Excuse Me While I Do The Boogaloo
I can't get his voice out of my head. When I'm shoveling Cocoa Puffs into my mouth, I hear Howard Dean shouting "Yeeaaaaaghhhhh!" over "TNT." When I'm digging through my dirty laundry for some "clean" clothes, I hear him screeching over "Crazy Train." When I'm surfing emo porn at work, I hear him hollering over "Iron Man." The remix MP3s of Howard Dean's now ubiquitous "I Have a Scream" speech have so successfully superimposed the Vermont governor's rebel yell upon every song on KQ that it was all I could do this week to try to replace the music in my head with some music from the clubs. So I journeyed down to Minneapolis's Dokken headquarters, also known as Mötley Tuesdays, only to find a group of musicians blasting the same songs you can hear on DeanGoesNuts.com.
Since then, I've insisted upon enduring my make-out sessions in complete silence for fear of closing my eyes and picturing a certain presidential candidate beside me. From now on, I'll save those fantasies for America's sexiest bachelor, Dennis Kucinich.
Mötley Tuesdays, January 27 at the Spring Street Bar and Grill Dreadlocks, shaggy afros, long curly locks, and one case of serious metalhead. The latter is a cover band frontman who forgets the words to his next song and then proclaims, "If we just got a girl to come up here and take her shirt off, we'd be okay." When a woman says the words "hair of the dog" in this bar, she isn't ordering a hangover cure.
But this headbanger's ball is good fun for both Litas and Ozzys and sometimes the ladies fight back--with their clothes on, you perv. As Spring Street bartender (and former Babe in Toyland) Lori Barbero serves up the shots and the AC/DC tributes give way to an official screaming contest, a few female contenders yowl bloody murder in an attempt to win a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon. After watching a pigtailed siren pit her horror-movie shriek ("Aaaaaah!") against a longhaired Ian Astbury imitator ("RAAaaGHHhh!"), host Kii Arens simply shrugs and says, "You both win."
Arens, a guitarist in the local band Flipp, is the weekly metal night's lovable emcee, contest judge, karaoke-machine operator, and--if need be--official ball-breaker for everyone in the room. "This next group is shit!" he yells about the cover band setting up on stage. He's not being mean: "Shit" is the band's name. Call me naive, but I think they'll be really good.
Screening of Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Wednesday, January 28 at Walker Art Center When an icy Russian winter stops their guitarist's pulse, the Leningrad Cowboys strap the frozen corpse to the hood of their car and set out for a tour of the U.S. Rock is dead, this 1989 cult film seems to say. Long live dead rock. Indeed, from the moment the group abandons its lively polka songs for a dated Blues Brothers routine, you think you know what director Aki Kaurismäki might be suggesting: In a stateside music industry where skill and nuance too often yield to image and mainstream marketing, rigor mortis has already set in. (The hack frontman punch lines are best: Can you play an instrument? the manager asks a new, bouffant-coifed band member. He can't. Can you drive a car? No. Then you will be the singer.) But maybe the joke is on us: Kaurismäki filmed his fictional band as they performed in real clubs with real audiences, and because the Cowboys play with such genuine reverence for American rock 'n' roll, the crowds love every last cliché. Five years after the film debuted, the actors from the self-proclaimed "world's worst rock 'n' roll band" sold out Helsinki Senate Square, covering classic hits like "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" for a roaring cast of 70,000. When the thawed cadaver plays air guitar, the American dream is alive.
Twin Cities B-Boy Battle 2004, Thursday, January 29 at Tabu A little guy in a black T-shirt is skidding across the ground on his face. Howls of approval erupt from the ring of breakdancers surrounding the square floor, which is sectioned off with the kind of red velvet rope that's normally meant to keep cultural tourists in their proper place--outside the bar. But tonight, everyone's climbing over the rope. Or spinning under the rope. Or occasionally pulling the whole rope contraption down when their feet get caught in helicopter turns gone awry.
An Asian guy with platinum blond hair bends his legs over his head, popping himself upright with one hand. A poker-faced woman in sweatpants moves her feet so fast she looks like her top half is on pause while her lower half plays in fast-forward. A preppy kid in khakis and a button-down shirt undulates his torso like he's got no spine. He's in the middle of a gold-medal back flip when his body slides out of balance and into the audience.
"These are the breaks," Kurtis Blow's voice booms from the speakers, and as Khaki Pants picks himself up and gets right back to where he left off, the line's double meaning hits the nodding crowd: not just Check out our moves but also That's just the way things go.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Califone, Heron King Blues (Thrill Jockey) In the nightmare, Tim Rutili found himself running. "This screaming, beaked creature kept coming at me and I'd think it was going to kill me," the Califone frontman recently told the Chicago Tribune. "It would get closer, and then I'd realize it's just a little guy dressed as a bird on stilts. It was a way of saying, 'Take a good look at what you're afraid of, because sometimes it's nothing.'"
Sometimes nothing is a thing worth fearing. The unexplained, the unheard, the unknown--on Califone's haunting bird meditation, it's all a swampy abyss that the blues fell into. Banjos whisper to each other of their owners' lives, the organ sighs like an old rocking chair, and lyrics fall together in dream logic. When your brain finally weaves a narrative between these things, it's only an afterthought. This city is wrecked/A fistful of shake/No where to collapse/Let it pass. Rutili intones his lines as if he's singing along to someone else's song and has no idea how he knows the words. Each syllable unsettles him more.
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