Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

Korda Records Showcase
With Jim Ruiz Set, the Ocean Blue, the Starfolk, and Typsy Panthre
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
January 12, 2013

On a frigid Saturday night in Minneapolis, the four bands associated with upstart local label Korda Records made everyone temporarily forget about the cold outside by delivering a solid showcase filled with bright, buoyant pop songs that heated up the Entry. The club was filled with tiny electric candles that the folks at Korda brought to class up the joint a bit, and the backdrop behind the stage (as well one of the Entry's walls) were draped in white sheets for the videos projected during the performances and between sets. It all amounted to the sight and feel of an intimate mid-'90s house party where everyone knew each other, the drinks quickly started flowing, and the evening only got better as the music got louder.

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Typsy Panthre, who were making their live debut, kicked off the show with a brief four-song, 15-minute set that served as a nice precursor to the night's events, but was sadly over in a flash. The group is comprised of Allison LaBonne and John Crozier, and while they record as a duo, for their performance the band swelled to a sextet to fully flesh out their sound. On record their electro-pop songs have a light bounce to them, but in a live setting the tracks had some added bite, with guitars occasionally overwhelming their sound.

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

The group recently released their self-titled debut full-length, and the set started with one of the album's shimmering standouts, "Hal," while an exquisite version of "Blowing Kisses" proved to be another highlight of the all-too-brief set. LaBonne joked as she introduced the band, "We're Typsy Panthre and we don't get out much." Here's to hoping that they start finding their way to more live shows in the future.

The Starfolk were next on the bill, and their delightful 45-minute performance found LaBonne serving double-duty along with her husband, Brian Tighe, who also played guitar in Typsy Panthre's set. Tighe and drummer Stephen Ittner were both in the celebrated local band the Hang Ups back in the '90s (along with Typsy Panthre's John Crozier), and the Starfolk's vibrant pop songs are an updated, modern take on the Hang Up's jaunty, guitar-driven sound.

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

The group has a debut record due out in April, and their polished set drew mainly from that forthcoming material. Their sound was augmented by Jacqueline Ultan's rich, resonant cello, which gave the songs an elegant edge. The set started strongly, with both "Sleeping Without Dreaming" and "The Great Unknown" ringing true in the small club, and the gorgeous "From Above" still soared, even with a slight false-start by Tighe. The Starfolk certainly made a strong impression with their charming, refined set, and 2013 should prove to be a big year for the new band.

The crowd really swelled for the Ocean Blue's set, as the darlings of the late '80s and '90s made a triumphant return to the stage. The group found major label success in their heyday, but are set to release a new album on Korda sometime early this year. Their enthralling set featured a few new songs, but mainly drew from their distinguished back catalog. Even with some slight sound issues and frontman David Schelzel's suffering a cut that required attention, the start of their performance was still captivating, as "Mercury" and "Marigold" both enveloped the room in their poppy bliss.

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

The new song "Blow My Mind" fit seamlessly alongside their redolent older material, but the showstopping part of the set was Tighe joining the band on saxophone for a brilliant version of "Drifting Falling." A smoke machine filled the stage and most of the club throughout the set, leaving all of us in an exultant haze as the magnetic, stylish sounds of the Ocean Blue washed over us. LaBonne joined Schelzel for an acoustic take on the Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty In Pink," that, while technically far from a perfect rendition of the memorable number, still managed to be quite a touching moment.

And after another catchy new track, "A Rose Is A Rose," the night hit its peak with a wonderful version of "Ballerina Out Of Control" that rang out gloriously in the tiny club. With this exquisite performance, the Ocean Blue made their longtime fans happy that they are finally back after all this time while also wishing they never left in the first place.

The evening closed with an upbeat performance by the Jim Ruiz Set that served as a celebratory exclamation point on the highly successful night for everyone associated with Korda Records. The acclaimed local songwriter was making a rare live performance in support of his terrific new record (and first in 14 years), Mount Curve Avenue, and the band's 45-minute set drew liberally from both his new songs as well as his impressive back catalog. Ruiz's self-deprecating humor gave his songs an effortless charm, as he joked about writing a song called "I Have Learned To Live Without Your Love" for Tracey Thorn, but never having the opportunity to give it to her. "That's too good for you, Tracey Thorn" Ruiz exclaimed playfully after the stirring number drew to a close.

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

Other highlights of the set were "Young Mr. Ruiz," which made us all wish for an end to the winter, "Neo Acoustic Ambassador," and the classic "Be My Valentine" from Ruiz's debut album. "We're selling CD's over there for, I don't know, $50. It's a real steal," joked Ruiz towards the end of the loungey, sanguine set. The performance closed with two lovely new songs, "Allison" and "Just Believe In Me," but after Ruiz said goodnight to the appreciative crowd, he was dragged back onstage for an impromptu encore. Tighe joining the group on saxophone for a jubilant version of "My Bloody Yugo" which ended the night on an enthusiastic high note. Korda Records, you throw one hell of a party.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: While I certainly became familiar with the material of all four bands while researching my recent feature piece on Korda Records, this was my first live exposure to most of these artists.

The Crowd: A good portion of the Twin Cities music scene packed the Entry, as everyone showed up to support their longtime friends.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I want Allison's dress so bad." "I do too--we should all go get matching dresses."

Korda Records Showcase at the Entry, 1/12/13
Photo By Erik Hess

Random Notebook Dump: DJ Jake Rudh entertained the crowd before and after the show (as well as between sets) with a sweet mix of indelible pop songs that only added to the warm, communal nature of the night.

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