December 4, 2010
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
As music from the '90s is increasingly re-examined by critics and fans, it has become clear--just as in every preceding decade--that mistakes were made. Too much emphasis was assigned to some bands and others were ignored for no good reason at all. It's a shame that things like this happen but it's the way it works: the decade ends and all the nerdy critics and music writers trot out the also-rans who should have been paid more attention. Arcwelder is one of those bands, and Saturday night at the 7th St. Entry they put on a show that proved why.
[jump] Arcwelder shows are rare these days; they play maybe twice a year if they (and their fans) are lucky. The oddest thing about their shows is the fans themselves. Shows from other bands with a cult following are usually filled with music geeks and musicians inspired by the headliners' music, but Arcwelder seems to have inspired their fans to work in construction or a related field--their fans quite literally wanted to work with arcwelders when they grew up. The Entry was thick with Carhartt work gear and carpenter's jeans that looked like they were being used for their intended purpose. However, it's a testament to the no-frills, pretense-free, grinding brand of rock Arcwelder trades in--they are real people and the fans they gather are the same.
Arcwelder's music sounds a bit like grunge, but it's not at all. That used to be a hindrance but now it's a priceless asset. The thunder is present but none of the chunkiness; their music is lean with no filler and much more technical--math punk, maybe. Watching them on Saturday made a good argument for the idea that if Kurt Cobain had never existed (though in the grand scheme, it's good that he did) the Graber brothers and Scott MacDonald may have occupied Nirvana's throne. Bill and Scott Graber ground everything out up front while MacDonald held everything together with still-impressive skills behind the drum kit. The crowd was singing along to every word and the songs, each note-perfect, sounded like what '90s could have--maybe should have--been.
But there was no time for wistfulness or what-ifs on Saturday. Arcwelder came to go to work and work they did. There was minimal talk from the stage, just song after song of catchy, unvarnished, cacophonous rock 'n' roll. They threw in a cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison" for good measure during the four-song encore that left a smile on the face of nearly everyone in attendance.
Some people go to shows to see their friends or for myriad other reasons, but most of the crowd on Saturday came for one reason alone: to have a good time. And that was exactly what we were provided, along with the notion that sometimes by stepping into the Wayback Machine you are actually moving forward, in a way. Nobody in attendance was who they were when they first heard Arcwelder, and maybe the band--if even in a small way--had something to do with that.
Critic's Bias: Of all the shows I've been to, the two Arcwelder shows I've attended in the last year have been among the most fun.
The Crowd: Mostly guys in their mid-30s to early 40s, and it seemed that a majority of the women there had been brought by those guys.
Overheard In The Crowd: "These guys make me want to quit playing music. We'll never be this awesome."
Random Notebook Dump: "[ First Avenue Stage Manager] Conrad Sverkerson is here watching, not working. You tell me how good this band is."