Doomtree, Solid Gold, and Vampire Hands deftly dot Minneapolis's music timeline in '08
Eau Claire neo-folk group Bon Iver, led by Justin Vernon, blows up. Though their debut record, For Emma, Forever Ago, was released locally in 2007, it is pushed into the national spotlight with a release on Jagjaguwar early this year. Bon Iver is not technically local, but Minnesota's love is apparent: Every show they play in the Twin Cities in 2008, whether at the Turf Club, the Electric Fetus, or First Avenue's Mainroom, sells out and leaves audiences silent and stunned.
Radio Homegrown bids a final farewell with a compilation CD, Silage: Foreclosure and Eviction, and a "Homegrown funeral" at the Turf Club, complete with a coffin full of memorabilia from the show. The local radio program ended its 10-year run in late 2007, when the Clear Channel-owned Drive 105 canceled the program. Host David Campbell goes on to fill in for Chris Roberts on 89.3 the Current's Local Show before landing a regular slot as a DJ for Radio Free Current.
Ubiquitous local violinist Jessy Greene is invited to tour with the Foo Fighters and spends most of 2008 flitting around the world and appearing on national television shows like Letterman and the Grammys. At the end of February, the Foo Fighters play the Target Center and Dave Grohl showers Greene with praise in front of 10,000 people. "It took us 14 years, but we finally got some Minneapolis in the band," he says during the show. "In fact, we had never even played an arena until she joined the band! We had never won a Grammy before, but now that Jessy is in the band, you know what? We won two fucking Grammys!"
Half of the music scene flees to Austin, Texas, once again for South by Southwest. The Modern Radio record label, the crew from Voltage, and Reveille Magazine all host Minnesota-bred showcases. Tapes 'n Tapes ride on the buzz they built at last year's festival, and reps from the Rhymesayers street team parade When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold picket signs down Sixth Street. The Current takes over an entire parking lot and hosts some of the best outdoor performances of the festival. Despite the fact that everyone is 1,200 miles from home, Minnesota hometown pride is everywhere.
April is a banner month for local bands made good. Four groups in particular do a stellar job of breaking out on the national scene and raising awareness of our fair state:
- Cloud Cult: Despite having their asses handed to them by Pitchfork with a measly 4.2 rating, these otherworldly indie rockers debut their first video from Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornados) on Rolling Stone's "Breaking Artist" page and are featured in the Wall Street Journal for their unique shows, which include two live painters. An in-store at the Electric Fetus on the day of their album's release, April 8, packs the store to the gills with giddy fans, and the band's show at First Avenue is near capacity.
- Tapes 'n Tapes: Although they were once Pitchfork's golden children, Tapes 'n Tapes are judged rather harshly by the blog tastemakers this time around, receiving a mere 5.9 rating for their sophomore album, Walk It Off. A seemingly nervous performance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien reveals a new aspect of the indie buzz band's mystique—the side that is still coming to grips with the full implications of their success, shaky from being chewed up and spit out by the industry's hype machine.
- The Plastic Constellations: It's a shame when this local power-punk band's demise is announced just weeks before their stellar new album, We Appreciate You, is released—but at least they go out with a bang. Though not officially broken up, TPC proclaim the start of an "indefinite hiatus." On their way out, TPC receive the highest score of any of April's Minnesota releases on Pitchfork, garnering a 7.1.
- Atmosphere: This popular hip-hop duo further secure their spot on the national radar with the release of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Within days of the album's release, MTV.com features the videos for "Guarantees" and "Shoulda Known," while Slug's face is splashed across MySpace as a "Featured Artist."
Musician and all-around metal-scene staple Earl Root passes away due to complications from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which he battled for 10 years. Root played guitar in local metal bands Disturbed, God-Awful, and Aesma Daeva, hosted the KFAI radio show Root of All Evil, was the owner of Root Cellar Records, and founded the Root of All Evil label to promote independent bands. In August, roughly 20 local metal bands throw an Earl Root memorial party at First Avenue, featuring headliners Impaler.
Local rock 'n' roll label Modern Radio celebrates its ninth anniversary with a handful of shows and releases. The label has helped promote local punk-infused rock acts such as Vampire Hands, the STNNNG, and His Mischief alongside national bands like Yellow Swans and Mirah, and has cultivated a community of underground rock enthusiasts on its busy message board.
Minneapolis record store the Electric Fetus celebrates its 40th anniversary with a week of stellar in-store performances, including a jam-packed set by Brother Ali and Atmosphere. Mayor R.T. Rybak declares June 13 "Electric Fetus Day." In an interview on the Fetus website, Rybak says, "It's important to have a great independent local music store that doesn't homogenize. This is a great music town, and you can come in here and find something that is not out of some kind of box or the big chain stores."
Native Minneapolitan Matthew Santos returns to his hometown a "superstar." With his vocals prominently featured in Lupe Fiasco's hit "Superstar," Santos is invited on the road with Lupe as part of Kanye West's "Glow in the Dark" tour. The day after his hometown show at the Target Center, Santos tells City Pages that it was "definitely by far one of the craziest concerts of this tour. I used to see, like, Disney on Ice at this place—I couldn't believe I was performing on that stage. You could just feel the love from Minneapolis."
After being out of print for a year, Rift Magazine resurfaces. The free zine features local music reviews by freelance writers and compiles articles from online publications such as HowWasTheShow.com, Reveille Magazine, and Perfect Porridge.
Local thrash metal bandleader Chris Johnson is stabbed to death at a party in Bloomington, Indiana, where Johnson's band Useless Wooden Toys is performing. The AP reports that Johnson is killed "allegedly by a man he tried to stop from groping a woman." Still wounded from the news of Earl Root's death in May, the local metal scene bands together once again to throw a series of fundraisers for Johnson's family and mourn another tragic loss.
Local garage rock staples Ol' Yeller disband. Never one to rest on his laurels, lead singer and producer Rich Mattson quickly forms another band, the Tisdales, and releases a new album by the end of the year. Though Ol' Yeller is no more, Mattson insists its members will continue to make music. "All of the guys who played in Ol' Yeller are all still great friends to me, and we'll find things to do in the future, maybe with guitars, maybe without," writes Mattson. "Maybe with power tools. Maybe with paddles and fishing rods. Probably with a beer."
Paul Westerberg releases a new "album" online for 49 cents, which is available as one 43-minute-and-55-second track inexplicably titled 49:00. The album features tons of cross-fading, distortion, and overlapping, as well as a handful of downright heartbreaking and brilliantly composed pop songs. In the following weeks, Westerberg releases another three tracks online-only, including "3oclockcreep" and "Bored of Edukation."
In other 'Mats news, Rhino reissues Tim, Pleased to Meet Me, Don't Tell a Soul, and All Shook Down, complete with bonus tracks. And Westerberg and Stinson head back into the studio with drummer Michael Bland and guitar player Jim Boquist, igniting rumors (once again) of a possible 'Mats reunion.
St. Paul's Eclipse Records unveils its new in-store music venue and amps up its efforts to provide underage kids with a cool place to check out live music. The store celebrates the opening of its 170-capacity music venue by booking a Headlights show that is only open to those under 21 years of age.
Local drummer Steve Foley, best known for his time spent in the Replacements, passes away at the age of 49. In Jim Walsh's Replacements oral history All Over but the Shouting, Foley is quoted as saying, "Some days I walk down the street and go, 'God, I was in that [expletive] band?' Unbelievable. It is." Aside from his one-year stint with the Replacements, he also drummed with Wheelo, Snaps, Bang Zoom, Trailer Trash, Things That Fall Down, the Suprees, and Curtiss A. At Curtiss A's annual John Lennon Tribute at the end of the year, he dedicates "In My Life" to Foley's memory.
Doomtree reigns supreme:
- The hip-hop collective plays a sold-out show at First Avenue on the first of the month in honor of its first full-crew full-length album, simply titled Doomtree. The album is received warmly at home, spends three weeks at No. 1 on the CMJ hip-hop charts, and receives a 6.0 on Pitchfork. The release show for Doomtree kicks off a flurry of Doomtree crew solo releases: Cecil Otter releases Rebel Yellow at the end of August, followed by Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak's Hand Over Fist in September.
- In late August, McNally Smith College of Music hires Doomtree's Dessa Darling as a part-time instructor, teaching composition. The popular MC and poet also found time to complete her own book of poetry, which is released at the Doomtree Blowout in December, the second sold-out Mainroom show in a year for the unstoppable crew. The group also releases its first DVD of live performances at the Blowout.
- In December, Doomtree's P.O.S. announces that his next solo album, Never Better will be released February 3.
The RNC crashes into town, and local bands hold their own amidst the mayhem. Fog's Andrew Broder throws an "Eight Is Enough" Obama fundraiser at the Turf Club just days before the RNC, featuring a star-studded local lineup of Low, Dosh, P.O.S., Kill the Vultures, STNNNG, Skoal Kodiak, and members of Tapes 'n Tapes. Atmosphere headlines an outdoor show benefitting the union SEIU, while local music writer-musician Jim Walsh curates a hootenanny with Billy Bragg, Ike Reilly, and Tom Morello.
Semisonic reunites again to play the River Rocks Festival at Harriet Island, inviting thousands to congregate on a warm late-summer evening and wave their beers in the air to "Closing Time." Across town on the same night, Soul Asylum plays an exclusive benefit show and charges $150 per ticket. Ouch.
Omnipresent local musician Brian Leighton, lead singer of G.B. Leighton, announces that he has been diagnosed with cancer. Known for playing nearly every night of the week, Leighton is a huge presence in the local scene and among local charities. A benefit concert is quickly set up to raise money for medical expenses, and Leighton undergoes surgery to have a tumor removed. By the end of the year Leighton reports on his website that he has successfully undergone treatment and is cancer-free.
Minnesota Public Radio announces it will be discontinuing The Morning Show, the Current's early-morning programming hosted by Dale Connelly and Tom Keith (a.k.a. Jim Ed Poole), by the end of the year. Keith retires in December, and Connelly goes on to launch Radio Heartland, an online program that mimics The Morning Show's folk-based style and format. The Current also hires a new program director, WXPN's Jim McGuinn, after Steve Nelson leaves to become the program director for MPR News.
On the night of the election, Bob Dylan plays a very sold-out show at Northrop Auditorium. Before his final song ("Blowin' in the Wind"), he took a rare moment to opine on the political climate: "I was born in 1941," he says. "That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I've been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now."
Prince causes yet another kerfuffle by seemingly expressing his disapproval of gay marriage in an interview with The New Yorker. The controversial quote: "When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, "God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, 'Enough.'" After the controversy is spread around the blogosphere, Prince retracts the statement and says he was misquoted.
Minneapolis-based folk label Red House Records celebrates its 25th anniversary with a compilation CD and show. The label has helped to cultivate an impressive lineup of roots and folk musicians, including Red House co-founder Greg Brown, Eliza Gilkyson, Lucy Kaplansky, and locals such as the Pines, Storyhill, and Peter Ostroushko.
The Triple Rock Social Club celebrates its 10th birthday with a smattering of sold-out shows, including a two-night stand by roots-rockers Lucero and a CD-release show for owner Erik Funk's own band, Dillinger Four.
After a few years off the radar, Heiruspecs return with a new album and a First Avenue headlining show. The new record, simply titled Heiruspecs, finds the band experimenting with a variety of styles and falling into a very comfortable, time-tested groove. "We're all in a place right now where we know what we want as a band," guitarist Josh Peterson tells City Pages in a feature on the group.
Another band that has spent some time in radio silence, the Hopefuls, re-emerge with a new lineup (missing Erik Appelwick, who left the band last year to join Tapes 'n Tapes) and a new album, Now Playing at the One-Seat Theatre.
The day after his release show for his new album, That Kind of Day, T.D. Mischke is unceremoniously fired from AM 1500 after 14 years as an on-air host for the station and more than 20 years in radio. The move outrages Mischke's large cult following in the Twin Cities. The station refuses to disclose the reason for the firing. Mischke's AM 1500 co-worker Nancy Fox remarks: "I don't think anyone saw this coming."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.