"Come on, old guy, whaddya got?" a good-natured heckler yelled toward the stage during a rare quiet break in Arcwelder's sonic overload. "Whaddya got?"
Arcwelder guitarist/singer/occasional bassist Bill Graber squinted for a moment, trying to spy the heckler in the packed crowd, and then said, "Which one of us are you talking to?"
The crowd broke into warm laughter as Graber and brother/bassist/occasional guitarist Rob shared a smile. A few moments later drummer/singer Scott MacDonald said, dryly, "It's been 24 years, I think we've earned our Punk merit badge," and then the band burst into song, taking the bouncing, joyous crowd on a trip through all 24 of those years. The crowd knew every song by heart. Hell, I hadn't listened to an Arcwelder record in a decade and I knew every song by heart. They're impossible to forget.
"Fuck the Replacements," a friend said. "Arcwelder is Minneapolis."
There was a time, 15 years ago or so, that was somehow both more innocent and cynical, where every Midwestern town seemed like a fertile feeding ground for great music formed by kids in their garage as record execs and radio programmers scrambled to find a catch-all label to lasso these bands, drag them in, and sell them to the consumer. It's easy to forget the dreaded "g" word that started with Nirvana and ultimately launched a thousand Creeds never meant much, easy to forget that whether a band was heavy or sludgy or poppy or all three at the same time, it wasn't the sound people responded to nearly as much as the sincerity. You can't market sincerity, can't put it in a package, but Arcwelder's got the corner on it. It's what brings people out, shuffling across icy sidewalks on zero-degree nights, to pack the Turf Club, and in turn, Arcwelder, in a rare local performance, gave a show worth every slip, every shiver.
The room was already filling up when Double Bird started off with a high-energy, catchy-as-hell set. There are few musicians in town who understand how to pack a three minute power pop song with as much nuance, style, and balls as drummer Ben Ivascu, bassist Pete Biasi, and guitarist Dave Storberg--local veterans of such bands as Signal to Trust, Falcon Crest, Building Better Bombs, France Has The Bomb, and Superhopper--and they were an immediate jolt to the crowd. Gay Witch Abortion's dark, bruising, thunderous stoner rock soon followed, the room now officially packed. Drummer Sean Walker laid down crushing, intense, charging drum beats while guitarist Jesse Bottomley blending droning, delay-drenched chords and riffs that referenced the best '70s boogie rock into a room-shaking wall of noise.
Finally, Arcwelder took the stage, pausing for a moment for a fundraising announcement for Brian Lundgren, a cancer survivor and long-time Minneapolis rock fan. As people passed a hat and more people threw money into a guitar case on stage, Arcwelder fired up their set, bass and drums lockstep like a fright train, guitar noisy and melodic, and the time warp began. Jokes about old men and merit badges were good for a laugh, but the second they started playing the room was bouncing like it was a Sunday matinee show at the 7th St. Entry in 1993, or the Mainroom in 1996, Graber/Graber/MacDonald not missing a step.