Thursday night: It's the start of the rock and roll warrior's weekend, the night when you can head out the door to any number of places and see the heartbeat of the Twin Cities rock scene. Thursday night at the Turf Club, circa now can be Friday night in First Avenue's Mainroom, circa five years from now if you take a chance and keep your ears open. This Thursday in particular, those walking in the Turf Club got to see some new faces doing their own take on familiar ground and some familiar faces doing some things entirely brand new.
First up: Puppies and Trains. It's been almost four years since the release of Superhopper's Party Killers Mr. Mustachio followed Puppies and Trains with a sharp turn around a completely unexpected corner. There is a lot that can be said about bands that push boundaries within the realms of traditional instrumentation, and this is a world that Mr. Mustachio knows well. Featuring drums, guitar, cello, keyboard, and sung/spoken vocals, their set was one clearly inspired by such luminaries as Captain Beefheart and U.S. Maple. Yet, in a style that's meant to push boundaries and make the unexpected mandatory, something just didn't mesh into a new whole. Occasionally funky without being particularily danceable, often atonal but too jumbled, there was simply too much sound occupying the same space to be able to begin to engage some of the more experimental places they were reaching for. It was as if the band had taken the first step, off the path, but hadn't found a new path to forge.
Dragons Power Up! took the stage with one foot firmly placed in '90s indie rock and the other in '90s Midwestern emo: driving guitars, off-kilter leads, soaring vocals, and occasional rhythmic gearshifts, all adding up to a catchy slew of pop songs. DPU have tightened up well since I first heard them a couple years ago, which makes for some well-crafted songs. Still, there were moments in their set where I found myself craving just a little more raw abandon to go with the pop sensibility, as if a couple shots of whiskey might just make their feet just shaky enough to kick their influences when they needed to get the boot.
Kill To Kill finished the night, serving up their particular brand of spare, edgy No-Wave influenced indie rock that has often been compared to some long-running East Coast bands with female singers that I won't bother to mention here, but whose names rhyme with Pond BedShed and Tonic Poof. Still, the comparison is, to some degree, inescapable: Kill To Kill's vibe is a bit more Brooklyn than Minneapolis, but vocalist Sylvia Izabella's style last night was rooted much further east, somewhere in the hot springs of Iceland where Bjork goes to rejuvenate after a long day of singlehandedly carrying her country's economy. After a number of new songs with Izabella switching from baritone guitar to bass, she put down instruments completely to close the set with a Portishead cover.