Haley Bonar and Skoal Kodiak: A Tale of Two Cities


At 9 p.m., Halloween, Alaska was wooing a few hundred seated devotees at the Cedar Cultural Center, with Haley Bonar in the wings. Two hours into the evening's future, and only a handful of miles to the east, local noise rockers Seawhores would plunge a few dozen fans into headbanger's oblivion, before yielding the stage to Skoal Kodiak.

It was all on one night, which found Haley Bonar and Skoal Kodiak performing to capacity crowds at their respective venues. Need more proof that something special is afoot in the Twin Cities scene? Head below the jump for reviews.

Enter Haley Bonar. Beginning with choice tracks off of Lure the Fox, her set was heavy with new material from the album she hopes to finish by spring of 2010--the material and her performance of it was a perfect joy to behold. It's not an admission of critical laziness to call Bonar's best talents undefinable x-factors--it's a testament to her air of great mystery and intrigue, a dimension of her musical profile that was on brilliant display and which sets her above her pack of peers.

During almost an hour and a half on stage, Bonar didn't stumble once, and it's no surprise--aside from being a consummate pro, Bonar's musical turf is well-trod alt-country. It's her stage presence that made her performance a dangerous intoxicant. Remoteness spiked with outbursts of disarming vulnerability; moments of boredom and near arrogance punctuated by flashes of devastated passion. Rote execution with twists of pathos that suggest, but never exploit, the fact that Bonar's head and heart are in a plane of excruciating awareness that other artists of her stripe can only approximate. Bonar's performative persona was unendingly dynamic and fascinating, and made her music all the more absorbing.

Twenty minutes after Bonar's last note, and just a jaunt down 94 east, an entirely different beast was feasting on a wholly different crowd. By midnight, Seawhores were tearing down after a set of such sonic heaviness it left the crowd nearly asphyxiated, and Skoal Kodiak were setting up. These moments of tense anticipation are half of Skoal Kodiak's thrill. Anyone who's been to more than one Skoal show knows what lies in the immediate future--a nearly perilous volley of moshing, and an hour of circuit bent noise rock that makes the morning after a muffled, tinnitic affair.

Skoal has always exhibited a penchant for being close to their crowd, usually preferring the floor to the stage. But they played entirely on the Turf Club's riser. Good thing, too. The roiling whirlpool of humanity at their feet likely would have made a mid-crowd performance impossible. The three piece is freshly back from an east coast tour with Knife World, and it showed--they were tight, and brought several new songs to their set, among them an unusually melodic, pummelingly visceral, astonishingly poppy, and wholly breathtaking song which found Markus Lunkenheimer's usual screeches eschewed for a bonafide chorus, complete with identifiable synth chords.


It's a long review. But it was a special night. These are unique times for unique cities. That both shows occurred in such geographical and chronological proximity is proof of a bizarre and fascinating renaissance well underway for local music, and even greater proof that there are infinite ways of putting on a hell of a show. Bonar was the soft spoken, demure, quixotic singer-songwriter, Skoal Kodiak the raving pundits of shearing noise. Both left their crowds, and this reviewer, equally breathless.