Cause's 5th Anniversary and Closing Party With Enemy Planes, Gay Witch Abortion, Mississippi North, Buildings, Ex Nuns, and Strange Cause Spirits & Soundbar, Minneapolis Saturday, July 12, 2014
For the past five years Cause Spirits & Soundbar has been an oasis on the corner of Lyndale and Lake. Rickety lounge chairs dotted the sidewalk outside around tables piled high with PBR cans. In the mornings, the tantalizing scent of breakfast wafted in past trusty bartenders serving up the day's hair of the dog. By evening, strains of your favorite local band's songs struggled to be heard over the buzz of an enthusiastic gathering of friends and strangers alike, crowding the door guy and filling the air with cigarette smoke and laughter. Drunken merriment abounded. For the past five years, many of us Uptowners lived by one simple motto: All roads lead to Cause.
The fifth anniversary celebration of this beloved bar/restaurant/venue, though, wound up being its funeral. After five years of serving as a rite of passage for so many performers, and a second home for some, Cause has officially closed its doors to the public as (gasp!) a sports bar prepares to move into its beloved tomb. Despite our shock and anguish, we did our best to party hard this past Saturday as the last five bands to ever play Cause hit the stage.
See also: Cause goes sports bar: 10 best comments[jump]
Strange opened the evening with a blistering set of rock songs, revving up the already spirited crowd. Post-punk band Ex Nuns followed, keeping the energy high. Drinks were being served up in plastic cups. Though things were certainly festive, it was impossible to ignore the undercurrent of sadness coursing through the room. Regulars greeted one another with long looks of knowing. Conversations tended to veer toward nostalgia. Perhaps we were only just then beginning to realize how lucky we were to have been granted such a place in the midst of ever-multiplying condos, chain retailers, and various cookie-cutter bars and restaurants that have sprouted up relentlessly ever since the era of the Uptown Bar.
If Buildings were feeling angry about the situation, they did their best to channel that volatility into their performance. Singer Brian Lake snarled his way through songs from their recently released EP, It Doesn't Matter, as a mosh pit began to form. Buildings' live sets tend to be especially cathartic, as they've said they find themselves lost within the execution of the songs, and oftentimes exhausted afterwards by the furious release of energy and sound. With their current formation, it appears that Buildings have hit a certain stride. Their older material still pleases but the newer work finds success in simplicity, cutting straight to the bone by removing some of the musical trimmings.
Next up was Mississippi North, their vocalist wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, "Fuck sports bars." They brought a cool mixtures of blues-inspired rock and psychedelia, primarily in the form of covers -- or were they all covers? Regardless, their set was enticing, and an intriguing departure from the previous mood set by the other openers. "This guy sounds like Robert Plant!" remarked a woman in the audience as they tore through a rendition of "Immigrant Song." Her friend nodded in agreement exclaiming, "He's really good! Wow!"
His vocals did seem to be from a different era entirely. Instead of smoking a joint, though, he puffed wholeheartedly on a vape, blowing thick plumes of smoke above the stage. "Fuck sports bars," he said, pointing down to his T-shirt. "You want a different culture? You gotta go out and build it!" All around the room, heads nodded in agreement. It was kind of weird, actually. Were we actually a bunch of modern-day hippies feeling downtrodden by "the man" AKA the impending sports bar? This guy wanted us to grab our vapes and mobilize.
Somewhere during this call to action, the venue had hit capacity. Revelers waxed poetic remembrances of their most memorable Cause moments, such as, "Thanks for the DWI." Better Bones frontman Max Gremillion struggled to find words aptly capturing what this place had meant to him. "It's a second home," he said after a long pause. "It's always been the best type of shit show you could ever ask for. It's family." Outside in the smoking area, adorned in his signature bath robe, rap ambassador and staunch Cause regular Phillip Morris was feeling equally sentimental. "Forgive me," he pleaded, "but I will be crying and twerking simultaneously tonight." When asked where to turn next, Morris was ready with some sagely advice. "There's going to be some CC Club action for sure, and Muddy's," he said. He recommended continued support for the employees of Cause as they move on to their next places of employment. "Follow the bartenders. Follow the servers."
"There goes the neighborhood," commented Garrison Grouse, Black Diet's bassist and co-founder of Nightchain, Cause's weekly Monday night dance party. While Grouse hopes to find a willing venue so that Nightchain can continue, he is sorely disappointed by the prospect of losing its original home. "I guess it was just a lost cause," he quipped. Friend Sam Spadino agreed. "Nice try hipsters, we lost the war," he said as he locked his bike up next to Grouse's. "The battle for Uptown is over."
Cause regular Eric Basta summed it up cynically, saying, "Camaraderie crushed by condos." His friend Ari Michelle stood nearby, crushed. "I can't even..." she uttered. [page]
Inside, Gay Witch Abortion had begun. The room was pitch black aside from a row of small red lights, providing an ominous hue over the stage. Jesse Bottomley's guitar playing was searing, sharp like a saw blade scraping through the darkness. Shawn Walker's drumming was aggressive, the beats serving as exclamation points to drive home Bottomley's sparse, screamed lyrics. Their set was harsh, loud and demanding. Again, a mosh pit formed. The two skillfully built soundscapes upon a skeleton of feedback, adding delay, keeping the music self-contained as it constantly threatened to break free of itself. Elements of harsh noise were present. Though the crowd had thinned some, the mosh pit grew. Empty beer cans and plastic cups littered the floor with straws and bits of debris.
Scott Seekins was spotted in the bar area. A girl on the sidewalk was continuously lifting up her shirt and drunkenly flashing strangers who walked by. Beer was drunk out of styrofoam cups, as it appeared that the bar had run out of plastic cups as well. At this point, many people were extremely drunk. "I'll miss Monday nights here," commented Caffrey's employee and Nightchain regular Jennifer Lievois. Lievois was quick to confirm with Gimme Noise that last week's rumored closing of Caffrey's was indeed just a cruel rumor. "We'll be here!" she said.
The last band to perform was Enemy Planes, whose lineup includes perhaps the most recognizable bartender from Cause, Shon Troth. Troth remembers playing in the first ever show at Cause as well, with Solid Gold. "God, how fucking cool is that?" he exclaimed. His bandmate Casey Call was struggling to come to terms with the premature goodbyes. "This place is so interwoven into who we are as a band," he said of Enemy Planes and the fated Cause. "It's a place where it's okay to fuck up. What's going to be next? So many bands got their start here."
Enemy Planes are impressive live. Call uses vocal effects to distort his voice into sounding more feminine, providing an interesting juxtaposition between his vocals and those of bandmate Kristine Stresman. From the beginning of the set, couples in the audience were increasing their public displays of affection. Feet slipped upon the beer-soaked floor. Stresman's voice was smoky, silken, as she sang relaxedly over melancholic tunes. At times, it sounded as if Call was singing underwater, as the vocal effects shredded his voice into multilayered facets cascading atop Stresman's.
What better way to end the evening than with a riotous Beastie Boy's cover? The opening notes of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)" rang out, and the crowd quickly became frenzied. Crowdsurfers threw themselves into the air. There were tremendous cymbal crashes and terrifying moments of feedback. A guitar was passed through the crowd, still plugged into an amplifier. The lights slowly came on, for the last time, and a chant rose: "One more song!"
"Keep the bar open 'til the sun comes up!" screamed a random drunk guy. "They're going out of business anyway!" Apparently this guy didn't realize that maybe Cause's employees didn't want to work for free for the rest of the night. Women were standing on top of the bar itself. The lights remained on as Enemy Planes returned for an encore with their song "Weightless." There we were, floating weightless in a sea of spilled beer, suspended by the ending. Critic's Bias: I never really hung out at Cause too much until just recently, and I have to admit as much as I liked to jokingly hate on it, Cause was actually a really important place for music in this town and I'm sad that it's closing. That being sad, I'm not entirely surprised by its demise and I'm certainly not surprised that a sports bar will be opening in its place. So yeah, I'm bummed, but Uptown already left me jaded long ago.
Overheard in the crowd: "First rule about tight club, is don't talk about tight club." "All of my socks are caked in blood." Enemy Planes Set List:
From Behind Bury Your Teeth We Want Blood Break Weightless Multitude of Lights Stranger Danger (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) - Beastie Boys cover
GIMME NOISE'S GREATEST HITS
53 things you might not know about Prince
73 things you might not know about Bob Dylan
Brother Ali: My fans are kicking the sh*t out of me over Trayvon Martin
Here's why we didn't sign the Foo Fighters photo waiver
Top 20 best Minnesota musicians: The complete list