had no testes..." before being cut off at the word "testes." They are asked to leave.
That night, Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker make a rock-star entrance at the Prom, driving into the crowded lobby of the NorShor Theatre on a blue motor scooter. With Sparhawk in a too-small suit and Parker in pigtails and cat-eye glasses, the couple is barely recognizable spazzing out to the 'Düsters. The guy in a Klingon outfit appears unimpressed.
Having eliminated programs to subsidize graffiti clean-up in March, Minneapolis sees a spike in tagging. Elusive spray-paint vandal Next announces his presence by writing his name everywhere, including on the Uptown Theatre's façade. (Rumored to be from New York, he appears unaware that his handle is already shared by a best-selling local R&B group.) Next also scrawls "Fuck Atmosphere" on area storefronts.
The Drop Bass Network is forced to cancel its May 4 Yeee Haw! dance party on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Superior. One reason given by the UW dean of students is the apparent unwillingness of local police to cooperate. Organizers don't even bother trying to put on the annual Even Further festival. The following month, the Senate JudiciARY Committee approves the RAVE (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy) Act, which would classify pacifiers, water bottles, and glowsticks as a form of "drug promotion" under an expanded federal "crack house" statute.
Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio star Dave Foley is punched in the face by a Spiritualized roadie backstage at First Avenue.
During the Art-A-Whirl festival in Northeast Minneapolis, saxophonist Jay McHale plays with his experimental band 2i in the hallway of the Northrup King Building. "Don't be afraid of the music! We won't hurt you!" he reassures sheepish art shoppers. Months later, hundreds mourn McHale's death of a heart attack at age 44. Best known for organizing the annual Nordic Roots festival at the Cedar Cultural Center, the liturgical-music composer and baseball enthusiast inspires tributes from Ana Voog and Eugene Chadbourne.
On May 26, mud wrestlers and Ferris wheel riders at the annual Loring Block Party help send off the Loring Café and Bohemian Bar, which is unable to renew its lease. The switch to D'Amico and Partners' new Café and Bar Lurçat in November means out with the velvet couches/ Schwinn bicycles/ficus trees/artichoke dip and in with the white décor/Lexus SUVs/ ceiling lamps/salmon tartare. But the eclectic mixture of jazz and punk rock remains.
Eighties guitar experimentalists TVBC release their first record in 14 years and play at least six gigs between their official return in FebruARY and their CD-release party in June. Calculating by their 1990s average of eight years between gigs, that should hold them until 2050.
Paul Westerberg plays a moving troika of concerts at the Guthrie. He tells hecklers on the first night that he'll bring water balloons next time around to keep them in line. On the second night, he lobs one toward the audience but it lands on the floor in front of him and doesn't burst. By night three, he hands the water balloons out to the audience and invites people to throw them at him. A metaphor for his career is born.
Lost cause, a new local-music magazine, hits the stands with an editorial that declares, "all real music comes from desperation." Publisher Mark Baumgarten is later celebrated by his former roommate's band Tim Sturrock and His Foul Movements, who sing a song titled "Livin' with Mark Is Like Livin' with a Chick."
The 14-hour DeStijl Festival of Music attracts 20-odd experimental artists--including Michael Yonkers--and some 200 others to the basement of a deconsecrated house of worship. The space serves as a sort of speakeasy for local avant-garde and punk shows: 2002 gigs include Wolf Eyes, 25 Suaves, Neon Hunk, Pink & Brown, and Crack: We Are Rock. The venue is of particular use to bands booked by Freedom From impresario Matthew St-Germain, who claims his dad set up one of Yonkers's first gigs in the 1960s.
Travelers from far away express their love for the fair Twin Cities from onstage. The lead singer for Mali's Super Rail Band utters, "We love you Mineeeeapolice!" at least 15 times during a set in Loring Park; a couple of days later French-based rai singer Rachid Taha offers an earthier affirmation: "Minneapolice, we are sex machines! Algerian sex machines!"
Bone Appetit, who have promoted themselves as "Duluth's worst band," play a high school graduation party for scores of teenagers under a backyard awning. The reaction is stone indifference until one teenager stands up and begins vomiting on the grass. "We had a milk-drinking contest earlier," explains another kid.
Nearly a quarter-century after raising questions about the future of punk rock, the Suicide Commandos' "Complicated Fun" soundtracks a Target commercial. The spot features a new version of the song recorded by the band and former Magnolias frontman John Freeman, now of the Action Alert. No word yet on whether the Pistons' "She Got Sex" will score an Old Navy ad.
Extreme Noise announces "Mohawk Mondays," offering freebies to paying customers with mohawks (shoppers who might be purchasing, say, the Men of the Triple Rock calendar).
Minneapolis punk greats Lifter Puller reunite in New York City to play an hour-long "final" concert at Brownie's, using equipment borrowed from Brooklyn's Les Savy Fav. The sold-out house apparently doesn't recognize Atmosphere's Slug when he joins the band onstage for "Math Is Money."
Lifter pals Selby Tigers join the ranks of ex-bands this year, as do Wicketran, American Monsters, the Hidden Chord, and Grotto.
The outdoor Green Man Festival in Duluth goes ahead as scheduled despite torrential downpours and 30-mph winds that blow down nearly every tent. "No one was killed, so it could've been worse," reports Ripsaw News publisher Brad Nelson.
An oasis of techno-Euro chic on Minneapolis's Idiots Row, downtown's Sursumcorda closes, joining the Loring, the New French Café, and Nikki's Bar in the hipster graveyard. Though the joint reminded some of the Simpsons episode in which Moe's Tavern became an oxygen bar called "M," the venue had been among the few to consistently book indie bands and dance DJs on the same night. Memorable 2002 shows: Kinski and Felix da Housecat.
During his farewell bash at the Turf Club, longtime Pioneer Press music columnist Jim Walsh gets onstage with friends and family for a 10-minute rendition of "Gloria."
Having toured with the Strokes, written for J.Lo, hung out with the Osbournes, and convinced Rolling Stone that "Har Mar" stands for "Harold Martin," Sean Tillman (a.k.a. Sean Na Na, a.k.a. Har Mar Superstar, a.k.a. the man Conquerors bassist Keith Patterson calls "Apache Plaza Superstar") achieves the impossible. After strutting in his tighty-blackies at the Minnesota State Fair on the same stage where the 4H had hosted their 100th anniversARY party earlier that day, the R&B loverman is paid not to perform the following day. He is arrested for public lewdness in Oklahoma City two months later.
On Labor Day, Harriet Island hosts the Rolling Thunder music-and-politics tour, which marks the first and last time that Sabor Tropical, Papa John Kolstad, Cornel West, and Paul Wellstone share a stage. In addition to harassing leafleteers from Communities United Against Police Brutality, police pull the plug on a member of Fishbone who, in the course of his spoken-word rant, spouts obscenities about law enforcement.
Somewhere north of Maple Grove on I-94, punk band April Epidemic pull over their overheating Dodge van and watch from 100 yards away as it bursts into flames. The bass player later hangs his charred instrument on the wall of the Triple Rock Social Club for posterity.
A year after TPT's NewsNight goes off the air, local music's presence on television shrinks still further. Entertainment segment "The Buzz" on KMSP-TV (Channel 9) ends its popular eight-year run on September 8 when the station changes its network affiliation from UPN to Fox. Hipster-at-large Robyne Robinson is reassigned to the "Faith and Spirituality" beat.
On September 12, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak christens the first Hard Rock Café in Minnesota by smashing a cheap guitar. Two months later, 2 Tickets 2 Paradise play the grand opening of Block E's GameWorks, a kind of adult Chuck E. Cheese's with Paris-Metro-sounding announcements over the loudspeaker. Minneapolis begins to resemble the French Quarter without tits.
Aside from ballot problems (like the Minnesota Music Academy running the wrong mail-back address in City Pages) and not inviting most of the nominees, the September 18 Minnesota Music Awards at Touchstone Energy Place turns out to be an entertaining debacle. Performers are uniformly excellent, with Sabor Tropical getting the audience on its feet and Prince showing up to watch a hot funk set by his old bandmate from the Revolution, BrownMark.
In the backstage men's room, Producer of the Year winner Alex Oana and KQRS-FM (92.5) personality Dave Campbell light up the linoleum with an inspired rendition of Extreme's "More Than Words," complete with high harmony. Campbell starts into Firehouse's evergreen "Baby Don't Treat Me Bad" before a curious Ed Ackerson pokes his head in, embarrassing the amateurs into silence.
Artist of the Year winner Matthew St-Germain arrives late due to an eye injury, and is at first prevented by officials from entering the event. The following month he has his nose broken by a drunk at one of his shows.
The Soviettes top City Pages' "Picked to Click" best-new-band poll, and a gang of female-fronted groups overrun local clubs--the Bleeding Hickeys, Bullhead, Red Vendetta, Freeze Baby, the Goochers, the Psychedelicates, and the Keepaways. On the downside, the Short Fuses move out of town in November.
Disorganization causes the Rolling River music and movies festival to implode. The film portion proceeds on its own as the Central Standard Film Festival (the same week as the Sound Unseen film festival). The musical half goes forward in downtown St. Paul clubs with sometimes sparse attendance.
Though cordially welcomed to the stage by hip-hoppers the C.O.R.E., Norm Coleman is booed while addressing a First Avenue crowd at VoteRiot 2002 on October 13. Ken Pentel (who makes a Bulworth-like attempt to rap) and Paul Wellstone are received with cheers.
At the public memorial for the eight people killed in the October 25 plane crash, Sounds of Blackness perform "Don't You Ever Give Up," while folk singer Larry Long and gospel star JD Steele lead a group of local musicians in "Stand Up, Keep Fighting," which they co-wrote several months ago for the Wellstone campaign. The following night at Xcel Energy Center, Bob Dylan announces, "This is to my man, who reached the end of the road up in Eveleth," before ripping into "High Water (For Charlie Patton)."
In a year of remarkable old-guy reunions (from the E Street Band to Orchestra Baobab), the Suburbs get back together for a series of jubilant shows at First Avenue. The musicians' kids join in for a rendition of "Baby Heartbeat."
Residential punk space House of Knives quits doing shows because of noise complaints. But the scene remains unbowed. The next month, seminal local punk zine Profane Existence hits shelves again after a four-year absence. And Paul Dickinson's early-1990s venue the Speedboat Gallery "reopens" in a new location on Snelling Avenue North.
Mason Jennings sings the national anthem at a Vikings game, then gets to watch the home team beat Philadelphia from up close. "I'm probably a bigger football fan than I am a music fan," says Jennings. "I would have been a football player but I wasn't big enough."
Dave Ray and Tony Glover play a 30-minute set in Mark Trehus's living room on November 15 and a show at the Cedar the following Sunday. Eleven days later Ray dies at home at age 59 after a long battle with cancer. At his annual post-Thanksgiving concert at the Ordway a few days later, Leo Kottke tells a story about running into Ray at a folk club in Dinkytown back in the day, and asking if he could play Ray's 12-string. Ray smiled and told him to go ahead. But the strings were so far separated from the frets that the thing was impossible to play. "You could hang your laundry on them and still have room," Kottke says.
In the same month, Beloved Flamin' Ohs bassist GARY Snow dies at home after his own battle with cancer. And almost a year after local singer-guitarist Charlie Brown died of diabetes-related complications at age 31, his friends get together at the Hexagon Bar to remember him. Known for stealing other bands' songs, Brown is honored by a slew of local country musicians who reclaim their tunes. Hank Williams III happens to be in the neighborhood and sits in.
On a day's notice, Dave Pirner flies into town to play a Mondale rally at Peavey Plaza, encouraging everybody to "tell all your lazy fuckin' friends to get out there and vote!"
In the face of competition from "we'll play Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' until you lose your mind" B96 (96.3 FM), black community mainstay KMOJ-FM (89.9) announces that all of its community-service programs will be taken off the air for 45 days, and that hosts will have to reapply to continue their shows. No word yet on whether activist heavyweight Spike Moss has reapplied his foot to board president-elect Bill English's ass.
--compiled by Peter S. Scholtes, Melissa Maerz, Erin Anderson, Jen Boyles, Cecile Cloutier, Sarah Sawyer, Rod Smith, and Michaelangelo Matos